Cling, clang, vrooom, chug-chug-chug-chug blasted the echoing sounds in the cavernous hold, as we entered the gargantuan Grimaldi Eurostar ferry in our motor home, along with endless humongous semi trucks, motorbikes and cars. Wafts of salty sea smells combined with diesel fumes engulfed our senses in the dark as we tried to get our bearings and staggered on, doing our best to follow the instructions of the Italian-shouting workers, clad in their uniforms directing traffic and chaining up trucks.
Back on the move! We were in for another fun adventure that began when we pointed our GPS towards the Barcelona port from our peaceful campsite at the beach. It was a feeling of freedom to zip by the Costa Brava beaches, Catalan vineyards, dart through long tunnels dug out of the mountains and be in our motor home in the exact area where we had walked around near the Columbus statue and port when we first arrived in Barcelona.
That is, until we ran into a little glitch and got temporarily lost in the big city port. With cars, busses and people zooming by in every direction, a child whining the infamous “When-will-we-be-there” refrain and the never ending concern of getting caught in a bad place because of our motor home size, tension pushed on our consciousness. Neither our google map or GPS (or anything else we had researched) told us exactly where to catch our ferry as the address is a little obtuse. We were close though and with the help of someone who worked at the terminal and a little common sense, we found it.
We were extra early and it left late, so we had lots of time to just hang out and people watch in our RV at the front of the line. It was one of many lines for vehicles, but we only saw one other camper. There was a tour bus next to us which was a surprise, along with a French couple with a boat and large dog in another line and a couple touring on bicycles in a yet another line. It runs every day, so I am sure it varies and I hear gets quite crowded in high season.
We had a snack and watched the people with out vehicles board above us on a long covered walk way and waited and waited. The police and inspectors came around and checked various cars and people, but only said “hola” to us after peeking into our RV as he walked by. We had gotten tickets inside the terminal and they put one on the outside under the windshield wiper.
Finally, they gates opened and off we went as one of the first people in line (one of the advantages of arriving early). I must say it was slightly scary and disorienting getting on. I think the worst part was trying to find the stairs after we got out and dodging the big trucks with a young child in tow, schlepping bags.
As we climbed and climbed narrow, metal steps, I was beginning to wonder about this decision, as we have not had much experience with ferries, but as we opened the door it was like entering another world which was quite luxurious and inviting. We have never been on a cruise, but suddenly, we felt like we were on one. A smiling uniform steward, wooden panels, a sea of blue seats with ocean views and a busy waiter preparing food was a welcoming sight.
There was a minor problem with our rooms (because for some reason they changed ours), but soon we settled into a nice one. Mozart was beside herself with joy to have her own bunk bed and little room and we were all happy. It was small but quite cozy and nice with a great view of the ocean. Some of the room areas look like endless mazes, so I was glad ours was near the exit and close to the restaurant.
We had everything we needed including a place to plug in the computer and dvd player and places to recharge the cell phone and camera. Everything was new and very clean. We had four berths but just pulled down one for Mozart and got out the little ladder from the closet which she adored. She joked that the toilet was a “bomb” because it was so loud, but it was so efficient that we wished we had one like it in the camper.
I really enjoyed the shower in the morning and the constant vibration along with a slight rolling sensation of the sea made it feel very womb-like for an excellent nights sleep. We had been warned by our friends that the food was over priced and horrible (typical of most ferries) so we brought things. Still the penna pasta we ended up having for dinner was not bad, although breakfast left a lot to be desired.
I had a Titanic movie romantic moment as we took off in the sunset leaving Barcelona behind, from the upper most deck, with the breeze blowing thru my hair. Actually it was a young couple taking that freedom pose that made me think of it. I snapped my last photos of Spain for a while at it was a bittersweet moment to leave it behind after most of six months in this wonderful country.
Yet, I was also looking forward to Italy where I once lived many years ago, and have not been back sense. I love the sounds of Italian and everybody was speaking it on the boat and most seemed to be Italian. They make the announcements in Italian, Spanish and English. Mozart watched “Lizzie McQuire goes to Rome” so we were serenaded by some Italian music there as well as a combination Italian, Spanish and American soundtrack outside our room.
The prices for this ferry run from 29 euros to over 300 per person, depending on what cabin and choices one makes and takes twenty hours. It carries 1300 passengers, has 796 berths and cruises at 30 knots. We will go thru Italy fast this time and return in the fall for more and now I am excited to compare what the ferry to Greece will be like.
There is even a pool on this cruise ferry but it was not open just yet although it is warm enough. They have massage available, a heliport and several restaurants and bars. There is a kids play area with all those colorful balls and Mozart met and played with a little Spanish boy who was also six for over an hour. He reminded her of an old friend of hers that now lives in Dubai and we kept running into them even as we left. We exchanged addresses and hope to keep in touch via email and the blog.
I happen to finally ask the couple who were traveling on bikes that we saw earlier, if they spoke English as our paths crossed for the third time. They did and in fact, they were Americans from Lake Tahoe California, so we ended up having a long conversation comparing notes on world travel. I am so glad I opened my mouth and asked that question, as it was really fun running into some Californians and they know and love our home town.
They are the first Americans that we have run into while traveling other than the couple who rented a motor home at the same time we did when we started our trip. (Of course excluding the American family who has lived a long time in our village in Spain). We also hope to keep in touch with them exchanging travel stories and information. They have been traveling and backpacking for about a year and half in southeast Asia and South America and had just started this bicycle phase and were coming from Northern Spain and Portugal.
She has been on cruise ships before and lots of ferries and their conclusion was that this Grimaldi ferry must have been a cruise ship that they turned into a ferry as she had never seen one like it. We thought the Tarifa ferry was pretty cool, but this one really was a great find. They slept in an area comparable to business class in a plane and it only cost them forty dollars. We really enjoyed our time on board (Mozart was ready to move in!) and look forward to our return trip in the fall.