Cruising Europe with Carnival Cruise Lines
A Mediterranean cruise is always a memorable vacation, and sailing on a beautiful ship like the Carnival Breeze just adds to the fun. Although Carnival does not normally base any of ist ships in the Mediterranean, this cruise log of a 12-day voyage roundtrip from Barcelona on the Carnival Breeze includes many of the same onboard experiences, ports of call, and shore excursions that guests can enjoy on other ships in the Carnival family that do sail in Europe such as those of Holland America, Princess, Costa, Cunard, or Seabourn. I also sailed the Mediterranean on the Carnival Magic and Carnival Liberty, so travelers planning a Mediterranean cruise vacation might also want to check out those cruise travel logs.
Carnival Breeze Mediterranean Cruise Itinerary
- Livorno (Florence, Pisa, Tuscany, Cinque Terre)
- Civitavecchia (Rome)
- Palma de Mallorca
Embarkation in Barcelona
Barcelona has more cruise visitors than any other port in Europe, and it's no wonder. First, the airport is large and modern, with many non-stop or one-stops flights to the USA. Second, it's only a 30-minute ride from the cruise ship port to the airport. Third, the port is only a short distance via shuttle from La Rambla, one of the world's most famous pedestrian boulevards. Finally, Barcelona is an amazing Mediterranean city, filled with fascinating architecture and a vibrant atmosphere, making it a great introduction to this part of the Mediterranean.
Cruise passengers traveling from North America to Europe should plan to arrive in their embarkation city the night before. It certainly cuts back on the stress of possibly missing your ship. I didn't take my own advice this time, but luckily our non-stop flight from Atlanta was uneventful. The check in at the Carnival Breeze went very smoothly, and we were on the ship in no time (less than 20 minutes). The cabins weren't ready, but it was nice to find a seat in the Lido Marketplace and enjoy an early lunch.
While we were waiting for the cabins to open up, some of our fellow cruisers chose to either take a Carnival-sponsored shore excursion of either Barcelona or Montserrat or just drop off their luggage and go into town to explore on their own. Barcelona has many fascinating sights, and the most dramatic is La Sagrada Familia, the city's unfinished basilica. If you only have time to see one thing in the city, this is it. Even though incomplete, the church towers over the city. It's not within walking distance of the port, so you will need to take a taxi, tour, or hop-on, hop-off bus.
Our time in Barcelona was way too short, but we were all excited about beginning our Mediterranean adventure on this exciting new ship. The Carnival Breeze sailed for our first port of call, Marseille, France, in the late afternoon.
A Day in Marseille, France
The next morning we awoke in Marseille, which is the largest city in the south of France. From the ship, we had a good view of Chateau d'If, the prison island made famous as one of the settings in the Count of Monte Cristo. Marseille is a good Mediterranean port of call because it is so close to many of the famous towns in the region of Provence. Shore excursions to picturesque French villages like Cassis, Le Castellet, Les Baux de Provence, or Bandol are popular choices as are tours to historical towns like Avignon, Arles, and Aix en Provence. Art lovers are always thrilled to see places that inspired artists like Van Gogh and Cezanne.
Since it was the first day in Europe for many jet-lagged guests on the Carnival Breeze, some decided to take the shuttle (12 euros per person round trip) into Marseille and just stretch their legs. The old town area along the port is interesting to explore, and the views of the city and the sea from the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, its iconic church high on a hill, are worth the price of a taxi.
I stayed on board and ate lunch at Cucina del Capitano, one of the new dining venues. This casual Italian eatery has a surcharge in the evening but is complimentary at lunch. Patrons use a form to select their pasta, toppings, and sauce, and the waitstaff deliver the food right to your table.
After another good dinner at the Blush Dining Room, I went to the production show in the lounge. It had a Motown theme, and at the conclusion of the show, the dancers led the audience out into the large atrium where a DJ played music and everyone danced. Great idea, and it was fun watching the dancers from the deck above.
The Carnival Breeze continued its trek towards the east and Livorno, Italy, the port used for access to Florence, Pisa, the Tuscany region, and the Cinque Terre.
