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Reviewed: Barcelona
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Submitted to category: Ports of Call/Europe/Spain

(Review ID: 133)
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
 
A terrific port, stop, or stay, July 27, 2010
Reviewer: Todd Todd
Pros: A bustling city filled with a variety of opportunities
Cons: There's too much of everything. You really have to budget time and money
    
Overall   5.00/5  (5)

Barcelona is the Mediterranean's largest cruise port probably due to it's location, it's huge airport and the clean and convenient port facilities.

Arriving passengers at the airport may be overwhelmed by the size and shopping center atmosphere. However, there is plenty of English, the layout is clear and logical. There are taxis as well as airport buses into town. Taking the subway is probably too difficult and impossible with luggage.

There are hundreds of hotels since this is a major European city, the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. Cruise passengers, either before or after a cruise will probably want to stay in the center of town. There are hundreds of hotels of all sorts. There are also a bunch of hotels located on the "beach" of Barcelona. During the summer season these hotels would be a second choice for passengers staying in Barcelona.

In town there is the usual 'hop-on hop-off" tour bus. They offer tickets for one or two days. As Barcelona is a large city it makes sense for the the first-time visitor to spend at least one day seeing the town. The buses have an open top deck. If the weather is decent this can be a very enjoyable experience.

Don't miss the famous church by the architect Gaudi, Sagrada Familia. The Gothic Quarter is a Barcelona "must" with it's winding streets and unique shops and restaurants. In the Quarter is the Picasso Museum. There's also the cathedral.

The strolling street, Las Ramblas,is a visual treat night and day with it's kiosks, vendors, living statues, etc. Right in the middle of Las Ramblas is the opera house and the wonderful central market. A small potted plant or some fresh flowers always add a nice touch to a cruise cabin and there are plenty of both along Las Ramblas.

At the foot of Las Ramblas is a very interesting maritime museum. t's just a short stroll from the Columbus monument. The maritime museum also has a quiet cafe. But, no visit to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to some of the famous works of the Spanish architect Gaudi, besides the still unfinished church there apartment buildings, parks, and houses all over town. Just for fun you can catch the subway to a funicular (same ticket) that climbs the small mountain Montjuc near the port. After you come out of the funicular you can catch a gondola that will take you right to the top where's there's a terrific view of the port area. It's nice if you're leaving on a cruise from Barcelona to take a view of the port before you go. It makes departure day just a little less confusing. You can see the distance, the orientation, the number of ships, etc.

About half way down the hill is another gondola that will take you above the port area over to the beach. Below you will see the entertainment center in the port area, the large hotels along the beach, and maybe a few mega yachts. Once at the beach there are hundreds of seafood restaurants, so maybe it's time for paella, or it's noodle cousin Fideo. In the old customs building there's another museum of history.

It's a fairly short trip from any hotel by taxi to the cruise port. Don't worry the drivers know enough English to get you there. But do be prepared to tell him the cruise company, and vessel name. At the embarkation areas there are porters to help with luggage. There are also shops selling alcohol. Depending on your cruise line policies you might want to pick something up last minute. And, the same goes for sodas.

The surrounding area has plenty of day trips, either before or after a cruise.
 
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Submitted to category: Ports of Call/Europe/Spain/Canary Islands

(Review ID: 226)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
 
Pleasant enough for a day, August 26, 2010
Reviewer: Todd Todd
Pros: Easy access from the ship and up to the upper town
Cons: Tourist facilities focus on the airport
    
Overall   3.00/5  (3)

Tenerife is on one of the volcanic islands. Tenerife is a commercial town and one of the largest in the Canaries. The dock is right in the center of town. It's an easy walk, but recently the town offers a free shuttle to the front street.

The town is pleasant enough. There are lovely streets with flowers everywhere. There's a lively market and the startling sight of the new Calatrava designed auditorium right by the edge of the sea.

The volcanic nature of the islands is reflected in the geography of the town. The commercial center and the harbor are shoved into the narrow coastal strip. The charming historic area is up on top of the "mountain." Thankfully, you won't have to climb up. There's a cheap and quick streetcar that will do the climbing for you.

Up on top the historic city has some attractive squares and a colorful market full of the flowers and sub-tropical fruits and vegetables that the Canaries are famous for. A small local museum, a photogenic ruin of a church and some shops round out the town.

