The SSQQ 2009
September 27th - October 4th
A 7-day cruise through the Western Mediterranean Triangle aboard
Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas
Visiting Naples, Rome,
Florence, Nice, and Marseilles
THE STORY OF
THE SSQQ 2009 BARCELONA CRUISE
written by Rick Archer
I am going to begin our story with an
event from Florence, our third stop of the
trip. Today I am with a
group of 40 as we enter the Galleria dell'Accademia,
one of Italy's leading art museums.
The first room we enter is cluttered with six
or seven giant unfinished sculptures of men in various poses.
These eight-foot tall statues were created
by Michelangelo. Oddly enough, these are statues of slaves.
I wonder to myself why Michelangelo
would bother sculpting slaves.
Some of the statues are almost finished. I find them interesting to
look at. The illusion is a rock slowly becoming a human. As I stare
at these massive statues, I wonder again why Michelangelo would
spend valuable time carving out slaves. Carving a statue this large is not
idle work. It is a big project. I am also curious to understand why
these works were never completed.
Our guide, Marco, explains that obviously
Michelangelo didn't plan to leave the slaves unfinished. I learn
these sculptures were originally commissioned in 1505 for the
tomb of Pope Julius II. The sculptures fell by the wayside when
Pope Julius died before their completion. Basically, the new
Pope didn't feel like paying Michelangelo to finish a project
that meant nothing to him. And there you have it.
So I am standing here looking at these various sculptures. The
room is extremely crowded with visitors. Movement and visibility
is limited, even for a tall person like me. So I move slowly
through the room one sculpture at a time. The area is very
poorly lit, so I have to get pretty close to inspect each
Then for some reason the crowd suddenly
disappears. They are all running somewhere.
I look up to see where they are going. That is the
moment I spot Michelangelo's "David" towering above
the crowd like a visitor from the Planet Mars. Although David is 40
away in the distance, I am incredulous to see his statue rise 30
feet into the sky!
I had no idea his statue was so big! The
statue of David completely dominates the room.
When I see him, I gasp. David is so lifelike I swear I expect him to
move at any moment. His statue is so beautiful that it literally
takes my breath away. I find myself in total awe. Goose bumps break
out all over my body. I instantly abandon the sad, unappreciated
half-finished slave statues and run to get a closer look at David.
Now that I see it first-hand, I can't believe how perfect the
This trip is the culmination of a year of planning. I have traveled
6,000 miles from my home and spent several thousand dollars in the
process to be here. The plane flight was an ordeal that took an
entire day. I have suffered terribly from every ache and pain in the
book in the process. I am tired, I am cranky, I miss my dogs and my
daughter and I haven't had a peanut butter sandwich in days. As
everyone knows, travel is never easy. There are sacrifices that must
And yet in this exact moment, it is all worth it. I have just seen
the most beautiful sculpture in the world.
All the pictures in the books and on the Internet will never begin
to equal the experience of seeing this incredible work of art
first-hand. This is a masterpiece. I have just witnessed beauty and
And that, my friends, is the reason that people travel.
THIS WAS A 'CAN'T MISS TRIP'
The moment Marla booked
this trip in the Fall of 2008, she and I
were convinced that this trip had it all.
knew people were interested. At our dinner table
2008 Italy-Greece Cruise, the favorite topic of conversation was where we wanted to
go next year
Over the course of our trip, the
consensus was strongly in favor of going to Barcelona
and making the Magic Triangle Trip across the Western
Due to an odd arrangement of dates in
2009, the studio would be closed for seven days near the
end of September. We had never taken a
week off in September before in thirty years, but this
peculiar circumstance made the trip even
more attractive to me since I wouldn't have to scramble to find
substitute teachers. It was a good
thing too because a dozen instructors came on the trip... they would
have had to find substitutes as well. Let's just say the
timing worked out well.
This was the perfect opportunity for the
studio to take this cruise! No student had to miss a class and no teacher had
to find a substitute.
Previously I have been
excited about every Destination Cruise that Marla has
booked - Mardi Gras, Alaska, New England, Hawaii, and last year's
Italy-Greece trip. However I have say that no previous trip promised the kind of
sensational highlights that this one did... the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Vesuvius
and Pompeii, the stunning Isle of Capri, the
otherworldly architecture of
Barcelona, the marvelous museums and ruins
of Rome, the museums of Florence complete
with Renaissance paintings and
Michelangelo's David, the casinos of Monaco,
the fabulous French Riviera, and the
idyllic beauty of
enough, our instincts were confirmed. This year's Barcelona
Trip broke the previous mark for passengers on a "Destination Trip"
with 90... an unbelievable total considering the shaky 2008-2009
economy. Yet at the same time, what other
combine so much history, natural beauty, rich culture and tradition
as this trip across the Western Mediterranean?
The trip promised to be sensational.
And guess what?
completely and totally lived up to the hype. The 2009
Barcelona Cruise did not disappoint for a
It was a wonderful vacation for everyone.
FULL NAMES AND THE
A concern about privacy came up during our
trip. Someone pointed out I was basically telling the whole world
when their vacation would be taking place by listing the full names
of the cruise members. This information in the wrong hands was not
such a good idea. After a round table discussion, the consensus was
that first names would be acceptable from now on.
My attitude is to "do no evil". If people
think listing full names is a problem, then for this story I will
stick to first names and see what people think.
If anyone wishes to comment on this issue, I would be curious to
know your opinion (privacy assured). For example, now that the trip
is over, is there any harm in publishing the full names on the SSQQ
Passenger List? Should I include the
full names in this story? Or should I use the first name and one
initial? Or do you think sticking to first names only is the right
road to take?
Archer's Note: It has been a month since I asked these questions.
I have not received one comment. That tells me this is not a
burning issue. Still, I think from now we will go with first
names until the trip is over. After the trip is over, I will
post last names as well unless someone specifically asks me not to.)
SO HOW WAS THE
After the trip was over, I cannot begin to
tell you how many people would see me at
the studio and immediately ask how the trip went. They could
barely hold back their curiosity. People emailed
me for the same reason. How
was it? What happened?
Unfortunately, I couldn't
possibly do justice to their request. The
story was just too big. So I
would beg their pardon and
promise to write a story just as soon as I
To be honest, I expect to be working on the
story of this trip for the remainder of October
and most of November. Maybe even longer. There are so
many pictures to and and so many tales to
I believe the story of this Barcelona Trip could reach 100 pages if
I had the time and energy. There was such a wealth of experiences on
this trip that I could go on forever. For now, however, let's start
with a gentle overview of the first couple days of the trip and
leave the serious writing for later.
Rick's Note from the future:
When I took this trip four years ago, I predicted I could go on
forever. Well, I was right. I wrote more stories about
this trip than any other. It took me forever, but I enjoyed
every story I wrote. Oh
well, Michelangelo didn't finish everything he started either.
However, I did finally
finish. I published the final story on
Marseilles in March 2013.
That means I wrote 21 different articles on various aspects of this
Included in the material
is a Six Chapter article about the
There is a Four Chapter
article on Rome and the Roman Forum.
One can also read about the trip "on day at a time" by clicking the seven links labeled
Day One, Day Two, etc.
Plus there is a wealth of Pre-Cruise Information on the
2009 Trip in general,
the stunning Isle of Capri,
Florence, and of
course the Fabulous French Riviera.
As I write in 2013, we
have now taken 26 cruise trips. Barcelona 2009 remains my
all-time favorite. I don't expect that status to change any time
BARCELONA DAY ONE