Taking a Transatlantic Cruise

Having flown to Europe at least ten times, we decided to break the mold and take a 14 day cruise from Puerto Rico to Rome.  Along the way we would have six Ports O’Call.  This sojourn was done in May of 2018.

Cruising has become popular way of travel for millions of people

We used www.vacationstogo.com web site to look initially to view our transatlantic cruise.  There are other web sites, but this web site is easy to navigate.

We were intrigued about this cruise as there was only 5 days completely away from land. Usually the length is at least seven days or more.  Also, this Royal Caribbean itinerary for “Jewel of the Seas” was to dock in three Canary Islands, the Rock of Gibraltar, Alicante and Spain’s third largest city, Valencia.

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea is of the Radiance Class.  Not too big, not too small.  It holds 2500 passengers and over 800 crew members. Even though commissioned in 2004, we thought it had all the bells and whistles. The crew, though, made the show. 

There was a lot to like about Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas,

After 14 days, the cruise ended at the port of Rome.  We then took a jaunt to Sorrento and the island of Capri. We booked directly with Royal Caribbean.  If we needed to cancel, there were no charges up to a certain date.

An older ship, but well taken care of and loved by the crew.

For six of the 14 days we had to “forward the clock” an hour.  By the third time, there were fewer and fewer early risers.  The  big advantage though was no “jet lag” when we docked. 

We got up early everyday for a sea-window and breakfast in the main dinning room.

We flew a Delta plane out of West Palm Beach.  Kathie likes PBI.  The only way to go directly with Delta was first to fly to Atlanta, and then back down to Puerto Rico.  We went a day early in order to make sure we arrived to the port on time. A flight from Ft. Lauderdale would be more direct.

Flying over Puerto Rico we could still see many blue tarps over rooftops.  Damage can still be seen.

Almost a year out, there are still blue roofs in San Juan

We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort. This is a comfortable resort right on the ocean.  The only problem it was a distance from “Old Town.” 

There was a line at embarkation.  A man from Heidelberg, Germany asked me to use my pen.  All through the voyage we kept on seeing each other. That “pen” became our symbol of friendship.   The Royal Caribbean process went quickly.

Departing from Puerto Rico, there was a strong contingent of people from PR.  Our cruise director made a comment that we left with 300 Puerto Ricans, and arrived with 1000 Puerto Ricans.  Their personalities were so vivacious and positively infectious. 

10/10. The crew on the ship was marvelous.  We were treated like royalty.  Maybe this attitude is due to the Captain Dustin, who was always calm and polite.  Everyone walked around with smiles.

Our room Steward was “Lezroy” from St. Vincent.  He is a big guy and not someone you would think would do this style of work.  Lezroy has a superb personality and was always there for any requests.

Lezroy from St. Vincent is a superb room attendant with a great personality. We tipped him well.
One of several Lezroy’s towel creations.

Likewise, the rest of the crew was superb.  We particularly enjoyed Rohan at the Schooners Bar.  At first he said he “was from Iceland.”  That wasn’t totally true as he is from St. Vincent.  It was a running joke that he “was from Iceland.”

Rohan, also from St. Vincent, has a winning personality at the bar.

Nearly the 800 crew members were from 70 different nations. The cruise director, though, stole the show.  Andrea is from Italy.  It appeared that every word ended with an “A.”  The cruise became “cruise-a.” Having a fun cruise director does help on a long voyage. 

Andrea, our cruise director, is indeed smeared with food coloring…..

   Royal Caribbean has two main dining areas.  A buffet on deck 10 is known as “ The Tradewinds.”  The Main dining rooms on Deck 4 and 5.  We made a request to have a “table for two” along an ocean window.  For some reason, our request came through.

I will not bring a jacket again, a tie and nice shirt is OK

Our head waiter, Gianni, as you can tell by his name was from Italy.  He always came to our table and talked.  He is now married to a shipmate and now lives in the Philippines.  He plans on retiring in three years.

Our main waitress and waiter are from Lonela from Romania and Davor Croatia. They were always pleasant and spot on with the food.

