08 November 2012

Our First Cruise. . .Packing, Flight to Barcelona, & Our First View

October 2012

We have just returned from our family's first cruise. . .a seven day float on the Liberty of the Seas around the Western Mediterranean.  We started in Barcelona with two stops in Southern France and three in Italy.  Royal Caribbean International was the cruise company for us--there weren't an overwhelming number of Americans, but just enough to make it feel a little more like home.  And the added bonus for us was that everything on board the ship was charged in US dollars!  Hooray. . .we didn't take a hit on the exchange for once!!

It was a great surprise for the girls when they found out Keith's parents were joining us on this journey--Mom and Dad Brum have cruised before, but had not been to France or Italy.  They arrived in Birmingham via Amsterdam on Thursday  morning and were waiting in the conservatory to surprise the big girls when they got home from school.

Our plan was to head down to London on Friday night for our Saturday 7:20 am flight to Barcelona.

Packing has become fairly easy for me by now--I know that most places in Europe will require clothes for numerous weather conditions EVERY DAY.  The added challenge with the cruise, however, was the "dressing for dinner". . .not only was it important to have shorts & tees, pants & sweatshirts, bathing suits & pjs for each day. . . we also had to have clean and sometimes fancier clothes for dinner.  BUT, my professional skills as a Family Packer won out, and I managed to get it all in our suitcases: five of them. .and one carry-on suitcase, three backpacks, a camera bag, a stroller, and my purse. Mom and Dad had three suitcases. The amount of luggage we had will feature at the end of our journey (as you can imagine, it wasn't the easiest load to haul!).

Friday night, we made it to London Stansted Airport with no problems. .Keith got the long-term parking sorted and we checked into our rooms at the Radisson Blu Stansted.  Very modern and nice hotel. . .I recommend if you are flying out of Stansted as it is connected to the terminal by a covered walkway.  Super easy to make it to the airport on time! :)  The kids were amazed by the famous wine tower that they have there and the acrobatic methods the bartender used to get a bottle of wine.  (Keith and his dad were, too. . but I am sure for very different reasons!)

Saturday morning was an early 4:30 am start, but we were able to be up and off to our EasyJet flight. . .then on to Barcelona!!!  As always, our travelling girls did really well on the flight--they got to sit three across by themselves and had a grand old time (I don't even think we had to whip out the iPad).  The only bits of trouble were the man in front of Charlotte who fussed at me because she was kicking his seat back. . ."Sorry, sir, I will do what I can--she's 2"--ugh!  And the worst of the trouble was that a little bit of turbulence made the servers unable to deliver coffee straight away. . .GRRRR!

It was quick and easy to get luggage (which, because of the humidity, was covered in condensation) and find our transfer to the cruise. . after a short wait and a short walk to the bus, we were off to the Liberty of the Seas.  Obviously, you never get to see much when you are in a city for the airport, etc, but I snapped a few pictures on the way to the ship.

 Ready to get this ship sailing!!

 Barcelona Airport

 Good to see that Spain is up on future literary classics! ;)

 Keith and his Dad showed up in the same outfit Saturday--and the actual same shirt. . .no one noticed until we were in Barcelona!

 Cheeky girls on the shuttle bus.

 The Golden Arches are everywhere. . . 

 Montjuic Cemetery on Montjuic Hill overlooking Barcelona. It was opened by the city in 1883.

 Our first view of the Liberty of the Seas!!

 Then around a HUGE roundabout. . .

And in to Barcelona Port!  

Check in was so very smooth and easy. . .we dropped our bags off with porters outside the cruise terminal and then queued for a few minutes to get our SeaPass cards (our key, charge card, id for the week).  After that, it was off to the boat!  Our rooms were ready, so we were able to drop off  our bags/stroller and then head out to explore the ship and grab some food.

 Crossing the gangplank onto the ship for the first time. . .

 We had a really nice room--an Oceanview Family Stateroom. . with air-conditioning!!  (No need for it in the UK, but I really miss sleeping in AC)  It was on the front of the ship and our curtains had to be drawn after dark so that the light would not interfere with the view from the bridge.  Behind me is our bathroom and a separate alcove with bunk beds for the big girls.  Curtains could be drawn across their "room" and then another curtain just before the bed, so we all had our own little spaces for sleeping.

The next pics are different views of the Promenade--which was the central part of the ship.  It had a theatre, various shops and kiosks (only open when we were at sea), Sorrento's pizza parlor, an English pub, Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks cafe, a cupcake shoppe, a bar, and our dining room, The Botticelli.

Maggie and Charlotte (and occasionally Hannah) loved to dance up and down the Promenade.
It took a little while to figure out the forward and the aft and what places were on which ends, so these very cool maps were helpful!  Also, they had touch screen computers that helped us to navigate.

After a little food at Sorrento's and then the Guest Assembly Drill, we explored the pool deck and Adventure Ocean kids' clubs (with Bahama Mamas in hand).

The ship sailed each evening from around 7pm to 7am, so we caught the ship pulling out of Barcelona Port (not as exciting as I would have thought!)  Hannah started to feel a little sea sick, so we whipped out the SeaBands and headed for the buffet at The Windjammer.  The bands and food seemed to work for her, which was a relief!

After dinner, we headed back up to our rooms to finish unpacking and then it was early to bed for the girls because we had a Dreamworks Character Breakfast scheduled for 8:00 am Sunday!!

The motion of the ocean (or sea) successfully and quickly rocked us all to sleep!