Spain & Canary Islands Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse
10/19/14 to 10/30/14
Due to the length of the review, it is in three parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page.
Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in England, Ship, Dining, Entertainment and Activities
Page 2 - Ports of Call: Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Tenerife, Canary Islands; Madeira, Portugal; La Coruna, Spain
Tenerife, Canary Islands
We arrived in Tenerife in the dark and could only see the lights of the city.
Our tour for the day was another ship excursion. All four of us would be heading to the center of the island where we would visit Mt. Tiede National Park. This time we had a good guide named Lola. Although her English wasn’t great, we learned a lot from her. She knew her subject matter, but she talked constantly and the speakers were quite loud. We only got a break at the very end of the tour.
Although the roads were twisty and we were driving up a volcano, it was a much easier journey than the prior day. The drive through the Esperanza Forest was quite pretty, since it was heavily wooded. The roads were also very well maintained. We could look back down the hill to towns along the coastline.
We stopped at several places to take photos. I took way too many photos of the main mound; but its appearance changed so much as we moved around it and the lighting changed. It is so intriguing to me to be able to stand in the presence of a volcano.
What I hadn’t realized was that the park itself is actually in the crater of the volcano with the mound near the center of it. I took a photo of a sign to show what it looks like from above.
It helped to explain why the terrain looked so unusual. For this reason many films have been made in the park including One Million Years B.C., Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans.
We particularly liked the striated rock formations along the road.
We stopped at a restaurant/souvenir shop for a restroom break. The views from there were just marvelous.
Across the road from the restaurant was a small crater and cone.
As we went further around the park, Lola pointed out the cable car route where people ride up close to the top of the mound.
We then stopped at another scenic viewpoint. This one was just spectacular. The different view of the cone and unique rock formations were amazing.
One of the formations is referred to as the Finger of God.
From a different viewpoint it was obvious that we were in a volcano crater.
After taking photos of one of the large rock formations, Carol pointed out to me that there were workman up near the top of the rock. I could see them much better after the clouds moved and the sun shined on them. Wow! Not a job I want.
We drove further around the crater to an area where there is a plant that only grows in the Mt. Tiede area. It is called the Tajinaste Rojo. Some common names for it are Tower of Jewels or Tenerife Bugloss. Unfortunately the plants that can grow up to ten feet tall had lost all their flowers, so Lola showed us a photo of what they looked like.
While taking photos, I was able to find one plant that still had some flowers on it. I told Lola so she could share it with others on the tour. It must be quite a sight when these tall plants are all in bloom.
Our last stop in the park would be to view the Tenerife Observatories. Apparently the conditions in the park are very desirable for telescope viewing. They were way up on a mountain, so it was difficult to see them all.
When we came to the other side of the mountain, we could see the observatories from a different angle. If I ever go back to Tenerife, I would check to see if there are tours available for any of them.
On the ride back to the port, we could see the rough terrain and road we had been traveling on. We stopped at the same restaurant again for a restroom break, where we could get a different view of the small crater across the street. It had been a most enjoyable excursion.
As we left port we could see some nice views of the city of Las Palmas and the homes in the mountains. After the lovely tour and driving though the beautiful countryside, we could understand why Tenerife is such a popular vacation destination. We really liked the island.
Coming into the port of Funchal I could see that we would be visiting a very pretty city; but I had no idea just how gorgeous it would be.
I had booked a tour with Daniel Madeira Taxis (www.danielmadeirataxis.com). Hans and Barbara were again joining us. We really enjoy their company and we were so glad that they could see this beautiful island with us. We met our driver, Leandro, right outside the gate.
We were very pleased with him; but the van had very dark tinting over the side windows, which made it impossible to take photos while we were driving. If you book Daniel Madeira Taxis, ask for a van without window tinting if possible. I don’t know if they have any; but it would be worth asking for. Even with the tinted windows, we had a great tour because we stopped frequently to take photos.
I could not believe how many mountains the city was made up of. There wasn’t a lot of flat land in Madeira. It made for challenging driving but beautiful views. The first place we went to was an overlook in the Monte area where on one side we could look down to the Eclipse nose to nose with the brand new Regal Princess.
The other side was a deep gorge that had a cable car crossing over it. This was one mountainous town.
The main reason we were in Monte was because it was where the toboggan rides begin. Thousands of people each year ride the wicker toboggans with wooden runners down the one mile long hill. Two runners ride on the back pushing when needed for speed and to keep it running in a straight course. It does look like fun. There were lots of drivers ready for their customers on the top of the hill
Barbara and I thought we might do it; but changed our minds. Instead Leandro drove us down the hill in our van following the toboggans allowing us to experience the path in a much safer environment. With the wicker baskets being quite top heavy, it is easy to have an accident. The basket provides little protection, and the riders don’t even wear helmets. We were told that a driver fell off one of the toboggans when we were there, and then it spun around quite a bit before the driver could get up and help get control of it. I am sure that accidents are rare; but tipping over while going down a hill could be quite a painful ordeal. The roads are really steep in Madeira. Near the end of the path, the drivers have to pull the toboggans, since it flattens out in places.