As for the food in the main dining room, it was 6/10.  We found the food on the upper deck, The Tradewinds, to actually be better. 

One of the many buffet plates.

  Every night, though, the main dining room had escargot—one of my favorite dishes.

Unlike many other cruise ships and lines, we had escargot every night!

The best meal was the lobster and Prime Rib night—although served on the same night.

Kathie was a bit nervous about being out to sea for five straight days. We didn’t sign up for the internet service as we have found in the past the internet at sea to be spotty and not worth the monies.  We did meet a couple who had good luck with the internet though.

We also did not sign up for Royal Caribbean’s “drink package.”  We made due to having any happy hours in the Schooners Bar.  There was also free Champaign from time to time.  If you were to do a “drink package,” make sure you do it before the cruise and not on the cruise. There was a $10 dollar difference per person per day.

We opted to have a balcony room.  A room with a view is always nice.  We did see a number of beautiful sunsets.  Ironically, the only sea life was seeing dolphins off the Rock of Gibraltar. 

All the days had sun and only one day of reasonable rough seas.

Half way through there was a large celebration for crossing the Atlantic.  Kari, from the Canadian side of Sult Saint Marie, was “King Neptune.”  He literally baptized all new comers to the crossing.  We got to know Kari and his wife.  His ancestors were from Finland.  He had a leg up on the Trivia game when the question was ask, “What is the only Finnish word in the English language?”  Ans: Sauna.  

To also entertain the passengers there was your standard bingo and interesting  trivia games.  We observed that a number of passengers really take trivia games seriously. What we really enjoyed was watching the multi-day “Chef cookoff” in the Atrium area.  12 crew members and passengers in teams of two competed on doing various food dishes.  It got quite competitive.

Watching contestants making food dishes turned out to be interesting and fun.

The pool area is superb, 10/10.  The weather was in the high seventies. There are actually two pools on the Jewel of The Sea. There is an outside pool that is salt water; and an inside pool, freshwater.  I really did enjoy the outside pool with the large video screen that played such movies as “Dunkirk.” 

The pool area was my favorite area of the ship.

It was by the pool area, too, that the “Parade of Nations” took place one day.  Crew members came out waving their national flags.  The British folks had the best song as they played from the Beatles venue. 

There were crew members from over seventy nations on the ship.

The best nightly entertainment act was actually from the passengers and crew that practiced nearly a week for this Variety Show.   An 11 years old girl from Montana stole the show with her lovely voice. 

The passenger variety show was spectacular.

Our first Port O’Call was “Isla de La Palma.”  The Canary Islands are located off of Africa, about nine hundred miles south of Portugal’s islands known as the Azores. The Canary Islands, though, are owned by Spain. They are volcanic in nature and known as “seamounts.”  One mountain is over 12,000 feet.  

Walking in the Old Town of Santa Cruz along “Calle O’Daly” is what our sea weary legs needed. The area dates back to the 1600’s with a rich tradition of Spanish history.  Christopher Columbus landed not far from this island on his journey across to the continent that would not be named for him. 

A cement ship as a replica of Santa Maria is located at the end of Calle O’Daly.  We enjoyed walking in and out of shops, alley ways and just enjoying the ambiance.

The next day we were on the island of Tenerife.  A larger island filled with a huge population.  It was Sunday and we enjoyed exploring their “Old Town” known as “San Crisobal de La Laguna.”  We mastered their tram system that took us ten miles from the port to their famous World Heritage site.  Who needed expensive shore excursions?

Tenerife is a popular island in the Canary chain.

The third and last stop in the Canary Islands was Las Palmas.  Now, don’t confuse the name with our first stop, La Palma.  I know someone who actually flew to the wrong island.

Las Palmas became our favorite Canary Island.  We walked along the seacoast for three miles to the historical old town known as Triana Las Palmas.

Sculpture beginning along the famous historical street, Traina

At a café, we bumped into one of the servers in the Main dining room.  Anna was from St. Petersburg, Russia.  She is dynamic and told us to visit her fine city.  We plan to next summer!

After meeting Ann from St. Petersburg, Russia. I told Kathie, “we need to go there!”

