This is the second post of my cruise review which covers days 6 to 10 and visits to Valencia, Barcelona, Palma and Ibiza. Click here for part 1.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 6 – Sea Day
We awoke at 8am to the phone ringing to tell us room service breakfast was on its way. In reality it was 7am as there had been a 1 hour time change overnight so I was a little bleary eyed as I got dressed to await its arrival.
Surprisingly in ten cruises and over 90 nights at sea we have never ordered room service so I thought it was high time we tried it as we were planning Johnny Rockets for lunch and only needed a small snack in the morning to keep us going. Apparently completing a room service request after a few glasses of wine is not such a great idea as my eyes got the better of me and I ordered slightly more than a small snack. In my defence I thought pastries for three would be a few croissants, not three platefuls of the continental stuff along with sausages, hash browns, cereal and fruit – oops! That said it was an absolute delight to sit on the balcony in the warm morning sunshine and enjoy breakfast which arrived with a smile and piping hot. It was also useful to have orange juice and croissants on hand for when our six year old Finn finally woke a few hours later.
Day 6 was a sea day so there was no need to rush anywhere and we enjoyed a fabulously lazy morning lounging on our aft balcony watching endless dolphins circle and hunt fish disturbed by the wake of the ship. One surfaced literally meters from us, squirted water from its blow hole and plunged back below resulting in squeals of delight from me.
After some leisurely reading all round Finn had already finished the first of his new books and it was time for lunch. We took the lift to deck 12 and the aluminium clad American diner Johnny Rockets which was surprisingly quiet. I fully expected to queue for a table as everyone was on board however we were greeted immediately and offered inside or outside seating. We chose a shady outside booth to enjoy our food and the fabulous ocean views. Our waiter Lloyd was very friendly and is from Jamaica. As we were married there we have very fond memories of the island and he chatted about his home town and how he will be heading back to the Caribbean with the ship later this year. Lloyd arrived with a starter of fries and onion rings and delighted Finn with a ketchup smiley face on a plate while us grown ups enjoyed dipping into a beautifully cool sour cream and chive sauce. We placed our order and I was delighted to see our drinks package worked in the diner so we order a couple of glasses of red and also two of the famous milkshakes which were buy one get one free because of our gold crown and anchor status which was a bonus.
We were enjoying our drinks and fries to a soundtrack of 50s doowop and 60s girl groups when the volume was raised and the waiters began to dance in a line inside the diner. Finn was a little disappointed we weren’t in there but he didn’t need to worry as within minutes the waiters were doing the same outside and happily posing for photographs.
The food arrived shortly afterwards, by which time the restaurant was filling up. Needless to say it was delicious. Andy had a burger, I had a chicken and bacon sandwich and Finn had a hotdog, all accompanied by more fries including some cheese and bacon smothered fries which were to die for.
We had fully intended to eat dessert as the sundaes sound amazing but as so often happens on this ship we were beaten after finishing our mains. We declined dessert but promised we’d put this right another day and our lunch for three cost just $23 including milkshakes, an absolute bargain.
After lunch Finn wanted to go to kids club as it was a Lego session so we walked him there via the top deck pools which were understandably busy with hardly any free sun loungers. People were lying on towels on the ground in places so we decided to head back to the solitude of our huge corner aft balcony to enjoy the sunshine and even more dolphin watching – heaven! I’m loving having this space and feeling rather blessed and spoilt.
When we got back to our room it was as ever spotlessly clean (thanks to the lovely Delores) but she’d also left a little crown and anchor gift for Finn of a colouring book and crayola felt tip pens – nice touch RCI.
I took a few moments to complete the mid cruise survey, saying what a wonderful cruise we were having, praising the main dining room staff and quality of food but but also raising our disappointing Chops Grille experience, it’ll be interesting to see if I hear anything following that.
