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Diary of a cruise virgin final stop Barcelona

Diary of a cruise virgin final stop Barcelona

It’s where the journey began and ended – Barcelona, Spain – one of our favourite places. It’s the kind of city you visit and think, ‘yep, I’d love to live here’. Architecture, art, food, colour – Barcelona is nothing short of brilliant. It’s a BIG city though, so don’t rush through in only a day.

 

See our video adventures from the very splendid MSC Splendida cruise here YouTube/TheSarahBlinco and peek inside my cruising virgin diaries here (or search MSC).

We also visited Barcelona with Expat Explore in 2011. Tour tips for this beautiful city: TRAVEL BARCELONA

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Diary of a cruise virgin: Day 6 on MSC Splendida excursion into Marseilles France

Diary of a cruise virgin: Day 6 on MSC Splendida excursion into Marseilles France

Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. Today is our last day, how did that happen? We enjoyed probably one too many Long Island Iced Teas with Barry and Paulo at our new favourite on-board restaurant/bar, Aft, last night. But, being the warriors that we are, we “battled” on to be up bright and early to embark on yet another astoundingly well organised shore excursion, this time, into France.

[More travel videos feature on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]

 

Marseille is a gorgeous port city; the ‘second city’ of France, and capital of the Provence-Costa Azzurra region. The city stretches along 37km of Mediterranean coastline, and the area is renowned for offering over 300 days of sunshine per year. Today was not one of those days. While I’m not one who dislikes the rain – quite the contrary, the only time it puts a ‘dampener’ on my spirits is when I want to photograph beautiful landscapes. Our images are a little light on from today’s adventure as the weather was terrible, but the city is far from awful. We toured around its rather large perimeter; past grand, typically French architecture, through narrow alleys and up steep hills to visit outstanding cathedrals, one namely being the spectacular Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde.

DSCN1703The city comprises of buildings dating from a wide range of time periods, which means a feast for the eyes (and lens), whether you’re viewing from the top of one of Marseilles’ highest vantage point, or within the new marina at the city’s heart.

We hit Marseille’s shores on day 1 of a year-long annual festival celebrating its status as the ‘European Capital of Culture’ for 2013; a title which says something for all that is delightful and on offer here in this elegant French port stop.

 

Do you have a cruising story, or a Mediterranean travel tale to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook. You can also read the rest of the stories in this series (more to come in coming days) HERE.

Diary of a Europe cruise virgin: excursion into Genoa Italy

Diary of a Europe cruise virgin: excursion into Genoa Italy

In day 5’s diary of a Europe cruise virgin, we teamed up with our new pals from London, Paulo and Barry, for today’s adventure, where we headed into the gorgeous Italian port city of Genoa. This place is chic, and boasts many medieval buildings and cathedrals in its ‘old town’; but just down the road is its ‘new town’ (circa 1800s). Interesting, in Australia ‘new’ is 2012. In these parts, ‘new’ is 200 years ago. Travel really does provide intriguing perspective and education.

more travel videos on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel

Genoa attracts many tourists each year due to its busy port. It’s often overshadowed by other Italian locations such as Rome or Venice, even though it’s played a long and critical trade role in the development of the country, due to the city’s proximity on the Mediterranean and to other key ports in the region.

Fun fact: Genoa is the birthplace of famous explorer, Christopher Columbus.

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The city definitely exudes that luscious ‘Italian’ feel. There really is something very romantic about Italy that seeps through every crevice, from the pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses to the mosaics and art of the in churches; how the locals navigate expertly across ancient cobblestoned paths through to the unique and delicious local coffee and ice-cream.

It’s easy to get lost wandering Genoa’s many sweet alleyways (narrow streets, or “carruggi”), most not even wide enough to cater for a horse and cart to carry goods through from one side of the city to the other. Genoa boasts grand buildings showcasing various architectural styles including Roman-esque, Gothic and Renaissance, many open to the public who are welcome to explore.

We also liked that it was very obviously a ‘dog city’, with proud owners enthusiastically nodding, “sì sì” (yes yes) when we asked (as we are known to do, on regular occasion) to pat their precious pooches.

