Mediterranean Cruise, Aug 6, 2019

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  • CRUISER: Gary P
  • Created: August 2, 2019
  • Last updated: October 30, 2019
Cruise Region: Mediterranean
Cruise Line and Ship: Costa Cruises
Cruise Month: August
Cruise Duration: 9-13 days
  • Distance 9,407,378.61 ft
  • Time 718 h 53 min
  • Speed 2 mph
  • Min altitude -9,613 ft
  • Peak 2,697 ft
  • Climb 89,469 ft
  • Descent 89,219 ft

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This was a fantastic Mediterranean cruise in the middle of summer with lots of incredible beaches. The cruise itself was a bargain, extremely low cost for us. We purchased it just days before we left for as little as €700.00 each. An eleven day voyage with food and shelter for what turned out to be just over 60 bucks a day.

Given the price that we paid we expected to be buried somewhere in the cargo holds the ship and to be served meals of “dried bread” and water, but this did not happen. Instead, we were assigned a really neat inside cabin, and enjoyed the same food as those paying a fortune by comparison. Costa is by no means a high end cruise line, but in terms of value for money, if you are interested in seeing the world on a shoestring budget, and willing to forego the glamour and glitter of a luxury cruise line, it’s a great option. We ate well, we slept well, we visited some of Europe's most desired destinations, and we met a few of the most endearing people we would ever know. It’s why we cruise!

From Playa de Palma in Majorca where we boarded the ship, to Ses Illetes in Formentera where we enjoyed a Caribbean like experience on our last stop, the Mediterranean, in the heart of summer, is a remarkable experience. That this part of the world is located in the cold and wintry Europe was simply unbelievable. It's a testimony to the incredible skills of the great creator of our planet, who must have created this world with an extraordinary capacity to showcase its incredible geographical beauty for millions and millions of years. That it has lasted so long, through thick and thin, is amazing, and that we can still find so much to enjoy even after all the abuse that we have subjected it to, is mind blowing. Let's hope that we all wake up soon and value the beauty that we can still enjoy in places like the Mediterranean. Even if not as an act of gratitude to the great creator, then how about doing it as an act of opportunism for ourselves and for our children. It's such a small price for each of us to pay for such a large benefit for all to enjoy. Let the Mediterranean be a place where we can continue to sail for centuries to come and enjoy the incredible beauty of our special planet.

1. Palma de Mallorca

Altitude: -766 ft
Address: Avinguda de Gabriel Roca, 39-41, 07014 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain

Palma, Mallorca, Spain

Point of Interest:   Palma Beach

Arrival:   Aug 04, 2019 at 02:00 PM

Departure:   Aug 06, 2019 at 08:00 PM

We arrived in Palma Beach (Palma De Majorca) on August 04, 2019, two days before our cruise.  We wanted to take advantage of the sun, sea and sand on the island before we boarded the ship, so we decided to spend a couple of days at Playa De Palma, a vibrant vacation neighborhood in the area.

We checked into the Grupotel Playa de Palma Suites & Spa, a beautiful 4-5-star hotel near the water.  The hotel was graced with some of the largest pools that I have ever seen wherever I have stayed.  We counted four central pools, three of which were gigantic. Of the three large ones, two were outdoors, perfect for swimming in the sweltering summer heat, and one was indoors in a lovely spa. The fourth pool was located on the top floor of one of the buildings in the resort. It was small by comparison to the others, but it provided an incredible view of Playa de Palma with its long stretch of beautiful beach.  

Our suite at Grupotel was spacious inside and came with a massive balcony on the outside overlooking the main pool area. Most importantly it was very reasonably priced. I would strongly recommend this hotel for anyone who is interested in staying in Palma in an upscale facility, relatively near to the beach, but preferred to avoid having to pay a significant daily rate. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

From the hotel, it was just a ten-minute walk to the beach. In the daytime the sun bore down mercilessly upon any and everything in its path, including thousands of tourists laying half naked on the shores. A dip into the inviting blue sea water provided an ideal cool down for the innumerable bikini clad bathers.  By night, the beachside streets were crowded with people walking up and down, eating delicious food at the Spanish restaurants, and drinking in the fun filled bars. Almost everyone was just having a really good time and we were no exception.

Despite being in Spain, Playa de Palma was flooded while we were there with German tourists of varying ages, but there was still enough room for people of other nationalities like me to partake in the festivities. It is a fun place to hang out if you want to be in an exciting part of Mallorca, but be warned, if you are looking for a more high-end environment, this is by no means, the best that you can do.

