Cruise to the North Atlantic and Western Mediterranean 2018

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  • CRUISER(S): Anna & Gary
  • Created: September 23, 2018 8:33 pm
  • Last updated: September 12, 2021 3:04 am
Cruise Types:
Cruise Region: Europe – British Isles & Western
Cruise Line and Ship: MSC Meraviglia
Cruise Year: 2018
Cruise Month: September
Cruise Duration: 9-13 days
  • Distance 14,596,650.26 ft
  • Time 1114 h 7 min
  • Speed 2 mph
  • Min altitude -16,417 ft
  • Peak 6,073 ft
  • Climb 76,250 ft
  • Descent 76,250 ft

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  • Distance Instructions
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1. Hamburg Germany

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: 25489 Haseldorf, Germany
Port Rating
4/5

We arrived in Hamburg by bus from Berlin and took a taxi to the cruise port. We didn’t take any time for sightseeing as we are familiar with the city and had spent a few days here earlier this year. If someone has never been to Hamburg I would strongly recommend spending a day or at least a few hours to get to know the city before heading to the ship. From downtown to Speicherstadt, St. Pauli and the beautiful harbor and waterways - Hamburg has lots to offer and it would be a shame to only pass through on your way to the cruise ship. 

The Hamburg cruise terminals are centrally located and easy to get to.  Check in and boarding were stemless and before we knew it we were on our way 

2. Le Havre France

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: 26 Boulevard Clemenceau, 76600 Le Havre, France
Port Rating
4/5

The weather was phenomenal- bright blue sky and sunshine, so we decided to have lunch by the sea. A beautiful setting! Afterwards we drove back to Le Havre and explored the city a bit- it was much nicer than we anticipated. 

 

Towards the end of the day we took another drive to Honfleur, passing beautiful areas of the river seine (one small negative: you’re also passing toll booths, it’s quite pricey to go through the beautiful new bridge highway). Ports don't come any prettier than Honfleur on the Seine's estuary. Glorious historic houses jostle for position on the quays, as do galleries, cafes and restaurants. We walked around the Vieux Bassin and looked at the little boats and a small carousel in the distance. There’s also the maritime museum in a beautiful building that looks like a church. We drove back and had just enough time to return the car and walk back to the ship. 

3. Southampton UK

Altitude: 7 ft
Address: 30 Town Quay, Southampton SO14 2AQ, UK

We arrived at Southampton city terminal and walked about 15 min to the central train station. It's about 80 miles (128km) between Southampton to the centre of London. There is a wide choice of transport, both public transport and private hire, tour transfers and van shuttles depending on desired speed and price range. We chose to take one of the fast trains going straight to Waterloo station. From there we bought a daily pass for tube and bus and explored different areas / sights in central London: Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, the river Thames, London Eye, Tower of London and Tower Bridge. We also went to East London, a cultural melting pot in the British capital to have lunch with an old friend. We both had been to London so we tried to not pack our day with too much activities but the time still passed quickly - one day is not a lot of time for this big and exciting city. 

4. La Coruna Spain

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: Peirao Linares Rivas, 13, 15006 La Coruña, Spain
Port Rating
5/5

La Coruña is a beautiful Spanish port town in the Galicia region. It is a charming mixture of old town and new town plus several beautiful beaches along the two-mile stretch of coastline it overlooks. The ship docks in the heart of the city, next to the colonnaded Maria Pita Square in the center of the old town, with many shops, bars and restaurants all around. We took a long walk along the miles of promenade and enjoyed strolling past the beautiful cost, joggers, parks and industrial sites. If you keep walking you’ll eventually reach the Tower of Hercules, a Roman lighthouse with sweeping coastal views. Instead, we took a local bus to the other side of town and spent the remainder of our time at Riazor beach, a surprisingly beautiful and unpretentious urban beach with rock formations and amazingly clean water with loads of big fish. While many visitors and cruisers went straight to its bigger neighbor Santiago de Compostela we had a wonderful day staying right in la Coruña and wish we could have stayed longer.

