Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day 7 – final day, Cruising Solo, Palma de Mallorca

Day 7 – final day, Cruising Solo, Palma de Mallorca, by DreamFinder Travel Agent Kim Merrill

Palma was a brand new port for me, so I have been eagerly awaiting the last day of the cruise (that just sounds so wrong to say!).  Our ship was not scheduled to dock until 1pm, so my intent was to sleep in a bit.  Well, that really didn’t happen, as we had a bit in the way of “turbulence” overnight and I woke up fairly frequently.  I gave up trying to sleep around 7am and had breakfast and then headed to the gym.

I have mentioned before how big and uncrowded the gym was, but today, it finally had a significant amount of people in it.  However, even so there were still plenty of cardio machines available and there was no overt hogging of the weights.  I was able to watch the sail in to the port from the treadmill (we arrived about 90 minutes early).  The scenery was spectacular. (Traveling solo has its benefits, as I didn't have to rush back to others, and I could enjoy the view there. )


I wanted to see what happened if I got off the ship without the shuttle ticket pre-purchased to see if there was a price variation as there was in Livorno (I had Euro to cover any situation).  To my surprise, not only was it the same price, they actually just charged it to my stateroom account.  I did NOT see that coming, it was incredibly convenient.   We received big blue stickers that were placed on our key cards good for all-day round trip access. 

The shuttle ride not only took us out of the port area, but directly across the harbor to the old town.  This would not be a quick easy walk, so be sure to factor in the cost of the ticket to your budget.  There were free maps again, so I made sure to grab one and I walked this route:

What you don’t see off on the left of the image was the jog I made over to the Hard Rock Café in Palma to pick up pins for my pin-obsessed friends (I believe I actually made someone’s very chaotic day).  It was also a great spot to get a quick drink before walking back to the shuttle (€3.65 for a glass of house white, dry).  But I digress, that was the end of the 3.89-mile walk.

I pretty well stuck to the path outlined in red, and was able to hit most of the landmarks shown. The Palacio de la Almundaina was the big draw to the old town:

All along the walk were many historical monuments and churches.  The walking route was mainly along shopping streets.  What I mean by this is that there are plazas linked by street after street of stores.  They were a mix of local and internationally recognized stores, with a big mix of cultures all intermixed together.

They also have a “La Rambla” in Palma, but it is very unlike Barcelona’s version.  This one is a beautiful, relaxing, tree-lined street with multiple flower vendors:

When I deviated from the walking path to head to the Hard Rock Café,
 I was rewarded with these views:
The architecture here was simply lovely, and my pictures cannot do the views justice, it was stunning.  More pictures will be posted on my Facebook page.

After hitting all of the places I wanted to see I made my way back to the shuttle and headed back onto the ship.  I arranged some packing so that I could be back on deck for our 8pm departure.  It was just such a beautiful port and I wanted to be sure to watch sailing away.

As my solo series is completed with the posting of this blog (though my travels are not), I wanted to say a few things about the debarkation process.  The ship was scheduled to dock about 5:30am.  We were there prior to that actually, and I was able to get up, have breakfast, and walked off of the ship with my luggage by 7am.  I actually sat there in the port building for a while because there WAS NO ISSUE getting out of there and the transfer I had scheduled had not yet arrived.  When I did get the notification that the driver was on his way, I walked outside and he was literally RIGHT THERE…no walk to a remote spot.  It was fantastic!  I have only ever been to this port on a ship where literally everyone was getting off.  It was very different this time and more relaxed with this sailing since only a portion of the passengers were getting off that day.

Thank you for following along with my travels!  I’m not going to be doing any more live blogging with this trip, but I will likely have some content after a visit to Disneyland Paris and Normandy.  Please stay tuned! Until next time….

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cruising Solo--Day 6, Cannnes

Follow along with DreamFinder Travel agent Kim Merrill as she cruises solo around Europe on the Norwegian Epic

Cruising Solo—Day 6, Cannes

Cruising solo has been an interesting experience.  I am enjoying setting my own pace and schedule, and not having to worry about what others want to do.  Cannes was not a draw for me, as I have been to Villefranche twice—both are located in the French Riviera and both ports are tendered. With NCL, the tender reservations could be made the day of, and the day prior to arrival, and they called letters as the tenders rotated between the ship and the shore.  The Epic is a pretty big ship, and as I was working out in the gym, I watched four boats going back and forth so the process was quick.  (if you are worried about long waits, they have the process down well, so it wait times are minimal.)

