Spring Break Cruisin’ Around the Mediterranean

Marisa Ross
April 9, 2013

Many students in IES Barcelona booked their Spring Break trips at the beginning of the semester. I didn’t figure out what I’d end up doing until two weeks before. First I was going to Greece and Istanbul. Then Paris. Then Greece again. Then Italy. Then Canary Islands. Then Morocco. Then Amsterdam. Then beach hopping around Spain. Then Portugal. After my plans changed countless times and everyone else but me had it all figured out, I was about to give up and just stay in Barcelona.

But then fate stepped in, and I decided to book a cruise with another confused friend in the program. After hours spent at a travel agency in the Altaîr bookstore and on the phone with representatives, we finally reserved a spot on “Brisas del Mediterráneo,” a vacation with Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line. In seven days, we would travel around Tunisia, Italy and France.

I had set plans, and it seemed like things were finally falling into place. Weather.com looked promising, I wouldn’t have to hop from hostels and airports, and food would be plentiful.

I joked with other IES students about how we were smart to choose a week of traveling in luxury and convenience while our peers had lower-quality accommodations and transport expenses for the same price we paid. What could go wrong?

Well, maybe I should have known this trip was doomed from the start when I heard Titanic music ironically playing in the main lobby after boarding.

The first sea day was spent in a lukewarm hot tub under gray skies and taking advantage of the cruise’s all-you-can-eat-all-you-can-drink special. Later, I took a nap that turned into such a deep sleep that I missed the only formal night.

The next day, due to high winds, the ship didn’t stop in Tunis, our first destination. Instead, the day was spent on a seasick-stricken boat surrounded by ferocious whitecaps and hundreds of ill Spaniards lying around on the floor like dead flies.

In Rome, I forgot to bring my umbrella the one day I really needed it, and I had to invest in a 5 euro one for the six hours of nonstop rain. And in desperation to skip lines and get out of the downpour, my friends and I were basically scammed into paying a lot more than necessary to go into the Colosseum. The rain also caused my hair to frizz up, my white blouse to become almost see-through and my favorite pair of moccasins to be drenched and literally deteriorate on my foot.

The next day, our train to Florence was cancelled, resulting in us taking the next one and leaving us with very few hours in the city. We didn’t have time to see Michelangelo’s “David” or Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” or climb the 463 steps of the Duomo or go to the acclaimed leather market where I planned to by a new journal. I also chose not to bring a jacket this day, and it turned out to be mostly cold. On the way back, we nearly missed the train and sprinted through the station to make it.

In Genoa, there was more rain and we found ourselves lost multiple times. The last two ports of call, Civitavecchia and Livorno, were at least one hour each way outside of the destination, costing more money and time, so we stayed close the ship rather than venturing off to Portofino or Cinque Terre, which our peers later raved about.

On the last day of the cruise, my friends and I were lacking sleep and moseyed around Monaco like zombies. We were too poor to gamble at the famed Monte Carlo Casino or indulge in many of the densely-populated country’s upscale activities. And because of our late awakening, we passed up the possibility of also visiting the turquoise waters and pebbled beaches of Nice, France.

But in retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Sometimes you just have to take these unfortunate circumstances with a grain of salt. Laugh about it; they make for good stories. And even though this cruise wasn’t exactly “smooth sailing,” I still had a fabulous time.

Though my writing may make me sound unenthusiastic, I assure you I stayed fairly optimistic and reveled in the rare opportunity to traverse culturally and historically rich cities. I continually treated my tastebuds at the ports – gelato, pizza, pasta, wine, cannolis, coffee, crepes and escargot – I admired the architectural wonders, and I was accompanied by new friends. I even witnessed the most majestic sunset I’ve ever seen on the train ride back from Florence to Livorno. Not many people can say they’ve seen the sky burst into beams of golden pink “under the Tuscan sun.”

When the ship reached Barcelona again, Spring Break wasn’t over yet. A couple of friends and I took a spontaneous day trip to the beach city of Sitges, Spain. I had visited it earlier in February for the crazy Carnival festivities, but I wanted to spend this day relaxing and seeing more of the city in daylight. It was Easter Sunday and a glorious day to be outside. I closed my eyes and soaked up the sun rays on the beach, ate the greatest seaside paella I’ve tried yet, and even held back ticklish giggles as I braved the Asian fish spa treatment for the first time. That night, I went out with my new cruise friends to Ovella Negra, one of my favorite spots in Barcelona, for sangria and games.

Everything felt right. I wished I met these fellow IES students earlier in the semester, because the next day marked about two weeks left in the program. I started to panic at the thought. There’s still so much I haven’t done, and I was having too much fun to think about the end being so close.

For a last meal before the official end of Spring Break, my homestay roommate (who had stayed in Barcelona with her visiting family), took me up to Mirablau, a cafe in Tibidabo, which offers one of the best panoramic views of the city. We conversed over tapas and coffee, sharing stories of our past weeks. As I sat back and examined my host city, I forgot about any trivial misfortune I had encountered or any qualm that clouded my thoughts.

Life is wonderful, I thought to myself, and I really have nothing to complain about.

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Marisa Ross

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Marisa is a sophomore at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is an active writer and photographer for her school newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, and a varsity rower on the UF crew team. In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, volleyball, cooking, shopping and hanging out with friends. Traveling is Marisa&rsquo;s biggest passion, and she has wanted to study abroad in Barcelona for some time now. She is most excited to master fluency in the language, immerse herself in the culture, sample exotic cuisines, and explore cities throughout Europe with new and old friends.</span></div>

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