Our first port stop was in the British territory of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is located right at the entrance of the Mediterranean, close to Spain and Morocco.
Explorer of the Seas had many family activities on the ship, but it lacked family friendly excursions. We booked a tour of Gibraltar that was specifically noted as family friendly and good for young children, but it proved to be a bit of a miss. I guess like anything, it depends on the individual family.
Our first look at Gibraltar as we pulled into port.
Port days are my favorite part of cruises. I love waking up in new cities and having an excursion booked. Here I am, bright and early, ready to go. Let's do this.
All of the excursions started with a gathering in the Palace Theatre. We were checked-in and given a colored sticker to note our excursion group and then we were led off of the ship and on to a bus. Royal Caribbean was very organized with every excursion. The process was super easy.
Our first stop was Bomb House Lane.
Bomb House Lane houses the Gibraltar Museum, a small space dedicated to the history of the country.
I love museums, but this part of our excursion frustrated me. The Gibraltar Museum is small, but had I visited alone, I could have easily spend a couple of hours here. Our tour guide breezed us through the exhibits in about 20-30 minutes. We were given a few fast facts, which I've since forgotten, but we were not given a chance to really explore the exhibits. The result: I looked at a bunch of artifacts, but didn't get the significance. Here are some pictures that we took, that are now virtually meaningless. I'm posting them to give readers an idea of what to expect, if they planning a visit.
A memorable part of the museum was the Moorish baths, an on-going archaeological dig site, that is right in the heart of the museum. I didn't expect to see something like this at the Gibraltar Museum.
Having visited Gibraltar before, Dan gave us plenty of warning about the Barbary Macaques that roam freely at our next stop, the rock. On his last visit, they were extremely aggressive. I'm fairly fearless when it comes to animal encounters, but I heeded the warning. Here is a Barbary Macaque skull that was at the museum. Look at those teeth!
To get to the "Top of the Rock" where the macaques live, we took an arial tram ride.
The views from the top were absolutely stunning. The coolest thing, is that from one spot, we could see two continents ( Europe and Africa) and three countries ( Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco). This was my first glimpse of Africa, very exciting. We could also see our cruise ship in the harbor.
So, those Barbary Macaques ( also know as Barbary Apes)...there was no shortage of warning signage regarding the primates. The warnings were more aggressive than the actual monkeys!
One thing is made very clear, the inmates are running the asylum. This is Barbary Ape territory, so keep those ice cream cones guarded!
Our first macaque sighting was two large adults that scampered on a roof, just feet above Dan, who was taking a scenery picture. This shot was taken seconds after the event, as we were yelling at Dan to "watch out".
Pretty soon, the macaques out-numbered us. Quite honestly, they were not aggressive at all. Dan noticed a big change from his last visit. They seem to be well-fed and cared for by the government of Gibraltar, and they were very calm as they moved among the tourists. Like with any animal, it's smart to maintain a distance and to be respectful. The ones with babies were being protective, but they never lashed out at tourists. I never felt in danger and I loved walking amongst the macaques.
The macaques reminded me of my cat, Nicolette. Every time we have a party, she just saunters around the house, like she doesn't even notice that a bunch of people are standing in her way. The macaques just didn't give a fig either!
Occasionally, a macaque likes to hitch a ride.
The people shouldn't have been so surprised to see a macaque on the road.
Or crossing butterflies.
If you're nervous about the macaques, you might want to skip the ruins of a battlement. The ruins offer many areas for the macaques to hide and although nothing happened to us, this could be a bad spot if a monkey got cornered or felt threatened.
A fun fact about the macaques; they are the only wild group of monkeys on the continent of Europe. They are thought to have come over from Africa, but no one is certain how they ended up in Gibraltar. There is a superstition that as long as the macaques remain in Gibraltar, Gibraltar with remain under British rule. During World War Two, Winston Churchill even had macaques brought over from Africa, to replenish the dwindling population on Gibraltar. Now, they are over-run with macaques and having to relocate them to zoos.