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NCL transatlantic cruise: Crossing the Atlantic and ports!

Updated: Jan 28

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Imagine being on a luxurious vessel that would take you from one continent to another. That is exactly what happened to me when I took the NCL Gem Transatlantic 15-day cruise from Rome to New York City, with many iconic cities along the way. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean is an inspiring journey, a once in a lifetime experience with so much to see and do! In this blog post, I will share all the details and do a transatlantic cruise review of my trip aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line Gem. From my favorite places on the ship to all port stops along the way. This is a major ocean journey.


NCL Gem
NCL Gem

I am an experienced cruiser; in fact, this was not my first transatlantic. But this was the first transatlantic cruise as a solo traveler, and the first 19-day total vacation traveling by myself. I have traveled often as a solo, trips to the beach, an all-inclusive resort, I have even done cruises by myself. But never a 19-day adventure. where 15 days were on a cruise ship.




My adventure began in Rome, Italy. I spent 3 days there, where I saw many sights including the Trevi Fountain, before taking the 1 hour and 15-minute drive to Civitavecchia Italy to board the NCL Gem.



cruise critic

Day 1 Embarkation in Civitavecchia and NCL Gem info.

Pallets of supplies for the cruise
Pallets of supplies for the cruise

Luckily because I was worried about train travel due to strikes and my knee pain, I shared the drive with a couple who stayed at a hotel near me in Rome. This is my first tip for anyone taking a cruise. Join Cruise Critic forums or Facebook groups that are made specifically for your cruise. You will meet people, find friends, and in this instance, help save some money by splitting the fee for the hired driver to take us to the cruise port. Plus, it was great to talk to someone during the hour plus drive about the cruise, and what they were planning for excursions. We stood in line at the cruise terminal, boarded the ship together, and even got lunch together since we boarded the ship before our rooms were ready. It was funny as we were walking to get on board we stopped and took pictures of ourselves in front of pallets of supplies that were being loaded onto the NCL Gem.


Cruise Terminal In Civitavecchia
Cruise Terminal In Civitavecchia

As we stepped onto the ship, we were greeted with a warm welcome by the friendly crew members. The cruise port was not as fancy as other cruise ports I have seen elsewhere, and this is a very industrial cruise port area. Still the lines moved quickly. From luggage drop off to boarding the ship was about a half hour to 40 minutes start to finish. Not bad at all. Lunch at O'Sheehans was great too! O'Sheehans is a pub style restaurant on most if not all Norwegian cruise ships, that is open 24 hours a day. I always love coming here. Midnight Spaghetti Carbonara is great!


It was now 2 pm and the rooms were ready, I was very happy to be able to put down this heavy backpack that was my carry-on luggage for the trip. So, I said bye to my new friends to go check out my room and to start exploring the ship. The stateroom was spacious, clean, and comfortable. It was the perfect place to relax after a day full of activities. Plus, I had a balcony.



Norwegian Cruise line is a major cruise line in the industry and a popular choice. This ship had so many amenities to offer, including a spa, fitness center, pool, and various restaurants serving everything from delicious Italian cuisine to all-American burgers. I did not buy the spa package, and never went to the gym, but I did check out the rest of the ship. As for restaurants I will go over them, although I did not visit them all.


Rock climbing wall on the Gem
Rock climbing wall on the Gem

At the back of the ship on an upper deck there is a rock-climbing wall, and basketball courts. There are places to sit back there, and I found it was never crowded. In the same area there was a track where you could walk laps easily for exercise, and nearby was a ping pong table, shuffleboard, and other activities you can do on the deck.




The Gem is an ocean liner is on the smaller side of the Norwegian cruise ships. It is the same class of ship as the Jade, Jewel and Pearl. I love this type, it's not the smallest, but far from the largest ship in their fleet.


My favorite deck for walking is the Promenade Deck, near the Atrium Bar area. This is an outside deck where you can walk around the ship. I would always take a stroll on the deck then come inside and stop at the bar. This level of the ship has all the shops too. It's nice to take a look at all the beautiful jewelry, and the other shops with souvenirs, perfume, and clothes that are duty free. (tax free)


Here is a list of all my favorite places.

View of the Atrium from O'Sheehans Pub
View of the Atrium from O'Sheehans Pub
  • Atrium Bar- I love this place and this was where they did some trivia and games. Every morning you could start your day off by learning how to make Origami animals. In the afternoon I would play trivia. After Trivia they did their version of the TV show "Deal or No Deal" It was fun, just be careful because you have to pay extra to buy a ticket for it, like you would if you play Bingo. Near the Atrium Bar were guest services, cruise next, restaurant reservation, and shore excursion desks. Also, Starbucks was located here, for when you feel like you want a special coffee for an added fee. What I did think was neat about Starbucks. The prices are the same as the Starbucks where I live. I was glad to see that when I wanted a fancy coffee.

