TransAtlantic Cruise and Canary Islands

Some of you may have wondered why we started in Europe in August only to work our way all the way to Australia and then end up back in Spain again in November...good question! Geographically it doesn’t make a ton of sense, we know! But it’s all because of this silly yet wonderful way for us to travel home to the U.S. for the holidays...a TransAtlantic/Repositioning Cruise!

Each year, in the fall and the spring, large international cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival move their cruise ships between different areas of the world based on the seasons/weather. In the summer months, there’s a large cruising industry in the Mediterranean Sea around Europe, but as winter approaches in Europe, the cruise season there ends and ramps up in the Caribbean. For this reason, the ships based in Europe in the summer cross the Atlantic to work in the Caribbean for the winter. The same goes for the Alaskan and Australian areas of the world. And you can travel on these cruises all for a fraction of what you would normally pay for a 14-night cruise!

Neither Perry nor I had ever heard of this before (why don’t they advertise this more??), but a full-time travel couple we follow did one once, and we thought it sounded fantastic! We love cruises, and honestly, it was hard to turn down a deal to get home (no airfare except from FL to TN) plus a 14-night cruise! 

So we boarded the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas two weeks ago from Barcelona and began our journey across the Atlantic Ocean for 14 days. The Rhapsody has been based in the Mediterranean for the summer from Venice, and it will now cruise in and out of Tampa for the winter months. 

Now, I will say, if you don’t care for cruising this is probably not the thing to do, but if you do and you have the time, you should definitely check it out!

We left from Barcelona, spent two days at sea, visited the Canary Islands for three days (the islands of Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and La Palma), spent six more days at sea, spent one day at Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas), and then had one more at-sea day before arriving in Tampa! It was A LOT of days at sea, but we really didn’t mind. It was so relaxing to spend our days by the pool with no specific itinerary after spending almost 4 months constantly on the go, living out of our suitcases. Of course, we have no complaints at all about that lifestyle but being in one place for two weeks was a refreshing break.

We really enjoyed our days in the Canary Islands. They were somewhere that we had never really thought to visit before, but they were beautiful! Colonized by Spain in the 1400s, each of the 7 islands is Spanish-speaking, and they are still part of Spain today but with their own unique culture. They are located off the northwest coast of Africa- close to Morocco. Because of their location and climate (it stays fairly warm there year-around), the Canary Islands are a big vacation destination for Europeans, especially Spaniards, Germans and the British. To get there, we traveled from Barcelona, along the southern tip of Spain, through the Strait of Gibraltar (yes, one night we could see Morocco and Spain on opposite sides of the ship- super cool!), and along the northwest coast of Morocco. 

The first island we visited was Lanzarote, which is the 4th largest island of the 7. It was fascinating as the island had 100s of volcanoes erupt on it for 6 years straight in the 1730s. As a result, the ground of the island is all volcanic ash and rock, and every hill/mountain is a volcanic crater formed during these eruptions. While in Lanzarote, we did a shore excursion that allowed us to hike with a guide through the volcanic rock and go inside one of the largest craters on the island. It was SO cool and unlike anything either of us had ever seen before. Definitely something we won’t ever forget.

The next island we visited was Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This island was the largest of the three that we visited, and we really enjoyed walking around it and exploring. We spent most of the day at the beach and walking along their promenade. The waves here were huge too and there were a few surfers out, which was neat. Apparently, it is a big surfing destination for Europeans as well.

The final island we visited was La Palma. Our ship docked on the east side of the island, where we were able to get off and explore the cute little town built into the cliff face. The weather wasn’t ideal this day with rain and cooler temperatures, but we made the most of it while walking around the town and its black sand beach.

We spent our second-to-last day of the cruise at Coco Cay in the Bahamas. We had both been there about 7 or 8 years ago when it was mostly just beach property, but Royal Caribbean has recently upgraded it with all kinds of fun. There is a huge pool, a couple of complimentary restaurants, play areas for kids, a zip line, a hot air balloon, lots of beach areas to swim and sunbathe, and a water park with 13 water slides and a wave pool. We spent most of our day at the water park and had a blast. It was so fun! We really enjoyed our day there and look forward to being able to go back to Coco Cay one day!

During our at-sea days, we enjoyed doing a-whole-lot-of nothing if I’m being honest :) We slept in, ate way too much food (pretty sure that any weight we lost over last the few months, we definitely gained back, and some...yikes!), sat by the pool, walked laps around the upper deck at sunset, and just relaxed. Our time on the ship was one of rejuvenation and relaxation, and we loved every minute of it. We wondered if we would get bored during the long six day at-sea streak, but honestly when we reached the end of it, we wanted more. It was an interesting experience with the crowd on the ship. I would say about 95% of the people were over 60 and retired. But it was nice and really just made for a more relaxed environment.

This cruise, we really enjoyed getting to know our dining room (dinner) waiter from Trinidad and Tobago and assistant waiter from China. They were wonderful and made us feel so welcome on the ship. We will very much miss their kind, positive and friendly attitudes. One of our favorite things about cruising has always been getting to know the crew onboard the ship. They come from all over the world and have so many unique backgrounds and cultures. If I remember correctly, the Rhapsody has over 600 crewmembers, representing about 64 different countries! It always amazes me the ability of so many different people being able to work together. 

It’s a beautiful thing when people can come together for a common goal and overcome the barriers of differing beliefs, languages, ideologies and backgrounds. It requires us to set aside our selfish ambitions and focus on the greater good- something that we (read: I) are not always good at. It’s so easy to focus on me, me, me but for the world to work, it requires the focus to be on us, us, us. It requires us to listen more and talk less. 

I’m sure the Rhapsody of the Seas isn’t perfect and I know it’s easier to work together when your paycheck depends on it, but I loved that for 14 days I could see a world where people, by all appearances, cared about each other, and where two people from the U.S., one man from Trinidad and Tobago, and a girl from China could laugh, talk and smile together. And if there’s anything this fall adventure has taught me, it’s that in this world, we’re all more alike than we are different.

So as we look forward to spending time at home with family and friends for the holidays, I’m reflecting with thankfulness to the Lord for the opportunity to see so much of this world. I’m looking for ways to connect more with people that might seem different from me. And I’m inspired to love people from all walks of life. May we all find ways this holiday season to spread love and to find common ground that truly does promote peace on earth and good will to all men as we look forward to 2020.


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