2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Barcelona and Corsica

This is my 7th and final post of my Mediterranean Adventure Series – Barcelona and Corsica!

The fifth and sixth ports on the seven day Norwegian Epic cruise were Barcelona and Corsica. I’m combining these two because I have the least photos and info on them in comparison to the other ports. I’ll also use this post to do a little wrap up of the adventure at the end. So…..here goes!

Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital and largest city in the Catalonia community in Spain. The Port of Barcelona is a transport hub and one of Europe’s principle seaports and busiest passenger ports. It is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea. we arrived in port about 8:00 and had to be back on ship no later than 5:30 pm.

This cruise did something I’ve never seen before – other cruises may do this, but I’ve never experienced it. There were TWO starting points for this cruise – I was on the one that began and ended in Rome. Another large portion of the passengers were on the one that began and ended in Barcelona. So – it was confusing that morning, as some passengers were disembarking at their final port and some were just leaving for excursions for the day with multiple times to leave the ship based on what excursion you were on – you had to pay close attention to where to go and what to do, depending on which group of passengers you were with. Then, later in the day, some were getting on for the first time and some were returning from a day in port – again, you had to pay attention to where to go because it was a different process depending on which passenger group you were with. I assume it was the same confusion in Rome when we got on for the first time. Although, getting off for the last time in Rome was really easy — we just followed the directions of where to go and we were off (those just leaving for the day may have experienced some confusion, like in Barcelona, but we didn’t). Odd, but they made it work and we all seemed to get to where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

Sadly, I was not totally impressed with Barcelona……But, I only have the excursion I chose to blame. The description sounded like just what I wanted – a good overview of the city with some entertainment. It was supposed to be a city bus tour with stops at some of the most iconic sites in Barcelona, time in a Spanish village, and a Flamenco show. Nice, right? Well…..the bus tour really didn’t show us much of the city – just what we saw as we drove through to our one actual stop. The guide didn’t talk much about what we were looking at – to be fair, he did tell us some interesting things and pointed out a few points of interest, but not like most guides who talk non-stop about their city. He did point out the location of the 1992 Summer Olympics that was held July 25 – August 9, 1992 in Barcelona.

We made one stop. We parked on a side street and got off the bus. Then, we walked several blocks to see a famous church – nothing really to see along the way – just stores like any big city. When we got to La Sagrada Familia Church, we learned that it began being built in 1883 and is still not done. The city of Barcelona has the original designs and specifications and is finally working to complete it. It was gorgeous!!! So much detail – incredible. Unfortunately, our tour didn’t include going inside and it was Sunday morning, so when we got there, we could just look at it from the street.

It really was amazing and had quite a story, but it would have been so much better if we could have gone inside. Then, we were given time to shop. But, again, it was Sunday morning, so the only places open was a souvenir shop and a place to get coffee and sit outside. I went into the souvenir shop and got my refrigerator magnet and then got a bottle of water and sat at the café till we were ready to walk the several uninteresting blocks back to the bus. While I sat there (and on the walk to/from the bus) I noticed that the city smelled like an open sewer. There were a couple young children on the tour and they kept asking their dad why it smelled so bad – I wondered the same time – LOL. I also noticed the heavy police presence – several spots had police men standing in pairs in bullet proof vests holding army guns – that was a bit alarming, to say the least. So, what we got to see of the city was not that enjoyable – just another big city. It would have been nice to be taken to other important spots or been given more information along the way. But, we only really did a drive by of the location of the 1992 Olympics and the stunning church. The rest was just another big city….and an intimidating one, at that.

Some other photos I took from the bus along the drive:

After we left the church and shopping time, we went to “A Spanish Village”. The excursion description sounded like we were going to an actual village, but it was a tourist attraction. Once inside, there were several “neighborhoods” that represented the various regions in Spain. It was very nice, but very touristy – I would have preferred to see some of the actual places that were replicated. It was there that we saw the Flamenco show and were served chips, crackers, water, and sangria – more on that later.

Photos from “A Spanish Village”:

The entrance

There were lots of shops and places to grab a bite to eat, but, again, I really would have preferred to see more of the city and surrounding area.

The Flamenco show was very nice – they had two dancers (a guy and a girl), a guitarist, and a singer. I’d been to a Flamenco show in Cozumel, Mexico many years ago on my very first cruise and LOVED it, so I was really looking forward to this. I think if I hadn’t had that previous experience, I would have really enjoyed it. But, as it was, it was a bit of a let down for me. The other show I saw had a lot of dancers that did a variety of dances and cultural demonstrations – wonderful! This one was just the two dancers who did some dances together and some each on their own. Every dance looked exactly the same and every song sounded exactly the same. It lasted about a half an hour and we were left to wander around the “Spanish Village” on our own for a couple hours. Again – a very nice day, but disappointing based on what I expected.

When we arrived back in port, I was able to capture this photo of our ship – first time I could get it all in one shot. The Norwegian Epic is a humongous ship!!!

I got back on the ship and had dinner at the buffet. The entertainment that evening was the final “Epic Beatles” show in the main theater (first for those who joined the cruise in Barcelona). So glad I got one more chance to see them.

Since this was the first night for those who joined the cruise in Barcelona, the cruise director also introduced all the officers – each department head. I saw this on my first night, but didn’t take a photo, so liked that I got another chance to take one.