  • Spinnaker Lounge- many activities during the day here, Bingo, dancing, music, and even karaoke. Every day there is always something fun to do at Spinnaker. Sometimes I would go into Spinnakers because it was really welcoming and nothing was going on, it is a great place to relax and get away from people when activities are not going on.

  • Bliss Lounge- reminds me a lot of Spinnaker, just not as large. Usually, the Solo cruisers daily meet and greet was here. The first night it was at Spinnaker, then it was moved here. You always have to check your "Freestyle Daily" or use the Norwegian App to see what activities are going on and where, so you don't miss out.

Pool deck on NCL Gem
Pool deck on NCL Gem
  • View the bridge- this is my favorite little gem of the ship. There are windows so you can see the crew at work, and all the navigational devices. It's a small room with just a few chairs, but there is always a coffee pot so you can get a coffee, look at the captain's team doing their work and look at all the awards on the wall.

  • The Great Outdoors- this is the buffet area outside at the back of the ship, it is usually less crowded so if you are late for breakfast go there and they serve breakfast later. But my real reason for going there is being outside, the views and not near as crowded. On a day at sea during my cruise between 1:30pm and 3pm I sat there and did some work with my laptop. It was lovely.

  • The library- it is always quiet here. With several seats and tons of books to choose from you are bound to find a good book to read. They also have copies if word puzzles and sudoku puzzles to work on.


View from Ship
View from Ship

Yes, they do have internet on the ships, some ships work better than others, but no complaints for my time online which was every day. There were only 3 times in 15 days it was out for an extended period of time, which was about 30 minutes. In fact, all NCL ships are going to get upgraded internet systems in 2024 so it will be even better. I bought the package for one device, and when I was using my laptop, I would sign out of the internet on my cell phone. The only thing I could not do with this package was stream services, I also could not edit videos or upload videos to YouTube, but I could reach my email, website and blog. I even booked travel for clients while on the ship. So, no complaints at all from me.


One thing that Norwegian Cruise Line is promoting now is cruises for solo travelers. This avoids the double occupancy rule all cruise lines have followed in the past. They have solo cabins, but also have special offers for solo travelers to avoid having to pay the double occupancy price for a larger cabin including balcony cabins. In my honest opinion NCL is a great value for a cruise, usually coming in cheaper than other. cruise lines. The price has dropped on this cruise several times making it a great deal, and a cheap transatlantic cruise compared to others with similar itineraries. These are great destinations I was visiting, so you would not expect cheap cruise prices, but they were trying to fill the ship with passengers which at times is hard to do on these long voyages.

Still, transatlantic sailings tend to offer a lower cost per night than other cruises and this one was no different. Transatlantic voyages are sometimes treated by the cruise line as a repositioning cruise due to the need to move the ship to another continent for a different season of the year, and this cruise was for that exact reason. As a budget traveler, the lower rates are one of the main reasons why I picked this cruise.


VIator

There are several other bars of the ship I have not mentioned. You will always find someone to talk to and great service, I did hear people complain that service in the casino was slow, but I did not have an issue when I was in there losing money. lol. Here is the list of all bars.

  • Magnum's

  • Cigar Room

  • Malting's Beer and Whiskey

  • Sugarcane Mojito

  • Shaker's Martini

  • Casino Bar

  • Bali Hai

  • Topsiders




StaStardust Theater, a place used in the morning for excursion meet ups rdust Theater
Stardust Theater, a place used in the morning for excursion meet ups

One of the most memorable things about the NCL Gem was the onboard entertainment. There were live performances by talented singers, dancers, and comics every night. There are even theme parties like the Glow Party. Another highlight was the Broadway style show “Blazing Boots” which was a country music extravaganza. Some people on my cruise were disappointed with the entertainment, but I was still happy with it. I especially liked the comedians. Unlike some of cruise lines there were not extra charges for the shows.


My favorite restaurants

Cagney's Steak and Lobster
Cagney's Steak and Lobster
  • O'Sheehans- I already mentioned it, it was never as crowded as the buffet, but has fast service. I like coming here instead of going to the main dining rooms sometimes.

  • Cagney's Steakhouse- A specialty restaurant you will have to pay extra for, but great steaks and seafood.

  • Le Bistro- A specialty restaurant you have to pay extra for. But I love Escargot and their lamb chop dish is amazing. Make sure you dress up for this place, Dress slack and a nice shirt is fine enough.

  • Orchid Garden is a complimentary Chinese restaurant. You have to check it out. The pork pot stickers are the best potstickers I have ever had. And that's saying something because the pork potstickers I make are amazing.