Leandro then took us to a different overlook into a beautiful valley with homes built into the mountainside and down in a valley. What a beautiful place!
Then not far up the road, we stopped at Estalagem Eira do Serrado; which is a hotel, restaurant and souvenir shop. They also had nice public restrooms. It is perched high in the mountains at the head of the pass to Nun’s Valley. There are paved trails and overlooks for admiring the gorgeous scenery. This would be a great hotel to spend a few days in just looking down into the valley.
I wish photos could show the true beauty, but they don’t compare to the real thing. I took a panorama photo to try to get as much of the valley in one photo as possible.
We then descended the mountain and headed for the very scenic Pico dos Barcelos. It is a lovely park with panoramic views of the city.
When we left the park we drove past an unusual statue.
The terrain had large retaining walls to prevent erosion. The terraced farms produced primarily bananas.
We stopped in Camara de Lobos, which is a small fishing village. Walking through the parking lot, we were rather turned off by the strong fish odor. I guess a fishing village should be expected to smell like fish; but it wasn’t pleasant. The town itself wasn’t much to look at.
The stony beach area didn’t look too appealing either; however the scenery was pretty good as were the rock formations. For some reason a strange looking statue was in the fishing village.
The view up the mountain to the farms was very nice.
Because the view of the steep cliff in the distance was obstructed, Leandro took us further up the road for a better angle of it. He told us that the cliff was Cabo Girão and we were going there next. Brochures claim that it is the second highest cliff in Europe; but actually five others are taller.
On the way to our next stop the view of the farms in the mountains was really pretty.
We stopped at a park area on top of Cabo Girão. The view is very nice, especially since a glass bottom viewing platform was added in October 2012. It made a lot of people very nervous. I preferred the views over the side of the platform, since the dirty glass which was obstructed by the metal supports wasn’t that good of a view anyway.
After we left, Leandro took us to his favorite viewing place, Faja dos Padres. What was nice about this location was that it wasn’t crowded with tourists. We had it all to ourselves.
We then headed to what would be our last stop on the tour, the Cristo Rei Viewpoint, in Garajau. As we had seen in Lisbon, we were going to see another Christ statue. The park surrounding it was covered in flowers and the view down the cliff was just lovely. There was a winding road that went all the way down to the beach.
There was a long plant lined walkway to the statue. When we got to the statue, we could see another walkway that stretched further out to what would be a great lookout over the ocean. The view to the side wasn't bad either.
The statue itself was very impressive. It was large enough to where we would be able to see it from the ship after departing Funchal.
We had thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Madeira. I had not expected it to have such stunning scenery. It is a truly beautiful island.
Back on the ship we were treated to a very nice perk for being a loyal Celebrity customer. The Captain let Elite level passengers go out onto the helipad to enjoy the sailaway. They even provided champagne and mimosas. It was a great way to finish up a most enjoyable port stop. Being able to see the Cristo Rei statue as we passed by was a real plus.
La Coruna, Spain
I was glad to see that for our last port stop, we would once again have gorgeous weather. It had been in the 70’s and sunny every day. The arrival was nice since the city looked quite interesting. We could even see the Tower of Hercules in the background.
The long breakwater with a lighthouse on the end made for a nice photo.
I was taking a different Celebrity excursion for the day than Carol, Hans and Barbara; since mine had more walking and they had walked enough during the cruise. After talking with Carol later, they had seen the same places I did except I walked around the town of Betzanos and they had a terrible tapas lunch. My tour guide for the day was Maria. She was knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful.
As we drove toward Betzanos, we passed by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s palace. I am not sure why we even went by it, since we weren’t able to stop and what we could see of the structure wasn’t very impressive. Maria said that it wouldn’t be worth visiting the interior, since it is in disrepair.
It took a little over an hour to get to Betzanos. It is purported to have one of the best preserved old quarters in Galicia. As we arrived into town, the place looked pretty deserted. Since it was 1:45 PM, we assumed that it was siesta time.
Maria walked us around the square telling us about various structures. There was a statue of two men who had been born in Betzanos and migrated to Argentina. They had been very successful there and returnded to Betzanos. After seeing the terrible problems the town was having since they left, they set up some foundations to build hospitals and help the people. They were obviously much loved. She also told us to meet her at the large gazebo after the tour was over and we had our free time.
It was really strange walking around deserted streets in the middle of the day in what we thought was a popular tourist attraction.
We turned off the main area and headed down a street that had some nice buildings; but most people were looking at two antique cars on the road. It was the best attraction we had seen. I was also fascinated by a horse head on the side of a building. I guess Betzanos was just a boring city.
As we walked toward a couple of old churches the steep streets were impressive. I would not want to walk up them every day though.
