Oceania Cruises wows us again!

A couple of weeks ago we received an invitation to a luncheon from Oceania Cruises. We thought we’d go along ….. It would probably be finger food and we’d stand around for an hour or so, trying to juggle glasses of wine and plates of food as we chatted to fellow Oceania cruisers before hearing the promotional messages but it would be OK.

So we caught the train into the city, found 480 Queen Street and caught the lift to level 4 and entered Otto Ristorante, a beautiful Italian restaurant with a view of the Brisbane River and the Story Bridge.

This was a special, sit-down, a-la-carte meal with lovely wines. It was Oceania thanking some 60 of us for being loyal Oceania cruisers. The food was delicious as you would expect of a company which promises the finest cuisine at sea. What’s more, they did not use it as an opportunity to sell more cruises.

We were very impressed with the restaurant too. It is a beautiful venue and the food and the service were great. We’d like to return.

So, thank you Oceania. We really enjoyed ourselves.

Our life on the Oceania Marina is over! So sad!

This morning we had to leave our beautiful Marina. We had a great cruise – loved every minute of it. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well. The king size beds are the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on and I slept like a baby most nights. They have the most amazing pillows. You can actually buy the bed, mattress, pillows and bedding and have it delivered to your home anywhere in the world. I’d love to but there’d be no room for anything else in our bedroom so I have to give it a miss.

The food on Oceania is outstanding. I think their claim to have “The finest cuisine at sea” is justifiable. Red Ginger is still my favourite restaurant on board but all the food we had was delicious. David loved his breakfasts and for a man who has coffee and tomato on toast most mornings at home, he did very well.

Can you see his plate? Lamb chops, crispy bacon, eggs, tomato to be followed by two pieces of toast and marmalade and he’d already had a plate of berries and an orange juice! Incredible!

We enjoyed the evening entertainment and I think we went for twelve out of the fourteen nights. The entertainment crew put on six singing and dancing evenings and we thoroughly enjoyed them all. We had a British comedian on two nights and he was very funny. David laughed a lot. A very clever pianist entertained us,again for two nights. He could play anything. Last night we had the crew’s salute and the end of the show and we couldn’t believe how many chefs there were.

I was concerned about how long it would take for us to get off the ship, go through border patrol, get a taxi and get to our hotel. I needn’t have worried. It was a very efficient operation. (Not like it was in Copenhagen in 2016 where we were in the taxi queue for two hours. No exaggeration!) Our time to disembark was 9am and by 9:30 we were stowing our luggage at our hotel and heading off to La Boqueria, the famous Barcelona market. We are very familiar with it as it was where we bought our food to take back to our apartment when we were here in 2014.

It’s amazing eh? I forgot to take a photo of the fruit. There’s so much and it all looks so fresh. We will be returning to the market shortly to buy our food for dinner.

We have a lovely hotel room at Citadines Ramblas right on Las Ramblas, the Main Street of Barcelona. We have tea making facilities, a microwave and cutlery, crockery etc so we will be able to buy fresh food at the market and eat in if we wish.

The weather has turned against us today – it’s raining and only 15* but we are not complaining because every other day has been fine and sunny. We decided to visit El Cortes Ingles, the large department store to get out of the rain while we waited to check in. It sells everything you could possibly want. When we were here before, there was no plug in the apartment and we went to a few shops trying to find one. Eventually we went to this store and managed, through some mime, to find the right area of the shop and bought a plug. So we affectionately call El Cortes Ingres The Plug Shop. David was going to buy a plug again as a souvenir but instead he bought two shirts.

We found a pleasant cafe to have lunch – seafood paella and a glass of sangria. Very nice? And they had soy milk so I could have a very good cappuccino. Yes!

A. Great start to our short stay in Barcelona!

Holiday reading

Whilst cruising on the lovely Marina, I’ve managed to find the time to read a couple of books out of the ship’s library

The first was The Paris Vendetta by Steve Barry. I thought this was a fitting choice as I had just enjoyed that lovely week in Paris and I knew exactly where the characters were as they moved through Paris in the story. The book reminded me of The DaVinci Affair by Dan Brown as there were ancient mysteries to be solved, clues to be followed and places to visit. I learnt about the life of Napoléon and his battles through Europe. I wondered if he did really leave a secret legacy and followed the characters as they tried to prevent The Paris Club from triggering a global financial meltdown. It was a little difficult to grasp all the different characters at the beginning but once I did, I really enjoyed this novel. It was full of suspense and twists and turns and it got me in.