When I found out that Cannes was scheduled on Bastille Day, that sealed the deal for me to not go on shore.  I’m not a huge fan of crowds, and as I have been to a lot of the local attractions I opted to enjoy a mostly-empty ship. So what I wanted to cover with this blog are some of my thoughts on the cruise overall since I have been onboard a while.

Ship:  Nice, but I prefer the Getaway for some of the adult and outdoor spaces.  You cannot get outside on deck (minus the REALLY boring running track) until Deck 15.  There is a “quiet area” that is nice, located way forward up on deck 18, but there is no bar.  So in order to get a drink (I’m not necessarily talking alcohol here people…water, soda, whatever), you have to go down a few decks. SPEAKING of which.  I took no elevators.  At all.  For the entire cruise.  I didn’t start out to do this but it kind of became a thing about day 3.  Now I refuse to give in J.  The only bad part is that I will have to break and take one tomorrow morning with my suitcase….otherwise I’d have to haul that thing down and I’d probably end up falling.  That would be bad.

Stateroom:  Mostly a win-win situation. I have no idea why they think neon is a thing for solo travelers, but it’s seriously not that big of a deal.  I like the lounge and the ability to get free “better” (I use that term loosely) coffee instead of the stuff served everywhere else (for free, there is a for-fee coffee bar, and coffee is not included in the beverage package). However, I think the ship could use some updating….not sure when the next dry-dock is.  This morning I ended up on one of the upper decks and the more refined color-palate is more my taste.

Internet:  Sigh.  It worked well about half the time. Interesting thing to note was the number of people who felt the need to tell me that “I was on vacation” and that I should “stop working.” Interesting to observe social….graces? norms? not sure what you would call it, but I ended up chatting with most of them and once they heard my story they kind of mellowed out.  I swear that I’ll be off line as of next weekend, people, but I really need to kind of follow my stuff for SOME of the 3 weeks I’m gone.

Food:  Mostly good.  I follow a low-carb diet and have had no issues eating.  The omelets are among the best I have ever had on a ship, and the sausages are yummy.  However, the staff seems a little confused by my requests (god forbid I had allergies).  I did not try any of the specialty restaurants here because face it…low carb AND solo?  BORING.  I’ll leave that for another time.

Entertainment:  Good, but I really didn’t do anything other than the 2 main shows.  I was happy to be on deck in the adult area.

Casino area:  I have no interest in gambling.  But, because the Epic doesn’t have the “waterfront” area on the middle decks, I spent less time here.  I did go to O’Sheehans several times for breakfast or dinner and there is a less-smoky atmosphere than what we experienced on the Getaway.  Not sure if it is a volume issue because of the intensive port schedule, an air filtering improvement or what, but it was waaaay better.

The Gym:  Bloody fabulous.  It. Was. Huge.  There was no jockeying for space, with the exception of the Palma day, and only because we didn’t dock until 1pm.  Even then, it was not bad.  UNLIKE the Getaway, the locker room on this ship has a shower, which can make a HUGE difference if you are traveling with a family.  One, (or 2,) members can divert to the gym to shower if needed.  I do this on Disney Cruise Line ALL of the time.  

Wine selection:  Decent.  I didn’t NOT like anything I tried. AND……I ordered a Rose’ one night and they asked me if I wanted sweet or dry!  I nearly cried with happiness.  There was a martini bar, but I did not try it.

Observations about kid’s areas:  The pool area on deck is nice, it’s split into 2 with some water fountain-type stuff spraying water up.  There are a few waterslides, a bungee-trampoline thing, and kids-clubs.  Obviously I have no kids with me to rate the quality here.

I have never been one to sail on a ship for the SHIP as opposed to the DESTINATION.  I prefer the Getaway but don’t dislike the Epic.  I had a good time, but find it interesting to see the differences in ships that are not that far apart in age.  I will be sailing on NCL’s newest ship next summer and am interested to see how they improve on the current designs!

Next blog up with be our final port, Palma de Mallorca.  I have been looking forward to this since I booked the cruise.   Until tomorrow….Ciao!