Other Specialty restaurants include Teppanyaki (Japanese), La Cucina (Italian), Moderno (Brazilian) and sushi are all amazing. I have had them on other cruises. But if I only have the option for 2 specialty restaurants, I will choose Le Bistro and Cagney's.


Le Bistro Lamb Chop
Le Bistro Lamb Chop

Some people will complain about buffet food on cruise ships, but I don't mind Norwegian's buffets. Some things are bland and lack salt, I will admit that. But I can always find something I like. Salads, Pizza you can never go wrong with in my opinion. But each day they have a different theme, one day maybe Greek, another maybe Mexican, but they always have options of things that do not fit into those categories. There is always an Asian section, burgers, hot dogs, and a soup area. I really do like NCL buffet French fries too. And don't forget about deserts and ice cream!!!!




For a complimentary main dining room experience go to the Grand Pacific or Magenta dining rooms. The food is great, and it is more of a sophisticated dining experience for dinner especially. Usually, 1 or both the dining rooms on any ship are open for lunch or breakfast too, which is still fancy, but not as fancy as dinner. Now don't get me wrong the main dining rooms are amazing, but sometimes you are just not in the mood for fancy sit down breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Norwegian does not do fancy dinners like some cruise lines; it's called free style dinning. This is why I love NCL. I will look fine enough to go eat in the main dining area just being myself. But still, at times it feels fancier than I want. I am more of a grab food and go kind of girl. But if you are a suit and tie or enjoy wearing glamorous dresses to dinner, go right ahead. You do whatever you want to do.


travel up

My 15-day Transatlantic Cruise Itinerary: Crossing the Atlantic

The Great Outdoors after breakfast
The Great Outdoors after breakfast

The itinerary included many popular ports throughout my journey. Florence, Marseilles, Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, and the Azores before reaching New York City. Originally the cruise was to include a stop in Bermuda, but the weather prevented that from happening. I was fine with skipping Bermuda. I would rather the cruise ship be safe and not have to deal with crazy waves. Each destination was spectacularly unique. In Florence I visited many sites including a Christmas Market, and had delicious, mulled wine. In Barcelona, the bustling city life was vibrant and exciting with my main stop being Sagrada Familia. In the Azores, I was enchanted by the beautiful landscapes and the Lake of Fire! More details on all these stops will be coming up in the blog. I have already covered day 1 earlier, so I will start with Day 2 and skip the sea days in my itinerary, even though sailing the open ocean on those sea days are some of the best days on the cruise. As I went through the sailing, we would usually lose 1 hour of day on the sea days due to the difference in time zones until we reached the United States, as Rome was 6 hours ahead in time.




Day 2 Florence Italy

One thing I did not realize until I started researching this cruise, is like Rome, Florence is not located close to the port. Florence was 1 hour and 30 minutes away. I debated for days on what I was going to do for this port. Go to Florence and check it out or take a tour to Piza. You cannot do both, or at least you cannot do both easily by a cruise ship excursion.

Galileo's tomb in Saint Croce Basilica
Galileo's tomb in Saint Croce Basilica

This was something I was a little bit disappointed in. If you did it by yourself, you would be buying train rides to Piza and then back to Florence by train, then still have the 1.5-hour trip on train back to Livorno cruise port. If you book yourself and miss the train, the ship will not wait on you. Since it was such a distance away, I decided to buy the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus of Florence, that included the cruise ship transfer to Florence. I was disappointed.


First the cruise ship transfer drops you at the bus station, where you then have to walk a distance to the train station area where the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus will do pickups and drop offs. When arriving at the train station area they said that they only have 1 Hop-on- Hop-Off bus running today, and it would be an hour wait at the train station till it was back around. The ticket booth people said that traffic was really bad today and it was raining so that didn't help, it was just awful. I was not going to wait an hour at the train station for the bus, so I got a taxi and said drive me past The Duomo, but I want to go to Saint Croce Basilica.


Saint Croce view from the Christmas Market
Saint Croce view from the Christmas Market

Saint Croce Basilica is amazing, and I highly recommend a visit. I spent over an hour just in the Basilica, then it stopped raining for a bit, so I walked the grounds of the church. The basilica is home to amazing art, but also home to many graves. This was my reason for the visit. Galileo and Michelangelo have their burials in the main hall, one on each side. Machiavelli is also buried here. This is the largest Franciscan church in the world with 16 chapels. Construction started in 1294 and was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV in 1442. Many restorations and additions have been added over the years, like the bell tower added in the late 1800's. There was a major flood here in the 1960's that took many years to repair. This astonished me as I had done some reading before my visit, because the main chapel is several steps up some stairs, so this had to have been a major flood.