For us, it was exactly what we needed and what we had hoped for when we decided to spend a few days in Palma. The sun, the sea, the sand, good food, great drinks, perfect accommodation and easy access to our cruise ship. When it was time to say goodbye, we were grateful for an enjoyable stay.  And as our ship left the port, we couldn’t help but think, “What a great way to start a vacation!”

2. 2. Port Mahon, Menorca

Altitude: -625 ft
Address: Moll de Llevant, 1A, 07701 Maó, Illes Balears, Spain

Mahon, Menorca, Spain

Point of Interest:   Son Bou Beach

Arrival:   Aug 07, 2019 at 08:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 07, 2019 at 06:00 PM

Menorca was our first stop on this cruise. For those who think this island is just a little sister to Mallorca, think again. Menorca is an island paradise of its own.  Son Bou Beach (Playa de Son Bou), a beautiful beach on the island, can easily hold its own against almost any Mediterranean Beach we have seen, and will remain one of the nicer beaches that I have ever visited in all of Europe. The water was a taste of the Caribbean with a European flavor, crystal clear and temperate, refreshing and blue. The sand was soft and comforting.

It was another scorching day in the Mediterranean, with temperatures veering into the mid-90s in Fahrenheit or the 30s in celsius, but if blistering heat was ever enjoyable, it was here on these shores on this day.

We paused for lunch at a restaurant just on the edge of the beach where we ate some of the tastiest grilled sardines I have ever had.  These were so good they reminded us of the ones that we had devoured on a previous cruise in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. 

After lunch as we strolled further along the shore, we stumbled into the au naturel section of the beach, where many had chosen to expose it all to the sun for a dose of the ever so essential vitamin D. Interestingly, as with many other things European nobody even seemed to bat an eye, and many of the naturists sunbathed comfortably in their birthday suits, while others ventured into the cooling waters of Son Bou.

For a while we considered joining them but felt that the rays of the sun were a little too strong for total exposure on that special day. Instead, we opted for a tan under the shade of an umbrella before dipping into the sea for a refreshing swim that we hoped would never end.

After several hours splashing around, it was time to make our way back to the ship. Our first stop was an incredible success. Amazing! We looked at each other as we sat for dinner that night completely overwhelmed. This was easily the best start to any cruise that we had ever done. We simply could not wait to see what the next stop would bring.

3. 3. Porto Torres, Sardinia, Italy

Altitude: -157 ft
Address: Industriale Porto, Porto Torres SS, Italy

Porto Torres, Sardinia, Italy

Point of Interest:   La Pelosa Beach

Arrival:   Aug 08, 2019 at 09:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 08, 2019 at 08:00 PM

The island of Sardinia in Italy is well known for its unique beaches, so when we were planning our cruise, as lovers of sun, sea and sand we were extremely excited about this stop. Even more exciting however was that our ship would be docking in Porto Torres, one of the lesser known ports on the north western side of the island, some 33 km from La Pelosa Beach (Spiaggia La Pelosa), acclaimed by many to be the best beach in all of Sardinia. Could this be true? We were anxious to find out or to at least see how special it really was.

On arrival at Porto Torres there was no bus to take us to La Pelosa, so we were forced to call a cab to go there which we knew would be very pricey.  As for getting back to the ship, we were not sure how we would do this, but we were determined to get to La Pelosa at all costs and thought we would worry about getting back when the time came a little later. Not exactly the smartest way to plan a trip, but we kept our fingers crossed.

We called for a cab and soon enough Luigi showed up in a simple ride. He told us that it would be about 70 Euros to get there and we agreed. Then we were off. The drive was about 33 kilometres to the beach, but no sooner had we gotten into the car, did we get our first surprise. Luigi drove his small Italian car like it was a fancy Ferrari at the Grand Prix. He overtook at every turn on narrow two-way streets and when Anna gasped in disbelief and complained, he told her to relax, claiming that his car was a Ferrari, and had the required speed. As we continued driving, I asked him about the possibility of cops pulling him over, but he suggested that with the speed of his “so called” Ferrari they would not be able to catch him, and he laughed it off.  Very soon, strangely enough, we were actually doing the same - laughing. Despite his penchant for speed, Luigi was indeed delightful. 

