He’s everywhere – in every shop window, on the backs of every family of tourists or parading his skills before 100,000 worshippers at the Cathedral of Sport, the Camp Nou.
Only on the day I visited the Spanish city, he’s not.
The ubiquitous Lionel Messi is back in his native South America on International duty playing for Argentina rather than curling in free-kicks for his adopted Barca.
Barcelona has a vacancy for a sporting hero then…
And I’m thinking if I nail it I might just get my name on the back of the football top that big fluffy bear is wearing.
He’s sitting in a sports car on the shopping area of a cruise ship in port at the foot of La Rambla.
Such are the trappings of fame… and I want some of it.
And I have the chance.
To walk on water on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas’ surf simulator FlowRider.
And I only have the best in the business to get me up to speed, Irish surfing superstar Gearoid McDaid.
We’re lucky to have Gearoid here, his feet rarely touch the ground.
Gearoid is not ling back from a couple of months surfing in Chile, was in Indonesia before that and is on his way to Portugal.
Gearoid is not what I expect though, no man bun, goatee beard, tattoo sleeve… just a regular Sligo boy.
Although he is pals with Kian Egan.
Thankfully there is one Fiftysomething who keeps up appearances with his bandana and windswept beard.
But boy can he surf… Gearoid, that is!
The simulator is on the 15th deck of the €1.4bn Oasis of the Seas cruise ship which is on its way to Majorca, France and then Italy…
With 6,300 passengers. enjoying five pools and numerous bats, restaurants and shows… and a park, ‘Central Park’ (you’ll forget you’re at sea).
But alas without us who’ll have to get off kicking and screaming before sail time, if they can find us hiding away down in the staff quarters.
The idea of the simulator which is 40ft long, is that a rush of water shoots out to build up the swell.
Which you then surf against.
It’s all in the knees, back and arms – and the trick is to sway and not panic.
Too late, the board went that way and the bandana and everything under it the other way.
It’s official. I don’t walk on water (but my family could tell you that). Maybe I’ll have better luck on my knees.
Eureka or ‘goooooal’ as Lionel Messi might shout.
I manage to master those waves in the prayer position on a boogie board with more than a little help from Mauritian teacher Kai.
Suddenly I feel indestructible. And here I was worried that I’d be caught with my shorts down.
And quite literally I almost was at half-mast.
I hadn’t pulled the cord tightly enough before the surfing class and the waves carried me away.
To be avoided – particularly if you’ve booked up for my next challenge, the 82ft Zip Line.
Nobody nine decks below on the Boardwalk wants to have Stars and Stripes boardie trunks land on them, believe me.
When they’re out shopping having an early-afternoon drink or are on their way to lunch.
Thankfully I can’t do much damage in the Spanish restaurant, other than embarrass myself and my party by getting my maracas out (steady!)
Well, once in we weighed into the plates and plates of tapas and a big jug of sangria (when in Spain).
Fuelled with patatas and shrimp al ajillo we swagger off the ship, only taking time to pass by an eight-year-old boy twisting and turning on the other simulator..
And onto the famous La Rambla shopping and market thoroughfare.
Christopher Columbus is still there where I remember him from the last time I visited Barcelona 15 years ago.
And drew back the curtains of my balcony cabin.
He is proudly guarding the city and pointing out to sea.
To be fair, the arm is right, though I’d maybe bend the elbow and those legs are way too straight.
Sorry, Chris, but you’d be no use on a surfboard either.
The deal: Sail the Western Mediterranean for seven nights on Oasis of the Seas from €1049pp based on two sharing, departing Barcelona. Visit Palma, Marseille, Florence/Pisa, Rome (Civitavecchia), Napless and arrive back at Barcelona. www.royalcaribbean.ie. Flights not included.
Where to stay in Barcelona: Hotel Concordia www.hotelconcordiabarcelona.com is a central hub and has a rooftop pool that will tempt you to linger. Pride was on when we visited and the neighbourhood was jumping. €135 per room per night.
Cork to Majorca: 2 May on Marella Discovery – Highlights of the Mediterranean, inside cabin, AI, seven nights from €939pps.
Dublin to Majorca: 19 May, Marella Dream: – Spanish Delights, inside cabin, AI, seven nights, from €979pps.
Shannon to Majorca: 16 May, Marella Discovery – Cosmopolitan Classics, inside cabin, AI, seven nights from €1149pps.
A prince and Princess
And because I’ve seen first hand how hard and how genuinely caring Princess Cruises ate about their guests.
