Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ports of Call - Western Mediterranean Cruise

Here is my summary of each port of call we visited on our cruise on the Norwegian Jade.  In a future post I'll tell you about our time in Barcelona and later give some travel cruise tips for people traveling with a baby.

Casablanca, Morocco

The five of us took a taxi tour in Casablanca.  We took the ship's shuttle into town and decided to take a taxi for what we thought would only be 10 Euros to the Hassan II Mosque.  Well, we ended up doing a 2 hour tour with the driver.  We were all a little suspicious after he removed his taxi sign after we got in his car and were ready to get back to the ship once he was pulled over by the police. Thankfully we got to see all of Morocco we ever wanted to see and do not feel the need to go back.

First we went to Hassan II Mosque, which is the second largest Mosque in the world - largest religious monument after Mecca. We could not go inside because we are Christians. Which was fine. It was an impressive monument.  Our driver then drove us through Anfa (a wealthy part of town), past Rick's Cafe, the Royal Palace, we stopped at Andalusian Gardens and we saw the old and new Medina. We also drove through the United Nations' Square where the police pulled over our taxi driver. Our driver got out and argued with the police, got back in the car, told us they were giving him a ticket for speeding, and then immediately our driver took us to a strange park and told us to get out of the car and wait while he went to take care of his police issues.  The park was filled with lots of locals  and we were not sure if he was going to come back for us or not. Thankfully none of us were alone.  We just watched our pockets and stayed together.  Our driver did come back to get us.  He then wanted to drop us off at a pharmacy to see a spice demonstration and a theater. But after he dropped us off at the strange park we just wanted to get back to the ship.  I'm glad we made out of Morocco safely because we later found out that most taxi drivers pack guns and will sometimes drive people to secluded places and hold them up for ransome.  Scary!!

Rick's Cafe

Hassan II Mosque

Agadir, Morocco

We decided not to do a tour Agadir. I really wanted to ride a camal but that would not be possible with Caden, so we just got off at the boat but didn't do anything in the city.  We left Caden on the boat with my parents.  This is the day we played tennis with my dad.  The port area was not pretty but we enjoyed a game of tennis on our ship's tennis court.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Las Palmas was beautiful!  We did another taxi tour.  We found that if you have more than 2 people it is often cheaper to take a taxi to see everything you want to see.  You also get a more personalized tour and are able to go at the pace you want to go.  Our driver was fantastic!  We took a 3.5 hour tour here in a nice, clean, and comfortable taxi for the same price we paid in Casablanca.

Here we went to the Botanical Gardens in La Calzada (Jardin Canario), the largest botantical gardens in Spain.  Our driver took us along a winding road to look out above the volcanic Caldera of Bandama.  He drove us through the oldest quarter of the town called Vegueta to see Columbus' house and the Cathedral.  We went to Teror Village and saw the square and the church.  Then we went by Arcus, the stone church.


The house Christopher Columbus lived in before he sailed to America

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Portugal is one of my favorite countries and the island of Funchal did not disappoint.  It was my favorite port.  Not only was it absolutely breathtaking beautiful but the people were very friendly.  We took another private taxi tour and were blessed with another wonderful driver.  He told us that Funchal does not have a lot of crime and generally people look after each other.  Don't you wish your neighbors were all like that?

Our driver took us to the Botanical Gardens with more than 2,000 plants.  The garden was on a mountainous hill and had beautiful plants and amazing views.  We spent a little over an hour there.  We then went to the Village of Monte where we road a tobaggan on wicker sledges downhill back to Livramento.  The tobaggan ride was a lot of fun!  This was the main thing I wanted to do here.  Last, we went to Cabo Girao, Europe's highest sea cliff at 1900 ft.  Cabo Girao is the second highest sea cliff in the world, the tallest is only 3 meters higher.  The views were absolutely amazing!

Below are pictures from the Botanical Gardens, Cabo Girao, and our tobaggan ride.

Malaga, Spain

We decided to take a 40 minute horse carriage ride around Malaga and saw La Alcazaba, the Cathedral, Plaza de Toros (La Malagueta), and Playa La Malagueta.  Caden seemed to enjoy the ride, this was his first time to ride a horse, or a carriage pulled by a horse.  Then we walked around the city and passed Museum Picasso and visited Pablo Picasso's birthplace.  His house was not very impressive, but his art was neat to look at and some of it honestly looked like something a child would draw.  I guess if you live during the right time you can make big bucks or someone makes big bucks off your work once you die.  We also went into a run down mall and bought a snack at a local Dunk n' Donuts, it's not the same food, I got a smoothie and it was horrible!  Everyone else got coffee and a donut.  We had a nice time in Malaga.

One more thing, I also decided to get a haircut in Malaga.  I don't know why I like to get my haircut in any country but Germany but I do.  I don't speak Spanish very well but thankfully Collin is fluent.  So he told the man what I wanted and the guy did a great job.  The only thing different was the man who cut my hair sat down to do it.  Don't most people stand?  Oh well, for 17 Euros you can't beat it!

Below are pictures of Pablo Picasso's house and the castle in Malaga.

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