Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hedonism on the Sea, The End

I need to mention here that there are ports we stopped at that I haven't mentioned because we either didn't get off the ship or we just spent the day at a beach- not terribly interesting. :-)

Next time we did get off the ship was at Cadiz, Spain which is a very nice place- but we only had one day in port and I wanted to take my guys to Sevilla. I had visited there in 1973 with my high school Spanish class and along with Toledo it was my favorite city in Spain, so I dragged them onto a bus and we headed away from the cool coast to the hot interior.

Of all the castles and palaces we have visited in Europe, the Alcazar in Sevilla easily makes the top 3. It's huge and ornate without being gaudy and has the loveliest gardens anywhere. These agapanthus are everywhere throughout the grounds...

and the gardens go on forever...

The palace itself is full of tiles and mosaics and was constructed in the Moorish tradition

(with some ugly gothic additions by Charles the V).

There are tapestries on the walls, and lots of halls and stairs and windows and doors.

Doors for much smaller medieval people-

(note 21st Century boy for scale)...

We hired a horse drawn carriage and took a tour of town, then headed back to the ship.

If I was you, I'd be a little curious about the ship, so we'll take a break from our Southern European tour here to see a little more of the Monster of the Seas.

It's hard to convey how big it is with numbers like tonnage and stuff, so I'll tell you they put maps on every deck and after two weeks on board, we were STILL checking the maps for to see where we were or where we wanted to be.

Here's the one on our deck...

They have a little red dot for "You are Here", so no matter where you are, you're back at the red dot. :-)

On the Promenade they had little ship models to help you find your way around.

Hopefully you can make those pictures big enough to read some of the words- the "Promenade" was a shopping mall and elsewhere on the ship there was an ice rink (yes, we have been ice skating on the Atlantic!), a 30 foot rock wall, a mini-putt golf course, a basketball court, a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream store, a Johnny Rockets restaurant, and the usual bars, casino, theater, etc. etc. etc.

There were vertical open areas that went five decks or more- it is a truly wild feat of engineering (there was even a program on our stateroom TV that documented the difficulties of building ships this massive with so much open space...).

Here's a shot off the lobby of deck 10 looking straight down. You can see the stairs on deck four and the center foreground is even lower.

The half circles on the sides are the glass elevators. Four elevators on each side. Incredible.

One of the coolest things was the "Peek a Boo Bridge".

You can go on deck at the front of the ship and hang out in front of aquarium-like windows, except instead of fish, it was the ship's bridge!

Very Star Trek.

Our favorite of all the bars was the English Pub because you could sit on stools at barrel tables out front and watch the passing parade.

And just in case you are curious about the staterooms, here is a picture of ours.

Cooper's bed is the fold out sofa on the left foreground. I'm standing next to our bathroom and facing the sliding glass doors to our private balcony. I'm telling you we were in heaven!

When we could tear ourselves away from our floating paradise, we got off again in Lisbon Portugal.

Lisbon is a very nice city- full of killer hills just like our beloved San Francisco, and sharing a Golden Gate Bridge 'wannabe'...

It's a double decker bridge and not exactly as majestic as the real Golden Gate, but it's cute and we got to sail right smack under it coming and going.

We started our Lisbon explorations in this pedestrian mall...

and wandered around until we found this:

It's what the Portugese call an "elevador" and it is used to hoist people up from one street to another on their massive hills. This particular one was designed by an apprentice to Mr. Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, and it shows. :-)

Just for local color, I'll share this picture of a major plaza in Lisbon,

and the sign contained on one side of it that cracked us up...

We have no idea what a 'bombeiro' is, but we like them anyway just for their name!

Back on the ship for a hop up to the northwest corner of Spain and city called Vigo.

They have jumped on the big decorated cow bandwagon that we've encountered all over America and Europe and they cracked us up. Here is a selection of Vigo cows (note that the last cow is the best because it has Ted in its picture)...

and two really nice fountains we stumbled on as we wandered...

and some gorgeous Hydrangeas in their city park...

It's a very nice little city that speaks a hybrid of Spanish and Galician which torqued my poor brain something awful.

So, over a period of two weeks we traded our usual explorations of a single country for little quickie excursions into many different places, but in return we got a stable, reliable, incredibly pampered experience on our giant Ship of Dreams.

On our last port stop, we took this photo of our home away from home and I'll put it here as my parting shot for a truly memorable trip.