BARCELONA, Spain - Day One
Tourist AWESOME!

This seven-foot bronze pretty well describes the whole week.

Click on each image to enlarge.
Barcelona Bus The shuttle from the airport to the pier is nothing if not colorful. Actually, every bus we were on during the entire trip was new, modern, comfortable and had a restroom. Most were not as large as this one.
Barcelona Harbor The port of Barcelona is modern and industrial, only ten minutes by taxi from the historic center of the city.
Grandeur of the Seas The profile of the Grandeur of the Seas is impressive at some 890 feet long, 106 feet wide, and some 12 decks above the water.
Up close, the Grandeur is nearly overwhelming. Click on this image to see our balcony.
Centrum stairs Photos don't do justice to the Centrum. The two dark areas on each side are the shafts occupied by the two glass elevators allowing a sweeping view of the social core of the ship.
The Wright Brothers reject Actually this sculpture, what I termed a "Wright brothers reject," photographs better than it looks in reality, especially from a closer view. It hovers over the Centrum, supposedly resembling some kind of bird or butterfly. It's only a passing resemblence.
Lifeboat drill No ship leaves port without first having a lifeboat drill. This one was more regimented than on most ships. Men stood in back, women and children in front. The life preservers made me look like Mae West on a VERY bad hair day.
Luggage About six p.m., we began wondering why one of our bags hadn't yet arrived at our cabin. A peek off the balcony quickly explained why. The scene might make an interesting painting.
Stair Art This was one of the mixed-media paintings which greeted the more athletic on board at each landing. The theme here I think is Cinderella...or maybe "Up the Down Staircase."
Ship Art One of three panels in a triptych, again at a stair landing. This one had Baroque music as it's theme.
Art in our Cabin There were three prints similar to this in our cabin, all by the same artist. The scene is the French Riviera. The artist also had similar, larger, prints for sale at auction later in the week.
Art for Sale The traditional art auction wasn't the only place on board where art objects could be purchases. The shopping area had dozens of such elegant pieces as these at very unreasonable prices.
Sculpture Security in getting on board was somewhat more stringent and high-tech than these gentlemen would seem to indicate.
The Great Gatsby Dining Room The Great Gatsby Dining room was most impressive when entered from above. The stairs allowed for a grand entrance for ladies and gentlemen dressed in their flowing gowns and tuxedos. In most cases the ladies wore the gowns. There were two formal nights. Tuxedoes were not quite as common on board the Grandeur as on some ships we've been on.
Dining Room Stairs Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda would have felt quite at home here in the stylish Art Deco dining room. The balcony tables are the choice seats in the house. We were on the lower level near the stage where live music played all during dinner. The music and the sounds of other diners in the room sometimes made conversation difficult.
Dining Room mural The roaring 20s mural at the top of the dining room staircase set the tone for the room.
Dining Room painting This is a side panel near the same mural.
After Dinner The first night, jet lag temporarily appeased, this was taken shortly after the Baked Alaska AND the Black Forest Cherry Cake.

The only thing wrong with visiting Europe is that it's so damned far away.  I know that's a distinctly American point of view, but it's the truth.  I suppose it's also part of the mystique of the place.  If we could "pop over" anytime we wanted, we wouldn't want to.  As much as I loved being there, I don't jet lag well.  I think I was too excited to sleep on the nearly nine hour flight over - a short, 15 minute nap at most. Then, added to that, there's the damnable six hour time difference (lost going east), plus the stress of negotiating the airport mazes at both ends, airline food (surprisingly good, actually) at irregular intervals, lines, customs, ground transportation, boarding the ship (more lines), the unfamiliar surroundings along the way. By the time we reached our cabin on board RCI's (Royal Celebrity International) Grandeur of the Seas, there was only one thing I wanted to do - SLEEP.  Consequently, all we saw of Barcelona, where we met the ship, was what could be seen from the windows of huge, colorful, shuttle buses to and from the airport (more on this in a few days).

Sailing on the Grandeur of the Seas is like living in an art gallery for a week.  I've sailed on beautifully appointed ships before, but the Grandeur had more art and better art than any other ship I've ever seen.  There was an enormous variety of styles and media, large, breathtaking paintings, impressive sculptures, modest little multimedia works along the halls, and a tastefully spectacular interior which, even over the course of the entire week, I never was able to take for granted.  The entry foyer, called the "Centrum," rises seven decks right up through the middle of the ship with two grandly contemporary stairways and two glass elevators which seem to soar up and up forever.  There was enough polished marble under foot and everywhere else, you wonder how the ship floats.  Polished brass and glass, rich woods and soft carpet compete - but lose - to the art in every public area of the ship. The variety of styles in both the painting and sculpture was broader than on most ships.  Usually, shipboard art bends heavily toward the abstract.  There was some of that, but also an impressive amount of representational work in perhaps a dozen different styles and always of gallery, if not museum, quality.  I saw only one piece of art on the entire ship which I felt was out of place in such a setting (a huge, hanging, dusty, Wright brothers reject hovering over the Centrum). On the other hand, I'll never forget the slightly larger than life bronze sculpture of a turn-of-the-20th-century teenaged boy, dressed in knickers, bow tie, jacket, and cabby cap, map in hand, gazing upward in eye-popping, jaw-dropping awe.  For me, he symbolized the whole week.

The ship's main dining room, called "The Great Gatsby," like the Centrum, was wildly spectacular.  Here the decor was Art Deco with huge round windows looking out to sea.  The second dining level was a balcony with views both out to sea and down upon the diners one level below.  Connecting the two was a broad, sweeping staircase at the foot of which stood a stylish bronze sculpture of a 1920s socialite, Zelda perhaps, dangling a small globe from one hand while brandishing a cigarette holder in the other.  I'd say she also perfectly symbolized and dominated the whole dining experience except that she had to take a back-seat to the lavish food served before her watchful eyes, which, I suppose, is as it should be.

For anyone who's never been to Europe, cruising is definitely the way to go.  It's a cocoon.  The accommodations are comfortable, if not exactly spacious; the beautifully spectacular "hotel" takes you from city to city; the food is Mediterranean and of consistently high quality; the multinational staff all speak English (some better than others); the nightly entertainment is wonderfully varied and, most of all, the ratios of stress, relaxation, activity, cost, and excitement, are always quite favorable.  For those, like my wife, who wish only to taste a sample of Europe, as the Italians would say, "no problemo."  For those, like myself, who wish to DROWN in everything European, that too is readily available, but there IS a "problemo" - never enough time.  You'll see what I mean as, over the course of the next several days, I recount my seven-day effort to soak up all the art and culture of Southern Europe while still managing to return to tell about it.