Well...the honeymoon could be summed up (but it won't) by saying, it surpassed even the highest of expectations. Needless to say expectations were high but, just as the love story is one for the ages, so was the honeymoon. We kept using words like surreal, blessed, incredible, amazing, beautiful etc when we were describing this vacation to our friends and family back home. So for the purpose of this blog post, I will try to keep it more business like and simply review the land portion of our land and sea adventure.
We left on United Airlines from Newark NJ on a Thursday evening and arrived in Barcelona Spain mid-morning on Friday. No issues with the flight at all which is always a great start to any vacation these days. And customs is a breeze in Barcelona. No forms to fill out. You simply get in line at passport control and await your turn to present your passport, get it stamped and be on your way.
Our hotel of choice for our 2 night pre-cruise stay was the Grand Hotel Central Barcelona. The hotel helped us arrange a private driver to meet us at the airport and transport us to the hotel which was only a 20 minute scenic ride.
Tip: We always recommend our clients to opt for the private driver transfer. Not only do you get to your hotel faster and usually in the comfort of a luxury vehicle, but the driver also doubles as your personal tour guide during the trip.
So after our short drive, we were met by the friendly door staff at the hotel who helped gather our abundance of luggage and escort us to the front desk. We were early so our room was not yet ready but we were told the roof top pool and bar were open and we could go up and enjoy the view, a glass of Kava and some tasty snacks and they would send someone to us when our room was cleaned and ready.
So before I get into how beautiful this hotel was, especially their famous roof top pool area, I have to make mention of their entire staff. The front desk, the concierge, the bellman, the restaurant and bar staff all were top notch. They had an awesome combo of friendliness and professionalism. Sometimes luxury hotels can miss the mark in that regard, but not this hotel. We felt so at ease and honestly at home in the hotel and were always greeted with smiles and even by name. And please understand that they do NOT act this way in Spain just to make sure they receive gratuities. For the most part, Spain is a no tipping Country. While tipping is graciously accepted it's not at all expected. So this high praise is given to a hotel staff that was acting only out of pride for their jobs. Great lesson we all could learn here in the U.S., but I digress.
So now back to the hotel itself. I would describe it as subtle luxury. Nothing was gaudy or over the top. Nothing was ornate. Simple lines and muted colors but done in a way that still lended it to being a luxury hotel. The lobby area was similar to a lot of hotels in larger cities. It was smaller in size but not cramped. As you walked in and past the front desk, you came to a larger common area with couches and chairs perfect for gathering your group before heading out to explore.
Downstairs was the hotel's breakfast area for guests only. The breakfast buffet which was included in the stay was excellent. Great selections of meats, cheeses, fruits, fresh-baked pastries etc. You could even order more made-to-order selections off of a menu such as omelets or Eggs Benedict. We were very impressed with their breakfast and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Off of the lobby was the other restaurant option that was open to the public called The City Bar and Restaurant. While we did not have dinner there during our stay, we did enjoy some amazing cocktails and tapas which really became our dinner on our last night. The mixologist was amazing and again so friendly.
This leaves one more area of the hotel that I want to highlight. We left the best space for last which is that roof top bar I had already alluded to. Its one of the best roof top pools we have ever seen. The infinity pool makes it look like you are going to swim right off the edge of the building. The views from atop there are beautiful. Its not a large space but its perfect for the size of the hotel. And again (I know its really repeating things) the staff up there was fast and friendly. You could order a variety of snacks and tapas and some very tasty libations to enjoy while you gaze out over the city of Barcelona. It doesn't get any better than that.
Ok so we have covered the staff and public spaces of the hotel so let's now touch on the room. We were upgraded to their junior suite. Again the decor was consistent with the rest of the hotel. No oversized tables or chairs. There was plenty of room to spread out without having to step around things in the room. Big flat screen TV against the wall and lots of work areas that included both USB and electrical outlets (don't forget your convertor). The bathroom had a huge walk in shower with a rain forest shower head, separate room with large bathtub, bidet and toilet and then a nice size and well lit vanity/sink area between the shower and tub area. Large picture windows allowed for plenty of light along one whole wall. It was just a great space for our two night stay and the bed was soooo comfy!
I think that pretty much covers everything except the location of the hotel. The name of the hotel says it all. It was for sure centrally located. If you stepped out of the hotel's doors and went left, you were a nice short walk down to the pier area of Barcelona. If you went right, you were a nice short walk from two of the famous Gaudi buildings, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. If you simply went across the street you were steps away from Cathedral Barcelona and Placa de Catalunya. Behind the hotel was the Picasso Museum. I think you see what I am getting it. The location could not have been any better and this is why we always try to get our clients near city center when helping them select their hotels. You save money by not needing to take a cab or train anywhere and you for sure save time.
Outside of the hotel, we enjoyed two meals (a lunch and a dinner) and both were great, but I can say with confidence that you will not need any recommendations when it comes to places to eat. The tapas options are abundant and about every place we looked at seemed like it would have been a great option. You will not go hungry in Barcelona. The Iberian ham, the amazing Spanish olives, the Paella, the fresh muscles and clams and the list goes on. The breads and bakery items were fresh and delightful. Simply delish!
We would have loved another day or 2 or 3 in Barcelona to explore more of the city, but we felt fortunate that we were able to see so much in really only 1 ½ short days. We saw 3 of the famous Gaudi structures including Sagrada Familia. We explored the huge open market called Mercat de la Boqueria. We enjoyed the sites and sounds of the famous La Rambla area, known for the shopping and eateries. We enjoyed some sunshine down at the marina. We sat and took in some people watching at the Placa de Catalunya. And we did all of this by foot which means we really saw more than we would have had we been forced to take taxis everywhere.
Barcelona was incredible. The hotel was incredible. The people were incredible. And this is why we will not hesitate to recommend this destination to any of our clientele and we now have a great choice for any client using Barcelona as their pre or post cruise stop.
So that concludes part 1 of this review. Stay tuned and make sure you are subscribed to this blog because part 2 will be coming soon. Part 2 is going to cover the 7 nights we sailed aboard Royal Caribbean's beautiful and brand new Symphony of the Seas as well as cover the various ports of call.
Please leave your comments and questions and we will be sure to reply as quick as we can.