The Independence of the Seas whist pregnant: Day 4-5
Day 1-3: Southampton (Boarding, The Ship, Cabin #1700) Day 2-3: At Sea, At Sea – includes Chops Grill specialty restaurant Day 4-5: Gibraltar & Cartagena (You are Here) Day 6-7: Palma De Mallorca & Barcelona Day 8-9: Valencia & Malaga Day 10-11: Cadiz & Lisbon Day 12-14: Sea Days (including Giovanni’s) and Conclusion
Day Four – GibraltarThis was to be the first time I’ve booked a private excursion, and the first time arranging it with fellow cruise critic members. I booked the three hour tour with John at Gibraltar Rock Tours. He always responded to email quickly and was very helpful in advance. I posted it on our roll call and filled up on the first day – a year before we even went on the cruise! I really found Cruise Critic invaluable in all my cruises for information. I had the pleasure of being joined by Tom, Theresa, Mark and Dee, to make 7 of us total. We had arranged to meet in Boleros on deck 4 at 10:30am, with the ship scheduled to allow disembarking from 11am. It worked out no more expensive than a ship tour, with a much smaller group which is always more efficient and a better experience in my opinion. We found each other easily and were off with our guide Douglas very quickly, putting us ahead of all the main tours, which is very useful as traffic is an issue in Gibraltar, especially in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. The three hours extended tour was extensive, with great commentary from Douglas, who was born in Gibraltar and could really give us an insight into the local perspective. We even managed a civil conversation about Brexit and the current political climate and I found it extremely interesting to know how the locals feel about things. First port of call was heading to the top of the rock via St Michael’s Cave. The Apes were extremely cheeky, and ended up sitting on one of our tour group as well as climbing all over the car! When we looked back behind us, there was a big queue all of private taxis and tour groups, as the big coaches couldn’t go right to the pinnacle due to the small roads. Getting off early is definitely a bonus and I can see why he urged us to be one of the first off the ship!
We explored the Great Siege Tunnel, saw the 100 Ton Gun (yes, it’s as big as it sounds!) and then saw the lighthouse and mosque at Europa Point with a view over Catalan Bay. We were driven around for a bit on a tour, and finally drove across the airport runway! Douglas offered to drop people off in town if they wanted to explore the city and market, or take us back to the cruise. Everyone else got out in town, but I was ready for my afternoon nap and we headed back to the ship. I felt a little bit embarrassed that Tom & Theresa who were in their 70s seemed to have more energy than me. If you are pregnant and find yourself on a port-heavy cruise you definitely need to accommodate for how much extra energy it uses up as I wasn’t expecting the sheer exhaustion I felt most days by mid afternoon. Fantastic tour all round and highly recommended. Gibraltar is honestly one of my favourite stops I’ve been on (and that’s well over 30 ports and rising). It had a wonderful mix of British and Spanish with a very unique feel and incredibly friendly people. The history there is fascinating but so are the views and the nature. It’s got a little bit of everything and I will definitely be back.
Day Five – CartagenaThe museums open in Cartagena at 10am but we hopped off the ship easily at 9:30am (we docked at 8:30am) and most of the shops were open. It’s a lovely old town and just a few mins walk from the ship gets you to museums and shops so this is a very easy DIY port. There are different tickets to each museum and combo tickets, so we went for a four entry ticket plus the tourist boat. This was 12euro plus 4euro each, very good prices for excellent Roman ruins, including a very impressive theatre. It would easily take 3-4 hours if you go around 4 attractions fully.
The tourist boat goes from just a few mins walk from the ship and is a 45 minute tour of the harbour and immediate area, with a pre recorded commentary in English and Spanish. It’s not that impressive but very cheap and an easy way to relax and sit down for a bit whilst seeing the city from a different perspective. You can get off the boat at a fort and be picked up an hour later but there’s really not much there. We went back to the ship for lunch, very easy to do since it’s all so close, and then to the castle after lunch (included in the four entry ticket), which also had some nice gardens and peacocks! Beautiful town and port and we were glad that we’d just hopped off and explored as it was a full, interesting day at a very low cost. This is a beautiful port and would be very easy to do with a baby in a stroller – I’m already thinking about when we’ll be going back and how old William will be!