Before long it was time to collect Finn from Adventure Ocean and then it was back to the room to slap on the sunscreen ahead of our daily dip and splash in the H2O zone. The pools were much quieter as it was nearly 5pm and there were plenty of empty sun beds as most people had gone to get ready for dinner. You can tell how hot the day was as we even persuaded Daddy into the pools and normally it takes Caribbean sunshine to achieve that! The water was lovely in the heat and we had a fabulous time. Finn insisted on an ice cream from Sprinkles, the free self serve machine and then it was time to go and change for dinner. We went back to our room in our beach towels feeling distinctly underdressed as the corridors were full of people in DJs and ball gowns as it was another formal night.
Spurred on by how dressed up everyone was on the last formal night I put on a favourite dressy frock and the boys donned jackets, shirts and trousers. The only problem was we still weren’t hungry following our huge Johnny Rockets lunch! Thankfully we’d booked a slightly later than usual table at 7.15. We’re on My Time Dining, the flexible dining programme where by if you pre pay your gratuities you can choose to dine when you wish. It works really well for us as I always like to pay the tips ahead and the flexibility works well with a six year old. We arrived and had a 5 minute wait while they sorted a table and were sat in our usual section but on 665. The service was once again excellent with Vicky arriving the moment we sat down to deliver me a diet coke before I’d even asked and announcing that two glasses of red were on the way – yes they do know us well by now! We confessed we were full of Johnny Rockets and made a valiant effort to eat ordering pate for myself and oxtail soup for Andy as starters and for mains I ordered a mixed grill, Andy the steak with just vegetables and Finn had chicken fingers off the kids menu. The pate wasn’t amazing if I’m honest but thankfully a small portion. My main was delicious but huge so I couldn’t quite finish and Andy also struggled with his steak. We declined desserts (yet again) and sat for a while finishing our wine. We decided some fresh air was in order to try and walk of our excesses so we went to deck 11 to watch another glorious sunset and enjoy the warm breeze.
It was soon 9pm and time for the show ‘Once Upon a Time’ in the main Alhambra Theatre. We’ve cruised with RCI several times but never seen this show although I’d read great things about it. As it was child friendly We persuaded Finn to forgo kids club and actually spend an evening with us to watch it. We took the lift to level 4 forward for the theatre upper level and quickly found some good seats. The theatre was at most two thirds full for the first of the evening’s two performances so there’s really no need to rush there too early for the shows unless you want front row seats, particularly bearing in mind the ship is completely full with many rooms at 3 and 4 berth capacity.
The show started and I was impressed with the fantastic production levels and it was wonderful to see an orchestra in the pit playing live rather than performers singing to backing tracks. The show featured a cast of around 20 dancers, lead vocalists and acrobats. The theme of the show is around fairy tales but features well known pop and rock songs and the stage sets and costumes are superb. Finn loved it, taking great delight in shouting out which fairy tale was coming next and squealing with delight in the Pinocchio scene at the dancing teddys. He didn’t want the show to end. Andy doesn’t really do musical theatre so wasn’t quite as enamoured however he did agree the production values were high and had a glass of red in his hand to help him through!
It made me think what great value a cruise actually is. We paid just over £4000 for this holiday (in prime time summer holidays) for 14 nights, that’s just £95 a night each which includes a fantastic itinerary, our bed and board, food, kids club, all entertainment (including ice skating, production shows, sports activities, quizzes and leisure) – it really is superb value. When I was pricing the holiday I compared the cost of two weeks in a four star all inclusive resort and prices were comparable but the offering is considerably less and the standard usually poorer on land. Likewise a show in an all inclusive hotel will not feature an orchestra, a cast of 20 and some trapeze artists! Well these are the arguments I’ll be using to persuade Andy about our next cruise!