A Day Exploring Florence from Livorno
The Carnival Breeze docked early the next morning in Livorno, Italy, the port for Florence, Pisa, Tuscany, and the Cinque Terre. Livorno is mostly just a port town, but the surrounding area has options that appeal to all travelers. Florence is one of those cities you can visit over and over, but it's more than an hour's drive from Livorno, so it's best to take a ship's tour. Adventurous travelers can take a train, but you always run the risk of possibly missing the ship if there is an unannounced strike.
Kids (and adults) will also enjoy Pisa, with its famous leaning tower. The setting for the tower is quite interesting, since the buildings surrounding it are historical and quite lovely.
Other days trips from Livorno include a day at Portovenere or the picturesque seaside villages of the Cinque Terre. I love these Italian coastal towns, but they are about a 2-hour bus ride from Livorno. However, if you have visited Florence, Pisa, and Tuscany, it's well worth the time on the bus to even just spend a couple of hours in these villages.
I had a "Florence on Your Own" tour scheduled, which left the ship at 8 am. "On your own" tours provide transportation with an onboard escort--no guides. Great for those who like to do their own thing or who have visited a place before. We were up early and had a light breakfast before heading off to the designated meeting place--the theater--at 7:30 am. (They ask you to be at the meeting point 30 minutes prior to the tour departure.) The Carnival Breeze shore excursion staff did an excellent job of keeping everyone organized and on schedule. I think most days there were about 30 buses running, so that's over 1,000 passengers moving on and off the ship in large groups.
Our bus left the ship at 8:00 am as scheduled. The tours seemed to run very smoothly. It was about 1.5-hour ride to Florence, and our escort was excellent. He was from Israel originally, but fell in love with an Italian girl when he was working as a cruise ship security officer. He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and spoke good English. What more can you ask for in a guide?
Mom and I spent our 6.5 hours in Florence just exploring the city on our own. We had been before, so chose to take our time and just soak up the atmosphere. We did a lot of window shopping, strolling, and people watching. Mom found a cute pair of thonged sandals in the window of one store. They were less than 1300 euros (about $1600)! Lucky for her the store was closed, not that she'd ever pay $1600 for a pair of flip-flops. It was very hot--over 90 degrees--so we stopped often to sit in the shade, have a cold drink, or an even colder gelato. We had a pizza at a cute cafe near the flea market called Mama Mia's. Sat for a long time in the shade of the gallery at the Piazza del Signorio next to the Uffizi Gallery, which is the piazza with the replica of Michelangelo's David.
On the way back to Livorno, the bus driver stopped for 10 minutes at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a viewpoint high over the Arno River that provides gorgeous views of the city of Florence.
We got back to the Breeze about 6:30 pm. I ate in the Blush Dining Room, and then went to the show called "Brits" that focused on the music of the 60s and 70's of the British rock groups/solo artists. The ship has a huge LED video screen they are using in the production shows. This screen adds a lot of special effects and color to the show. Very clever.
The next day the Carnival Breeze had an even earlier day in Rome.
A Day in Rome
The next day we awoke at 5:30 am (before the sun was up) in Civitavecchia, the port closest to Rome. We had a tour that met at 7:00 am, and we left the ship by 7:30, arriving in Rome by 9 am. It was a "Rome on Your Own" tour, but the escort was not as good as the young man we had in Florence. I've done this tour several times, and always been dropped off at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. This time we were let off at the Piazza del Populo, about a 10-minute walk north of the Spanish Steps. It was okay, but didn't have the nice shopping or places to browse/snack nearby like St. Peter's does. I'm sure dropping tours off at Piazza del Populo helps cut down on the Vatican City congestion. The temperatures were pushing 100 (over 40 C), so it was another hot summer day in Italy.
We walked from Piazza del Populo down to the Spanish Steps and then another 10-15 minutes to the Trevi Fountain so we could throw in our coins. Leaving there, we walked down to the taxi stand (you can't flag a cab down in Rome) at Piazza Venezia and rode down to the "shortest" line to buy tickets for the Forum. (It's south of the Colosseum a ways and goes into the Palantine first.) It's a relatively short ride, but worth the 6 euros for us.
