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papa B me

Excursion advice Lisbon to Barcelona

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We will me on the Pursuit next September sailing from Lisbon to Barcelona with stops in Patimao, Gibraltar, Malaga, and Valencia(over night). I was excited this morning when I went to "my planner" and saw they had posted our Azamazing Evening. It is in Valencia at the Hemispheric and its surroundings. So I went ahead and booked it. I have quite a bit of OBC and plan on using it for ship excursions(I understand the negatives of ship excursions). So I thought I would go ahead and start booking excursions even though we are still 9 months away using the OBC.  For those who have sailed a similar itinerary I was hoping to get some feedback on the following questions:

 

1. Do you think it's too early to start booking in the event they add additional excursions closer to sailing?

 

2.  If I do book and they add additional is it difficult to make changes?

 

3.  Has anyone been to this Azamazing Evening in Valencia and if so what did you think and any tips?

 

4. Does anyone have any recommendations on ship excursions they've taken at any of these ports?

 

5.  Any sites that anyone has been to at any of these ports that are a don't miss even it not offered through Azamara?

 

For reference we will be 57 years old and are pretty active from hiking to biking to Kayaking, etc...  We love unique experiences as opposed to Cathedrals and Museums(although we do enjoy them).  We also enjoy unique shopping areas such as local markets and crafts. This is our first time to Portugal/Spain so everything will be new. Spending 3 nights pre-cruise and have booked a private guide for all 3 days so all set up in Lisbon. 

 

Any thoughts and and recommendations are greatly appreciated 

 

Thanks

Brian

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We did a Lisbon to Barcelona cruise, but the only port that’s the same on your itinerary is Valencia. We loved it, and the Hemispheric evening is our favorite Azamazing event yet. Valencia is a great city to spend a day walking. The covered market is well worth a visit, and if you stay around the old town, you’ll be busy for a day.

 

In Lisbon, which I understand you have a guide for three days, it’s also easy to do on your own. We did a walking food tour that was more than just food, and I highly recommend it - www.tasteoflisboa.com.  Also, don’t miss spending a day in Sintra!  

 

Enjoy your trip.

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1 hour ago, papa B me said:

We will me on the Pursuit next September sailing from Lisbon to Barcelona with stops in Patimao, Gibraltar, Malaga, and Valencia(over night). I was excited this morning when I went to "my planner" and saw they had posted our Azamazing Evening. It is in Valencia at the Hemispheric and its surroundings. So I went ahead and booked it. I have quite a bit of OBC and plan on using it for ship excursions(I understand the negatives of ship excursions). So I thought I would go ahead and start booking excursions even though we are still 9 months away using the OBC.  For those who have sailed a similar itinerary I was hoping to get some feedback on the following questions:

 

1. Do you think it's too early to start booking in the event they add additional excursions closer to sailing?

 

Quote

2.  If I do book and they add additional is it difficult to make changes?

I don't believe they will ad new excursions at this point but the experts on this board can give you better information.

 

Quote

3.  Has anyone been to this Azamazing Evening in Valencia and if so what did you think and any tips?

The evening in Valencia was quite lovely; do try to special drink they serve!  Also, the central market there is wonderful.  We even bought some cheese to enjoy on our verandah.

 

Quote

 

4. Does anyone have any recommendations on ship excursions they've taken at any of these ports?

 

We did the ship excursion in Gibraltar for the sake of simplicity; Azamara does have several options there.  It was good, well organized and gave us what we needed.

 

Quote

 

5.  Any sites that anyone has been to at any of these ports that are a don't miss even it not offered through Azamara?

 

From Malaga we went up to Alhambra, it's a 2 hour drive each way,but for me essential.  We paid $210 total for 2 people while the ship's tour was priced at $229 per person.  I know you have OBC to spend, but if you use it elsewhere this is a good opportunity to save.  Spain Day Tours did an excellent job for us and gets great reviews here going back more than 10 years. There are other things to do from Malaga; I am sure you will get some info on that.

