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Barcelona is one of the busiest and most popular cruise ports in the Mediterranean, receiving more than 2.5 million cruise passengers per year. Most passengers use it as an embarkation port but it is widely used as a port stop too. It is served by many of the major cruise lines including Celebrity, MSC, Royal Caribbean, Costa, NCL, Cunard, P&O & Princess to name a few. As we’ve sailed from Barcelona many times, hopefully, we’ll have a few tips for you to help embark your cruise ship stress-free.
Cruise Terminals – There are 9 active cruise terminals at the port of Barcelona, split over 3 locations.
Moll Adossat Quay – Terminals A, B, C, D (an additional terminal, E is under construction) are located at the greatest distance from the city centre. Terminal D is also called Palacruceros and is the furthest away from the city centre, approximately 4.5 kms from La Rambla.
A shuttle bus known as the ‘Blue Port Bus’ runs from the cruise terminals to and from a stop close to the end of La Rambla on the Ronda Litoral near to the ‘Mirador de Colom’, Commonly known as the Columbus Monument at the southern end of La Rambla on the days when ships are in port.
World Trade Centre Quay – 3 terminals are located in the World Trade Centre (WTC) pier called North, and South. The East berth provides an overflow area. From these terminals, it is an easy stroll to La Rambla and Port Vell which has shops, restaurants, cafes, cinema and an aquarium.
Port Vell – has an additional terminal, M which is near to the World Trade Centre Terminal. This ferry terminal is sometimes employed for smaller cruise ships.
Moll de Sant Bertran Wharf – is a ferry terminal with routes to Spain, Morocco, Italy and the Balearic Islands.
Most of the terminals have cafes, and every terminal has a taxi rank.
My ‘Top Ten Tips’ for stress-free embarkation onto your cruise ship are as follows: –
- Travel Disruption – check events happening in Barcelona on the day of your departure (a google search will provide great results) – as a major city, Barcelona hosts many events ranging from marathons, Motor races, sporting events (football or ‘soccer’ is followed with a passion), music concerts etc. All these can have an impact on public transport as roads can be closed, access to the Metro limited and taxis in short supply, so plan accordingly if you have a deadline to get to the port.
- Getting to the port – take note of the exact terminal you are departing from (full details will be detailed in the electronic documents or cruise ‘ticket’ sent to you before sailing) and write it and the address down clearly on a separate piece of paper so you can give it to taxi drivers (although they are very courteous and helpful, please remember English may not be their first language). If staying in a hotel pre-cruise, get the hotel to call a taxi if possible, hailing a taxi from the street from other than an official rank is not always possible.
- Currency – the official currency of Spain is the Euro. Although credit cards are widely accepted, small amounts of cash for buses and taxis are recommended as not all of them accept electronic forms of payment and you won’t be stressed out if your credit card doesn’t work for some unknown reason whilst far away from home.
- Low-cost transfer – use the ‘Blue Port Bus’ for an inexpensive transfer option – around €3 per person from Ronda Litoral to Moll Adossat Quay. However, I would only consider this if you are happy to carry (or wheel) all your bags across an extremely busy road surrounding the ‘Mirador de Colom’ commonly known as the Columbus Monument at the southern end of La Rambla and are staying very close by (see my next tip).
- Safety – having all your bags with you will mark you out as a tourist, so really consider if you want to use public transport such as the Metro or bus to get to the port from your accommodation on the day of embarkation. Carrying bags will slow you down and make you a target for the notorious pickpockets of Barcelona (see ’10 tips for sightseeing safely in Barcelona’). Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive (approximately €15 – €20) from most city centre hotels to the port, this compares favourably to a €3 one-way ‘Blue port’ bus fare, €2.50 metro ride per person (at least €11 for 2 or €16.50 for 3 persons). It is far more comfortable and safer.
- Labelling your bags – most cruise lines now provide the ability to print your baggage tags from the electronic documents (or cruise ticket) provided before sailing. Fill out the tags with your name and if possible adding a contact telephone number. Only attach them securely to your bags on the day of departure and when heading to the port. There are many plastic re-usable covers available quite inexpensively online which can be reused many times. Just check they are the correct size for your cruise line tag.
- Arriving into Barcelona – at least 24 hours prior to departure if practical – stay overnight in one of the numerous hotels, recover from jet lag, enjoy a relaxing evening in one of the many vibrant areas of the city such as Plaça de Catalunya or La Rambla getting acclimatised to the Mediterranean weather. Don’t stress yourself by arriving on the day of embarkation if possible as there are so many factors that could delay your arrival to the ship.
- Carry-on bags – pack a small bag that will fit through a security scanner (similar to those in an airport) with the essentials (medicines, valuables, swimwear, fresh clothes for dinner etc.) needed for your first day on board. Although we have never experienced delays in baggage delivery in Barcelona, don’t tempt fate, especially if you like to dine early.
- Cruise Documentation – make sure you have all your necessary and appropriate documents in your carry-on bags (passport, ID, cruise ticket, online boarding passes etc), not in the bags you’ll leave with the porters! Complete as much documentation in advance of arrival at the port (if not online, then at least completing and signing the paper copies beforehand) and you’ll sail through the check-in process! Also, ensure you have the contact details of the local port agent handy (as detailed in your cruise documentation) in case you have any issues getting to the ship.
- Checking in – although we are all eager to get on board, pay attention to any specific boarding instructions provided by your cruise line. Mega-ships such as the Oasis class from Royal Caribbean actually use 2 terminals for check in, so make sure you head to the correct one indicated as this is where they are prepared to welcome you. If there are suggested check-in times, try and adhere to them if possible (taking into consideration your accommodation check out time if staying pre-cruise).