A cruise means ports of call. This is why four ports of call had been planned during the voyage, namely Barcelona, Palma, Ajaccio and Marseilles. Four large cities, each with its own character. Thanks to the sunshine these visits, which were nonetheless rather hurried, enabled the cruise-ship passengers to walk around to discover architectural treasures and to soak up the atmosphere of each city. The only disadvantage in the ports of call was the allocated time slot, since the ship waits for no-one. You have to be on time. Disembarkation is an exciting moment for the passengers who queue up well in advance in front of the officials in charge of security controls.
BARCELONA ON NOVEMBER 11TH
Barcelona, one of Spain’s great cities, is famous in more than one respect for the ‘Rambla’, this avenue which, from the monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus to Boquería square, invites the visitor to dawdle and stroll amidst a constantly moving crowd. The students of the Barcelona Hotel and Tourism School, with their green umbrellas used to gather together their public, were very knowledgeable guides, smiling and available as they acted as ‘pilot fish’ to those of the visitors, there just for an afternoon, who wished to be shown around. As well as the ‘Rambla’ one could also visit the fountain known as the ‘Font de les Canaletes’ where, on evenings when they are affected by the bliss of the success of Barça, their international football club, the fans gather to celebrate. Further on is the beautiful gothic cathedral (closed) and the entrance to the Barça shop – both of these destinations not to be missed. Unfortunately Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia was too far away – on foot – for a visit. That will be for next time!
PALMA DE MALLORCA NOVEMBER 12TH
The second port of call was Palma de Mallorca. Another fine Spanish city, dominated by its gothic-style cathedral in red sandstone - La Seo – visible from afar and surrounded by a labyrinth of alleys which make up the old town. And imposing fortifications all around. In the distance you can see the 'Castel de Bellver’ as well as the roadstead of Palma. You just had the time to buy postcards and to sunbathe a bit on a terrace while sipping a coffee or a beer and it was already time to return to the port to go back on board. Those who chose to attend the Flamenco show for the stopover in Palma will remember a display that was not at all hackneyed and was of an international standard.
AJACCIO ON NOVEMBER 13TH
Ajaccio, the birth-place of Napoleon Bonaparte who became Emperor of the French, counts among its treasures the famous ‘Palais Fesch- musée des Beaux-arts’ museum, and at almost every street corner a reminder of Napoleon. Its St Mary’s cathedral dating from the 14th century would certainly benefit from a complete overhaul of its interior; and in the town centre one is amazed by the large number of pharmacies which are located there! In the case of Ajaccio, it was the temperature - 26˚ when we arrived in mid-November – which was the main talking point of the conference delegates, when they were not talking about the on-going competitions of course …
MARSEILLES ON NOVEMBER 14TH
The last port of call was Marseilles - Massilia for history buffs, known since antiquity, founded by the Phocaeans, France’s second city after Paris. The city which was given the status of 2013 Capital of Culture has received adequate funding for the purpose, especially with the recent opening of the MUCEM ( Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée – museum of the civilisations of Europe and of the Mediterranean), not forgetting the Old Port, the Cannebière or the old Panier district. Our visitors boldly walked around the city despite a quickly falling temperature, and returned to the ship frozen to the marrow. Guides from the Marseilles hotel and tourism school, under the direction of Véronique Wurster, also showed a handful of visitors around the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital which has been transformed into a five star hotel (of the InterContinental Hotels Group) by the architect Jean Nouvel.