We are doing a transatlantic cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Barcelona. We will stop in Seville, Gibraltar, Granada, Alicante and finally in Barcelona where we will stay 3 days. I'm trying to decide if we should skip Madrid and spend more time in Lisbon or spend 2-3 days in both?
You don't make clear whether Lisbon is another cruise port, or if you already have plane tickets to Lisbon or Madrid. I'll note that Lisbon does not have remotely as many flights to the US as does Madrid. You might even have to fly to Madrid to get home from Lisbon if that's the end of your vacation.
Lisbon and Madrid are both attractive destinations. The other cities you have named are not in any way substitutes for either Lisbon or Madrid. (Note that Granada is not a port city itself. There's a bus involved. Probably for Seville too.) I've been to both cities multiple times. It's impossible to say which you might enjoy more, especially because you did not give the month of travel.
Unless you can fly home directly from the last city, I would not go to two more cities for just 2 days. I'd research both and see which I preferred. Note that both Madrid and Lisbon have daytrips available if you decide (probably mistakenly!) that you have exhausted the immediately local attractions. Perhaps Lisbon is a little more work to visit because the local language is harder to read, and there may be fewer speakers of even "tourist" English.
I've been on a few cruises myself, but I'd point out that you will need to shift your gears from having a list of excursions presented to you, to doing your own research and planning.
We will be traveling in April. Our cruise ends in Barcelona and we would fly or take the train to Madrid and or Lisbon.
We can fly fly back from Lisbon but it is more pricy.
I’d keep the focus on Spain, and let Portugal be its own trip some other time.
Plus points for getting to take a train rather than having to fly.
I see from a climate site that the rain prospect for Lisbon may be 25% for April vs. 0% for July. (?) Both cities are nice to walk, but I feel walking is even more important for Lisbon and certainly Sintra. Madrid has a lot of castles, museums and convents (some convents reservation only) that you can duck into. Also the attractions in Madrid are denser (at least for my touring tastes.)
English is widely spoken in Portugal especial in cities like Lisbon. About 1/3 of the people speaks English in Portugal.
I do agree though that Portugal needs its own vacation. It's a beautiful country and you can't get enough of it. Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra, Porto, Algarve, Coimbra, etc.
Madrid! It's easier to take the train than to fly. It's more comfortable and much less hassle. There's what to see in Madrid and Toledo is a short train ride and wonderful to visit.
I would caution you about expectation from the cruise stops. A quick google look-up said cruise ships that "stop in Seville" actually dock in Cadiz which is 75 miles from Sevilla. The fastest way could be train from Cadiz that takes about 1-1/2 hours. Tour buses may take longer because they have to deal with traffic and don't go as fast as the train. OTOH there is plenty to see in Cadiz and split the day and take a 1/2 hour train ride to Jerez for a sherry bodega tour and tasting. Or see a horse show at the Royal Equestrian School (not daily). Granada is also inland. How long to get there depends on the port stop. The one that comes up most on google is Motril and says it's only about 45 minutes by road to Granada. Be sure to book tickets to the Alhambra well in advance, unless you are taking a guided tour that includes the entrance fees.
quinmj how many nights do you have after cruise ends until you fly home? If it is only about 7, I would spend it all in Barcelona and fly out of BCN. If it is about 10, I would spend 5 nights in BCN, take fast train to Madrid, spend 5 nights there and fly out of MAD. A 2 night stay at any major destination is not worth it, IMO.
Madrid, it is closer and just as nice as Lisbon. Also, take day trips to Toledo and Segovia.
Hello from Wisconsin,
Stay in Spain. Sorry to be so blunt. Portugal is great and I loved Lisbon. Unless you have a lot of time spending precious hours in transit ( I have to use that word, as Lisbon is where people went to get transit papers during WWII) is an expensive way to spend you vacation.
Madrid and BCN offer so much. Take advantage of those two cities. With extra time yo can drill down on those places.
Having traveled in Spain, lived in Spain (for 10 months in Valencia) and living in Portugal (currently at 5 months), I may have some things to input.
First the transit issue: If you choose Madrid, take a train (especially with the really cheap Ouigo fares on offer now). If you choose Lisbon, by all means fly (many low cost carriers make this easy and inexpensive from Barcelona).
Madrid can seem more compact as the three major art museums (Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia) are not all that far from each other and you transit through the Puerta del Sol to get to the Royal Palace. It is definitely not as hilly as Lisbon, so walking is easier in that regard. That said, if art museums are not your thing, I am not sure how much it is worth the time. (We have been to Madrid several times over the last several months, mostly because we applied for our Portuguese visas from Spain and have to go to the consulate there.) From your other stops, perhaps you have had enough, "Spain" (don't get me wrong, we love a lot about Spain), in which case Lisbon is worth considering.
Keep in mind that much of Lisbon was newly constructed after a devastating earthquake and tidal wave in 1755 (parts of the Aflame neighborhood and the Sao Jorge castle survived), but Lisbon is fascinating nonetheless. As someone mentioned, a day trip to Sintra and its four castles is easy on public transit, as is the World Heritage Jeronimos Monastery and other sites in nearby Belem. There are some steep hills, but in general you can eat better for less money than in Madrid (partly because Portugal has the lowest wages in the EU) and, as someone mentioned, English is widely spoken. Because the government mandated 8 years of English study in their schools some time ago, if a person is under 40 there is a good chance you will be able to communicate easily. A visit might only serve to whet your appetite for a return to explore more of the country.
In summation, there are pluses/minuses to either destination, but a lot depends on your interests, mobility issues and goals. Message me privately if you have more specific questions.
Thank you all for your replies! Based on the information you provided, we decided to stay in Barcelona 3 days post cruise, then take the fast train to Madrid for 5 days. While in Madrid we hope to do day trips to Toledo and Segovia. And we will fly home from Madrid which is cheaper flying from than Lisbon.
We will do Portugal next trip, with more time to explore.