Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. First was the kick off, then Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Chile, Patagonia, Antarctica, Argentina, Brazil, The Amazon, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and now the next stop in their Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage (next voyage January 2018).
When you think of Casablanca, Morocco, do you conjure up fantasies of the Arabian Nights, magic carpets, belly dancers, camels, and sheiks in the desert?
Well, if those things are here, we didn’t see any of them. It’s surprising to find a modern, cosmopolitan city catering to tourists from all over the world. There are elements of the old, like the remnants of the ancient walled city, but there is also KFC and Mickey D’s. We‘re told Islam, Christianity, and Judaism coexist here quite well.
The top attraction of the city is the Hassan II Mosque, third largest in the world. Built by the father of the current king, it’s a magnificent structure both inside and out. We had a chance to tour inside it on our visit in 2014. One of the groups tours headed to the capital city of Rabat and to Marrakech, while another small group of us took a ship tour to the two Portuguese towns of Alzemmour and El Jadida.
We walked with our guide in the old walled cities in both towns and heard probably more history than we needed to know. She was very knowledgeable if a little dry, but overall, it was a very interesting tour. We were accompanied on our walk by a seedy looking local man who turned out to be part of the “secret” plain clothes police.
Our bus arrived back in town for the final shopping stop and we decided to leave the group there in favor of a walk around the city. One of the common sights here is the large number of men of all ages who sit at the outdoor cafes, drink coffee and smoke. There are no women to be seen!
As our ship pulled into the pier, we saw someone on the dock frantically waving a Gibraltar flag. As we got closer, we recognized our friends Susie and Keith.
Guests really like Gibraltar. No language issues here. Fascinating natural beauty and lots of history if you visit the Siege Tunnels or St Michael’s Cave.
Many take the cable car up to the top and walk the numerous paths down. The Barbary apes that live up there are an attraction but one has to be very careful as they aggressively looking for food or anything shiny you may be carrying.
If you don’t go up, you can go around or across to Europa Point Lighthouse. Or you can walk to the airport runway that separates Gibraltar from Spain and watch the planes that come in right across the road! Our 6-hour stop was not nearly enough time to appreciate this British oasis off the coast of Spain and Africa.
Then it was on to our first stop in mainland Spain, Cartagena.
The pier is downtown, so when you exit the ship, you walk right on to a wonderful promenade with cafes and nice places to just hang out. Heading into the city, there is a major hill that is home to Concepción Castle. Visitors can walk up or take the small elevator to the top and walk across the bridge for phenomenal views.
On the way down, we visited the very well preserved ruins of a Roman amphitheater, which you can see quite clearly from the top.
Winding down we reached the heart of the downtown which is a sophisticated shopping street without traffic. The stores were mostly closed on Sundays, but we saw more than one of our fellow passengers sitting at sidewalk cafes. We wandered further into some residential neighborhoods that were very quiet.
We wandered up another hill to a pretty park at the top with a convenient café for a capucchino and a brief rest. Back at the port area at around 4:00 in the afternoon, the cafes were jumping with both locals and tourists enjoying the beautiful weather.
Learn about next Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage >>
Cruise consultant Diane Ritchey can help answer your questions about cruising Antarctica or a Grand Voyage!