The Sardinian countryside was also delightful and even in the midst of Luigi’s meandering, it oozed us into a state of relaxation. Soon enough we made it to La Pelosa, and then Luigi pulled out another surprise.  I opened my wallet to pay him, but he seemed offended and instead asked, “How are you going to get back to the ship?” I quickly replied that we were not sure.  He offered to come back for us in a few hours and we happily agreed.  Luigi said we should meet him at the very spot where we stood, which to us was just random place in the middle of a long, crowded street bordering a beach with thousands of patrons. But we had somehow started to trust Luigi, so if this was good enough for him, it was good enough for us. I tried to pay him once again for the first leg of the trip, but he insisted that we should pay later when he returned, urging me to not spend all the money on the beach and to make sure we kept enough for him. I agreed wholeheartedly, and with that Luigi wished us a nice day and drove off.  He took no telephone number, no credit card, nothing, just our word, two strangers from a totally different part of the world. As he drove away, I thought to myself that this would never happen in New York City where I lived or even on my island in Trinidad and Tobago. If we did not show up later at this spot, there would be nothing that Luigi could do. He would probably never get paid for taking us to La Pelosa. But it appeared as though Luigi trusted us, and I was amazed. This just doesn’t happen anymore in the part of the world from which I come.

The beach was beautiful with crystal clear water, just as it was in Menorca the previous day. It even felt a little surreal as the whole cruise was beginning to get too good to be true. Unlike Son Bou however there were pebbles on the sand in the water, but outside of that the scenery was amazing with Italian bodies resting on any available space that could be found. After walking about a mile or so we found a solid rock to sit on in a more secluded area of the beach. As we sat, our suspended feet reached playfully for the sea water in what could be described as a little channel where the Mediterranean Sea streamed between the rock that we were on and a tiny island on the other side.

Later in the day we joined several little fish swimming around in the water in an area that resembled a turquoise pond. It was an uplifting way to spend an afternoon, bathing and swimming peacefully with the little fish.

With time literally flying we were forced to pack up and race back to the spot where Luigi had dropped us off. As we hurried, I thought once again to myself “what a bizarre arrangement.  Supposing we did not show up, or he did not show up, or that we just simply could not find the spot.  After all it was our first time there. What if we were unable to make it back to the ship on time? But my wife, who had once lived in Italy for a year as a student, assured me that Luigi would meet us at the same spot. She said that this was the beauty of the Italian way. Moments later Luigi’s “Ferrari” pulled up and he exclaimed “Buonasera”.   

On our way back to the ship, I could not help but wonder about life in a world where we could trust each other and be honorable enough to not break that trust. Where the wind and the sails could work hand in hand to lead us to a better place without the need for us to worry about a hurricane or a storm.

It was confirmed. La Pelosa for us was indeed the best beach that we had ever seen on Italian shores, but to us it was even more than just a beach. It was a reminder of one of the fundamental principles of life that could help to lead us to true human happiness - trust. As I fell asleep that night in my cabin, I could hear the soothing sounds of the Italian Spiaggia La Pelosa taking me into dreamland and the trusting voice of Luigi saying “Buona notte.”

4. 4. Propriano, Corsica, France

Altitude: -56 ft
Address: Propriano, Quai l'Herminier, 20110 Propriano, France

Propriano, Corsica, France

Point of Interest:   Propriano

Arrival:   Aug 09, 2019 at 08:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 09, 2019 at 08:00 PM

Corsica is considered by many to be one of the most desired destinations on a Mediterranean cruise, so we expected this to be one of our prime stops. 

Since the stop was not in Ajaccio, the island’s capital where the main port is located, we planned to rent a car in Propriano and drive to Ajaccio to do some sightseeing and probably a city tour.  Then we would drive across the island to the resort town of Porto-Vecchio in the south east for some French food and beach time.  Our plans failed miserably. 

The first stumbling block we encountered, we never saw coming. As our ship was pulling into the port, a family disagreement arose in our cabin and we were forced to shift our plans to deal urgently with it. Our cruising experiences like in other walks of life can sometimes lead to unexpected differences and quite frankly this was simply one of them.  It was not until nearing noon that we were able to resolve it and get off the ship but by this time the possibility of a renting a reasonably priced car was effectively reduced to zero. As I browsed Kayak some rentals had soared to as much as 500 Euros for the day, and even half of that was way more than we had budgeted.  Funny what a “difference a day makes”. 

Our first backup plan was to race to what we thought would be a bus terminal in Propriano to catch a bus to Ajaccio, but at the location we found nothing more than a mere bus stop with little or no information. Things were not looking good at that point. We then turned to what was a backup of our backup plan. From the research that we had done there should have been an abundance of excellent boat tours starting right here in the Propriano harbor, but Murphy’s Law was well at work on that fickle Friday. We went from tour booth to tour booth cap in hand hoping to find just one tour with availability, willing even to pay an arm and a leg but it was not to be. Painfully, we discovered that all tours were sold out. Our backup of the backup had also failed and inconceivably, we were left stranded in the port that we were sure was going to be a highlight of our trip.