Even with the advertized shortest line, we still stood in line about 45 minutes to buy the tickets. We walked through the Palantine and the Forum with my guidebook. There's something quite amazing about walking on streets where ancient Romans once strolled. It's also interesting to me that fresh flowers still adorn the burial spot of Julius Caesar's ashes. Needless to say, the walk was miserably hot and shade was rare.
We left the Forum and walked the short distance to another taxi stand and rode over to the Pantheon area for lunch. (another 6 euros) On the way, we passed a very loud demonstration near a bank (guess Italians don't like bankers right now.) It was a nice lunch with a great view of the Pantheon (one of my favorite places in Rome). After lunch, I grabbed a gelato and ate it before we got in a taxi for the ride back to the meeting point at Piazza del Populo. When we got in, the taxi driver asked if we wanted the air conditioning on. Without thinking, we said "yes". The taxi ride was 20 euros. I was in shock -- should have asked what it would have been without the air conditioning. Probably about half of what we paid. The funny thing is that the taxi never really got cooled down!
We got there about 45 minutes early, so had a cold drink (iced coffee for mom and diet coke for me) in a small outdoor cafe in the shade. Everyone was on time, so we boarded the bus at 3:45 and got back to the ship at 5:30. Like the day before, the shower felt terrific! Mom and I went to the Ocean Plaza and listened to music, watched people dance, and had a drink before dinner. The dining room was less crowded than usual. Guess everyone was zonked from the hot, but enjoyable day in Rome.
Those who haven't visited Rome should probably do an organized tour to maximize their day in the city. Like many Mediterranean ports of call, Rome requires many days rather than many hours to see everything. Cruise ships like the Carnival Breeze offer full-day tours of Rome and/or Vatican City. Those who have seen the city before might want to visit one spot more in depth, like we did the Forum. The Carnival Breeze also offered tours to Lake Bracciano and through the Italian countryside for those who chose not to go into the city.
The Carnival Breeze docked at Salerno, Italy the next morning.
A Day in Salerno
Salerno was a new port of call for me. Most large cruise ships stopover at Naples, which is about 45 miles north of Salerno. The Carnival Breeze had tours to Capri, Pompeii, and the towns along the Amalfi Coast, but we decided to just explore Salerno on our own using the shuttle bus to get from the port into town.
After a leisurely breakfast, we took the 5 euro roundtrip shuttle into town. We had fun walking around Salerno--the town was a pleasant surprise, with a wide pedestrian shopping street that went on for about a mile. It had a lovely cathedral at one end, and the shopping street was only about two blocks from the bus stop where the shuttle dropped us off. It was a fun morning, and we sat (in the shade since it was miserably hot again) and enjoyed a cold drink before returning to the ship about 2 pm.
We had reservations at Cucina del Capitano at 6 pm with a large group. Although this restaurant is complimentary at lunch, there's a small fee of $12 per person for dinner ($5 for children). We had many carafes of the Chianti, Italian garlic bread, many appetizers served family style (calamari, meat balls, fried risotto, Caesar salad, green salad, eggplant), followed by our choice of main course. Mom had shrimp and I had salmon, accompanied by multiple family-style side orders (pasta with red sauce, pasta with carbonara sauce, broccoli, and fried potatoes). Delicious. We topped off the meal with dessert. Mom and I both had the lemon sorbet, along with a glass of limoncello. (I poured the limoncello over the sorbet, making it even more yummy.) All in all a good night.
Guess all those carbs (and wine) got to me. Had planned to go to the Punchliner Comedy Show, but decided to skip and go to bed. Our next day was a welcome day at sea, and Carnival has many onboard activities for both adults and kids to enjoy. After getting rejuvenated, we were stopping at Dubrovnik, Croatia.
A Day in Dubrovnik, Konavle, and Cavtat
The Carnival Breeze arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on another bright, sunny, and hot day with temperatures approaching 95. Summer was officially here. I've been to Dubrovnik several times, so we took a 4-hour tour that went out into the nearby Croatian countryside. We gathered in the theater at 8:30 and left the ship about 9:00 am--much more civilized than the 7 am departure in Rome!
