We touched down in Barcelona without incident. Although we were one of the last couples to deplane, we passed through the line at customs in seconds. Our group was milling around the luggage carousel waiting for the bags to be unloaded.
We took a spot near the door and waited for the bags to appear. Each time the belt sprang to life, we jumped up, eagerly hoping ours would be among the luggage that paraded by. Noticeably, having by black luggage is a pretty silly notion because every bag is black for the most part. We always neglect to put some kind of colored identifier on our bags.
I recalled the packing tape I purchased a few days before the trip. The clearance item I grabbed and didn’t notice until I had already brought it home had bright green and blue peace signs on it. It would have been perfect for this situation. Instead, we had only the tiny, handwritten tags to go by.
Four rounds of new bags would go by until we’d finally identify ours. Unfortunately, my bag had the front zipper ripped open, my carefully ziplocked liquids falling out onto the belt. A stranger grabbed them for me as I cried out “my bag!” It took a few minutes to get the zipper back on track.
We queued up to board our bus, turning our luggage over to the ship’s stewards who were waiting for us. On board the bus, we got a quick tour of Barcelona as we made our way through the city and down to the pier. Unfortunately we wouldn’t have any time here, but based on the tour, we’d love to come back. There was a lot to see.
The bus dropped us off at the impossibly large ship and we lined up to sign the medical disclosure form. We basically promised Holland America that we didn’t have any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness and were allowed to board.
Our state room was small, as expected. Space in this place comes at a premium. The beers we had preordered were waiting. Unlike the all inclusive resorts we were used to, the cruise lines find a way to nickel and dime you for everything. Internet was surprisingly expensive and incredibly slow. All liquor must be purchased separately and anything purchased in the duty free would be held until the end of the cruise, rendering the alcohol purchase essentially useless.
We got unpacked and took in the view for our veranda. It was nice that we had one, and the view from the pier was quite nice. The ocean was a gorgeous shade of blue, and the temperature outside was absolutely perfect, without even a twinge of humidity.
The required safety drill tested my claustrophobia to its limits. Crammed in the first section nearest the door, more and more people began to fill the tiny area. Originally, it was intended to be just one line of men and another for women and children.
We quickly descended into chaos and I was stuck near an incredibly fat woman with no perception of personal space or physical boundaries. She must have bumped into me at least two dozen times during the briefing and never once apologized. I grit my teeth and tried to simply get through it, but it was incredibly difficult not to say something.
Through the din of the crowd, I couldn’t even hear the safety instructions and to this day have no idea how to put on my life jacket correctly. Soon, it was over and we got back to our room. We decided to grab a drink at the bar before dinner, where we met a waiter from South Philly (which was his joking way of saying he was from the Philippines.) He convinced us to sign up for one of the evening’s wine tastings, since we had purchased one of the ship’s wine packages. Then we headed off for dinner.
The ship’s dining facilities had plenty of options, so we chose an early dinner at 6:00 in the upper deck. The view was lovely and the evening’s wine was gratis so we didn’t have to worry about delving into our package just yet. The food was great, service was a bit slow toward the end, but managed to be quite enjoyable.
The wine tasting we attended was the wine steward’s third of the night, and by the time we arrived, he seemed toe feeling no pain. He was a German guy, who had been married 8 times and spent a good chunk of our time telling us not to interrupt his talk to say hi to the people we may know that would pass by.
He then went on to wax poetic about his life, wives, and grandfather, saying little about the wine. I began to yawn as the day’s activities were beginning to wear on me. He noticed and made a point to call me out for it. I felt bad, because it was rude, but the people around us just looked on, confused, wondering when he’d get to the point and tell us about the wines we were drinking. We finished the tasting and retired to our state room for a well-earned rest.