When we got to the two churches, the San Francisco church, which was erected in 1387; was by far the prettier of the two.
The Santa Maria Church, was also built in the 14th century. Unfortunately, neither of the churches were open. This tour was going downhill quickly. I did like how they spelled out the name of the church with plants.
The official tour was over, so we had time on our own. I walked back to the main square and took photos of the deserted town. It had some nice photo opps; but none of the stores were open. There were a couple of bar/restaurants open, so I had a local beer.
I was never so happy to see the bus come to pick us up. Everyone was so bored with the city. When we got back closer to town, the tour became much more enjoyable. We passed by an old fort.
Maria pointed out the communications center building which was most impressive.
The road along the water looked quite nice with the ornate lamp posts lining it.
Our final stop on the tour would be at the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Tower of Hercules. Maria told us that we just had 15 minutes at the tower. On the grounds of the site were two unusual statues.
The tower was built in the 1st century AD. It is the only lighthouse of antiquity that is still operational today. The central core was augmented in the 18th century. The 180 foot tower was built on a 187 foot high rock, so it is quite imposing on the landscape. It would be hard to miss for ocean going vessels. I really wanted to get up to the tower to take a nice photo and hopefully be able to look in the tower. Unfortunately, there was a steep long road up to the tower. I hustled up the road as fast as possible. It was further up than I thought; but I got to a path near the top that allowed me to walk over to the other side of the lighthouse. I was able to get the photo I wanted, but just didn’t have time to walk back around and go into the tower.
We asked Maria why we only had 15 minutes for what most of us thought was the highlight of the tour. She told us that the weather is normally not good for viewing the tower and they have to wait in the bus to view it, so they just made it a short stop. We didn’t buy it.
On the way back to the ship, we drove along the beach road. It was a pretty drive with the crashing waves, but there were very few people on the beach. Maria said that it wasn’t the best neighborhood. We could see the glass Millennium Monument in the distance.
I was lucky to be able to get a close up photo of the monument as we drove past it.
I was disappointed in the tour; but did get a nice overview of the area. Unlike many of the ports on the cruise, La Coruna would not be one that I would want to return to. Once was enough.
Unfortunately, Carol shared my opinion of La Coruna. Hans, Barbara, and Carol took the ship’s Panoramic La Coruna with Snack Tour. The highlight was a castle viewed from afar and an octopus! They first stopped at a park to view the Castelo de Santa Cruz across a mud flat. They could see the Eclipse in the far distance.
Their tour guide was trying so hard, but to be honest, she didn’t have much to talk about. They took them to the Mirador De San Pedro restaurant for wine, empanadas and Spanish omelets. BIG disappointment! There were two wines to sample, but Carol doesn’t drink wine. Barbara said it wasn’t good. The so called “empanadas and Spanish omelets” were not like any she had ever seen. The two are pictured below and were the only thing offered.
They also went to the Tower of Hercules. They stayed there 30 minutes and enjoyed it also. On the way back along the coast they saw this neat octopus coming over the seawall. Like me, they were also glad to return to the ship.
We had one more sea day before we returned to Southampton at the end of the cruise. I had been unable to see any nice sunsets during the cruise; but on the last day, I finally did. It provided a peaceful moment for the end of the cruise. We would need it, since we were going on a Panama Canal cruise five days after we got home.
Back in Southampton, we were thrilled to be able to see the brand new Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, which was to take its maiden voyage across the Atlantic in a couple days. We had originally planned to be on that cruise, since it would have been so convenient, rather than flying home.
It was nice to be able to wait in the Tuscan Grill to have our disembarkation number called. This Elite passenger benefit is a good one, since ending a cruise is never fun; and being stuffed into a crowded room with other passengers anxious to get off the ship isn’t a great memory. We were able to sit in comfortable chairs drinking coffee and reading our Kindles. It was particularly nice since Hans and Barbara had recently become Elite, so they could be there too. It made it much easier for us to be able to meet there and leave together for our transfer to Heathrow. When it was time, Captain’s Club representative, Bruce, who we cruised with the prior year, walked over to let us know we could leave. We were able to quickly find our luggage and go through customs. It was a real pleasant disembarkation.
Once again we were using Smiths for Airports to take us to the airport. The cost was only £95 ($152) for all four of us in what they call a minibus. The vehicle was quite large and easily handled all of our luggage. Quite a bargain.
Since we had been let off the ship about a half hour before I had told the service to be there, I didn’t expect our driver to be waiting. There were some other Smiths for Airports drivers waiting for other passengers, so I asked if they knew where my driver was. He called and found out that ours was on his way and we only had to wait a few minutes. Once again great service by our transfer company. We were able to leave earlier than expected and it only took an hour and a half to get to Heathrow.
We were so glad to finally get to visit these lovely ports; and be able to do it with our good friends. We had been blessed with gorgeous weather for the whole cruise, which allowed us to appreciate the beauty of this part of the world even more. Once again we had a wonderful cruise experience.
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