First, we drove along the cliffs overlooking old town Dubrovnik, stopping long enough to snap some good photos of the city on the Adriatic, with its orange-tiled roofs. We passed many olive and cypress trees, blooming oleanders in all colors, and vineyards along the route to the Konavle Valley, which is surrounded by hills on one side and steep cliffs on another. Croatia is very narrow around Dubrovnik and Konavle, so we could see Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro in the distance, less than 10 miles away.
Our guide talked a lot about the war of the former Yugoslavia in the late 1980's/early 1990's. She said that about 14,000 Croatians died and another 1,000 were never found. According to our guide, this bloody war was started by the Serbians when some of the states (like Croatia and Slovenia) of Yugoslavia wanted to secede from the country and be independent. The Yugoslavian constitution, which was done at the end of World War II, allowed this breakup, and after Tito the dictator died, things started to sour amongst the states. Serbia was a land-locked state and decided to take this opportunity to seize some of the land along the Adriatic Sea that was owned by Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. Serbia lost that war, and today the country is smaller than the state of Serbia was when it was part of Yugoslavia. Mom and I have seen the destruction in the Serbian capital of Belgrade done by the UN (and the USA) when we were on a river cruise there. We've also seen the destruction in Dubrovnik, which was bombarded for over eight months. It's all very sad and so recent--makes it seem more real, doesn't it?
After riding about 45 minutes, we arrived at the little town of Ljuca in the Konavle valley, stopping at a small farm along a cold, fast-running river for a snack of almonds, dried figs (they had huge fig trees, but they aren't harvested until the fall), homemade bread, cheese, smoked ham, and either local white or red wine. Nice snack and clean potty! We stayed about 30 minutes. Nothing like a glass of wine at 10:30 in the morning!
Next, we were onto Cavtat, a lovely little seaside village on the Adriatic that reminded me of many of the small towns in Greece/Italy/Turkey. We had an hour to stroll around the town, eat a gelato, and check out the gorgeous yachts in the harbor. Cavtat had many souvenir shops and outdoor cafes, but it was very warm under the tents, so we found a shady bench to sit and eat our gelato. Cavtat also has a boat ferry to Dubrovnik, which makes it an "on your own" option.
We left Cavtat at 12:30 and were at the main gate of Dubrovnik at 1 pm. They gave us complimentary shuttle passes to get back to the ship, but mom and I remembered how hot the old town got with its white marble streets and high walls blocking the wind. So, we just went on back to the Carnival Breeze.
We enjoyed a late lunch in the buffet -- both of us got the Mongolian Wok since we hadn't eaten it in almost a week. Our cruise was half over!
Late in the afternoon John Heald, the cruise director, announced bad news for the next day -- there would be be a 24-hour strike all across Italy in protest of the economic crisis. The bad news was that the Carnival Breeze would be in Venice, and none of the vaporettos (water buses) were running since they are public transportation. The good news was that Carnival arranged for a group of private vaporettos to run shuttles from the ship to St. Marks for those who were not on tours. I'm sure hiring several private vaporettos cost Carnival much more than they recouped by charging a shuttle fee. However, the cruise line scored big public relations points with its guests.
Dinner was at 6 pm at Farenheit 555 Steakhouse. This specialty restaurant has a $35 pp surcharge. It's very good, but some couples might think an extra $70 (per couple) could be spent better elsewhere. We were at a table for eight, and we all loved our food. I had the tuna tartare appetizer, beefsteak tomato and Gorgonzola cheese salad, surf & turf (Maine lobster tail plus a 4-oz filet), and date/yogurt sorbet for dessert. Mom had the crab cake appetizer and lamb chop main course, along with a baked potato. (I had mashed potatoes with wasabi and horseradish as a side). She had a cappuccino for dessert. Our table was fun and we laughed a lot. The eight of us covered North America - Florida, Oregon, California, Vancouver, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia. Fun group and lots of laughs.
After a delicious, memorable dinner, it was time to return to the cabin and read for a while. It had been another good day on the Carnival Breeze. The next day we would be in Venice.