While walking the basilica grounds I walked behind the church to where the old dormitories were, which now hold a leather school. You can go there when open and watch them prepare leather. Purses and other leather works are sold at the shop that is adjacent. I glanced at some of the magnificent leather works but did not go to the class area to see them teaching and just walked around some of the grounds.


Snacks and Mulled wine at the Christmas Market
Snacks and Mulled wine at the Christmas Market

As I walked back to the front of Saint Croce, I knew my other reason for wanting to come to this area, The Christmas Market. It is in the square directly in front of the Basilica and there were several rows of Christmas gift ideas and Christmas items. But what enticed me the most was looking at the food vendors. There were all kinds of pastries, and snacks. Most importantly there was Mulled Wine. I have always wanted to try this, and it did not disappoint.


Overlook of Florence from Michelangelo Park
Overlook of Florence from Michelangelo Park

From here I caught a taxi and went up to Michelangelo Park, where the "Fake David" is located. This is a major tourist area, and the view of the city below is absolutely amazing. I honestly think the overlook in Florence is better than the view of Rome from Pincian or Janiculum Hills. This "Fake David" and view are very common in movies and TV shows. I remember it from the show on Netflix called Money Heist (Berlin and the Professor were talking there) lol. I mention this "Fake David", there is another "Fake David" in Florence, it is near Saint Croce and marks the original location of Michelangelo's David sculpture before it was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence.


Fake David at Michelangelo Park
Fake David at Michelangelo Park

I spent a good bit of time here, there are some vendors, but I was mainly waiting for another taxi to pull up and take me back towards the train station area so I could be closer to where the transfer bus from the cruise line would be picking us up from. I waited and waited and when I finally saw one, he was going to charge me an outrageous fee, so I told him no and waited some more. Then, I spotted the hop-on-hop-off tour bus that I was originally supposed to take, so I showed them my slip and jumped on board. There were people from my cruise on the bus and they said they waited all that time to get aboard and all they have done is just ride around on the bus with no stops because they would not have time to wait for the bus to come back around. At that moment I was so grateful I did not let the hiccup with the bus system in Florence stop my plans and went on and did my own thing, even though it cost me more money. I would have been so disappointed to ride a bus knowing I could not get off of it at all to explore Florence.


International Drivers Association

The bus arrived back at the train station, and I had about 45 minutes before needing to walk to the other bus station to pick up the transfer bus back to the ship. So, I just sat at a cafe and watched some people walk around, going about their day, in the rain. On my ride back to Livorno I was reflecting on my time in Florence. It may have been short lived, the bus situation was a disaster, and the rain didn't help. But I thought the city was wonderful and had a great time exploring even though I basically didn't use the Hop-on-Hop-Off tour bus except at the end. And that brings you a quick lesson to be learned for anyone on vacation. At times things will not go your way, everything will not be perfect. Sometimes you just have to go with it and make the best of a bad situation and that is what I did.


Day 3 Marseille (Aix en Provence) France

Coast of France near Marseille
Coast of France near Marseille

When pulling into this port I was loving the looks of the cliffs and landscape. I did not realize this is what southern France looked like, and I loved it. I did not spend any time really in Marseille, my tour was taking me to Aix en Provence. I have always wanted to go here. I remember the first time I heard of Aix and that was when I read a poem by Robert Browning- How They Brought Good News from Ghent to Aix. In college I wanted to know where Aix was, so I started to learn about it and found out there is a candy made there that is illegal to make anywhere else in the world except for in the Provence region of France. I knew in college at that moment if I ever had a chance to visit this area, I was going to buy some of this candy. lol


Fountain and statue in the roundabout in Aix
Fountain and statue in the roundabout in Aix

I again bought the tour from NCL and this time I was very happy with it. The bus ride was less than an hour where we learned some interesting facts. Like the large mountain near Aix was painted by Paul Cezanne and he was originally from Aix. We even got to spot where his estate and studio are, as we were pulling into the city. In fact, they are turning it into a museum for him. But as of December 2023, there are not any Cezanne paintings in the city of Aix en Provance, and the city is working to correct that.


This city has quaint, beautiful streets and was Roman ruled at one point so there are several Roman buildings, it was interesting to walk with a tour guide for a bit and learn about this area. There are several nice-looking cathedrals too.


Christmas Market in Aix
Christmas Market in Aix

After a bit you were able to explore on your own and I knew where I was going. Before getting to the Roman historic area, I spotted another Christmas Market, and I knew that was where I could buy the candy I had heard about many years before. The market was wonderful, it was along the street that was blocked off from traffic. Cr Mirabaeu is the street name. There were many cafes and restaurants. along with vendors serving everything from roasted chestnuts to sandwiches. They had everything from great Christmas gifts to Christmas decorations and also an area for the kids to ride amusement rides that were Christmas themed. It was magical. After walking around, I spotted the candies I had been looking for and bought several Christmas gifts for friends and family when I got back home.


