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Europe Cruise Day 8
Monday, September 13th
Cartagena, Spain

If you have been following through these pages in order you probably know where Cartagena is located. If not, here is the map.

DAy 8 Map

As you can see Cartagena is a ways east of Lisbon which means changing back to a previous time zone. Here is the current time here and for the next few ports of call.


Anticipated arrival time is 8:00AM. My Shore excursion planned for here is called Lorca Highlights & Castle-Fortress and is scheduled to leave at 8:30AM and last for 5.5 to 6 hours. Here is Holland America's description of this excursion.

Built above the ruins of an impressive castle-fortress, Lorca is one of the largest cities in Spain. It is known as the Baroque City or the City of A Hundred Coats of Arms. Enter the Middle Ages through the "time-capsule" that is Lorca, to discover a place where the present meets the past. You will walk through the castle-fortress—one of the best preserved in Spain. Note the grand shields, the Baroque doors, bell towers, arches and balconies of forged steel. Also included is a stop at the exhibition area and the living history element of the castle-fortress where you may see people in costume going about chores in their medieval lifestyle. Next, step inside the Embroidery Museum for a look at the exquisite detail involved in this intricate art. End your tour with a stroll through the Old Town and enjoy some free time before returning to the ship.

The ship is scheduled to sail at 3:00PM heading for Barcelona tomorrow.

How it actually happened!!!
(written September, 2011)

The first comment I should make is that the town of Lorca is built below the castle-fortress, not above it, as stated in the excursion description above. The other thing that should be mentioned before things get started for this day is that on May 11, 2011 a major earthquake struck the Lorca area and did some extensive damage to some of what you will see here. I will probably make some mention of this as this description proceeds.

The blog posting for today starts like this....

The Cruise is now one week old and continued with the ships arrival in Cartagena, Spain just after 8:00AM this morning.

The process of going on a shore excursion consists of going to a meeting spot, in this case the ships show room called the Vista Lounge, where the groups for the various excursions are sorted out and then sent to the coaches. Here is a typical view of this.

Vista Lounge 1

The picture below shows where on the ship my cabin was located on the port or left side. First, look for the row of large windows in the centre just below the life boats. Next, look at the right most window in that group. Then look at the small window directly below that large window and you will see the one with the drapes closed. That is my cabin. You might almost think that I might have done this intentionally but I do not think I did. Since it now a year later I cannot remember for sure.

Cabin Location 1

The blog continues....

Today’s shore excursion is called Lorca Highlights and Castle Fortress and left the ship at 8:30AM. Lorca is a town of about 120,000 people about an hour and twenty minutes by motorway at 120 KPH from Cartagena.

Here are some pictures taken from the coach on the way to Lorca.

To Lorca 1 To Lorca 2
To Lorca 3 To Lorca 4
To Lorca 5 To Lorca 6

The blog continues, talking about Lorca.....

It has a very long history back to sometime before Christ. The city was also on a border between two warring sides in a conflict that went on for over 300 years, hence the fortress castle. This is way too complicated to describe here. The castle has a video presentation that is done in a unique way inside one of the castles two guard towers. The castle is on top of one of the higher hills and there is a little road train that takes people back and forth as the roads are far too narrow for a bus.

Here is a very brief history of the castle.

It is of medieval origin built between the 9th and 15th centuries. There are indications that the site has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watch point on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada. Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction.

After the conquest of Granada in 1492 the frontier vanished and the castle lost most of its importance. Due to some other changes the castle was completely abandoned and almost completely ruined by the 18th century. In the 19th century the castle was completely refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. Most of its Medieval look was lost during this refurbishment. It was declared a national historic site in 1931.

The wall of the castle and the Espolón Tower were seriously damaged during the 2011 Lorca earthquake.

The castles dimensions are approximately 640 metres long and 120 metres wide and is one of the largest castles in Spain.

Most of the information in this section came from Wikipedia.

Here are some pictures as our group approached and entered the castle.

Castle 1 View from road to Castle
Part way up the road to the "Fortress of the Sun" as the Lorca tourist info calls it. A view looking down since we were stopped at the red light you can see in the previous picture.
Castle Entrance (2) Castle 3
The entrance to the castle/fortress. A view out of the entrance looking towards the town.
Castle 4 Some of the period dress displayed in the museum.

This is a three picture panorama taken along the walkway to the Espolon tower.

Panorama 1

The next group of pictures were taken in, around, and off of the top of this tower
which is called the Espolon Tower

Castle 5

This tower apparently was extensively damaged by the May 11th, 2011 earthquake mentioned above.

Castle 7 Castle 7
Climbing the tower stairs.
The woman on the left is real, the guy on the right is not.
The stairway was quite narrow.
Castle 8 Castle 9
The ceiling of one of the rooms. The observation deck on the roof.

The Espolon Tower is one of the highest places in Lorca. This gives it one of the best views of Lorca and the surrounding area. Here are several multi image panoramas taken from the top of the tower. These pictures are not very high (or tall if you prefer) because of the fact that each panorama is made up with as many a five pictures, each of which are wider than they are high.

Panorama 2

This one is very similar to the one above and looks at the main part of the town.
It is composed of two pictures.

Panorama 4

This is looking the other way from the one above and has three pictures.

Panorama 3b

To try to give you an entire view here is a five picture panorama showing the entire view from the tower.
The view behind the camera is a mountain and there is not too much to see.
The May 2011 earthquake occurred approximately 2.5 kilometres from here in the mountains just left of centre.
It was only about 1 kilometre deep so there was a lot of damage caused.