After the show we went to the Schooner bar to enjoy the pianist and a nightcap. He was slick and professional but didn’t really get us involved in the way we have been in piano bars on previous cruises, still it was a pleasant enough way to while away half an hour. Then it was time for bed and we strolled back to the cabin ready for a sleep ahead of tomorrow’s adventures in Valencia…
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 7 – Valencia
I awoke to the sound of The Captain announcing our arrival in Valencia after another wonderful night’s sleep. There’s nothing better than a Royal Caribbean bed and the gentle movement of a ship to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
I pulled back the curtains to see a blue, cloudless sky. The weather really has been exceptional this cruise however my view of Valencia Port was less than inspiring, row after row of containers and in the distance an outline of a city miles from where the ship had docked. Walking out of the port was not going to be an option. Royal Caribbean were offering a shuttle bus at 18 for adults and 9 for children return which would drop you in the historic old city. From our balcony I noticed some separate orange buses that were leaving the dock side before returning minutes later and guessed they were taking passengers to the port gates.
Still full from the day before we skipped breakfast, grabbing a croissant to go from the Royal Promenade. We disembarked around 10.30am and followed some crew to what was indeed a free port bus. If you ever want to find the most economical way into any town just follow the crew! Sure enough the port provided shuttle dropped us at the terminal building 5 minutes later.
Our plan for the day was to get a Hop on Hop off (HoHo) bus and then head to Valencia’s famous Aquarium, apparently the largest in Europe but then almost every port says that about their Aquarium! I’d done a little research and discovered that the HoHo bus stops at the port but on arrival at the terminal it really wasn’t clear where the stop was and the queue for tourist information was huge. We decided not to wait in line and instead jumped the public bus (route 4 from the roundabout) to the city centre. The bus was 1.50 each one way for myself and Andy, Finn who is 6 travelled free.
We got off in a large square, where we could have changed to another public bus (route 19) to the Aquarium however we spotted the HoHo (hop on hop off bus) so decided to take that instead. This was 16 each for adults and kids 6 and under were free. We went up to the top deck and took the last seats available thankfully under a little cover and shaded from the blazing heat as temperatures rose to 33 degrees today! I plugged in the free headphones they gave us, found the English Channel amongst the many options, studied the map and tried to get our bearings. There were two routes to choose from, the Historic city route (red) or the Maritime route (blue). We were on the blue route which included the Aquarium a few stops away from where we got on. In hindsight we actually could have got off the public bus a few stops earlier and easily walked to the Aquarium but the HoHo gave us a nice overview of the city while we enjoyed the breeze and the commentary.
There’s a central strip of parkland and water features that runs through the heart of the city called the Turia Gardens. It was created on the bed of the former river (presumably diverted elsewhere now) to create a fabulous green space in the city. The park is also home to the City of Arts and Sciences which houses several spectacular buildings with modernist and futuristic architecture that are museums, concert halls and galleries all surrounded by lakes and pools. We passed by on the bus getting a birds eye view but planned to walk back through and enjoy it fully on foot later. We got off the HoHo right outside the Oceanographic aquarium.
There were hardly any queues and we paid the 27 admission for adults and 21 for children. The aquarium comprises eight or so different buildings in an outdoor park style setting surrounded by pools or lakes. There’s also a large outdoor auditorium where the main attraction, a dolphin show takes place five times a day. Each of the buildings has a different themed exhibition, such as the Mediterranean or Tropics featuring fish and sea creatures from that region. The tanks were large and stocked with thousands of different fishes and there’s also a 60ft walk through tunnel with fish swimming over visitors heads. Finn was delighted to see divers working in some of the tanks cleaning corals and taking care of the fish, one of them even waved at him.
We were getting peckish so we went to the restaurant of which there were two to choose from along with a number of cafés around the park. We chose the grill style restaurant and bar and Andy spoke to the waitress in his best Spanish requesting a table for tres. He was obviously very convincing as she gave us Spanish menus rather than English! I went and swapped them as our Spanish really doesn’t extend to the intricacies of an extensive menu. The food looked delicious but we really didn’t want a full meal so we decided instead to sit in the bar and have a sandwich and obligatory bottle of chilled Rioja.
