Transatlantic Cruise: Barcelona – Less Than We Expected

Barcelona was the end of the fourteen day transatlantic segment of our cruise and also the beginning of a seven day Mediterranean cruise. Eight hundred passengers, mostly American retirees, left the ship in Barcelona while six hundred of us were to continue on to Rome.

While the ship was going through the process of departing and embarking passengers, we had our choice of a variety of shore excursions. Our tour was the Highlights of Barcelona- with about 40 other passengers. We had met a number of passengers and crew who love Barcelona, and we had really enjoyed our previous ports in Spain, so we had high hopes for a great day.   

Unfortunately, our experience in Barcelona was less than we expected. We took a shuttle into the city and our first impression wasn’t great. We stepped off the bus right into a disturbance. There was a loud argument with pushing and shoving involving a dozen men and one woman. It was something about one of the men not getting paid what he thought he should. Our guide hurried us away.

Then we had a man yelling non stop at a sculpture as a form of protest and other preparations for a mass protest. We were not told what either was about.

Almost immediately many of our fellow passengers started whining. I need the toilet NOW. We’re moving too slow. We’re moving too fast. I want to stop and go back to the ship. The tour guide isn’t pronouncing English clearly enough. Good grief!  Like any of these people could speak Castilian Spanish, Catalan, French and passable English! And those are the only languages we know she speaks. She was a 28ish woman trying to herd seniors of varying physical condition and tolerance. Unfortunately it continued throughout the tour! 

Okay, enough of my whining about the whiners! Now on to what we saw in Barcelona.

We walked into the Gothic Quarter, the ancient part of Barcelona. The city was founded 2000 years ago as part of Roman expansion over the Pyrenees Mountains. 

These ancient walls are a combination of Roman and Medieval influences. We found it so fascinating that apartments were built within the old walls.


We were able to see the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, but only from the outside as an event was happening inside. Some people were going in, but not tourists.

It was common in cathedrals we visited that mass was conducted at the front and tourists sat at the back or walked around quietly. We have enough experience in liturgical churches that we generally knew what was happening even if it was in Spanish, Italian or Latin.

This is another side of the same cathedral built in the 14th century. Notice the unicorn to the left of the bell tower. Unicorns are mentioned in the Bible eight or nine times depending on translation but research says that the original Hebrew likely meant “beast with one horn” as opposed to the mythical unicorn.

A building adjacent to the cathedral is now a museum commemorating the Jews who were martyred during the inquisition.  

This candle shop, the oldest in Barcelona, dates back to 1761.

As we learned in Malaga, Picasso lived in one of these apartments as a child. 

Our primary destination was Sagrada Familia a hallmark of Spain and Barcelona. 

Even though it looks as though it is very old, and possibly under repair, in fact it has not yet been completed.  

Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882, 140 years. It was supposed to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Antoni Gaudi’s death.  Unfortunately COVID has altered that plan with completion now planned for 2030.

Gaudi was the primary architect and is buried in a tomb in the crypt of the church. The architectural works of Gaudí form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Sagrada Familia is the tallest religious building in the world at 566 feet.  It is known throughout the world and visited by millions of people every year. The capacity of the church is 9000.

The different colors are because materials have come from different parts of the Catalan region of Spain.

Elaborate carvings depict different stories of Jesus’ life in stone.  Some portions were damaged during the Spanish civil war and were repaired by a Japanese sculptor.

Most of our viewing was near the Nativity Entrance – the area depicting Jesus’ birth.

The Passion Entrance

The area around the Passion Entrance (Death of Christ) was very limited because of these apartments.  There is a legal dispute as to whether they can stay after they were approved in error.

We were very disappointed that our tour did not include entrance into the Sagrada Familia. Our experience was just to take pictures from the outside. Even that was challenging because the area around the church was very busy.  There seemed to be a festival going on in addition to just regular Sagrada Familia visitation. We were warned about potential pick-pockets.

We walked back to where we could meet up with our transportation to continue our Panoramic Tour – that means “see what you can from the bus”.  Two monuments we drove by, but couldn’t see well, were the Arch of the Triumph and the Christopher Columbus statue, both built as part of Barcelona’s World Expo in 1888.

We briefly saw the Bull Fighting Museum. Bull fighting was banned in this region of Spain in 2010 and a former bull ring is now the museum.

And we kind of saw the Olympic Stadium built for 55,000 for the Barcelona Olympics held in 1992.

Barcelona holds 1.5 million residents and is currently the fourth busiest port in Europe.  It was not as clean as the other Spanish port cities we had visited.  Certainly American cities have the same, but our earlier port cities in Spain had been spotless.

So,  we enjoyed our earlier stops in Spain enough to know we’d like to come back and give Barcelona another chance.  The on-line pictures we’ve seen of the inside of Sagrada Familia make it a must do.  We’re willing to try again. 

Back on the Nieuw Statendam we found that one thousand people joined the cruise so there were now1600 passengers on the ship from Barcelona to Rome. Sixteen hundred was still a very comfortable amount for the ship’s facilities. The new passengers were younger and more diverse.  

As appealing as younger and more diverse was, they were not generally compliant with the captain’s masking requirements. despite repeated admonitions,  Of course, they weren’t on the ship when we got that shocking letter that we had COVID onboard. We too had enjoyed that false sense of security that everyone testing negative prior to boarding had given. They were living that storyline as we departed.  

The plan was to visit new ports on five of the next six days, in three countries and two continents.

Next port:  Nice, France

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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1 Response to Transatlantic Cruise: Barcelona – Less Than We Expected

  1. Teri McClelland says:

    We’ve just returned from Alaska and are enjoying catching up on your blog. The apartment next to the Passion Entrance looks really out of place. We’re you able to go into any of the buildings?

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