The excursions take you out to some other small towns and up to Mt. Tiede. This is the big volcano that dominates the island. The lower slopes are green, but with elevation it slowly becomes a type of desert. You can take a gondola up the mountain that is snow-covered part of the year.

You'll have to rent a car if you want beaches.
 
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Submitted to category: Ports of Call/Russia - Central Asia/Russia

(Review ID: 392)
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
 
One of the world's great river cruises, September 13, 2010
Reviewer: Todd Todd
Pros: Different, unique, and it's light until midnight sometimes
Cons: Some cabins are really small
    
Overall   5.00/5  (5)

This is the wonderful cruise between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Either way it is a must-do for cruising. Two amazing towns at either end. In the middle there is everything from the subtle joys of being in the middle of a trackless forest to the splendor of Imperial Russia.

The ships are old Russian ships. Some with remodeled cabins others without. Don't expect the glitz and flash of the European river cruise boats. Although the food is fine, again, remember where you are. Sometimes you are really out in the middle of nowhere.

Get used to icons. It might be a good idea to do a little research on your own before going to really enjoy and appreciate the icons from the start. It can be hot.

The canals are amazing. Again, a little study before you go will give you a much better appreciation of what went into these watery highways. The first lock gets everyone out taking pictures, but by the end of the week nobody will even get up. The river going up/down to/from St. Petersburg is some of the best scenery. Kizhi Island is a highlight.
 
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Reviewed: Uglich
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Submitted to category: Ports of Call/Russia - Central Asia/Russia

(Review ID: 391)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
 
A small river town with a famous church, September 13, 2010
Reviewer: Todd Todd
Pros: It's easy to get around and walk everywhere
Cons: There's really not much to see or do besides shop
    
Overall   3.00/5  (3)

The ships dock right next to town. The arrival is really magical. Don't miss some of the best pictures as you come into town from the river.

Yes, those pesky vendors make you run a virtual gauntlet to get to those beautiful churches. Don't waste your time or even glance on your way out. Wait until you come back. They will be much, MUCH more willing to bargain if they know you're just about to sail.

The churches are lovely, but small. Historical, but small. The frescoes are not that great. But, they are set in a lovely park.

There's internet in town if you need it. Or, why not buy some Russian soda for a change?
 
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Reviewed: Moscow
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Submitted to category: Ports of Call/Russia - Central Asia/Russia

(Review ID: 390)
11 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
 
A unique city, September 13, 2010
Reviewer: Todd Todd
Pros: Everything is bigger in Moscow, everything
Cons: The traffic
    
Overall   5.00/5  (5)

The city, which is located at junction of trade routes and rivers, is always going to be a mixture of the present and the past.

The ships dock quite a ways out of town, but there is a subway station nearby if you are willing to brave the subway. It's the pickpockets, not the subway. The trip into town or out of town can easily take an hour or more. As another reviewer noted, the trip in from the airport can also be a killer.

Once you are in the center of Moscow the names and sights are amazing. Suddenly there is the building on the front of the Stoli bottle, and St. Basil's church, and GUM, the huge department store. How many times have we see the towers of the Kremlin in news reports? Inside the Kremlin it is truly another world.

You must take a tour inside the Kremlin. The Armory is the place to see for the clothes, thrones, carriages of the Czars. Don't plan on seeing dozens of Fabergé eggs. Most of them are no longer in Russia. The early communists sold them for cash. You need to pay for a separate admission to the diamond vault. But, the display cases of gold, silver and ivory are enough.

The Kremlin churches are great, but can be really overcrowded. If you are even a little bit claustrophobic, take a miss on the churches and plan on seeing the frescoes in Kostroma, or elsewhere. The Czar canon is there and the churches are beautiful from the outside as well.

For spectacle, how about the Peter the Great monument? What can compare to a night at the Bolshoi? The Russian Circus is pleasant, but sorta tame. Take a tour out to the monument to where they turned back Napoleon(those funny things coming in from the airport is where they turned back the Nazis).

Be sure to see some of the spectacular subway stations. The Hippodrome entrance is a unexpected and monumental. All the huge apartment/condo buildings sprouting up everywhere are amazing. Or, how about a cruise on the Moscow river?

Moscow is alive and jumping. It's too bad that it's difficult to communicate, and other than the subway, transportation can be problematic. There are wonderful restaurants and the shops in Moscow have the best of everything in Russia.

And, I don't care what they say, Russian "champagne" is just not worth it at any price.
 
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