Calissons, French Candy
Calissons, French Candy

These candies I have been referring to all throughout this post are called Calissons and are made at a factory called Leonard Parli with the same recipe as they were made in the late 1800's. Many years before this these candies were made in the fall for a religious mass that happened at St Jean de Malte that blessed these candies. This blessing has been happening since the 1600's and was believed to help the city avoid the Plague. If you are not much for these types of candies, which are an acquired taste. Aix en Provence is also famous for its chocolates, saffron and olive oil. For me these almond candies tasted plain. Not sweet or sour, but a little chewy treat, but I was glad to have tried them since I learned about them over 20 years ago in college.


These cobblestone streets are amazing, this town, the architecture, I just fell in love with this university city. I walked around for hours, sat at a cafe and people watched (which is one of my favorite things to do). I also sat back and thought about how wonderful this vacation is. Christmas time in Europe and weather wise the only bad day I had was Florence which continued for the rest of Europe. Southern Europe has excellent temperatures in December. Just dress in layers and peel them off as you get hot. Today I wore a long sleeve t-shirt and hoodie style jacket, and it was perfect.


airalo

Day 4 Barcelona

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

Today was the day I had been looking forward to since leaving Rome. I knew that Barcelona was large and had too much to see for a one-day visit, but it at least it would give me an idea for when at some point I come back here and do a weeklong visit. The weather was amazing, sunny and warm, though I still wore my light jacket. I booked the NCL tour that just included the Hop on Hop Off Bus. I thought I would try it again, and I was not disappointed. But this is when I realized that even though this is the cheapest tour from the ship, it would probably be cheaper if I just booked the Hop on Hop off from their website or Viator and took a taxi from port to that bus station area (Future reference for Cadiz there)






Arc de Triomp Barcelona
Arc de Triomp Barcelona

I boarded the bus at the port that dropped us just 2 blocks away from the Hop on Hop off stop, which was near La Pedrera. I liked this area. a little park with many people. Watching all the pigeons and the kids chasing them was a delight. When jumping on the bus, you have to choose between the red and blue line. One was an hour and half round trip, and the other was a 2 hour round trip, both going to different sections of the city. During the summer there is also a Green Line. I knew Barcelona was huge, but that was when I realized how huge it truly was. The bus company had plenty of buses working on both lines so you could get off and on and much as you wanted, but with 2 separate lines, I would not have time to do both lines with stops. So, I chose the line that took me to Sagrada Familia. This was the one place I was most interested in for my first ever trip to Barcelona.


The bus I took stopped at Arc de Triomf (yea, there is one here like in Paris, just spelled differently), the Olympic Park area which is close to the ocean with great restaurants and nightlife. There is even a stop at the old cruise port area where tons of Yachts are located. There is a cool looking tram line that crosses over the water in this area too, at this point I was not sure where you started the tram at.


Torre Glories in Barcelona
Torre Glories in Barcelona

After leaving the Olympic area near the sea you will pass by where most of the Olympic housing was in a section of Barcelona. The Olympics was held in 1992 and with the preparation for the Olympics Barcelona had to develop more infrastructure, hotels, better roads and many other things, which has helped the city become a major tourist destination today. Another thing which I did not know until I arrived, Barcelona was named the host city for the UNESCO UIA World Capital for architecture, till 2026.


A stop is an odd bullet shaped building that looks like mirror glass, the Torre Glories for a quick picture is nice, but I would just hop off super quick snap a picture and hop right back on the bus before it leaves. Unless you want to go 125 ft up and take pictures from the observatory level. It will cost you $15 but I am sure the view is great. If you are in Barcelona after dark look at the beautiful colors that light up the building for display.


Sagrada Familia Barcelona
Sagrada Familia Barcelona

The main stop I was interested in was Sagrada Familia, the massive basilica that is still being built. It started with a design in 1852, building started in 1882 and after many years they are putting the finishing touches to it, but still will not be finished till 2040. It is the largest unfinished church in the world. Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it in 2010.


I got off the bus and was shocked to see it up close. You notice it throughout your drive to the city but being up close gives you chills. It literally made my neck hurt looking up at it. lol. This is an active church where you can attend services in case you are interested. You can pay for a tour for around $15 and that money helps with the cost of getting the basilica built.


Christmas Items at the market
Christmas Items at the market

What surprised me the most was the crowd. This is Dec 7th, a Thursday at around noon, and there were thousands of people here. You could not walk anywhere around the front or back of the church without bumping into someone. The park in the back was a large Christmas Market which I absolutely loved, and the park in front had a pond and walking path. The streets along the side were full of people walking wherever they needed to go. Lots of locals were here just hanging out in the park along with lots of tourists like me. The facade of the church is ever changing, each side looks completely different from the other. There has been so much work done. The little details will just blow you away. I only have 1 warning on this place, with the crowds in the parks and on the street watch out for pickpockets.


