Monday, September 5, 2011

Disney Mediterranean Cruise: Barcelona

Like most American basketball fans, I was gluedto my TV set watching the USA Dream Team dominate their opponents on their way to the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. I remember pictures of huge billboards featuring Michael Jordan, and majestic aerial shots of a church under construction that looked like a sandcastle. I was only 16 years old, and had never left my home country, but I knew that one day I wanted to visit that city...

Fast forward 15 years into the future. Now married with two children (back when it was just 2 Dis Kids), we are in the middle of experiencing what would be a life changing vacation, our first Disney Cruise! Our stateroom attendant has delivered a Disney Cruise schedule (for future booking purposes) and I learn that they don't just sail from Florida... In fact they will be sending their other ship, the Magic, to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2007, sailing out of Barcelona, Spain. That was it, I had found my dream cruise! At this point I hadn't turned into an all out cruise junkie. I didn't know that cruise lines often send ships to other parts of the world for special seasonal itineraries, I thought that Disney would always be there. I had my vision.

I began to soak up as much information about Disney Cruise Line as I could. I learned all about their sailings in the Caribbean, and that in fact their Mediterranean itinerary was only for the summer of 2007. I was disappointed that I had missed out, but hopeful that they would return because then president, Tom McAlpin had said that the season was so successful.

Luckily in May 2010 the Magic did as promised, return to the Med. And one lear later I was booked on a seven night sailing, leaving from Barcelona!

So thats a lot of lead up for the port of departure, but I wanted to give some background to why I was not just really looking forward to the cruise, but to Barcelona as well.

Luckily, our schedules worked out so we would be able to fly to Barcelona 3 days before the cruise departed, and I was really happy to be able to spend a couple of days exploring the city. I had read more trip reports, watched more vlogs, and listened to more podcasts than I could count about other people's Disney Med cruises from 2007 and 2010. My excitement grew with each one as we got closer and closer to our departure date. I had built up this vacation so much in my head, I hoped that I had not set myself up for disappointment. But as it turns out, Barcelona met and surpassed all of my expectations!

I had read and researched a lot about what to do in Barcelona, but had not really done the same for where to stay. My Mom actually found the hotel that we ended up staying at. We had originally booked a room at the Novotel Barcelona City, on the recommendation of fellow cruisers, but when my parents tried to book a room for their arrival (two days after us), there were none available. So in looking for a place close to the Novotel (it wasn't), she booked at Hotel Diagonal Zero. Not wanting to be split up at two different hotels we followed suit, and boy am I glad we did!

Diagonal Zero was a great fit for us. Modern and clean, at a reasonable price. It was very close to the subway, and there was a large shopping center across the street. It wasn't that close to the touristy parts of the city, and it wasn't as close to the port, but we figured we could make it work.

We were able to do more than make it work. We loved it. Since it was a little further from Las Ramblas and the rest of the city center it was more quiet. The hotel has a more business feel, but it was still warm and inviting fortourists. Thebeach was about a 10-15 minute walk, and the shopping center (Diagonal Mar) was very nice, and had a hypermarket where we could get stuff for in the room. And while it might net be a big selling point for most American visitors -- but it was huge for us who have been living in Bucharest, Romania for 6 months -- there was a Subway sandwich shop!

We spent our first full day in Barcelona just kind of taking it easy an stayed close to the hotel. We hit the beach, walked around, enjoyed lunch at Subway, and pretty much eased our way intovacation. Other than venturing out to visit the Magic Fountains(more later) that night we kept it pretty simple.

The beach was great! After a short walk we got there around 10:30. People (mostly locals) were just starting to stream in. It had not gotten crowded yet, so we found a good spot pretty close to the water. The water was a little cold, but refreshing. The beach was great! there were a couple of bar/tapas places right on the beach, places to shower off, and free public restrooms that were not spotless, but by American public beach restrooms standards exquisite! I did post on my Facebook status that I was concerned about the poverty in Barcelona. Apparently the women there can't afford to buy a matching top to go with their bikini bottoms... Some of what we saw was not pretty... I had been warned of this, but thought that it would only be on more rural beaches, not a public beach in the city!

That evening we had decided to head into the city center to see the Magic Fountains. I had read mixed reviews about it (DISers raved, Rick Steeves didn't), but this was one of the things I really wanted to see. The subway in Barcelona is very easy to navigate so we used it to get us there. It took us about a half hour, and when we exited the station it was a sea of people. This was the only time on the entire trip that I was worried about being pick-pocketed. We trudged our way to the fountain (which was much larger than I expected), and found a pretty good place to sit and watch. To our surprise the entire "show" was set to Disney music (in the video below it is kind of hard to hear over the crowd, but it is Circle of Life), albeit in Spanish. It was a great warm up for our cruise in two days! If you are in Barcelona over the weekend this is definitely worth seeing! Gorgeous!

The next day was going to be our big tourist day. We had pre-purchased our tickets for the Barcelona Bus Touristic, and I had high hopes. My parents were coming in to meet us that morning, and they were going to join us on the bus! There was a bus stop right by the shopping center, so after they got to the hotel and showered up, headed back to Subway and then to the bus.

This was the one disappointment in Barcelona. We have toured around on "Hop On Hop Off" buses in a couple different cites, and have always found them to be a great way to see a lot of the city. The Barcelona Bus Touristic was reviewed well, but it just didn't work for us. The bus has three routes, and there aren't enough places to switch. We went on the Blue route to see La Sagrada Familia (AWESOME!), but then we were stuck on that route for more than an hour. Then we would have had to switch to red and then to green to get back to our hotel. We abandoned ship er... bus and took the subway back. That night we walked over to the shopping center and had some "very fresh" seafood at one of the restaurants.

The next morning we boarded the Disney Magic! Originally we had planned to take the subway to the Christopher Columbus monument and catch a port bus to the ship, but since that would have required lugging our bags, and 2 train changes, we decided to take a couple taxis to the ship (25-30 euros each). We were very excited and wanted to get there as quick as possible! We'll pick up there on the next post.

I despise using the phrase "in conclusion", but, in conclusion, we loved Barcelona! from the moment we got to the hotel we felt like we were on vacation. Coming from Bucharest it really almost felt like being back in the US. The people were so nice, there was so much to experience. There is so much more of the city that we have to explore. We can't wait to go back! Maybe for a long weekend, or maybe a couple years!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Disney Mediterranean Cruise will take place on a cruise liner that blends classic beauty and grace with all the modern luxuries, technology and comforts that make cruising a pleasure. It is a great vacation idea for any family and when you combine it with the historic culture of the coasts of Europe you have planned a vacation of a lifetime. Thanks....

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