We received a "city tour" on the way from the airport to the hotel, but I slept through it. The hotel was under renovations. This was not an escorted tour, so we had no one to describe even where we were within Madrid. Mom grumbled that Sandy's tour would never be like this. Of course, Sandy's tour would also have been a couple thousand dollars more expensive. We explored a little around the hotel, but Mom couldn't walk far. I think we managed a radius of a couple of blocks.
From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We loved Barcelona. Our hotel was only a block from the ancient Roman wall, the prince's palace, and the main cathedral. Our original hotel had plumbing problems so they set us up in the hotel next door. J and I went exploring. B joined us for some of the time. J and I both decided we'd like to come back to Barcelona for longer visits. It was J's first trip to Europe and she was awestruck by the age and architecture around her. I enjoyed knowing I was walking where Christopher Columbus was blessed before he discovered the new world.
Carnival Magic is a big ship (3600 passengers) but it wasn't full (about 3/4). I prefer a smaller ship because I like to feel the waves, but the others all liked it. Magic was clean and reasonably well laid out. It involved a lot of walking to get to anywhere simply because of the size. The shows were good. The food was fabulous and they didn't serve massive portions so we could feel comfortably full rather than overstuffed. There was no midnight buffet, chocolate or otherwise.
We didn't take the same shore excursions, so I can't comment on what the others saw. I visited a village called Eze that is built on top of a mountain and only accessible by donkey track. The shops seemed to be carved out of the mountain itself. Monaco was delightful, but Monte Carlo didn't impress me at all. I'd like to go back to Rome to see more; I focussed on the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica and really should have seen other parts of Rome instead. (I got really angry with the money the Church has tied up that could be used to help the poor.) Rome is where my cold really caught up with me and I couldn't get off the ship in Naples or Messina (Sicily). I spent two full days in bed. In Palma de Mallorca J and I went to the Caves of Drach. The caves were attractive, but pictures were not allowed and we were rushed through to view a tacky "show" consisting of boats on a lake. I would have preferred more time to examine the caves themselves. J and I decided we could easily have skipped Mallorca. My excursion into Provence from Marseille was canceled so I took the bus tour with the rest of them. Marseille is filthy and the people are very unfriendly. It's another place we could have skipped. I had known about Marseille and had booked the Provence tour because of that, but it was not to be.
All in all it was a good trip, but thoroughly exhausting. There was just too much to do every day. There were too many things to see in each port and not enough time to see them. I tried to fit in 12 hour tours every day and ended up missing Pompeii and Etna when I got sick. I look at this as a "sampler" to determine where I'd like to go back for more time. Definitely Rome and Barcelona. I'd like to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Etna as a side trip from Rome too.
We all came back really tired but having had a good time. We didn't get as much time together as we would have liked (my fault for having booked long excursions), but we played cards in airports and train stations.
I haven't uploaded the pictures from my camera yet, so I will likely post again with just pictures and captions. I haven't not yet completely shaken the cold.