A Day in Venice
We got our first look at the low-lying islands of Venice about 8:00 the next morning. By 9:00 am, we were out on the decks watching this gorgeous city float by. (Or I guess they watched us float by.) The Carnival Breeze docked at Maritima (where all the large ships dock) about 9:45. Since none of the public transportation was working due to the nationwide strike of government workers, Carnival had sold tickets on private water buses (vaporettos), and they picked up guests right at the ship and took them directly to St. Mark's Square (San Marco). Unfortunately, about 3,000 passengers took advantage of the Carnival water shuttles, so the line was awful! Cruise director John Heald asked everyone to take their time and not go ashore for a while, so mom and I waited until 11 am. However, the line was still very long, so we decided to do our own walking tour of Venice. After all, it's a great city for walking.
We got lucky. The People Mover (1 euro each way) was working. We didn't think it would be since it is a government entity. It doesn't take you far--just a couple of minutes from the outskirts of the Maritima cruise ship terminal to Piazzale Roma, but it's a boring, hot walk. I knew we were going to be walking a long ways during the day, so I bought tickets and we were off for the short ride. Reaching Piazzale Roma, we struck out for the Rialto Bridge, meandering (that's the way you have to walk in Venice) through the narrow streets and doing some window shopping. Mom bought her neighbor some earrings, but we didn't buy anything else. Think I was too lazy to tote much in the continuing heat. It was so hot, I had a ice cold gelato even before lunch.
Mom and I stopped for lunch and a cold drink (our "usual" of cheese pizza, beer, and ice water) at a small cafe right on the Grand Canal. Although there were no vaporettos plowing up and down the canal, the private taxi traffic and the gondolas were running, so we had plenty to keep us occupied. One thing very interesting--although this was a 24-hour, nation-wide strike, we didn't see a single sign or any protestors. Someone said at dinner that he thought maybe the Italian government workers just wanted a Friday off!
Making our way across the Rialto Bridge, the foot traffic got more congested, but mom and I slowly made our way to the famous San Marco Square. Unlike the narrow alleyways that were mostly shaded, the square was baking in the hot sun, so we didn't linger. Mom hadn't seen the renovated Bridge of Sighs, so we sauntered over to it, taking a couple of photos and feeling the cool breeze roll in off the sea.
We slowly made our way back to Piazzale Roma. One thing about Venice--you can go many times and always see something new. I think you could spend one trip just looking at doors, another at windows, another at bridges, and a fourth at laundry! I was a little worried that the People Mover might be shut down, but it wasn't, so we bought our tickets, rode to Maritima, and then took the hot walk back to the ship, arriving about 3:30 or so.
Mom and I rested, took long showers, and went down to the Ocean Plaza for a cocktail before dinner. The young bartender there remembers our drinks every time--and now she remembers my folio (card) number. Her name is Sri, and she's from Indonesia. Very nice to have such personalized service on such a big ship. Our cabin steward, KunKun, is also from Indonesia, and he called us Miss Linda and Miss Marvel from the very first day we were on the ship. Guess we are more memorable than I thought!
Since the Breeze wasn't sailing until 11 pm, we only had a small turnout for dinner. It was still fun. Mom wasn't very hungry so she got two appetizers. I had a delicious tuna tartare, fried chicken that was a little dry, and my third scoop of ice cream of the day--chocolate this time to top off the Stracciatella (chocolate chip) and lemon I had in Venice.
The show was another new one. I like having a 30-minute show rather than a 45-minute one, but I think the reliance on the high-tech LED screen shows takes away from the entertainers. Carnival has also cut back from more than a dozen singers/dancers down to only eight. They almost look lost on the large stage. The technology used for the high-definition screen is very impressive, but it certainly distracts from the live entertainment. I think younger travelers will enjoy the new shows more than senior citizens.
After the show, we went outside on the deck next to the RedFrog Pub for a drink and to watch the sail away. I was a little disappointed. Venice wasn't lit up like I expected it to be. The streets were mostly very dark, as was St. Mark's Square.