Jamon Iberico, pig leg in Barcelona
Jamon Iberico, pig leg in Barcelona

I wandered around this area for well over 2 hours. looking at store fronts that I passed and the large Christmas market, which was the best I have seen on this whole European adventure. While wandering I saw a cafe with a huge pig leg in the window, and I was curious, but did not go in, then just one block away I saw another and then I had to find out what this pig leg is all about. This pig leg is basically a Spanish treasure. This style is known throughout Spain and dates back to when the Moorish people conquered the area. The Moors do not eat pork due to religious beliefs, so when the Spanish took control back over the country they celebrated with piggy legs. lol These pig legs are really called Jamon Iberico, and come from the Iberian Pigs that live throughout Spain and even Portugal. To cut the meat off these legs you have to be professionally trained, and the cuts are supposed to be super thin, so you can almost see through them. I did not try any in Barcelona, but I did later in Cadiz.


Tapas with drinks
Tapas, with drinks

Barcelona is famous for their Tapas. And that was what I was interested in. Visit a place that does tapas, it is common in the evenings. There are hundreds if not thousands of these style restaurants in Barcelona. Get little bits of food served with or on top of your drink, depending on what you buy. and save the toothpicks, that is how you pay by how many toothpicks you have when you are done.


Park Guell Barcelona
Park Guell Barcelona

Once I was done, I got back on the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus with no waiting at all, I just happened to walk up, and it was there. While riding the bus I spotted an area along the way, an area that looked wonderful. The bus had gone up a hill and there was a great overlook. This area is known as Park Guell and looks like a great place to visit if you are in Barcelona. The next stop looked great as well, Tramvia Blau-Tribidabo. This is where you can get on a tram, and an entrance to an amusement park area is not far. I did not get off the bus, but I knew these would be places I visited when I return for a week's vacation in Barcelona.


Christopher Columbus statue near La Rambla
Christopher Columbus statue near La Rambla

After the bus returned to the original pickup spot I got off, I was planning to hang out here and walk to where the transfer bus was to get back to ship in an hour. But I instead grabbed a taxi and went to La Rambla, a great shopping street. If I had only paid closer attention to my Hop-on-Hop-Off map I would have realized I was closer to it at another stop, but that is ok. La Rambla is a shopping area that is a very long street, I only walked a portion but, it was a really nice area, I was not impressed with the shopping, but that's just me I am not much of a shopper, but I loved the area and can see why people always say go to the La Rambla area. The portion I walked was closer to the sea, near government buildings and at the end of it is a roundabout with a Christopher Columbus Statue in the middle of it. This was the area where he would have come to when arriving back from his voyages to America.


From here I grabbed a taxi to just take me over the bridge to the cruise ship instead of going back to going back to meet up with the cruise ship transfer to take me back to the ship. This was an excellent day, after I boarded the ship, I went to the Great Outdoors area to take in the view of the city and surrounding hills. Thinking about when I was going to plan an adventure to spend a week in Barcelona.


Rentalcars.com

Day 6 Cadiz Spain

Rock of Gibraltar
Rock of Gilbralter

Since day 5 of ship was a sea day I was well rested for Cadiz, I originally thought I would go to Seville this day but changed my mind. I wanted a beach day. Sure, it was December, but this is Spain, temperatures were great, and my version of a beach day did not include me swimming, although while I was out on the beach there were plenty in the waters, and lots of surfers. But before I get to the day in Cadiz, I must show you a picture of the nighttime view of the Rock of Gibraltar. It was around midnight when I went to The Great Outdoors to attempt to snap a picture of the rock, and I was not the only one trying. A few of us were out there looking at the lights, being able to see a slight view of the rock was neat. Sailing through the Straights of Gibraltar was a highlight for me. My balcony view faced Morocco, and there were lights visible there too. Knowing that I was that close to the continent of Africa, it's just such a neat feeling, a feeling of wanderlust, to see it all I suppose. I can't explain how wonderful a feeling it is to travel.


Cadiz Spain
Cadiz Spain

I combined my beach day with the Hop-on-Hop-Off tour, which I purchased separately, not from the cruise ship. When I woke up and looked out my balcony window after the cruise ship docked, I could see the hop-on-hop-off bus station right next to the cruise terminal, it was so close. I knew this would be a great option because the bus goes by several beaches in Cadiz.