Still there was just a little bit of hope to salvage the day.  We had heard earlier that there was a nice beach within walking distance, where Anna could at least work on her tan and I could probably get my swim on, so we threw in the towel and made our way to the sun, sea and the sand. Surprisingly the beach itself was great and we had a relaxing time but in all honesty our spirits had already been dampened by the earlier events.

To say that we were not disappointed with our Corsica experience would be untrue, but it was no fault of Corsica itself. We were the primary culprits. We allowed our differences to take control of us instead of us controlling them.

As our cruise pulled out of Propriano later that evening, we both hoped to return to Corsica at some point in the future, together, and this time on the same page, to make up for the folly of our ways. For now, however, we made a vow to hold dearly to the lessons learnt from this experience, to help offset the sadness of a lost opportunity that we left behind in the fading trail of our ship on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

5. 5. Naples/Capri, Italy

Altitude: -1861 ft
Address: Tyrrhenian Sea

Naples/Capri, Italy

Points of Interest:   Capri, Annacapri

Arrival:   Aug 11, 2019 at 08:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 11, 2019 at 06:00 PM

Last year for my birthday Anna and I went all the way to the North Pole to chill and enjoy a great time. This year we decide to spend the day, cruising in the Mediterranean, headed towards Naples and the beautiful island of Capri. 

We arrived in Naples at about 8 am in the morning, still considering two main options regarding what we would do here.  The first was to stay in the city and enjoy the day or head for the island of Capri.  A quick family vote and it was over. Obviously, Capri won. 

We took a hydrofoil speedboat to the towering island as part of a ship tour, and forty-five minutes later we landed on one of the most touted islands in the entire Mediterranean. In an instance we could see, Capri was majestic with striking natural beauty.

We boarded a bus at the harbor and immediately headed to Annacapri, one of the main towns located high up on in the mountains.  As the bus climbed the hills to get there, the natural beauty of island’s terrain came into greater view, with sprawling precipices seemingly diving helplessly into the blue waters of the sea. At Annacapri we were already very high, but we could not resist the urge to go even higher, so we mounted a funicular that propelled us all the way up to one of the highest points on the island. On the way up the funicular felt like a flying chair.  It was the first time that I had sat in one. It lifted us several hundred meters further up the mountain to a peak from which we could now see most of the spectacular island. From that vantage point it felt like we were sitting on a throne in the sky.

It is no secret that Capri is insanely beautiful.  There have been tales of suicides of surrender to its magnificence by helpless onlookers overwhelmed in disbelief. While we had no intentions of falling prey to this, we were stupefied by its splendor and the way that nature had molded its contours through the passage of time.

On the way down the mountain we visited the town of Capri and its ritzy appeal was clearly evident, helping us to better understand why the wealthy of the world converge on this tiny island time and again. Then it was all over, and we were back in the hydrofoil. 

As Capri faded in the distance we were pleased with our choice. An incredible Italian island that was worth every minute of the precious hours we spent.

In Naples we walked around the city, but it was an extremely hot day and not the best weather for extensive sightseeing. Also, we wanted very badly to preserve the joy that we had derived from our visit to the island of Capri, so we quickly headed back to the ship and called it a day.

6. 6. Elba, Portoferraio, Province of Livorno, Italy

Altitude: -519 ft
Address: Viale delle Ghiaie, 1, 57037 Portoferraio LI, Italy

Portoferraio, Elba, Italy

Point of Interest:   Elba

Arrival:   Aug 12, 2019 at 09:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 12, 2019 at 06:00 PM

If this was the place that Napoleon was exiled to, my initial thought was I’d rather be exiled than be the ruler of France. But Napoleon did not feel the same way so in 1815 he returned to Paris and retook power.

Elba is a beautiful little island tucked away in the Mediterranean just off the coast of Italy.  We landed in the town of Portoferraio, quaint and quiet, with not that much to do, but very warm and charming. It was exactly what we had expected.

We quickly mounted “El Trenino” a sleepy little tourist “train” for a pleasant ride around the town.  The ride felt more like something you would do at the Magic Kingdom in Disney rather than a real tour of a city, but it was reasonably priced and took us all around.  When it was over, we had seen the town’s key landmarks including the Napoleonic Villa dei Mulini, the place where Napoleon once lived while in exile.

Next on the agenda was a walk around the town in the sweltering heat. We mustered up enough energy to stroll about before arriving at the Gravel Beach known in the Italian world as Spiaggia Ghiaie.