Suitably refreshed, it was approaching 2.15pm and time for the dolphin show. We made our way to the auditorium and took our seats high above the huge pools below. The show was narrated in Spanish but that really didn’t matter as the dolphins performed incredible feats that needed no translation including spectacular choreographed leaps as they sped around the main pool. Captive dolphins can be a point of contention for some but it was a highly enjoyable display and they seemed to be having a whale of a time!
Next we went to the Arctic exhibition where we saw walruses and my favourite attraction the Beluga Whales. These beautiful, pale and ghostly creatures were swimming in vast tanks and also very cute so much so we purchased Bluigi a little cuddly soft toy from the gift shop who now resides in our cabin much to Finn’s delight.
Time was ticking on so at 3.30pm we left the aquarium and walked to the City of Arts and Sciences through the park. It was a lovely stroll through breathtaking architecture, pools and gardens. We’d planned to walk up as far as Gulliver, a children’s playground shaped like the lay down giant from Gullivers Travels however it seemed to be getting hotter and hotter and time was ticking on so we played it safe and headed back to the ship. We spotted a well timed HoHo bus and the driver kindly waited for us as we ran to get on. We found seats upstairs and enjoyed a much welcome breeze and a few more stops before we arrived back at the port. The HoHo bus stop at the Port is actually a few streets back from the terminal so it was no surprise we couldn’t find it in the morning. If you were planning on doing this in Valencia I think you may struggle to find it too, its much easier to jump the public bus into the city and board there.
We had a ten minute walk back to the terminal and boarded the free port bus which took us back to the Indy. We were soon back on board with just enough time for a refreshing dip in the H2O zone and an ice cream ahead of dinner.
We had a table booked at 6.15pm today and we were finally hungry and able to appreciate dinner. Service was once again exceptional. Mary, the head waitress delivering a whole bowl of strawberries for Finn. I had duck salad followed by a breaded chicken breast filled with cheese and ham which was absolutely delicious. Andy had duck breast salad and a soup followed by a mushroom curry. I finished up with the Jaffa Cake dessert, a sponge, mousse and chocolate dish with Cointreau that tasted exactly like a grown up version of the chocolate topped biscuit – it was divine! My favourite dessert to date.
After dinner Finn wanted to go to kids club so we dropped him off and made our way to the Sky Bar on top deck to enjoy a few glasses of red while watching the sunset. The PA system was playing some of our favourite 80s Indie hits including Pixies and Talking Heads which we loved but possibly left some other cruisers bemused. It was a glorious sunset and a highlight of my trip so far.
Once the sun had set we went in search of entertainment, there weren’t any live bands playing as we were between set times in all venues so we went to the Alhambra Theatre. Tonight’s show was Pete Matthews, a ‘comedy juggler’ which hadn’t inspired us but he was absolutely brilliant and had the audience in stitches. Be warned there was a little audience participation so avoid sitting in the first few rows if you don’t like that kind of thing.
After the show we went to Boleros where the live band were starting a Spanish / Latin inspired set. I called kids club to check on Finn and he came to the phone with a disgruntled “what mummy?” and was adamant he wanted to stay for late night party zone which starts at 10pm and is charged at $7 an hour. I was quite pleased as I wanted to see the adults only Love & Marriage show, a Mr & Mrs type game featuring four couples from the cruise, one of which had been married 50 plus years. The show was hosted by Joff, our cruise director who is very funny. It was great entertainment, particularly when several of the guys couldn’t actually remember what their wives were wearing that night let alone where the first kiss was!
After the show we went to collect Finn who was still wide awake having had a fantastic time and we retired to our cabin ahead of our adventures in Barcelona tomorrow.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 8 – Barcelona
I awoke at 7.15am feeling fragile to say the least. A few paracetamol later, a glug of diet coke and I was dressed and heading to the Royal Promenade in search of sugary pastries which are a well known hangover cure. I left the boys gently snoring and grabbed the iPad to start yesterday’s blog.