Back to the cabin by midnight. Another nice day on the Carnival Breeze. We would have a welcome day at sea before arriving in Messina, Sicily.
A Day in Messina, Sicily
The passengers on the Carnival Breeze continued to enjoy calm seas and fair weather as we sailed south from Venice. That morning we ate breakfast and lounged around the ship before meeting up with our group for lunch at Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ, an outdoor barbecue spot open only on sea days. They had chicken, pulled pork, kielbasa, hot dogs, and sausages. Very good and a nice alternate place to eat (complimentary to everyone).
The rest of the day was quiet and I think everyone on the ship was happy to just relax and enjoy the sunshine and sea air.
The Carnival Breeze was sailing in the narrow Strait of Messina that divides Italy from Sicily when we woke up on Sunday morning. We had good views of Mt. Etna from our cabin, and I could see smoke drifting slowly from the top of its volcanic cone.
The ship docked in Messina about 10 am, and mom and I walked ashore. Since it was Sunday, almost everything was closed. We strolled around a little, poking our heads in a small lovely church that was setting up for services. The church had beautiful stained glass and a dome that looked much like blue Wedgwood china on the inside. We also walked into a galleria similar to the gorgeous one in Naples, but this one needed some significant renovation. It still had the lovely arched roof and glass. Messina was almost completely destroyed by a 1908 earthquake and then again during heavy fighting during World War II. The town didn't seem to have the vibrancy I've seen in other Italian towns, but it may have been because it was Sunday morning.
Mom and I timed our stroll to end up at the famous mechanical clock shortly before noon. It is housed in the bell tower of the town's cathedral. The bell tower fell down during the 1908 earthquake, but was rebuilt and the clock was added in 1933. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the clock operate at noon, the one time per day it works. The bell tower has six large windows with characters representing historical figures of Messina and religious themes. First the lion at the top window roared, and his head and tail moved. He had a metal flag in his hand and he waved it back and forth. The roaring/wagging/waving happened 3 times. Soon, it was the next window's turn. A rooster/cock stretched his head and crowed three times. Moving down the clock tower, the largest window had figures who moved through the window on a turntable. It looked like they were bowing to a seated figure and maybe presenting gifts. Surprisingly, none of the characters in the other 3 windows "performed". I'm almost ashamed to say it was a little underwhelming for me. Mom said she was glad we found a shady cement wall to sit on while we waited and that we got to stand in the shade to watch. Many of the people waited while standing in the hot sun for the 15-minute performance.
Although we chose to just stroll around Messina, many of our fellow passengers on the Carnival Breeze did organized shore excursions. The two most popular were probably day trips to either the volcano Mt. Etna or to the beautiful seaside village of Taormina. This gorgeous village is a favorite spot for many cruise travelers, but Taormina does get packed with tourists in the summer. If you are there on a clear day, the views of Mt. Etna from the old Greek theater are quite breathtaking. For those who have been to Mt. Etna and Taormina, another interesting tour visits two of the Sicilian villages used in the filming of the "Godfather" series of movies.
We returned to the ship for lunch, and mom and I ate at the BlueIguana Cantina. Very good. Returning to the cabin, we both conked out for a couple of hours. Guess all that heavy Mexican food did us in!
Dinner at the Blush Dining Room was one of the best we enjoyed in the restaurant (other than on the formal nights.) I had a hard time selecting from the appetizers and entrees. They all sounded good. Ended up with some very nice asparagus vichyssoise soup, a green salad, and a small steak filet. Chocolate ice cream for dessert.
After dinner, I went to the talent show. The talent wasn't great, but you have to admire the guts of amateurs who will perform in front of a live audience. John Heald (the cruise director) did his bedtime story act, which is so hilarious. We laughed so hard we cried. The show ran long (until after 11:30), but when we walked back to the RedFrog Pub, the place was packed as usual. I decided to pass on a drink and went back to the cabin.
We had another sea day the next day, followed by a day on Mallorca.
Mallorca - Riding the Train from Soller to Palma de Mallorca
After another sunny day at sea, the Carnival Breeze arrived in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Spanish island of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic islands. This island is sometimes spelled Majorca, but either is correct.