 

Quote

 

For reference we will be 57 years old and are pretty active from hiking to biking to Kayaking, etc...  We love unique experiences as opposed to Cathedrals and Museums(although we do enjoy them).  We also enjoy unique shopping areas such as local markets and crafts. This is our first time to Portugal/Spain so everything will be new. Spending 3 nights pre-cruise and have booked a private guide for all 3 days so all set up in Lisbon. 

 

Any thoughts and and recommendations are greatly appreciated 

 

Thanks

Brian

 

And finally, I loved Lisbon.  We also had a few days there ahead, which let me know I need to get back there again.  Enjoy your cruise.

 

Edited by mchell810

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3 hours ago, cpgrneyes said:

We did a Lisbon to Barcelona cruise, but the only port that’s the same on your itinerary is Valencia. We loved it, and the Hemispheric evening is our favorite Azamazing event yet. Valencia is a great city to spend a day walking. The covered market is well worth a visit, and if you stay around the old town, you’ll be busy for a day.

 

In Lisbon, which I understand you have a guide for three days, it’s also easy to do on your own. We did a walking food tour that was more than just food, and I highly recommend it - www.tasteoflisboa.com.  Also, don’t miss spending a day in Sintra!  

 

Enjoy your trip.

We have a day booked with a guide for Sintra. I'll look into the food tour. I love them. Will wander Lisbon quite a bit but have a guide picking us up in the morning of embarkation for about 3 hours the dropping us off at the ship. Thanks for the feedback

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3 hours ago, mchell810 said:

 

I don't believe they will ad new excursions at this point but the experts on this board can give you better information.

 

The evening in Valencia was quite lovely; do try to special drink they serve!  Also, the central market there is wonderful.  We even bought some cheese to enjoy on our verandah.

 

 

We did the ship excursion in Gibraltar for the sake of simplicity; Azamara does have several options there.  It was good, well organized and gave us what we needed.

 

 

From Malaga we went up to Alhambra, it's a 2 hour drive each way,but for me essential.  We paid $210 total for 2 people while the ship's tour was priced at $229 per person.  I know you have OBC to spend, but if you use it elsewhere this is a good opportunity to save.  Spain Day Tours did an excellent job for us and gets great reviews here going back more than 10 years. There are other things to do from Malaga; I am sure you will get some info on that.

 

 

And finally, I loved Lisbon.  We also had a few days there ahead, which let me know I need to get back there again.  Enjoy your cruise.

 

Thanks for the great ideas. 

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We did a very similar itinerary in 2018.  I booked two Azamara excursions (Portimao and Valencia) and both were cancelled (they were cycling excursions).  I then booked the Valencia walking tour with Azamara, and it was okay.  The tour guide's English was fine for the tour information, but she wasn't really able to answer questions people had if it was anything beyond the standard history, and couldn't help with shopping or other tourist information.  Even relaying the information for the bus pick-up after the tour, if you wished to stay in town, was hard for her.  Luckily we had someone in the group that spoke Spanish and was able to ask questions and translate for others.

 

We stopped in Valencia on our cruise in October and this time I was able to take the cycling excursion, but I didn't really care for it--the group was too large and the guide was so soft-spoken we couldn't hear her.

 

We had the same Azamazing evening on both cruises; we attended it the first time but didn't think it was good enough to go again.  People on our cruise said they attended an Azamara excursion that included a dinner with flamenco dancing and said the dancing in that performance was much better than that portion of the Hemispheric show, so if they offer that excursion, that might be worth using OBC.

We also use our OBC for transportation after the cruise.  I try to find things other than excursions to use up our OBC, because private tours usually are better and cost less.  It's hard when you have a lot of OBC, though, so I understand wanting to book Azamara excursions rather than pay out of pocket.

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Hiccups

Thank you for your valuable input. We will probably end up doing a combination of ship and private excursions. Doing my research over the holidays then plan on booking at the first of the year. Thanks again!

 

Brian

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4 hours ago, papa B me said:

Hiccups

Thank you for your valuable input. We will probably end up doing a combination of ship and private excursions. Doing my research over the holidays then plan on booking at the first of the year. Thanks again!

 

Brian


You're welcome!  In Gibraltar, I joined with some fellow CC'ers from the roll call that had booked a tour with Inside Out Rock Tours, and it was a great tour--I recommend it if you're looking for something private there.