I love the Royal Promenade, it’s a great feature of the ship and particularly pleasant first thing when hardly anyone is around. My favourite spot is Cafe Promenade which serves breakfast pastries in the morning, free self serve filter coffees and teas (or paid for cappuccinos and the like) and sandwiches and dessert snacks from lunchtime onwards. I always start my day by topping up the coke cups from our drinks package (which gives us unlisted wine, beer or sodas all week – although it was a little early for wine so diet coke it was) and sneaking a vanilla Danish. I sat down, relished the peace on the parade and started writing. After a short while I made my back to the cabin to see if the boys were stirring yet. They were still sleeping so I slipped onto the balcony to enjoy the views of Barcelona as we docked. We were at one of the berths quite far from town but we had spectacular views of the city and the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s spectacular cathedral which is still under construction.
The boys finally awoke with Andy feeling just as fragile as me. We both blamed Finn, as he wanted to go to late night party zone last night so we had to stay out and have one glass of red too many! As a result it was a very quiet start to the day, we literally just made breakfast, arriving in the Windjammer at 10.35am. It was fairly quiet and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of full English and orange juice to replenish lost vitamin C!
Our original plan for Barcelona was a lazy day on the beach as we’ve visited this amazing city many times before however the sky had clouded over and the weather looked almost stormy. We felt a few drops of rain on the breeze so we moved to plan B. This involved a reworking of outfits with me discarding the bikini and sundress in favour of shorts and layers. Finn donned his Abandon Ship sweatshirt (lovely new kids line of clothes and rather amusing cruise wear) and we agreed on a stroll up the Ramblas and a few shops instead as we’ve previously ticked off nearly all the major attractions. As we left the ship the weather brightened up, sweatshirts and we made our way to the port shuttle bus. A very reasonable 3 per person including Finn (no free kids tickets here) for a return trip and we were on board making our way to the statue of Christopher Columbus which marks the beginning of La Rambla. This is the Main Street in Barcelona that stretches from the port area to Placa de Catalunya, the main square at the top. It’s quite a walk but is lined with shady trees, human statues, market stalls and pavement cafés which act as a very pleasant distraction as you stroll. The city is infamous for its pickpockets and petty crime but I have to say it feels no different to any other major city to me and personally we’ve never had a problem. For anyone concerned there was a reassuring and regular police presence on the Ramblas today.
We (or rather Finn) had a destination in mind, the toy concession in El Corte de Ingles, Barcelona’s department store on the main square. We’ve spent many a happy hour in there over the years and he rarely comes away empty handed. Today was no different and he left with a few Pokemon figures and I was 30 worse off…. From there we went to Camper to get some new and desperately needed trainers for Finn – I was also hoping for a pair of shoes but sadly the Autumn / Winter stock didn’t inspire me. We strolled back towards the port and stopped in Plaza Real, one of Barcelona’s most beautiful squares just off La Rambla – on the right hand side if stood with your back to the sea. The square is a gorgeous tree lined oasis to escape from the madness of the city and we took a seat outside The Alex Restaurant to enjoy a chilled bottle of Rioja and some amazing and reasonably priced tapas – albondingas (meatballs) and patas bravas – both under 5 a dish. We were entertained by some amazing Brazilian street dancers who did backflips and somersaulted in front of the restaurant showing their six packs with their tops off much to the delight of a table full of French girls nearby and myself of course I happily donated a few euros to their cause!
It was nearly 3pm so we strolled back to the waterfront where we boarded a waiting port bus which got us to the ship in no time. We chilled on our balcony and awaited sailaway before changing for dinner. Another glorious day (despite the hangovers) in one of my all time favourite ports.