Since Elba was roasting from the heat of the sun, the beach was a place of refuge for thousands, so it was insanely crowded. From the area above the beach you could see a sea of umbrellas.  We felt like it was pointless to even attempt to get a space on the shore. Instead, we chose to walk on a paved road adjacent to the beach and stumbled into a restaurant where we eat a sumptuous meal.  Then, a few pounds heavier,  we lazily dragged ourselves back to the ship.

We did not go onto the shore itself, neither did we bath in the water, but Elba was a relaxing and very pleasant stop. The island does not wipe you off your feet, but it feels oh so comfortable. A pretty place to escape to for rest, relaxation, good food and at this time of the year, sun, sand and sea, if you could only find a space on the beach.

Maybe Napoleon didn’t yearn for the little islands as much as they yearned for him.  He was born in Corsica but ruled in France.  He was exiled to Elba but returned to France as emperor. Finally, he was sent to St Helena where he died in exile.

If I were the Emperor however, I would have much preferred to be banished here than to rule with a iron sword. I guess it’s one of the reason why I am cruising and writing rather than trying to conquer the world.

7. 7. Savona, Italy

Altitude: -575 ft
Address: Corso Vittorio Veneto, 29, 17100 Savona SV, Italy

Savona, Italy

Point of Interest:   Savona

Arrival:   Aug 13, 2019 at 08:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 13, 2019 at 06:00 PM

Savona, though a pretty place in its own right, felt more like a transit port.  You were there to get to another location and while waiting you could enjoy the view. There is the city of Genoa to the east from which Columbus made some of his historic voyages and there is Monaco to the west, but they are about one and two hours away respectively, and we had already been to both. 

As Costa ships sailing the Mediterranean do at Savona, ours pulled into the port to offload and onload passengers. During this time, we chose to walk around the city lackadaisically. It was pleasant and relaxing.  Later in the day, back on the ship, we headed to the thermal spa, which provided another view of the port as we rested lifelessly on the hot stones. 

Then at 5:00 pm promptly, the ship horn sounded its horn, and we said goodbye to the last of the Italian ports on our cruise.

8. 8. Toulon/La Seyne-sur-Mer, France

Altitude: 17 ft
Address: Unnamed Road, 83000 Toulon, France

Toulon/La Seyne-sur-Mer, France

Point of Interest:   Les Sablettes Beach

Arrival:   Aug 14, 2019 at 09:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 14, 2019 at 06:00 PM

To say that France is about good food is an understatement to my mind.  The French are truly about great food even in the most unexpected of places in France, like a trip to Les Sablettes Beach in the south of the country. 

Our ship was diverted from the city of Toulon to La Seyne-sur-Mer because of bad weather or more specifically strong winds, but we were not to be disappointed. La Seyne-sur-Mer, though not heralded as much as the French Riviera, was from what we had heard, arguably just as beautiful, so we felt like we were in for a treat. 

On hearing of the change of port, our research antennas rose, and we quickly learnt of Les Sablettes Beach, also known as Playa de Sablettes, in La Seyne-sur-Mer, just a stone’s throw away from the port  where our ship was now planning to dock.

Les Sablettes Beach was of good length with soft sand and enticing water with small waves.  Unfortunately, the temperatures dipped on the day that we arrived, so the water felt just a tad too cold for my tropical taste. As a result, I decided that the shore was the better place to be. Still it was extremely enjoyable. The atmosphere was exactly what we needed, and the sun was pleasant through it all. Seeing the French walking around in their relaxed state and watching the kids filling their buckets with shovels of sand sent me back to the days of my childhood on the Caribbean shores where I grew up.

Then it was time for lunch, and we found a perfectly located French restaurant on the sidewalk just above and overlooking the beach.  Oh, how I love the sidewalk restaurants of France.  Three courses later and I was licking my lips to savor the remnants of taste that was left from my participation in another sumptuous French meal. This was easily the finest meal that we had enjoyed on the cruise and it was served in the comfort of a seaside setting that felt elegant yet unpretentious.

When it was done, I was already remembering why I had always wanted to return to the south of France after my first visit some 4 years ago. I once again vowed to come back.

9. 9. Tarragona Spain

Altitude: 3 ft
Address: Passeig Marítim Rafael Casanova, 33, 43007 Tarragona, Spain

Tarragona, Spain

Point of Interest:   Miracle Beach

Arrival:   Aug 15, 2019 at 09:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 15, 2019 at 06:00 PM

Floating between the unblemished city of Barcelona to the north and the buzzing metropolis of Valencia to the south is Tarragona, a small urban treasure on the banks of the Costa Dorada. The seaside city boasts several nearby beaches, but there was one in particular, Miracle Beach, that seemed to be perfectly placed in the heart of the neighborhood, offering urban sun tanners and sea bathers an incredibly convenient spot for a day well spent on the shore.

