Visited Gibraltar on more Cruises than I can remember (and
for a fortnight in 2010 - see
the photos AND again in 2015 for another fortnight)! It's
a must stop for just about every Cruise to the Med, mainly because of
the duty free BUT it's a terrific place to visit anyway. Firstly the
Tours have to be done, the apes are fascinating and there are plenty
of other places of historic interest (especially if you're British!).
The main street in the Town (less than a mile from the Port - free shuttle
buses are not allowed by the local taxi / coachdriver's Union so a minibus
costing £1 each way is available) is also full of Historical interest,
the Museum and Church are well worth a visit and, if you go far enough
(beyond the shops) you'll reach the Trafalgar Cemetery. Not too many
graves from the Battle of Trafalgar but many Military ones from around
that period. Well worth a visit.
Anyway, always said that we would like to stay at Gibraltar for a proper holiday so, in 2010, we booked for a couple of weeks in September at the Rock Hotel (the most famous and, arguably, the best). The holiday was better than we could have imagined (although we had some issues with the Hotel). Had visions of trips to Spain and North Africa but organised ones were expensive and we could buy 24 hour tickets on the local buses for about 80p so no contest! Several meals in Al Andalus (our favourite restaurant) and one day had lunch with a couple who were there for the day on a cruise. After lunch they wandered off but the man came back. "You are Michael Caine aren't you?". Sorry, I had to put him wise. What was that all about? Did all the touristy things again and had the added bonus of Gibraltar Day being celebrated when we were there. A real outburst of National Pride, they are officially (I think) British but first and foremost Gibraltarian. This Nationalism was cemented by the Spanish closure of the border which created a sort of Siege mentality (not the first time Gibraltar has been under siege). More power to your elbow Gibraltar!
2015 and we're back again for a fortnight. A big birthday and Gibraltar day. Could not book the Rock Hotel for the whole fortnight (fully booked the second week because of Gib Day so booked the Sunborn for the second week). If we hadn't been to Gib before this could have put us off completely! Sadly, after 48 hours in the Rock (where we had stayed in 2010) we wished we were in the Sunborn. After 24 hours in the Sunborn we wished we were back in the Rock!
Let me explain. In 2010, when we stayed in the Rock, we had a pretty good room with a huge balcony. The Hotel was a bit tired but had a certain class. In 2015 we booked a junior suite, more expensive but hey..... To me a suite has a separate seating area. To the Rock it just means a large room, no extra seating, no extra storage space, just a large room. The balcony? Small! Not good. However, the Hotel had been refurbished since we stayed there before. Not good. It had lost it's charm and was now just a "4 star hotel". Nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, after a few hours we noticed that our feet (yes, we walk around bare footed in "Quality Hotels") were absolutely filthy! The floor of the room was faux wood and was covered with dirt. We told reception but, to be honest, nothing much changed. Then there are those little things that annoy, no flannels in the room after it was serviced. No towels in the room after it was serviced! There were other niggles but never mind.... hang on I was just going to move on. One evening, on my birthday, we had a drink in the bar and Edna ordered a rose wine. It was awful! Not cheap (no surprise there), just awful. Let's be thankful that we've only booked one week in the Rock and let's get to the Sunborn.
The Sunborn (5 star). Excellent reception and a smashing room. Small balcony (we had the best room, below suite level), just big enough for a couple of chairs however, no sun after about 9 am! Not to worry, there was a pool area. Pool area? Tiny (about 12 sun loungers - no chance of getting one of those). Some comfy seats etc. around the pool bar. Not to worry, we'll sit on a comfy chair and have a read. People sitting around chatting, having a drink, reading (us) or sun bathing (those few lucky enough to have grabbed a sun lounger). Music playing away in the background (a bit thumpy but not too bad). Then, someone decided to turn the music up! Why? It was now intrusive (there was intrusive music at breakfast but we could have accepted that). Went to the other end of the "ship" (yes, the Hotel was, allegedly, built like a cruise liner). A small area with another few sun beds (thankyou). We had a lie and a read. Next day we ignored the pool area and went straight to the sun bathing area. Set up for a wedding! Nowhere to sun bathe. OK, we'll go to the pool area. Wedding guests filling it! Nowhere to go! This is not a hotel to spend a relaxing holiday at. It's geared up for weddings and other events (read on). Before we moved from the Rock we saw that there was a "Music" Festival over the weekend (in my day Music Festival meant classical etc. This was what we would have called a Pop Festival). Madness, Kings of Leon, Duran Duran, Paloma Faith, Kaiser Chiefs etc. (these are those that I'd heard of - would like to have seen Madness!)
The Friday we arrived they were obviously rehearsing (it was only a few hundred yards from the Sunborn). Got off the balcony, shut the windows. Saturday and Sunday it went on until God knows what time! On the Sunday night we were woken by people returning (presumably from the Festival) at 00.30 (not too bad), 02.40, 03.45, 04.40 and 05.45. Who are these people? Who are these ignorant people who come back to their hotel rooms on the 5th. deck (where we were) and think that their loud, drunken voices cannot be heard by anyone else? Who are these people who have to have a loud conversation outside their rooms before they go to bed? If I had known I would have knocked on their doors at 07.00! Perhaps it was you, you ignorant ****.
This hotel is NOT a static cruise liner. The space outside is woefully small for the number of guests and inside is nothing like a ship (Edna visited the ballroom. Carpeted! One doesn't dance on a carpeted floor. Typical of the whole "faux" cruise). I have stayed in lots of hotels throughout the World and this is (probably) the only one I can honestly say that, I wouldn't stay here if they paid me! (Try me Hotel Sunborn).
Having said all that, the worst thing on the holiday was.... The Al Andalus restaurant has closed! Disaster! Perhaps I'll give my opinions of the others we visited next time.
Everything was not negative. Gibraltar Day was wonderful, even better than in 2010. The main ceremony had been moved to Casemates Square and, with large screens, we could see and hear the whole show. Couldn't see the balloons go up (from where we were) but saw them sailing away. Another magic day. Will just leave you with one of the residents who doesn't seem over excited.