Sorry I haven't posted in a while, things have been busy here what with working 20-30 hours a week for my father and searching for a "real" job at the same time. But I promise I'm going to make an effort to post more often.
So to start I wanted to finally post a few pictures from our cruise. I definitely have to say that a cruise has to be the best way to travel between Europe and the US, especially if you only need to go one way since you can find such amazing prices and get a great vacation at the same time!
We absolutely loved the cruise. It was very relaxing, we never had to deal with jet lag, we got to see some interesting places, we met a lot of really nice and interesting people and it was a great introduction to the US for Lionel since it is primarily English speakers on the cruise and mostly American style food.
As planned we left from Barcelona, about 30 minutes later than planned because of some extra cleaning they needed to do on the boat.
the Grand Foyer on our boat
having a martini sampler in the Martini Ice Bar, it was pretty impressive he poured all six at once!
We went to Alicante which was nice, but my least favorite of the our stops, perhaps because it rained the whole day. However we made an effort to explore as much as we could stand in the rain and managed to walk around the city some and go up to the hilltop fortress above the city.
Alicante from the port
a little square in the old center of Alicante
Then we went to Malaga which was an absolutely beautiful city in the south of Spain and probably our favorite stop. There was so much to do and see in that city including 2 amazing hilltop Moorish palaces overlooking the city, a beautiful cathedral and small, winding streets in the old center.
street in the old center of Malaga
cathedral of Malaga
view over Malaga
Lionel and I exploring Malaga
inside one of the two Moorish palaces
view over Malaga and the sea with the city's bullfighting ring in the bottom right corner
Next we were supposed to go to Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, but due to a national strike in Portugal that day, it was cancelled. I was pretty bummed because Funchal was the city I wanted to see the most. But oh well. Instead we stopped in Gibraltar, and while I don't think it was as beautiful as Funchal would have been, and it was definitely overcrowded with two big cruise ships worth of people there that day, it was still interesting to see, and it was a nice little stop in the UK. We had a lot of fun exploring the Rock of Gibraltar, though Lionel is afraid of heights and had a few moments of panic up there, and the town was actually pretty nice as well. It was also interesting to be able to be in the UK and see Spain and Morocco all at the same time!
Casement's Square, the main square of Gibraltar with the Rock towering above
one of the famous apes of Gibraltar from a colony of small apes that inhabit the Rock
an ape on Lionel's back...it just decided to jump on him!
view of part of the Rock, the sea, and Morocco in the background
another square in Gibraltar
Finally we went to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It was just beautiful. The city was very big but we did a little walking tour of the historic center then hopped a bus out to a nearby beach and village which was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands from the ship
the oldest church in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the largest city on the island of Tenerife
the market of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
a beautiful little beach only 20 minutes by bus from Santa Cruz de Tenerife
the beach and the hillside village of San Andres
the church of San Andres
After Tenerife we spent 8 days at sea with wonderful, hot weather just relaxing and enjoying life. We participated in some of the cruise activities and spent some days just doing our own thing, playing basketball, reading, playing ping pong, exploring the boat, etc. Probably our favorite cruise activity was the pirate party complete with pirate costume contest which I won and Lionel came in second. Of course we were lucky because while most people only had their vacation wardrobes to work with, we had half our lives packed into suitcases so I was able to make us eye patches, hooks, entire pirate costumes and I even had an inflatable parrot with me! Unfortunately, I don't have any photos though.
I think the only problem with taking the cruise was our arrival in Fort Lauderdale. Apparently we should have informed the cruise company and/or the Fort Lauderdale port that Lionel was arriving with an immigrant visa because the port was not equipped to deal with the necessary procedures to process someone arriving with an immigrant visa which caused us some headache the day of arrival. In the end they had to put us in a search room so we could actually sit to wait until they could arrange transportation to take us to the Dept. of Homeland Security's port office at the entrance to the port where we then had to wait even longer because they had to drive to the Fort Lauderdale airport to go get a fingerprinting kit to be able to process Lionel. They told us while we were waiting that they had never had someone arrive through the port with an immigrant visa before. I was pretty surprised considering they had 7 huge cruise ships arrive that same morning alone carrying roughly 15,000 passengers, many of whom are foreigners, and they didn't even have an ink and paper fingerprinting kit at the port! Makes you wonder about the security. If you arrive by plane every foreigner has to be fingerprinted when they pass through passport control, but if they enter the US by boat they don't have to do anything at all? Kinda strange in my opinion, but oh well. It all worked out in the end and everyone was really nice about it, even letting us use their personal cell phones to call my friend Amy who was picking us up. However, for anyone else who ever considers taking a cruise to move to the US with their foreign spouse, just make sure you contact your cruise line and/or port of arrival in advance to let them know you will be coming through with an immigrant visa so they can be prepared!
After we left the port, we headed north to Amy's house where we spent a relaxing few days enjoying the beautiful, warm weather and visiting Palm City, Stuart, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale before finally heading up to the cold of Ohio.
Amy and Lionel on the beach in Stuart, Florida
Christmas lights on palm trees in Palm Beach!
the beach in Fort Lauderdale