At 6.15pm we made our way to the King Lear MDR and were quickly seated at table 666. Our waiters Edwin and Vicky greeted us, wine was poured and a huge bowl of strawberries placed in front of Finn, another great start to a meal. I ordered Chicken Consommé followed by a Butter Chicken Curry, Andy had Gourmet Meatballs to start, Chicken Consommé and then New York Strip steak. Finn ordered pasta again as he’d enjoyed it so much the night before. Andy thought the meatballs weren’t quite as good as those we’d enjoyed in Barcelona (the best he’s ever had he said) but he still cleared his plate, my curry was delicious and a nice change from what I usually order.
After dinner we strolled down the Royal Promenade, stopping at the duty free store to buy a few toiletries we had run low on. Finn decided he simply had to have a tub of Celebration chocolates which were served pick n mix so you could select the ones you wanted. A genius idea as it meant you didn’t get left with a load of mini Bounty’s or Snickers (Marathons to anyone of a certain age) as is usual at our house! They were quite reasonable too at $5 a tub and Andy helped Finn fill every spare inch so we’ll be eating them all week.
We opted for a quiet night as we need to be up fresh and early for Palma as we’re meeting my Mum and Stepdad who have lived in Mallorca for over twenty years. Finn is excited to see his Nana who he calls Nag Nag and I know they are just as excited to see their grandson too.
We went to the Pyramid Lounge hoping to see a live band but they weren’t playing till a little later. There was a quiz starting so I decided we’d join in although the boys were a little less keen. It was a blankety blank style thing where by you had to complete a phrase and there were 10 rounds in total. It wasn’t great but the highlight was watching Finn race to the front with the completed slip after each round. The host, one of the younger members of the events team, was obviously still learning the job and we’ve seen much funnier redcoats at Butlins if I’m honest. Sadly we didn’t win but as the prize was a Royal Caribbean baseball cap I soon got over it. We left after the quiz and headed to bed for an early night looking forward to seeing Nana and Grandad and enjoying a day in the Majorcan sunshine together.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 9 – Palma
We awoke around 8.00am as the Indy sailed in to Palma, pulling back the curtains to enjoy fabulous views of the cathedral as the ship docked.
Finn opened one eye and said he had two very excited doggies in bed – his soft toys Jasper and Casper. Both were previous gifts off my mum and stepdad which he insisted were coming on the cruise to visit his grandparents who have lived in Majorca for over twenty years. We were all really looking forward to spending the day together.
We had breakfast in the Windjammer – French toast and sausages for Finn and myself and something approaching a full English for Andy – and then went to the towel station on top deck to pick up some beach towels. You need to show your sea pass card when collecting them but I’m not 100% convinced there is any kind of proper signing in or out system as they are usually retrieved from our room before we get an opportunity to return them.
We received a text from Nana (aka Nag Nag) and Grandad to say they were here a bit earlier than expected and waiting for us in the terminal. We disembarked with Finn skipping across the passenger bridge and down the escalator into his grandparents arms for the biggest of cuddles. After much hugging (for Finn not us!) we made our way to their car which was parked right by the terminal – now that beats a HoHo bus!
We drove to Santa Ponsa, a lovely beach resort, about twenty minutes from Palma where they used to live before they moved a little further up the coast to Calas de Mallorca. We parked up and made our way to the Watering Hole, a pub with a large outdoor swimming pool and a well stocked freezer of ice lollies – heaven for a six year old and as the wine was only 7 a bottle, fairly enjoyable for us too!
The pool was beautifully refreshing in the heat and we enjoyed some quality time catching up with the grandparents and enjoying a leisurely lunch, a little more wine and lots of dips in the pool. All too quickly it was time to make the short drive back to the port and after much hugging, kissing and waving we had to get back on the the ship. As regular cruisers I’m sure they wished they were boarding with us although they do seem to prefer the smaller ships that sail out of Palma such as Thomson’s Island Escape.