DSCN1543 (Copy)Genoa’s front harbour precinct is undergoing constant renovations, so is eye-catching and easy to enjoy at leisure. Summer must be sensational here, with entertainment and concerts playing out in various sections of the huge public square. The city is also home to one of Europe’s largest aquariums, positioned conveniently on the waterfront.

This certainly is a lovely, quintessentially Italian location that I’m happy to have had the pleasure to explore, even if only for a short time.

Do you have a cruising story, or a Mediterranean travel tale to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook. You can also read the rest of the stories in this series (more to come in coming days) HERE.

Diary of a cruise virgin: Day 1 on MSC Splendida

Diary of a cruise virgin: Day 1 on MSC Splendida

Gentle waves are lapping against the side of the ship to my right hand side, and the landscape is illuminated by soft glowing light from the deck below, and the sparkling city of Barcelona in the distance. I’m sitting on the little balcony outside our cabin on board the MSC Splendida. It’s about 8.30pm and the ship sailed from port about an hour and a half ago.

We had an early start this morning from London − 4am for check-in at Gatwick, followed by a simple-enough coach transfer to the dock but a very long wait until cruise check-in at 1.30pm. Fortunately, the cappuccinos are strong (and good) in Europe, so that kept us motivated until we made our way with excited anticipated onto the (huge) ship which is to take us on our first cruising adventure! Admittedly, I didn’t book a cruise for the sake of experiencing such a mode of transport. London had been the aspiration for a Christmas escape this year, but we wanted to explore elsewhere during our five weeks abroad. Generally the weather is unpredictable over here in winter, and as such, a ‘Mediterranean tour’ was all I could find that was operating. Open to new experiences − and great bargains (via Archersdirect.co.uk, out of interest, but you should also check out Cruise.co.uk and MSCCruises.co.uk) − this seven-night package promised us destinations never before experienced in these little travellers’ lives.


[more travel videos on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]

Neither Cooper or I had really thought too much about what to expect. In all honesty, I’ve been so busy working (managing my own business), and organising the general travel itinerary for the past few weeks, that I didn’t even have a chance to explore the ship’s website. I assumed it would at least be generally satisfactory. Turns out, the ship is only two to three years old, absolutely HUGE, glamorous, brimming with activities and facilities and … we have been pinching ourselves all afternoon trying to figure out how we wound up here, on the most-definitely-splendid MSC Splendida.

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As I type, I am caught between looks to the mirror where I’m practising my ‘glitter pout’ (that is, I’ve spent the past half hour down in the duty-free store trying on Dior perfume and Lancôme lip-gloss which I’m kind of loving right now), and recalling the afternoon’s activities. We recently returned to our cabin following the 5.30pm safety briefing (just in case we need to make a run for it like Kate and Leo did). All guests were completely in awe of the M.C who continued to amaze with his narrative in five or six languages! We explored the ship only to discover one beautiful themed lounge and bar after another; pools, spa baths, gym, casino, saunas, beauty facilities, shops, restaurants, child-friendly areas and a niteclub (where we are heading later on).

We’re completely enamoured with the staircase in the entry foyer – each step of the two flights of stairs decks 6 to 8 (I believe) appears to be illuminated, and sparkles with crystals (Swarovski, apparently). At present, pianists, singers and other performers are entertaining the masses, while each of us wanders the decks in awe of Splendida’s beautifully designed spaces. We’re about to head off to the opening dinner … we are meant to be dressed in either formal (suit and tie) or ‘informal’ (cocktail) attire, but are prepared for neither. Here’s hoping they’ll be lenient tonight, or it’s back to the buffet for us (not that it’s a horrible option − actually, secretly we love a good buffet and had to be dragged out at 5pm this afternoon, dessert in hand). Still, so far we’re having a ball; and I’m about to be late for the ball so better sign off for now. S x

READ THE REST OF MY CRUISE VIRGIN DIARIES as we head to Africa, Italy, France and back to Spain…

Do you have a cruising story to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook.