Another Great Med Cruise on Independence

Independence of the Seas

The first part of August was fairly routine, with Ole working long days and me holing up in the Cigar Bar (my “office”) to read and enjoy my daily latte. Afternoons were taken up by reading, keeping up with the news, and painting.

The routine was changed with the welcome arrival of Andreas, Ole’s oldest son, on the 15th of August for two weeks of living the high life. Andreas and I managed to get ashore in every port, doing everything from walking tours on our own to ship-sponsored excursions, understanding that Ole could get ashore only occasionally.

The first port call, Gibraltar, Ole and Andreas went on a taxi tour up to the top of the rock, but were disappointed because there were so many people with two ships in, they didn’t get a chance to see the apes.


We lucked out in Sardinia, though, and caught a city bus together to go out to Poetto Beach, touted to be one of the best in the Mediterranean. It was pleasant, but crowded – and after having had so much solitary beach time on Emma Jo, we realized it just wasn’t our cup of tea to stack ourselves up cheek by jowl with thousands of strangers.


Andreas and I took the bus to Florence, and walked around on our own. He was stunned by the art and architecture, and was great company. We found a great little restaurant located in an interior courtyard away from the teeming tourists and had authentic pizza.

In Cannes, we opted to just take a walk, visiting the theater and investigating the famous handprints (the other end of Grauman’s Chinese Theater) lining the sidewalks.

We opted to explore Barcelona’s Sagrada Famiglia Cathedral on our own, and it was by far the highlight of the entire summer. Taking the Metro from Las Ramblas, we stood in line perhaps 10 minutes, paid our admission, and rented the audio guide for an additional fee. We were glad we did. This cathedral is a work in progress, started in the early 1900s, and designed by a heretical architect named Antonio Gaudi, who was so far ahead of his time that his contemporaries must have thought him crazy. Having seen St. Peter’s in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, and Chartres and Notre Dame in France, I can honestly say this building is the most spiritual building I’ve ever seen. We walked around the outside, through the inside, and spent nearly three hours in awe of the scale and symbolism of the place. Words just can’t do it justice – the best I can say is that the cathedral appeals to anyone of any religion, and feels like a forest inside, the vault being constructed of columns of differing material, and the ceiling being supported by branches and decorated with carved abstract leaves. I’ll direct you to a link, here, that will provide more detail, but in the meantime, here are a few photos.

Both Andreas and I were thrilled to have seen this in our lifetimes. We wrapped up our visit with an obligatory call in at the Barcelona Hard Rock (Andreas is a collector) for overpriced burgers and loud rock and roll, strolling the Rambla back to the shuttle bus.

Lisbon also presented the Hard Rock challenge, so we explored the Metro, found the t-shirt, and walked Rossio Square, stopping for a cold one on a charming side street.

In Malaga, we took a short tour by horse-drawn carriage, and just strolled through town, stopping to have a coffee and a snack.

We took a ship-sponsored excursion in Vigo up to the Portuguese border and visited a small medieval walled city as well as the fortress in Vigo that has been converted to a park.




It was hard to say goodbye on the 29th, but we felt so lucky to be able to share the ship and all of the experiences with Andreas. Hope it won’t be too long before he comes back!

The end of August, the ship added an out-of-the-ordinary 4-day cruise from Southampton to Cobh, Ireland, which we visited last summer.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Cobh visit actually happened on the ship. The few Swedes aboard had raided Ikea in Southampton, buying them out of crayfish, and sponsoring a Crayfish Party on the forward mooring deck for the tiny Scandinavian population onboard. Apparently it’s traditional in Sweden to have such a party once a year, eat your brains out, and drink accordingly. Here’s the evidence!

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