On our way back to the room we posed for a photo in front of one of the many gorgeous artworks around the ship. RCI has an incredible art collection across its fleet and I particularly remember the lovely ‘small wonders’ miniatures in telescope style viewers when we sailed on Oasis of the Seas. On Independence they have an ‘Inspired by’ series of modern takes on work by famous artists on each floor along the stairwells. On our way to the MDR we pass a fabulous midnight blue homage to Jackson Pollock that’s covered in the kind of squiggles you get when you wave sparklers around on Bonfire Night and a gorgeous blancmange pink panel inspired by Mark Rothko. On deck 4 there’s an update of The Scream by Edvard Munch which Finn is terrified of and on deck 6 above the Royal Promenade there’s a huge red sculpture of a dog which he adores – a little bit of culture at sea. Heaven.
Nag Nag and Grandad had very kindly bought Finn a Lego Chima set so we sat on bed while Mummy wrestled with the instructions and built something that looked vaguely like the picture on the box. Why are there always a few pieces left over? Oh well…
Tonight’s dinner dress code was casual so no major changes were required and we made our way to deck 5. We were greeted by our waiting team and strawberries, wine and diet coke arrived soon after as we perused the menu. I ordered buffalo mozzarella with rocket to start and beef tenderloin with garlic roasted potatoes for my main. Andy enjoyed a seafood risotto, white bean soup and Coq au Vin as Finn got stuck into breadcrumbed chicken strips and chips. The service as always was excellent although we were beaten by our mains and declined dessert yet again.
Finn wanted to go to kids club so we dropped him off on Deck 12 for an hour or so as we took advantage of the views and our drinks package in the open air Sky Bar. We watched the sun slip into the ocean listening to a DJ play some very apt Cafe del Mar style house tunes as we sailed towards Ibiza. Best laid plans to catch the live band at 9.45pm were abandoned as the sunshine, food and wine had got the better of us so we picked up Finn and returned to our room before they even made it on stage. The live music does seem to start a little late for my liking, particularly when you have a port day you want to make the most of the next day.
I replenished our coke cups on the Royal Promenade and popped into the cupcake cupboard for a cheeky mini vanilla – well I had skipped dessert : ) – before returning to the boys for a much needed sleep ahead of a day in Ibiza town tomorrow.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 10 – Ibiza
Our tenth day began with a beautiful sunrise as the ship sailed into Ibiza town with its towering medieval walls and harbour full of expensive yachts. A speedboat zipped by with tunes blaring (evidence of the partying the island is famous for) and a procession of jets roared low overhead preparing to land at the nearby airport and marking the arrival of yet more clubbers for a week or two of fun and excess. Docking on the Indy seemed a far more leisurely way to arrive at the White Isle for a couple whose clubbing days are as long gone as The Hacienda and the other Manchester nightspots we frequented in our youth.
Normally on a cruise we enjoy the a la carte breakfast option but as this finishes at 9.30am and Finn has finally learnt the art of a lie in we’ve only made it once so we took breakfast at the Windjammer. Suitably replenished we collected our things and made our way to deck 1 to disembark.
Getting off we could see the crew bar situated a few decks below our room. It looks like a great place to hang out with huge open windows, tv’s, seating areas and a bar with significantly cheaper prices than we pay I suspect! I’m absolutely fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes on a cruise ship and think the logistics of these floating cities is amazing. I’d really like to do the behind the scenes tour they offer on some ships but they charge around $150 usually and I’ve always thought this a little expensive. I’ve not actually seen it advertised yet this cruise so we’ll see, I may treat myself.
We headed along the dockside getting a real sense of the size and scale of this amazing vessel. It really is enormous and until the arrival of Oasis and Allure was one of the largest cruise ships at sea. The sun was beating down and the temperature was already in the 30s so we took advantage of the shade of the dock wall as we headed to the port gates. RCI do offer their own shuttle bus into town but we wanted to see what other transport options there were. We literally just missed a public port bus which you can pick up just outside the terminal at a very reasonable 2.5 one way and 4.5 return per adult. There was already a queue for the next bus and a sign said they were every 30 minutes. Our other option was a taxi but the queues at the rank which is adjacent to the bus stop were huge so we decided to walk as we’d seen the old town from the top deck and it didn’t look too far around the bay. It was however incredibly hot and the walk took around 30 minutes so we were thankful for the shady, arboured pathways and gardens alongside the harbour that kept the sun off us. We passed upscale apartment blocks, bars and clubs and finally arrived at the area of the harbour where the port bus drops you off and there’s another taxi rank. We found a cafe close by for a much needed ice lolly for Finn and a diet coke for us as we sat watching cars and people pour off the Balearics ferries which head back and to between the islands.