5. Lisbon Portugal

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: Av. Infante Dom Henrique, 1100-279 Lisboa, Portugal
Port Rating
5/5

Cruising into Lisbon was spectacular. The entire city spreads out along the water and we passed loads of beautiful sights and buildings after traveling through a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. The ship docked for two days / one overnight in the city center. 

On the first day we walked off the ship and into town. There we ran into Pablo, a Tuk Tuk car driver who gave us a lot of information about the city. We talked nicely with him and eventually ended up taking a Tuk Tuk car ride up to the viewpoint in the Graca district overlooking Lisbon. On the way back down the hill we passed many beautiful old buildings with the incredible tile facades so typical of Portugal. We went back to the ship for dinner, changed and came back outside for a late night stroll around Lisbon. The city was lovely at night and very warm and pleasant. We walked past the Obelisk to the part of town where all the bars and nightlife is located. At around 1.15 am we hopped on the old historic tram back to the ship. We had the whole tram to ourselves and had so much fun riding it through Lisbon. Overnighting in Port and the freedom to walk on and off as you please was a fantastic experience. 

 

The next morning we got up early and rented a car near the cruise ship at the Santa Apolónia train station. We drove across the magnificent Vasco da Gama Bridge (the longest in Europe) and through lovely Portuguese countryside and continued for about an hour until we reached Portinho de Arrábida, a gorgeous seaside area with incredible beaches and clear turquoise waters. We stepped into a little seafood restaurant right on the water and sat on the veranda overlooking the ocean and tons of happy fish swimming underneath us. We shared a sea bass - the best we had ever eaten at a restaurant. After the extended lunch we only had enough time to dip our feet into the warm and crystal clear ocean before driving back to Lisbon, returning the car and heading back onboard. We cruised out of the city with perfectly blue skies and a huge group of sea gulls escorting is out of the harbor.

6. Gibraltar UK

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: The Pier Office, Marina Bay Marina, Bayside Road, GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
Port Rating
5/5

Sailing through the strait of Gibraltar, the small passageway between Europe and Africa at the entry point into the Mediterranean was an incredible experience. Both Spain on one side, Morocco on the other were clearly within sight and peacefully coexisting across one another. 

We were delayed getting into Gibraltar as the port was congested. I could not understand this announcement at first but once we got closer was stunned by what i saw. I’m not sure we had ever seen such a busy port with dozens and dozens of ships (cruise ships, cargo ships, smaller boats) navigating in and out simultaneously. 

Due to the delays we only arrived at 3.30 pm, giving us much less daytime to spend. 

We walked from the terminal into town to the main center, surrounded by local vegetation and loads of British pubs. From there we took a taxi to eastern beach, an incredible narrow beach with soft white sand, warm blue ocean waters and giant sea shells right at the foot of the Rock of Gibraltar. It was one of the most unique and fascinating beaches I had ever seen. The image of the rock of Gibraltar right in front of us was incredibly imposing. The top part of the rock had a constant stream of clouds passing around it in an eerie and other worldly way. It was a sight to behold. 

As we were leaving the beach we met two local Gibraltarians and had a long and I treating chat with them. Gibraltar is a very small and unique place, most of its territory taken up by the rock and the nature reserve. 

Sadly we did not go to the top of the Rock. At the top is a splendid nature reserve, and along the way, you can visit with the Barbary macaques (usually referred to as Barbary apes even though they are monkeys), the only free-living primates in Europe, and the Barbary partridges. Both creatures are unique to Gibraltar.

 

I’m hoping to be able to return here to go up to the rock, see the monkeys and caves and spend more time on Eastern Beach. 