The second was The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a Lisbeth Salander novel by David Lagercrantz and continuing Stieglitz Larsson’s Millenium Series. I loved the series by Larsson and was very sad to hear he had died. Lagercrantz has done a great job of continuing these exciting stories and I really enjoyed spending more time with Lisbeth Salander, genius hacker and uncompromising misfit, and the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. The characterisation fits with that in the original novels and the battle between right and wrong, between Lisbeth and her twin sister, was absorbing. I loved it. Didn’t want to put it down!

Did we see The Rock?

Last night we cruised through the Straits of Gibraltar and the cruise director made an announcement that we would be able to see it between 7 and 8. So we went on deck to catch a glimpse of the famous Rock of Gibraltar. Only trouble was, no one seemed to know which side was the rock and there was no further announcement from the bridge.

So either this is The Rock

Or this is:

The first photo looks more like a Rock. The second one is prettier. One of them includes The Rock but which one? Your guess is as good as mine.

Could easily spend a week in Málaga

It’s a lovely city – beaches, beautiful squares, elegant buildings and such a lot of greenery.

This is our last port on our wonderful cruise on Oceania Marina. Next stop Will be Barcelona on Friday and we will have to disembark.

Today we had a late start, banana pancakes for breakfast, did some washing and headed off to the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. The tour here was really well managed and the information was comprehensive and easy to understand so we really enjoyed it.

The Jacarandas were in flower so that reminded us of home as did the colourful bougainvilleas. We even saw a very thirsty, sad-looking gum tree.

We had hoped to visit the botanical gardens but when I looked it up on the web it said that it could be closed because of the May Day holiday. I asked the tourist info people and they looked it up on the web and told me what I already knew. So we figured it wasn’t worth €100 in taxi fares to get there and find it closed. We enjoyed our visit to Málaga nevertheless.

Here’s a few pictures to show why we enjoyed it so.

After our tour we found a little café to have lunch. David wasn’t adventurous and had a burger and chips but I enjoyed pescaîto frito – fried seafood. It was a huge serve and was too much for me. It included anchovies, squid, fish, mussels etc.

A week here in a little apartment near the beach would be very pleasant!

A mix of the old and the new

Today in Tangier Morocco, we boarded the Hop-on Hop-Off bus for a tour of the city.

Our view from beside the ship.

The port shuttle took us to the car park of the Intercontinental Hotel from where we could cross the road and catch the red bus. The juxtaposition of the old wall and the flash hotel was typical of what we saw here.

We were impressed with the skill of our driver who manoeuvred the bus through some extremely narrow streets and around tight corners.

We drove by a long, narrow cemetery which was filled with grasses and flowers.

We weren’t sure where to hop off and we chose the city centre which turned out to be a mistake. It was a large new shopping centre with no customers, bored shop assistants and only American chain restaurants such as Burger King and Pizza Hut. By this stage, we were ready for coffee but we wanted a legitimate Moroccan coffee so we left here and caught a taxi back to the Souq that the bus had taken us through.

As well as fresh fruit and vegetables the souq contained many long narrow aisles filled with fake handbags, shoes, t-shirts etc. There must have been thousands of bags! Who would buy them all?

We wandered around for a while, still searching for our hit of caffeine and then walked down the steep hill to the waterfront where we found many cafés and were able to get our coffee. It was very strong, delicious and cost €1 each. The currency here is the dirham which is worth US$0.10.

We then wandered back to the shuttle and back to the ship for lunch and our afternoon rest.

Cadiz, an ancient port

Last night we had a delicious dinner in Jacques, the French restaurant on Marina. Onion soup and Dover sole for me and escargot and fillets of John Dory for David. He managed to fit dessert in as well – an amazing Mille feuille. I pinched a couple of mouthful.

The sommelier convinced David that we should have a Premier Cru Chablis from Burgundy and it was most enjoyable. They put your cabin number on it and bring it to you at the next restaurant you dine at. It will probably take the rest of the cruise for us to finish it. We don’t drink much at all these days.

Today we arrived at Cadiz a little late as we had to turn back to Lisbon last night to put off a person having a medical emergency. I felt for them. I know what it is like to leave a cruise ship on a stretcher and miss the rest of your cruise.

Today we took it easy in Cadiz. You can walk into town from the ship and we just wandered down the main shopping street for a little retail therapy.

As in all Spanish towns, we found some lovely green squares.

I don’t know why there is a padlock in the middle of this roundabout? Very peculiar!

We could have visited Gibraltar from here but we decided that a restful day was preferable. It was most pleasant.