I used Spain Day Tours in Seville and Barcelona, and the Barcelona tour was one of the best tours I've ever had--the guide was fantastic (I did the half day tour that included Park Guell).  I was able to book both those tours independently--no finding other people to join up--so that made it easy.

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Hiccups or any others that have had ship excursions cancelled for lack of participation:

 

Do you think there is a correlation between between how active an excursion is and cancellations?  Meaning do yo think biking excursions, hiking excursions, etc... are more likely to be cancelled then say a Panoramic tour?

 

Still working on how to use the OBC(some of which I think can only be used for excursions) and which ones to book independently. 

 

Also would love opinions as to if it's worth the bus ride to Alhambra from Malaga vs staying in Malaga. So far Azamara isn't offering a tour but a fellow roll call member has booked a small group tour. 

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1 hour ago, papa B me said:

 

 

 

 

Also would love opinions as to if it's worth the bus ride to Alhambra from Malaga vs staying in Malaga. So far Azamara isn't offering a tour but a fellow roll call member has booked a small group tour. 


We visited the Alhambra on an Azamara tour from Motril, a considerably shorter drive.

 

The Alhambra is memorable in architecture and also in the relationship between the decorative arts, culture, and family life. Quite unforgettable.

 

The trip to the Alhambra also has some striking vistas.

 

I can’t comment on the attractions of Malaga.


If I were considering the private tour, I would prefer a large vehicle with sufficient room to offer some comfort on the trip. But that may increase the price.
 

 

 

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Notdski

thank you for your feedback. I’ve had both really positive and really negative experiences with the long bus/van excursions. So good to hear from people who’ve been there. Also considering a private tour vs small group tour so we can adjust it as we go based on our enjoyment. I’ve done this quite a bit in the past and never had a bad experience but definitely more pricey

 

Brian

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3 hours ago, papa B me said:

Also would love opinions as to if it's worth the bus ride to Alhambra from Malaga vs staying in Malaga. So far Azamara isn't offering a tour but a fellow roll call member has booked a small group tour. 

 

On my cruise I went to Alhambra because it is something I have long been interested in, so the drive was definitely worth it.  Others on the cruise visited sites in Malaga and seemed happy with their choices. If (when 🤞) I get back to Malaga I would explore that area happily.  Ultimately, I think you have to decide how interested you are in in Alhambra.

 

When I went the guide from Spain Day Tours gave us interesting information and agriculture of the region as we drove; plus, the scenery was lovely.  Once at Alhambra we were paired with an Alhambra guide. 

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3 hours ago, papa B me said:

Notdski

thank you for your feedback. I’ve had both really positive and really negative experiences with the long bus/van excursions. So good to hear from people who’ve been there. Also considering a private tour vs small group tour so we can adjust it as we go based on our enjoyment. I’ve done this quite a bit in the past and never had a bad experience but definitely more pricey

 

Brian

 

Given the length of time involved. I too might opt for the private tour as it is more flexible and allows a more personal approach.

 

Your commitment to planning should certainly provide rewards no  matter your decision.

 

Have a great cruise!

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We have been to Málaga several times, docked right in the town within easy walking distance of the lovely Alcazaba and the Málaga Cathedral, as well as the Castillo de Gibralfaro (although that's an uphill walk) also several museums, botanical gardens and of course the central market. Often undiscovered by cruisers is the beach Playa de la Malagueta, just around the corner.

 

In October 2018, on our visit to Málaga I opted for the ship's 9 hour tour to the Alhambra, a place I had long wanted to visit. The tour was well organised, all tickets are as in many places, timed entry.

We saw pretty much all there was to be seen although in some areas it was quite crowded and at times a little difficult to keep track of one's own guide in spite of a headset (with a very limited range). A few internal areas felt a little rushed, while open spaces were more leisurely. At one entry point, tourists were being asked to show passports. Fortunately our group did not need to do so as we had not been told to include them in our "things to take" for the day.

Timeline from photos of our visit to the Alhambra :

1044 waiting outside the ticket office for our Alhambra guide to pick up our tickets

1106 after walking from the ticket office outside the walls of the complex we arrived at the gate

1304 last photo in the Generalife Gardens before the long walk back to the ticket office pick up point to meet our bus guide.