As our cruise rolled into town, we caught a cab to Miracle Beach or Platja del Milagro as the locals call it in Catalan. Interestingly, the driver seemed to take objection to my Spanish pronunciation of the name of the beach and immediately corrected me with the Catalan. With the divisive issue of secession now a firestorm in the region I sheepishly chose to stay out of this debate and quickly agreed with whatever he said.

On examining a Google map when doing pre-cruise planning for this port, Miracle Beach seemed easy to get to by foot. Afterall, it stood just at the edge of the port, with a fully paved walkway all the way to its doorsteps. However, on further examination, the walk seemed to be about 10 miles long and I felt like it could easily turn into a nightmare on a really hot day. 

Fortunately for us, we chose to go by taxi, and as we were driving we noticed scores of cruisers who chose to walk, attempting fruitlessly to stop taxis that were plying the route. It was clear that they had become exhausted from walking in the heat as the scorching sun bore down mercilessly on their bodies. Unfortunately, the drivers were also merciless with their cars and did not stop.  When I asked our driver why no one was stopping, he explained that the law in Tarragona prohibited taxis from stopping on this stretch and pointed to the cameras taking photos to issue tickets, so no taxi driver would dare stop. Men, women and children left to struggle all the way to the beach or to turn and head back to the ship, which for those who had already walked half the way would be an even longer walk. It felt cruel but there was little that anyone could do about it.

At the beach the water was crystal clear once again. The Spanish are experts at keeping their beaches clean, the way that it should be all over the world. My understanding is that they do constant testing to ensure that it is all properly maintained.

We swam freely in the spacious Miracle Beach for several hours and used our goggles to admire some of the small fish that dropped by beneath us under the crystal clear water. Though they were few and far between, we enjoyed looking at and even playing with them. It was unique for us to find such fish on a beach like this, so close to the shore, without any rocks or reefs.

Although the sea was generally calm, there were some lazy swells in the water and we happily rode them as we frolicked around. It was amazing also to observe the undisturbed clarity of the water ballooning in the midst of the swells. By the time it was over we had thoroughly enjoyed another incredible beach day and the familiar feeling of contentment was once again with us both in body and mind.

Of all the truly urban beaches that I have seen around the world, Miracle Beach stands out as one of the best, an oasis of escape in the backyard of the residents of Tarragona and at the doorstep of the port where our cruise docked.

10. 10. Ibiza, Spain

Altitude: -169 ft
Address: Carreró de l'Estrella, 3, 07800 Eivissa, Illes Balears, Spain

Ibiza/Formentera, Spain - August 16, 2019

Point of Interest:       Ibiza, Formentera

Arrival: 08:00 AM – Departure: 11:59 PM

 

Having been to Ibiza on two previous occasions, we decided that this was a great time to visit Formentera, the only one of the four major Balearic Islands that we were yet to visit, described by many as the Caribbean island of Europe. 

Being somewhat of a beach bum from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and having roamed all over the Caribbean to dozens of islands, I thought to myself, "who in the world would be better placed to make this judgement than me?" I was a bit doubtful, however, that I could ever be persuaded given my bias, but I tried to remain as openminded as I could and set about to find out if there was any truth to this perception.

We quickly darted off the ship the minute it arrived in Ibiza and boarded a bus to the City Centre where we hopped onto a ferry headed to Formentera, Ibiza’s little sister to the north. 

As our ferry approached Formentera, we noticed the water taking on a turquoise blue color, and I immediately thought this was a promising sign, but it would take much more than the color of water to convince the Caribbean boy. 

About a half hour later our taxi turned into what seemed like a dirt road and that in itself reminded me of home when I was a little boy, but I still remained unconvinced as we drove toward Ses Illetes Beach. 

Then the driver pulled up and said that this was as far as he would go.  We jumped out and started walking along the track, joining a slew of dirt bikes also on their way to the beach. Then we made a turn onto a wooden platform which took us to an overpriced restaurant in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. Since it was already around lunch time, we checked the menu on display and quickly decided this was way above our means before continuing on our journey.  Then quite dramatically, as we continued walking, Anna looked to her right and exclaimed, 'Oh boy!" Then I looked and behold, an incredibly beautiful image appeared before my very eyes.

At first, I thought it was a mirage.  That the scorching heat of the midday sun, bearing down on the water was playing games with my eyes.  Was I imagining that I was back at Pigeon Point on the island of Tobago or was this a hallucinogenic version of maybe Trunk Bay in St Johns playing on my mind?