Ficus Macrophylia tree
Ficus Macrophylia tree

I stopped in several spots and parks on my tour, even spotted an ancient Roman amphitheater. I learned that Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Europe too. The parks were amazing. I spotted green parrots in Alameda de Apodaca, a crazy looking tree at bus stop number 5- Ficus Macrophylla. The Santa Barbara area was a wonderful area to take a stroll and look at the ocean too. I hopped on and off this bus at every stop throughout the day, spending time at several beaches along this route. It was glorious to see and feel. The warm weather with a slight breeze and the scent of the salt from the ocean in the air, I did not need my jacket here. In fact, when I got back on the cruise ship, I could tell I had gotten some sun. I did not expect to need sunscreen on this trip so I did not pack it, but I probably could have used it today.


Jemon Iberico, slices from pig leg
Jemon Iberico, slices from pig leg

Playa Santa Maria and Playa Victoria were my favorite beach areas, I even got a bite to eat at Potito Beach Club. It was great to sit in an open-air restaurant where you could see and hear the ocean tides. They had many seafood items, but I got a shrimp appetizer and the Iberian piggy leg that I saw in Barcelona. They had it here also, so I figured I would try it too. It was smoked and delicious, it did not taste like any kind of ham I have ever had before. The thin slices, you could almost see through them. They were sliced so thin, and absolutely delicious.


Cadiz Spain, Parroquia de Santa Cruz
Cadiz Spain, Parroquia de Santa Cruz

While on the bus I rode past many churches or cathedrals, and there are bus stops near most of them. Listening to the earphones they give you on the bus, I learned that at one of the churches the person who was responsible for the art inside, had a premonition that he would die at a wedding, so he never attended one. He did die painting the wedding scene on the wall of that cathedral though. Was that a coincidence, probably so, but still interesting to listen to.

Beach view Cadiz
Beach view Cadiz

At the end of the day, I was back onboard the ship and very happy to have spent time in Cadiz. This place shocked me. I never realized how much I would love it. Up until that point I never expected to want to return to Cadiz, but it ended up being my favorite port of the cruise. Maybe it was the small city feel. compared to Barcelona, or maybe it was just how wonderful the beaches are. Maybe it was a combination of it all, but it quickly became my favorite port stop. More pictures below of Cadiz.


Hilton Honors

Day 7 Lisbon Portugal

25th of April bridge, Lisbon Portugal
25th of April bridge, Lisbon Portugal

It was a cloudy and gloomy day in Lisbon as I woke up. I was also feeling slightly under the weather myself, sore from all the walking done in Cadiz or in fact the whole cruise plus I had a little bit of a headache. It was before daylight when I first got up, because I could see light coming in my balcony window. Then I spotted the most famous bridge. Does it look familiar to you? It might be because it was made to resemble the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The same architect of the Golden Gate also made The Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April bridge) in Lisbon Portugal. I grabbed my phone to get a picture just in time as we passed under it.

Monument to the explorers
Monument to the explorers

I knew before the cruise I picked Lisbon as the place I wanted to see the most. I have read so much about Lisbon and a friend who was planning a January trip here. So, I wanted to see as much as possible. But I quickly found out I was not up to it today.


I went on a bus tour I bought through NCL, going to a church (Church of Saint Jerome), Belem and Padrao dos Descobrimentos. Afterwards was time for some walking. After about 2 hours of the tour, I felt worse, and knew I was not able to see any more of the city. I was grateful to see what I did, and I learned a lot. in just my couple hours, but my body was telling me to go back to the ship. And I am so grateful I did.


The picture does not do justice as to how amazing the view was from my cruise ship balcony in Lisbon Portugal
The picture does not do justice as to how amazing the view was from my cruise ship balcony in Lisbon Portugal

After arriving back in my room, the sun was starting to peak out and the view from my balcony was absolutely breathtaking. I took videos and tons of pictures of this view. The clouds and water were playing tricks on me, it appeared to go on forever. The calmness of the water, the glimpses of the sun's rays casting shadows in all the right places on the water, it was all a sight to behold. I sat on my balcony with my ginger ale for an hour watching. This view was playing tricks on me because I knew I was not staring at the ocean; this is the Tagus River we are docked in at Lisbon.

Christ is King
Christ is King

Another site I saw from my balcony room when the cruise ship was leaving port. Sanctuary of Christ the King on the Hill across the Tagus River in Almada Portugal. This was built after Christ the Redeemer was built in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Cardinal Patriarch was visiting Rio at the time of the Redeemers' revelation and thought that Portugal should have something similar. It took a few decades but here it is. It looks marvelous to stand beside the 25th of April bridge.


My time was extremely short in Lisbon, but I also know I will be coming back. Lisbon needs more than just a day to visit. This brings me to my next tip for the trip. Listen to your body, your body will tell you when you are not feeling up to it. Forgive yourself for having a sick day and don't let it ruin your whole trip.