Here picked up from the old Twittersphere a tribute from a First Officer to his captain.
They are few and far between and I’m still looking… a good boss.
Captain Arma was last to leave #DiamondPrincess. He is a hero in our eyes.
You want to know where they’re sailing?…
How about up to €450pp flight discount on select America-based sailings departing in 2020 and 2021. The deal runs from today – April 30, 2020.
The flight discount is available on over 120 voyages, ranging in length from seven – 28 days.
The sailings cover destinations across northern and central America including, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Panama Canal and South America.
Several sailings on the 3,660-guest Sky Princess, feature as part of the offer, as well as the 3,660-guest Enchanted Princess, which will be christened in Southampton at the end of June this year.
Voyages include: · A 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise onboard Royal Princess, departing October 10, 2020. Sailing roundtrip from Los Angeles, ports of call are Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Prices from €1495pp
Which also means two continents – Asia and Africa.
Now having dipped my toe in the Jordan part of the Ref Sea, I’m ready to try Egypt, Israel and Saudi.
Now let’s start with Egypt and our friends TravelDepartment www.traveldepartment.ieand let’s start in its capital, Cairo.
There you will absorb the ancient sites including a full-day guided city tour.
Taking in the Egyptian Museum and a visit to the Khan El Khalili bazaar.
Then head for the Pyramids of Giza and thr Great Sphinx on a half-day guided tour.
Fancy a relaxing river cruise on the 4* HS Radamis II down the Nile?
With a range of excursions along the way taking in the Temple of Horus, the Valleyof Kings, the High Dam and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor.
Finally, you’ll enjoy a three-night stay in Hurghada, the beautiful beach resort toen stretching 40km along Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
Prices start from €1,629pp for 12 nights including return flights, 7 night full-board 4* river cruise, 4* and 5* B&B/half-board hotel accommodation, transfers, and excursions with expert local guides, departing April – November 2020
Continental Europe is the great treasure on our doorstep but it is caught in something of a musical time warp.
Walking the Camino I stopped off at a wayside inn where they were tapping their feet to the Falco (who?) song Rock Me Amadeus.
Which is my circuitous way of flagging up the building of river cruise ship Amadeus Cara for next year.
The new cruise ship boasts 73 spacious luxury cabins (17.5m²) and 12 AMADEUS suites (26.4m²).
Yes, you’ll be rolling down the river but you’ll also have plenty to do including:
– Modern fitness area – Hair and massage salon – Panorama Restaurant – The Panorama Bar which offers space for events and talks and where the AMADEUS musicians perform every evening – Lift between decks
The maiden voyage of AMADEUS Cara will be the 8-day Danube Rhapsody cruise from/to Passau at the end of April 2021.
For the remaining season, the cruise ship will be travelling on the Danube to the Black Sea, as well as between Amsterdam and Basel on the Rhine.
Princess Cruises is increasing by six months the Australia and New Zealand season of the 2,670-guest Sapphire Princess.
The ship will now arrive in Australiaon May 1 and sail Down Under for 12 months.
This adds a total of 47 new cruises from five major Australian cities to the season.
The ship was previously scheduled to sail in Asia from May-October.
Sapphire Princess will arrive into Perth (Fremantle) following a multi-million dollar refurbishment. The full season comprises 171 port calls including:
· A10-nightCoral Coast voyage sailing from Perth (Fremantle), visiting West Australia’s coastal destinations such as Broome, Geraldton and Exmouth. DepartingMay 4, 2020.
· A17-nightNorthern Explorer between Sydney and Perth (Fremantle) visiting destinations such as Geraldton and Cairns. Departing Perth (Fremantle)on June 8, 2020
· Roundtrip voyages to Fiji from Brisbane and Sydney including a12-nightFiji cruise sailing from Sydney visiting Dravuni Island and Lautoka. DepartingJune 25, 2020
· Australia Circumnavigation voyages from Sydney, Adelaide and Perth (Fremantle) including an inaugural 28-night Round Australia cruise out of Adelaide.
Visiting Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island, Port Arthur, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Yorkeys Knob, Alotau, Darwin, Kimberley Coast (Scenic Cruising), Broome, Geraldton, Perth (Fremantle), Margaret River (Busselton) and Adelaide.
Departing from Perth (Fremantle)10 August, 2020
The new cruises are on salefrom Thursday, February 27.
Sapphire Princess will receive MedallionNet WiFifrom June 4, offering guests the fastest Wi-Fi at sea.