Mallorca is a favorite vacation spot for many Europeans, so there are interesting activities for most every taste. The island is large, so a driving tour is fun, and you can stop at the former monastery at Valldemosa, explore small villages, or even visit the Caves of Drach.
Many of our fellow passengers took the shuttle into the city, but Mom and I did a tour to Soller (pronounced Sawyer) on the northern coast of the island. We rode for about an hour through the city and onto Soller, crossing the dry plains and mountain range than divides Mallorca. The bus dropped us off at the edge of town, and we had to walk about 15 minutes to the city center. I felt very badly for a few people on the tour who struggled to make the walk. The Carnival description of the tour labeled it a "level 2", which equates to moderate activity. The Carnival brochure description was, "fairly active excursion requiring intermittent effort throughout. May involve recurring physical movement, including walking medium distances over uneven surfaces and climbing stairs." Not sure why passengers often don't seem to read the shore excursion descriptions and recognize their own limitations. It's scary for me to see the pain of exertion in the faces of those who have trouble walking, but it's also a little unfair for a large group to be continually slowed down by a few who can't keep up and ignored the shore excursion description.
After our bus ride across and through (via tunnels) the mountains, we arrived at the downtown square of Soller. We had a free hour to explore the small town, have a homemade gelato, drink fresh orange juice, shop, and take a potty break. At 12:00, we walked about a block to the train station to ride the Tren de Soller (Soller Train) over the mountains and back to Palma. Ronnie and I had ridden the train several years before, but it was a foggy, rainy day, and this time was much more scenic. The narrow gauge train was built in the early 1900's and became an electric train in 1929. The old train cars are wooden, and the route back to Palma passes through 13 tunnels in the 50-minute ride. I think everyone on the tour (except those with walking difficulties) really enjoyed the tour.
A bus picked us up at the train station and headed back towards the ship. Some people got off the bus near the cathedral in Palma (about 3 miles away from the dock), but we had toured it before so decided to head back to the Carnival Breeze and start packing for disembarkation in Barcelona the next day.
Barcelona - Debarkation from the Carnival Breeze
Debarkation from the Carnival Breeze could not have been simpler. Passengers have two options for getting their luggage off the ship. They can choose to either tag their luggage with the tag provided by the cruise ship that is colored based on debarkation time, place their luggage outside their cabin door late in the evening before going to bed, and then claim it in the cruise terminal the next morning. Or, they can do "self-assist", which means they keep their luggage and are responsible for carrying it off the ship and to their airport transportation. The first option is the traditional method and is best for those who either have a lot of luggage or can't wheel/carry it through the ship and terminal. The second option is best for those who either don't have much luggage or have the kind that wheels easily. The cruise terminal in Barcelona has both an elevator and an escalator, so you don't have to carry the luggage up or down stairs, although the wait at the elevator can take a little while. I really like the self-assist method since it provides maximum flexibility of when you debark.
Carnival offers transfers to the airport, but taxis are also available outside the terminal. One warning--the taxi line gets extremely long. If you are flying out of Barcelona on debarkation day, I recommend you either book a Carnival transfer to the airport or reserve a private transfer.
Those staying in Barcelona overnight have more flexibility. They can leave the Carnival Breeze very early to miss the crowds in the taxi line, or they can wait until everyone is asked to leave the ship, which was about 9 am on our cruise. Carnival offered optional shore excursion tours of Barcelona and Monserrat for those who either had late flights or were staying in the city. If you didn't get an opportunity to visit the fascinating city of Barcelona before your cruise, you definitely need to take the time after you leave the Carnival Breeze.
Our cruise on the Carnival Breeze was a wonderful twelve days on the Mediterranean. The ship is beautiful, and Carnival has added some terrific new dining, bar, and entertainment venues. I think it's a great choice and a great value for a family or multi-generational vacation, although your total vacation cost can really add up if you drink a lot, gamble, or book many shore excursions. Anyone who enjoys a tropical resort or large cruise ship vacation should find the Carnival Breeze to be fun and memorable--just as Carnival promises.
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