I am excited to have another amazing guest blogger. Her name is Gaby and this will be her first cruise, coming all the way from the Netherlands! She loves all the boys but loves Brian just "a little bit more" than the rest ;) Since I'm a naive American, Gaby is graciously offered to help provide a local perspective on the cruise and share some insight on what we can expect traveling in Europe.
Hey guys! So, Laura has given me the opportunity to write a guest blog for you, and I’m very excited! I love this blog and it’s been extremely helpful getting ready for my first cruise. I would like to give something in return, so I hope you will enjoy my post.
I am so, so happy that the Boys really do listen to us and are giving us the European cruise so many of us have been asking for. I’ve been wanting to go on a Backstreet Boys cruise for years, but unfortunately I could never afford the pricey cruise as well as the additional travel to the USA (even though I desperately wanted to because I LOVE the USA!).
So… Europe. I can imagine that a lot of this year’s cruisers have never been there before. While most of Europe is considered “Western” and isn’t shockingly different from the States, there are some things you should take into consideration, I believe. Hopefully this post will give you some useful information so that you can spend all of your time and energy on preparing for the most important part: cruising with the Backstreet Boys!
While most people in Northern Europe speak English, this is actually not the case in the Mediterranean. It is my experience that very few people there speak English, and if they do it is usually very limited. I would advise to learn some basic phrases in the languages you need (or carry them with you on paper or your phone). Even if you can’t pronounce it correctly or can’t understand the reply, when people see you are willing to make an effort to speak their language they will be much more inclined to do the same. If you go up to someone and assume they will speak English, you might be in for a surprise.
Also, the majority of the locals in Barcelona speak Catalan. Most of them can also speak Spanish and signs, menus etc. are usually in both Catalan and Spanish.
These days there are more and more American chains in Europe (McDonalds, Burger King, Hard Rock Café, Starbucks etc.), but most of the food is different. Pretty much every country has its own cuisine, and even different regions have different food. In Barcelona you will find a lot of seafood and, of course, “tapas”. The kind of food associated with “haute cuisine” is usually French. Italy has a lot more to offer than just pizza and pasta! Keep in mind though that most menus will not be in English (there are a few exceptions, e.g. Hard Rock Café), so if you are allergic to something it might be a good idea to look up the translation beforehand.
If you’re staying in a big(ger) hotel, it will most likely serve a “continental breakfast”. This usually includes bread, cereals, eggs, pancakes, bacon or sausages, yoghurt and fruit.
Also, meal times are usually quite late in the Mediterranean – lunch around 2 pm and dinner no earlier than 9 pm is not uncommon.
Also, a little warning: if you're used to very clean & safe tap water, it might be a good idea to only drink bottled water in the Mediterranean. The quality of water can be different and I wouldn't want anyone to spend their cruise on the toilet!
Spain, France and Italy all use the Euro (€), but if you’re also traveling to other countries it might be a good idea to check their currency. Most EU (European Union) countries use the Euro, but there are some exceptions (e.g. UK, Sweden, Switzerland). At the moment, €1 is worth about $1,05.
Most hotels and the bigger stores and restaurant will accept credit cards (mostly Visa and Mastercard), but this is not always the case with for instance local stores. It’s a good idea to have at least some cash on you.
This cruise is going to be a little different weather-wise… While the Mediterranean usually has the warmest weather of Europe, it is never a guarantee. In early May, it can be very hot and sunny but also chilly and rainy. It will most likely be chilly once the sun goes down, especially on the boat. Be sure to pack a pair of jeans and a warm sweater!
It is possible that some shops and restaurants are closed in the early afternoon for “siesta”. Exact times vary, but between 12 pm and 2 pm is a good indicator. You will probably not find this in the bigger cities (except maybe some small, local shops).
I hope that was helpful! If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.
Good luck with all preparations and I hope to see you on the boat!