Belem, Saint Jerome, and another picture from my balcony from Lisbon below.


ticketmaster

Day 9 Ponta Delgada Azores.

Lake of Fire, Azores
Lake of Fire, Azores

This is not my first time in the Azores, in fact I wrote a blog about it last year. If you would like to read it, click here. Still, I was going to get off the ship and explore, and honestly, I wanted to the Sete Cidades that I missed on my original visit. After walking off the ship there were people swimming in the water nearby, which I thought was funny. It was a beautiful day but not swimming weather for me. Plus, I know what the Azores are like. It may be beautiful and sunny by the sea, but up on the volcano it could be cold and raining. The Azores is known for having all 4 seasons in the same day.


View from top of Volcano, looking to the sea
View from top of Volcano, looking to the sea

I did not take a NCL tour, I found a guide right after I got off the ship at half the price as the cruise line excursion. There were a total of 4 of us from the cruise ship in this tour van, which made it more personal. I loved it. Went to the Lake of Fire and Sete Cidades. It was a great trip. The Lake of Fire I had visited before, but I was happy to go see it again. The view from there is absolutely beautiful when looking down to the ocean. Plus, there is just something neat about standing looking at a lake inside a volcano. It has been many years since it erupted.


The last time I was here in late April a few years ago. The flowers were in bloom, all the trees were green. So, I was curious to see what the island looked like in December. There were still a few hydrangeas blooming but very few compared to the spring. I honestly was shocked that any were blooming in December.


Sete Cidades
Sete Cidades

Just as I suspected, it was very chilly at the top of the volcano and at times driving up the curvy road it sprinkled rain. I thought to myself on the drive, there would be no way I could ever drive this drive. Twists and turns up the volcano. The tour guide was great she handled the vehicle with ease, she has lived on the island all her life, so she is a pro. Tip for the day, if you plan on buying an excursion not through the cruise line, pay for online with credit card, or if in town make sure they take credit cards. If not, you will have to find an ATM to get some cash. In the Azores they wanted Euro's instead of American Dollars. Just something to think about if you do not carry enough Euro's while in Europe.


Porcelain in the Ponte Delgada shops.
Porcelain in the Ponte Delgada shops.

After this she took us to the other side of the island where there is another volcano. This is Sete Cidades, it was beautiful, and I cannot imagine living in the village right beside it. The worry of the volcano would keep me away.


I was glad I visited Sete Cidades, but the Lake of Fire is best for an excursion if you are planning one in the Azores. After the tour was done, I had plenty of time to explore Ponta Delgada which is the largest city on the island. Plenty of chances to do some shopping and their porcelain items are beautiful in the shops.


After some walking around I jumped back on the ship for a few days of much needed rest while crossing the ocean.


Day 13 arriving in New York City early.

Sailing into the NYC Harbor and going under the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge
Sailing into the NYC Harbor and going under the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge

We were originally supposed to arrive at our debarkation port on day 15, but we had to skip the port in Bermuda due to weather and come on into the harbor early due to weather. I did not mind this at all. The thought of sailing in 60 mile per hour wind gusts was not something I would not like to feel.


We arrived in the early afternoon, passed under the Verrazano Bridge and went past the Statue of Liberty. Some people wanted to go on and get off the ship, and they were allowed to since they lived nearby or had made other plans. But I am treating the cruise ship as my NYC hotel. I went out on the evening of day 13. Visited Time Square, Rockefeller Center and wandered around before taking a taxi back to the ship.


New York City, picture taken from the Great Outdoors on the Gem
New York City, picture taken from the Great Outdoors on the Gem

The winds and rain started picking up during the night and it was ugly outside for the morning of day 14, but that didn't stop me. I did an hour-long driving tour of the city, even though I have been here several times. I went to Bryant Park and the NYC library. It was lovely. I would write more about my time in New York City, but I will save it for another blog sometime, where I combine it with my other 4 visits to New York City.



View of NYC at night from the ship
View of NYC at night from the ship

My 15-day trip aboard the NCL Gem transatlantic cruise from Rome to New York City was truly a once in a lifetime experience. From the friendly crew to the delicious food, exciting entertainment, and unforgettable destinations, every moment was amazing. With talking to people on board also taking the cruise and how I felt about it, the transatlantic cruise reviews were good if not great. People were upset about certain things at different times. From slow service at the casino, quality of shows or food on buffet, and having to miss Bermuda which led us to arriving in New York City early, but some things cannot be helped. I personally loved this cruise and would recommend this to anyone seeking a transatlantic adventure, relaxation, and indulgence in a luxurious setting. Get ready to pack your bags and set sail on a cruise vacation!


Carmel Limo

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