7. Valencia Spain

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: Puerto Valencia, 46024 Valencia, Spain
Port Rating
5/5

Wow, was this port a surprise! Valencia is an incredibly beautiful city - it’s grandios, historic, meticulously kept and has a plethora of breathtaking facades and an incredible urban beach. The is the kind of place you could picture yourself living in or at the very least spending a long vacation. The 7 hours on land (from 7 am - 2 pm) was not nearly enough time to even scratch the surface of Valencia. We docked early and eagerly awaited the sunrise to start exploring. First we hopped into a taxi to go to the outskirts of town to the UN offices in Valencia - my husband works for the UN in New York so he wanted to see it. Afterwards the driver dropped us off at Plaza La Reina and we took the historic hop on hop off tour through Valencia, covering the most incredible and interesting buildings, spaces and sights. Upon return to Plaza La Reina we had a quick bite and some churros and switched to the blue line of the same tour called the maritime tour. This took us past the Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencia, a series of extraordinary modern art buildings. An ensemble of six areas in the dry river bed of the now diverted River Turia this impressive example of modern architecture was designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. This "city" is made up of the following, usually known by their Valencian names: El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía — Opera house and performing arts centre; L'Hemisfèric — Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium; L'Umbracle — Walkway / Garden; El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum; Oceanografic — Open-air aquarium or oceanographic park; Ágora — A versatile space that will allow the holding of varied events. The entire area is surrounded by attractive streams and pools of water. I am not usually intrigued by high tech futuristic buildings but these were absolutely magnificent and unlike anything I had ever seen before. This is a must see for any visitor to Valencia. 
Just a few minutes out of the city centre is the Arenas beach, with its breathtaking Paseo Marítimo. We got off the bus and spend the remaining time in Valencia relaxing right here on the beach, one of those rare urban beaches that are within city limits but boast the finest of powdery white sand, ample space and beautiful clean ocean waters.
We loved our time in Valencia and would have loved to stay on. We are determined to come back here to properly explore the city.

8. Marseille France

Altitude: 0 ft
Address: Unnamed Road, France
Port Rating
4/5

This was our second time in Marseille as a cruise port. We had loved Marseille last time and always enjoy the south of France. This time we did not book a shore excursion and as time was limited (only 6 hours in port) we planned to just explore and walk around the city center.
Since the terminal is not within walking distance from the city center we originally lined up for the cruise ship shuttle but this turned out to be a complete waste of time (and would have been a waste of money). A 15 min metered taxi ride later we arrived at the Vieux Port, the beautiful Old Port in the center of Marseille. After admiring the little boats and the architecture we took the petit train touristique, a small snake shaped train running on the road around town, past the forts and waterwayspassing along the costal road (“Corniche”) and enjoying, in the background, the If castle and the Frioul islands. The train goes all the way up to the Notre Dame de la Garde, the opulent 19th-century Romano-Byzantine basilica ornamented with coloured marble, superb Byzantine-style mosaics, and murals depicting ships sailing under the protection of La Bonne Mère.'This basilica is Marseille's highest point and also its most visited - when you go there you'll see why. Notre dame de la Garde offers magnificent 360-degre views of the whole city and is a wondeful scenic and tranquil place to linger. We've come here every time we have visited Marseille and it never gets old. 
We opted for a taxi to get back to the cruise ship from the Old Port and had a bit of a scare: due to an accident, traffic on the highway to the terminal was awful. What should have been a 15 min ride turned into a 50 min journey - luckily the ship was aware and waiting on all passengers to return. 

9. Genoa Italy

Altitude: 11 ft
Address: Via Nuova Banchina industriale, 16128 Genova GE, Italy
Port Rating
2/5

Genoa was our port of disembarkation and in complete chaos on the day of our arrival. We had never seen anything close to this level of disorganization upon disembarking a cruise ship and that means something after 10 cruises. There were long lines to exit the ship, partially caused by on the ground staff stopping people from exiting as cars and transporters had to pass through the area between ship and terminal (a completely illogical set up, especially for one of the largest cruise ships in the world) . When we entered we were led through a bizarre maze past our suitcases, up a second floor, through several rooms, past customs and then back down to where we had just walked in to claim our luggage. Along the way agents were screaming into groups of confused passengers in an attempt to keep order. Once outside the terminal with our luggage with were stuck among a huge drove of cruise guests trying to get taxis - only to realize that there were none servicing the terminal. Information was scare and conflicting and only after a 2.5 hour wait and 15 min walk with our luggage to a different terminal were we able to get a taxi. Luckily we did not have flights to catch or we would have surely missed them. Instead we went to the airport to pick up a rental car and drove to Venice to continue ou vacation on a back to back cruise.