Then finally it started sinking in. This was Ses Illetes Beach!  The most beautiful beach I had ever seen in the Mediterranean or for that matter anywhere in this part of the world. I was awestruck. The water was clear at first, then turquoise blue with what seemed like sparkling crystals sprinkled all over its surface.  The sand was white, and as I drew closer, soft and comforting. The place was peaceful and calm.  It looked like home away from home or as near to it as it could possibly be.

“The critics were correct,” I whispered to Anna, not wanting to spoil the moment in time with words that made no contribution to the beauty that was before me. But I needed to say it, so I continued, “This is the most Caribbean like beach that I have ever seen in Europe.” She nodded quietly in agreement.

As we walked along the beach and looked out at the water to my left, it was relatively shallow and crystal clear for a long way out, finally morphing into a unique shade of torquoise blue that I had never seen before in all my travels around the Mediterranean.   Then it faded into a deep blue before disappearing to the naked eye. On the right, the shore was crowded with bodies quietly bathing in the sun, but there was still enough space for another and another sun bather as the beach stretched for miles ahead. We walked along the water with our toes sinking into the powdery wet sand and our minds savoring this chance of a lifetime.

Finally, we settled down about a mile or two along the shoreline. We sat on the sand and looked out at the serenity.  The water slept peacefully for a long way out before a string of parked boats danced in the distance to the beat of the calming winds.

Then we were ready for another key Caribbean test - the water itself. We strolled into the clarity, progressed to turquoise and then to the blue before plugging ourselves into the deep. It was magical. Our bodies were instantly refreshed as we bathed in the euphoria of an aquatic paradise.  An hour later we were still there, hugging each other like long lost lovers, swimming around like two teenagers, frolicking worry-free like kids in the Caribbean Sea. It felt like a miracle to have this level of tropical luxury in the middle of Mediterranean, and we relished every moment of it.

As time went by however we realized that there could be difficulty getting transportation out of Ses Illetes when thousands of beachgoers started to make their way back to their nests, so we packed our belongings and headed to a taxi, then to the ferry for the 30-minute ride back to Ibiza. It took great willpower to leave this beach behind, but we needed to be strong.

Formentera's Ses Illetes has much of the ingredients of an incredible Caribbean beach. Its water is refreshing, the sand is soft, like powder under your feet and when you are there you feel lost in the freedom that it brings. The beach is incredibly beautiful, completely outclassing every other that I have seen in Europe, and coming ominously closer than I could ever imagine to some of the best that I have seen in the Caribbean. But the prime Caribbean beaches offer a complete experience, with a vibe I beleive that goes even beyond all that I have described.  Still, this was as close as I could get to it away from home, and I lived and loved every moment both in the water and on the shore.  For those who would never make it to the Caribbean, I dare say that this is the best option that I have ever seen in this part of the world.

11. 11. Palma de Mallorca (Dep)

Altitude: -160 ft
Address: Spain

Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Point of Interest:   Palma De Mallorca Airport (PMI)

Arrival:   Aug 17, 2019 at 08:00 AM

Departure:   Aug 17, 2019 at 04:00 PM

No cruise is without its disappointments, some little incidents, some completely unacceptable, and this cruise was no exception. Strangely enough, the most unacceptable one on this occasion came at the very end. 

The cruise was over, and we were online to check in for our flight to Berlin, Germany at Palma De Mallorca Airport in Mallorca.

When our turn came, I gave my Trinidad and Tobago passport to the attendant and she asked me if I had a Schengen Visa to go to Germany. I explained to her that nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are exempt from Schengen Visa requirements to travel any part of the Schengen region, but she said that this was not so, and she insisted that I would not be able to travel to Germany if I did not have a Schengen Visa in my passport. 

I respectfully argued my case with her, but she refused to budge and was not even willing to check the rules. She then brought the matter to one of her colleagues who was in the “cubicle” next to her attending to another customer.  Her colleague seemingly very aggressively turned to me and said in a nutshell that I could say whatever I wanted but EasyJet’s policy was that I needed to have a Schengen Visa to travel to Germany if I was not European. This sickened me to the stomach because not only was it a false statement, but the customers who were standing nearby were all hearing the conversations and the EasyJet staff was shouting this at me from his cubicle in what sounded like a very cold and  condescending tone, seemingly giving everyone around including the customers who could hear the impression that I was trying to board the plane illegally.  In fact, some German speaking passengers at the other attendant’s counter decided that they would join in the conversation and started telling my wife who is also German, what amounted to “shut up and leave” in German because they claimed that the EasyJet staff had stated their policy clearly and had said that we did not know what we were talking about. By this time the situation had become extremely tense and very embarrassing for both my wife and I.   