1318 back at the ticket office

. . . so, approximately two hours of the nine hour excursion actually inside the Alhambra.

The $US299 tour was timed to start at 0830 and as do most of the ship's full day excursions, it included lunch at a very nice restaurant in Granada before the return drive to Málaga.

 

Would a small group be better? Almost definitely yes, particularly in some of the more crowded internal areas. But, I would ask the guide just how long you would actually be inside the complex. Hopefully it would be longer than two hours so that you would have time to actually soak up the atmosphere.

You may have already done some research, but if not, you might find the Lonely Planet article of interest :

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/granada/attractions/alhambra/a/poi-sig/430192/360733

also this rather long article on tips for visiting the Alhambra :

https://www.wandertooth.com/alhambra-palace-granada-spain-tips/

 

Hope some of this is useful.

Trish

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I just remembered that on our recent Mediterranean Islands cruise, we also had a cancelled excursion in Mahon--a four mile hiking excursion.  So you might be correct in thinking that the more active excursions are those most likely to be cancelled.

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The most common reason for cancellation of excursions seems to be not reaching the required minimum numbers.

That may be due to lack of interest or that they are considered too expensive, or perhaps some do take notice of the mild, moderate and strenuous labels and book accordingly.

Perhaps also, with large numbers of first time cruisers recently, they may be more interested in local exploration of the port.

 

Just because an excursion is labelled as strenuous does not seem to deter many unfit people from booking those tours, to the detriment of others, as the pace of each tour is that of the slowest in the group, on more than one occasion resulting in a very few minutes at a site the group should have been able to enjoy for much longer.

 

Strangely, some tours are cancelled before sailing date.

 

Understandably, some tours are cancelled due to political unrest, as happened recently in October.

 

 

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Just a little warning - take a light jacket with you as Granada is high up and it can be cold there, no matter how hot it is at the coast. When we drove there from the coast in July we didn’t take coats and ended up having to cut our visit short as we were too cold to carry on.

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Thank you all for the valuable information. It's times like these that remind me how fortunate we are to have sites like these to participate in. All of this is very helpful. 

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There is no pattern as to what gets cancelled.  What we did discover on our recent cruises are:

 

1.  The minimum and maximum numbers on a tour have changed, the minimum has been increased and the previous "25 under usual circumstances" has been removed.  It varies  but they guarantee they will not sell every seat on a large coach.  however a walking tour, albeit with hearing sets had 39 on it

2.  Cancellations happen as early as pre boarding to as late as getting the notice at 8pm the night before

3.  It is inconsistent whether they offer you a discount on a replacement booking as an incentive.

4.  And this was our biggest issue and one we highlighted in feedback as it reflects extremely badly on the line.

We had booked an excursion, it was cancelled due to low numbers - fair enough it was low.  We booked a replacement visit to a distillery, a visit to a plantation house and tour in the countryside.  Night before it was cancelled despite meeting numbers, reason given, the distillery was having unplanned maintenance - so although the visit was only part of the tour, the whole thing was cancelled.  At that late stage we could set nothing up so did our own thing on the day (and had a great day).  However on our return to the port we were offered a tour to the same said factory by a local guide  - we said how can that be its closed due to maintenance, with that out of the taxi behind came two ladies carrying bags from the distillery.  The driver (who was shocked we had doubted his tour offer) suggested we speak to them, we did, yes the distillery was open AND there were tour groups there from the two other ships in port that day..........

We mentioned this onboard never got to the bottom of whether it was the tour agency, shoreside or ship that cancelled the trip.

Two ports later we met two guests who had a sailing excursion cancelled due to rough weather, it was millpond flat.  They went to the harbour anyway and the yacht of the same name they were to have been on was selling excursions that they then purchased on the quay.....

 

So unless its imperative you use a ship provided excursion (timing or burning OBC) I would always make your own arrangements as the level of cancellation of ship offered activities is now too high and the group sizes can be big.   Its a shame, they had an opportunity to have good excursions but delivery is a problem at present.

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