Castle 10 Castle 11
This is the Alfonsina Tower with some of the fortress works in front of it. There was a dry moat as well. This is the same guy, still in the same spot, as in the picture above.

Once finished in the tower I had a bit more time to investigate other things but as is almost always the case on one of these excursions there is not enough time to see the entire castle. Here are the remaining pictures of the castle-fortress.

Castle 12 Castle 13
Part of the irrigation system. One of the exits through the wall.
Castle 14 Castle 15
A bit further out of the exit. The fortress with the tourist train that gets you there.
Castle 16 Castle 17
The other end of the fortress with the "engine" of the train. In the train on the way down.

Cactus 1

I do not know what type of plant this is (presumably some type of cactus) but I thought it was interesting.

From the blog entry....

After coming down from the castle there was a brief walking tour of the centre of the old town to show off some of the very old buildings there.

Here are some pictures taken during the walking tour.

City Tour 1 City Tour 2
The Lorca visitors centre. Narrow streets.
City Tour 3 City Tour 4
More narrow streets. A bit further along the same street.
City Tour 5 City Tour 6
A shop in a park. Collegiate Church of St. Patrick, Lorca (Murcia)
City Tour 7 City Tour 10
Part of Lorca City Hall on the left and the church on thr right. You can just see the castle/fortress on the hill behind the buildings.
City Tour 8 City Tour 9
More narrow streets and unusual old buildings. Our group heading towards the Embroidery Museum.

Again from the blog....

The last stop was at an embroidery museum to see some hand done costumes used in the cities well known Holy Week processions called Semana Santa. Part of what is unique about this is that there is a friendly rivalry during this period. Apparently there are two groups, the white and the blue. These groups have some historical significance but I could not get it clear as to exactly what it is. The Holy Week procession is five hours long, often having over 60,000 people in it. The two groups try to out do each others depiction of the Virgin Mary and the other important players in the Holy week theme. The museum we were in showed off some of the blue side’s efforts. It is really quite amazing when you consider it is all hand done. You will not be able to appreciate this until you see the photos of the ones on display there. There were a group of women working on the costumes for next year but we were not permitted to take pictures as we might give away the blue groups plans to the whites. It was all very hush-hush in that area.

Here are some pictures from here.

Emb Museum 1 Emb Museum 2
Emb Museum 3 Emb Museum 4

Emb Museum 5

From here the excursion returned to the ship as indicated in this blog entry.....

The excursion returned to the ship just after 2:00PM which was a good thing because the ship was sailing for Barcelona at 3:00.

Here are some pictures taken as the coach returned to the ship in Cartagena harbour.

Return 1 Return 2
Near Lorca. I think we may have seen this mountain before.
Return 3 Return 4
Nearing Cartagena. Close to Cartagena. You will see more of the large crane later.
Return 5 Return 6
Outskirts of Cartagena. The Westerdam at the pier.

After returning to the ship but before it sailed a took some pictures of the harbour area. Here is one panorama and some others of the harbour.

Harbour Panorama

Harbour 1 Harbour 2
There is a naval base behind the cruise ship. A lighthouse.
Harbour 3 Harbour 4
A fortress on a hill. Not unusual for this part of Spain it seems. The P & O cruise ship Arcadia.

From the blog....

The ship left the dock at 2:50. As I write this the ship is sailing the 250 or so nautical miles up the Spanish coast. There is an interesting twist to sailing to Spain. Apparently there is an 8% beverage tax that has to be paid to the government. Ships using Spanish ports must start charging it 20 minutes before they dock and keep charging it until 20 minutes after they leave. This is certainly unique!

Here are some pictures as the ship departed Cartagena.

Departing 1 Departing 2
The port cannot be too deep. This is sediment being stirred up by the ships azipods pushing the ship away from the dock. The lonely chimney on the hill was from a foundry or similar at the bottom of the hill out of the picture on the left. It is now closed and apparently there were major pollution problems that went away when it did.
Departing 3 Departing 4
The dock where the ship was is far left, that lonely chimney on the hill, and the pilot boat coming to take our harbour pilot off. The end of the breakwater as we passed it.
We were docked at the pier on the far left.
Departing 5 Departing 6
The building on the hill is the new Cartagena hospital and the bright orange ship is Spanish Coast Guard I think. The harbour pilot climbing down the rope ladder
to get on the pilot boat.
Departing 7 Departing 8
The harbour in the distance with that lonely chimney on the hill to the right. Some sort of large construction operation was going on here that needed a very large floating crane to support it.
Departing 9 Departing 10
A closer view of the Saipem 7000 floating crane. A somewhat different angle on the Saipem 7000..

Departing 11

It looks like something is being mined here but I do not know what.

As those of you who have viewed these cruise web sites before you will know that Holland America is known for their towel animals that are often left on ones bed during the turn down while you are out having dinner. Here is one I had not seen before.

Towel Elephant

The final part of the blog entry for this day pretty much sums things up so here it is.....

There is nothing much more to say about today. Tomorrow, Barcelona and the famous Sagrada Familia or Holy Family Cathedral and other buildings by the famous architect Antonio Gaudi. Arrival time: 8:00AM. Excursion departure time: 8:30.

On to tomorrow!!!

Page Created: August 2, 2010
After Trip Update Started: September 24, 2011
After Trip Update Completed: September 27, 2011
Last Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011 8:02 PM

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