After a bit of rest and refreshment we made our way through streets lined with shops and cafés that lead you up to the impressive city walls. It reminded me of Chester back in the UK as we crossed the drawbridge and through the arch into the old town beyond. We walked up narrow, cobbled passageways between white washed houses dripping with bougainvillea in full bloom, it really was incredibly pretty. The town is a little M C Esher like, a labyrinth of steps and pathways heading in all directions but we soon stumbled across a shady, tree lined and flower filled square with a choice of three small bars. The square was called Plaza del Sol but I couldn’t possibly tell you how to get there or even if we could ever find it again. We chose the bar Bella Sombra, purely because they had cool water mist spraying from their parasols which created a beautifully chilled atmosphere, a welcome respite from the blistering sunshine. We ordered the obligatory bottle of red for ourselves and a water for Finn and sat back and enjoyed the ambience. This really has been one of those magical holidays where we’ve seemed to take a serendipitous turn at the right time to find the perfect spot, each day. I was feeling a little tipsy on the red wine and very thankful and blessed.
We considered ordering the bar’s tapas but were still fairly full from our breakfasts so we chose instead to return slowly to the ship descending back through the old town to the harbour where we jumped a cab back to the port at a very reasonable 9 for the three of us. We got back onboard and went to Jade, the oriental section of the Windjammer as we fancied sampling one of the many curries they do so well on a ship with so many nationalities in the crew. We enjoyed a delicious chicken chattinad, chicken breast cooked in coconut milk with jasmine rice. It was so good Andy had to have seconds and I even managed a little dessert, a beautiful Oreo mousse that was fabulous. Finn had a hotdog which he quickly wolfed down and to his delight we had sat in the section of the restaurant that Vicky (our evening waiter from the main dining room) was looking after. The staff really do work incredibly long and hard but always with a smile on their faces.
We returned to our room and sat on the balcony enjoying the sunshine and a little more red wine. I was starting to feel a little hot so I took Finn up to the H2O zone where we splashed, sprayed and swam for a while and cooled off with yet more soft serve ice creams from Sprinkles.
The dress code for tonight’s dinner was casual but I always prefer to make a little effort and wear a dress and Andy always wears long trousers and a shirt or polo top. We made our way to our usual table to be greeted with strawberries, diet coke and wine. I chose the Thai style chicken starter with glass noodles which was amazing. For main I fancied the steak however it was being served with Diane sauce and I don’t like mushrooms. I explained this to Edwin who delighted me by offering me an alternative of pepper sauce which he seemed to magic out of thin air, perfect service once again and the steak was absolutely delicious. Andy, still full from lunch, managed only one starter, an Andalucian broth, followed by the Steak Diane as it came but without the mashed potatoes. Finn got stuck into a pizza from the children’s menu although we’ve seen many other kids eating off the main menu which is equally fine should they wish.
After dinner we visited Boleros for a drink and then headed to the Labyrinth nightclub where there was supposed to be a family disco but it was pretty empty. Instead we took front row seats in the Pyramid Lounge to watch the first set by the live band Undercover who were advertised as classic rock but threw in some Chic, Dido and Pharrel Williams covers too. We left around 10.15pm stopping on the Royal Promenade to collect a cupcake, wine and diet coke before going back to the cabin where a towel monkey awaited Finn and the chance of a lazy sea day lie in sounded like bliss for us all.