The old Spanish church, Catedral de Santa Ana, is quite stunning, but not on par with other Spanish Churches on the mainland.  We enjoyed our time there and the walk back to port.

Inside the Cathedral Santa Ana in Las Palmas

Our fourth Port O’Call was the exciting peninsula of The Rock of Gibraltar. 

An incredible peninsula that is actually still under British rule.

Our main two objectives (you just can’t see everything on a cruise) were to take the cable car up the mount and to visit “Punta de Europa.”

Kathie and I literally followed this fast walking couple.  We just knew they were heading to the cable car facility.  Along the way we walked through Gibraltar’s famous and busy“Main Street.” 

Mid-day along Gibraltar’s Main Street.

A six minute cable ride, and well worth paying, will take you near the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.  By going early, you do miss the crowds.  That couple we followed is from Germany and it was their second time on The Rock.  They indeed knew where to walk to.

It takes about two hours to climb up, six minutes by cable car.

We visited Gibraltar on a beautiful day.  The sights are spectacular. 

Magnificent views on both sides.

All over the islands are warnings about “The Barbary macaque’s.”  These monkeys are the only wild population of monkeys in Europe.

 It is believed they were introduced during the Islamic period around 1600.  It is unlawful to feed or touch them with a fine worth about $5000.  These monkeys can give a nasty bite with a high chance of infection.  You really don’t want to get close to them. Obviously, we did see a taxi driver touch and feed a monkey.

This passenger was too close in my estimation.

We took a taxi to “Punta de Europa.”  The driver was kind enough to show us a cheaper way to get back to town with a bus. 

On a clear day Africa can be seen—which we saw!  We also found The Sikorski Memorial.  A famous Polish General was killed near here during an airplane crash. If he had lived I think he would have been a future Prime Minister of Poland.  

Our second to last port was the beautiful city of Alicante.  The castle of Santa Barbara dominates the area.  The early foundations date back to about 1000 AD.  The views are absolutely spectacular. 

It is easy to see why people LOVE Alicante, Spain

 

The castle area was a center of activity for thousands of years.

And one can’t forget the famous Esplanada walking area. There is something special about Spain, and even through Europe, which makes visiting so different that the USA.  The Explanada is typical of the Spain’s promenades.

It is easy to love the Esplanada in Alicante, Spain

Our last Port O’Call was the third largest city in Spain, Valencia.  We took a Hop On Hop Off bus to explore this magnificent city. 

We found the Hop On Hop off bus in Valencia to be rewarding.

What we remember the most was seeing a modern contemporary large cobalt blue statue named “Dama Iberica.” It is something you normally never see.

A beautiful piece of sculpture in Valencia, Spain

One of Europe’s major aquariums is located in Valencia.  Most of the exhibits are actually below ground.  I would give this place an 8/10.

It took one sea day to get to Civitavecchia, the port of Rome.  Ironically, the port is not as large as you think it would be.

The Port of Rome is a good fifty miles from Rome .

 We went through the Strait of Bonifacio, between French Corsica and Italy’s Sardinia. Normally the Strait have rough seas.  We came through on a calm beautiful day near sunset. 

Coming through the Straits of Bonafacio is awesome.

One of my desires is someday to visit Corsica’s “Bonifacio.”  If you have ever seen the French film at EPCOT, “Impressions de France,” there is a beautiful shot of this cliffside town.  The picture below is near Bonifacio overlooking the Straits. 

The large village is actually to the left. A marvelous area on the EPCOT’s film “Impressions of France”.

We did extend our time in Italy by almost two weeks visiting Sorento and the Isle of Capri: both incredible areas.  We always recommend staying longer at the beginning or the ending of a cruise.

The Isle of Capri. Kathie and I want to go back someday.

8/10 final verdict of the cruise.   The crew and the Ports O’Call made the cruise for us.  14 days went by awfully quickly.  Can’t say we were ever bored.  There was always something to see, do or eat. Someday we may do it again.  It does take a chunk of your travel time.  Then again, there is something romantic and relaxing as the sea and sunsets go by. 

 

Off the coast of Spain