I then asked to speak with the supervisor, who came over and repeated exactly what her staff had said.  She also insisted that this was EasyJet’s policy, and that if I a passport from a European country or from the United States of America, I needed a Schengen Visa to go to Germany. Again I explained to her that EasyJet could not make and or override the immigration rules of a country or a region, and that to not allow me to board a plane on the basis that I did not have a Schengen Visa in my passport although nationals of my country are exempt from Schengen Visa requirements was absurd and tantamount to discrimination.  She insisted that what I said about discrimination did not matter because they were simply just not going to allow me to board the aircraft without a visa.

As a black man from the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago travelling through Europe, I have at times faced issues of this nature, but always when I pointed it out, the staff would check and correct their mistakes. This is obviously frustrating, but I have grown to live with it.  On the other hand, this was the first time that I was being spoken to publicly in a very condescending manner by airline personnel.  I was completely shocked, and though I asked them to double check their rules, they refused and said openly for all to hear that I was wrong while dismissing me and saying that they would not allow me to board the aircraft.  

Fortunately, I did also have a temporary German residency in my old passport, so after they denied me the ability to board the aircraft and given the fact that I needed to get back to Germany on Saturday evening, I showed them my old passport with the temporary German residency in it.   Then and only then did they agreed to allow me to board the aircraft. But they continued to pile on by insisting that If I did not have this resident visa in my old passport, they would not have allowed me to board.

All of this happened publicly in front of all the other passengers who were waiting in line, many of whom may have thought from the way that the EasyJet staff was speaking to me that I was someone trying to enter Germany illegally. Despite the embarrassment I refusing to give in to their attempts to humiliate me, and I then again asked if there was someone else at EasyJet to whom I could complain about this matter.  The then directed me to customer service.

At their customer service area, I met with the supervisor who was very professional and courteous.   She happened also to be responsible for immigration matters on behalf of EasyJet at the airport.  Upon review she immediately confirmed that the check in counter was wrong and that they should not have attempted to prevent me from boarding the aircraft. She confirmed that as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago I did not need a Schengen Visa to fly to Germany or any Schengen region for that matter. She then gave me a document confirming this and stated that if I encountered any further problem in attempting to board the aircraft, she should be called to confirm that I should be allowed to board. I told her that I wanted to make a formal complaint to EasyJet, and she advised me regarding how this could be best done.

I then went back to the counter to inform the EasyJet staff of the customer service supervisor ruling as well as to get the names of the staff members that had treated me so disrespectfully and refused to allow me to board the aircraft even though I had a proper ticket and all my documentation was fully in order, but they now implied that the supervisor with immigration responsibility was also wrong and that EasyJet’s policy was that if you were not European or American you needed to have a visa to enter Germany.  I then informed them that I would be filing an official complaint to EasyJet about this matter and needed their names to make my report.  Two of the staff members gave me their names – the supervisor and the second attendant.  The first attendant however refused to give me her name.  When I asked the supervisor if this was allowed, she said that it was the attendant’s right to refuse and that she was not prepared to do anything about it.

Neither the supervisor nor any of the other staff member at the counter offered any type of apology or showed any remorse for their actions.

After finally boarding the plane successfully I remained very shaken and traumatized by this incident which left a bitter taste in my mouth. As a person of color from the Caribbean travelling the globe, I sometimes face issues of subtle prejudice and discrimination but never has it been as glaring, shocking and disappointing as this one. It is not just sad, but it is sickening that we are sometimes treated this way and it is unfair that EasyJet’s staff would harass and deny a customer his right to board because he was not carrying a European or an American passport and did not have a Schengen Visa despite the exemption for his country’s nationals and despite him completely following the rules, regulations and the law. We are always having to explain and correct as though we are guilty of trying to do something underhand or illegal because we merely showed up. It is time for this to stop!

EasyJet must do a lot better than this.  I have enjoyed flying with this airline the few times I have flown with them before but this behavior by its staff on the ground is simply unacceptable.

I am humbly asking EasyJet to take the initiative to bring these discriminatory practices to an end by issuing an apology to me and by putting measures in place to ensure that its staff are (1) properly aware of the rules and the laws and (2) Able to address an issue when it arises politely and respectfully, as well as by making the necessary checks before drawing unfair conclusions and casting aspersions on a fare paying traveler.

I look forward to EasyJet’s urgent response and will keep my readers posted on this matter.