Corsica

Our final port was Ajaccio, Corsica. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and is located southeast of the mainland of France, just north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte – he was born there in 1769 and he became one of the most important impacts on the history of France, and Europe, in general.

We arrived in Corsica at 11:15 am and had to be back on board no later than 6:00 pm. I didn’t get off the ship in Corsica. The excursion I chose – “Scenic Vizzavona & Corsican Snacks” – was sadly canceled, as was most of the other excursions for this port. Apparently, there was a shortage of guides and bus drivers, so they were not able to operate all of the planned excursions. (I guess the shortage of dependable workers is a world-wide post-Covid problem) They did leave two available, but they were both long walking tours that didn’t really interest me. I could have gone off ship and did some exploring on my own, but we were in port for a short time (in comparison to the other ports) and I Googled the area and it didn’t look like there was a lot that interested me within a reasonable distance from the port. I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out too far on my own in case I got delayed returning to the ship on time.

Besides – I was really tired after two full days in Rome and five days of port exploring…..I actually welcomed the chance to just relax and get packed up for the trip home. But – I got some photos of Corsica from the upper most deck – the Sky Deck and some other shots from around the ship. I grazed at the buffets off and on throughout the day and enjoyed some time by the pool in the sun.

From what I read and saw from the ship, Corsica is mostly mountains and forest – mountains make up roughly two-thirds of the island and forests cover about 20% of it. The excursion I had planned would have taken me into the forests and mountains for views of the Mediterranean and trails highlighting various plant life, trees, and wildlife. That would have been nice.

So, this is how I spent my day in Corsica:

Breakfast

The evening’s entertainment was the Broadway Musical “Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert” – a wonderful and lively musical about three drag queens traveling across the Australian Outback in a broken down bus….very funny and good! Then, I had a reservation at the Ice Bar – a lounge where everything inside is a frozen ice sculpture and the room is kept at 17 degrees F…very “cool” – LOL!!! I ended the evening with a snack before heading back to the room for bed. I needed to get some sleep for the next morning’s early disembarkation time (6:30) and long day in airports and airplanes!

Final Thoughts

This trip was amazing – a thrill of a lifetime, for sure! Several bucket list items checked off….several new and amazing experiences…….fun and adventure overload!!! What an amazing way to celebrate my tenth cruise!

Favorite Port: Monaco! Hand Down! I absolutely LOVED Rome, Florence, and Pisa and they were right up there at the top of the list, but Monaco was just….well, different and just stunning.

Least Favorite Port: Barcelona – I did enjoy what I got to see, but it was a disappointment from what I expected from the excursion.

Best Single Experience: Standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up at Michelangelo’s ceiling – it was awe-inspiring to stand there knowing that an artist of Michelangelo’s caliber had painstakingly painted images depicting the major biblical stories – mainly from the Book of Genesis – covering the entire arched ceiling in the chapel over 500 years before the day I stood there gazing at it. What an overwhelming feeling of emotion!

What Would I Do Again: Tuscany!!! Visiting Pisa and Florence was a nice “taste” of Tuscany and enough to check it off the bucket list, but I still want to see more! I’d like to take a trip that allows me to spend several days exploring all around the Tuscan region. Guess that will go back on the bucket list with a slightly different focus.

Lessons Learned:

  • ALWAYS pack a sweater!!! Even if you’re going to the Mediterranean in August and thing there is no way you’ll need it so you should just save the suitcase space!!! Off ship and outside on ship, it was BRUTALLY hot – upper 90’s, lower 100’s. BUT….the venues on ship – the dining rooms, the theater, the lounges – were FREEZING! A sweater would have been nice. Also, when I decided not to take one, I thought I can just buy one on ship, if I need one – I’ve done that many times. Well…..there were none to be found! So…..ALWAYS pack a sweater! (Think I’ve said it enough that I’ll remember it next time? hahaha)
  • The Norwegian Epic is the largest ship I’ve ever been on…..I’ve decided I’m not a huge fan of the mega ships. I loved the cruise, the ports, the entertainment, etc…..just prefer the smaller ships that are easier to get around and not so overwhelming.
  • Out of my 10 cruises to date, I’ve been on Norwegian twice – this one and the Hawaiian cruise I did in 2020. Norwegian has some pretty incredible itineraries, so I may very well choose then again, but they aren’t one of my favorite cruise lines. I miss some of the features I look forward to on cruises.
  • Europe is AMAZING and I want to see more of it. But, I have to remember that seeing Europe means a LOT of walking and climbing with uneven surfaces and cobbled streets. I need to be sure to be prepared for that on future trips.
  • Don’t be afraid to change it up — the choice to go with a Studio Cabin over my usual Balcony Cabin was a good one! While I still much prefer a Balcony Cabin for most cruise situations, the Studio worked out great for this cruise and left me with more money to spend off ship.
  • Research excursions beyond the descriptions – that excursion in Barcelona was a big disappointment and starkly different than the description implied. I usually read the reviews on all excursions, but there were NO reviews on any of the ones for this cruise. Now I know that if there are no comments to help with my decisions, to look further.

Over all — an amazing adventure that I will never forget! So thankful for every minute and every experience and every memory.

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