After ten weeks of backpacking and super strict budgeting through Western Europe, in addition to the excitement of many new cities under our belts, we were feeling quite run down to say the least. We’d spent the entire summer moving from place to place every couple of days, and even the idea of unpacking our clothing from our packs had taken on a whole new meaning. It was no surprise then, that we were pretty psyched to board our ride home – a 14 night transatlantic cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas. Those of you who have cruised before know how relaxing it can be, and how great it can be to not have to worry about figuring out a meal the entire time onboard. Another perk was the fact that transatlantic cruises are a particularly good deal financially since they are one-way. The cruise fare did not fit into our daily travel budget, but on the plus side, we had booked and paid for it while we were still working. For the first time on our trip so far, we did not have to worry about daily food, lodging and transportation fitting into the budget!
Our transatlantic jaunt had few ports but included ten blissful days at sea filled with a myriad of activities. For those of you concerned you’d be bored on a cruise – especially one with that many sea days – the best retort I have is a recent quote from a friend who said, “If you’re bored on a cruise, it’s because you’re trying to be bored.” Appealing to us in particular were trivia games, ping pong tournaments (in which I placed second, yay!), dancing in lounges in the evenings and dance lessons by day (I won’t disclose if anyone in our party partook in the Michael Jackson Thriller dance lesson). We tried some Bridge lessons (realizing we need to start now because it will take us 30 years to fully learn the game) and I attempted to learn how to knit at the crafting group while Elliott worked on his cross-stitch projects. Add to those activities lots of swimming, workouts in the fitness center, walks on the promenade deck, reading, formal dinners, shows and dance parties, and we were pretty busy when we weren’t relaxing.
We did spend some time off the ship and had fun discovering new ports. Our first stop was the town of Gijon, on the northwest coast of Spain. We created our own walking tour of the city and set out on our way, taking in an “exercise park”, a fort, a huge cement sculpture, some Roman Baths, and finally a beach walk. The exercise park was super cool and we even saw an older local gentleman utilizing the equipment there. It was such a cool concept that I don’t understand why there aren’t parks like this made for adults, all over our own country. The Roman Baths were pretty funny since we hadn’t encountered any Roman Baths actually *in* Rome, and the baths had signage only in Spanish, but we were psyched that they were free and we could walk around and take them in. The Spanish explanations did make us wish we had learned Spanish *before* this trip!
Our next port was Vigo, another small city on the west coast of Spain. We walked around a bit and I found some cool fountains and an old dilapidated fort after climbing up a ton of hills. We missed going to Lisbon because the ship pilots there were on strike, but we made it to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. We were both really excited about this since the Azores have been on our list of top places to visit for many years. The big attraction there was Sete Cidades – a volcanic crater containing both a blue and green lake, Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, which get their colors by reflecting the vegetation around them. After returning to town we walked around and did some site-seeing including the original town gates, mosaic sidewalks and several churches. We never found the synagogue but we did come across some beautiful gardens – Jardim Jose Do Canto – where we played on a giant Rubber Tree, found Hibiscus flowers bigger than our heads, and stalked frogs playing in a pool.
After Ponta Delgada, the solid week at sea found us recharged, and ready to reconnect with friends and family and begin the next leg of our adventure!