Two couples are doing a 7 day Med cruise out of Barcelona(May,2016) we are from Florida. We have 6 days pre-cruise to explore. Paris , Geneva or all in Barcelona?? Are flights to Barcelona from other cities cheap? Any suggestions would be very helpful.
It all depends on your travel style, do you want to just 'tick the boxes' or do you really want to get to know a destination?
If the later, six days in Barcelona will allow you to barely scratch the surface of a vibrant city full of history and culture, but also entertainment and passion. Besides, Barcelona is just the capital but you have the whole region, Catalonia, to explore; a nation the size of Maryland with beaches, monuments, historical sites, picturesque little towns, great cities, breathtaking scenic views, sacred places, high peaks and mountain ranges, ski resorts, old ruins, diverse and unique flora and fauna, beautiful natural parks, one of the world's best gastronomy and warm people. Get introduced: http://www.catalunya.com/?selectLanguage=3 and check out the latest tourist promo, I love it :) https://youtu.be/xGCAjg5pZGg
You should certainly spend 1-2 days in Barcelona before your trip, both to see sights and to make sure you don't miss your sailing. How much more time you spend there depends on your interests. Besides Barcelona itself, there are easy day trips to Montserrat, Sitges, Girona (a personal favorite), and more. Start reading about Barcelona to see if these places draw you or not. If Barcelona doesn't draw you, you can certainly start your trip in Europe somewhere else and make your way to Barcelona 1-2 days before your sailing.
Geneva gets few positive reviews and is expensive to boot. Luzern and Bern are more highly regarded Swiss cities, but the real glory of Switzerland is the Alps. Paris is great, and there are now fast trains from Paris to Barcelona taking 6 hours.
You can go anywhere you want before your cruise, but things will certainly be simpler (and probably cheaper) if you focus on Spain. There should be cheap flights within the country (if booked far enough in advance), and the train from Madrid to Barcelona is under 3 hours, much faster and easier than a plane. Or, if you don't mind heat (and you are from Florida, so it may be easier on you than on others), you can go to Andalucia for a few days, then take a train or flight to Barcelona before the cruise.
For a list of cities with nonstop flights to Barcelona, start with the airport's Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcelona%E2%80%93El_Prat_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations. Vueling is a budget airline that gets mostly good reviews; note their impressive list of options, literally from A to Z (A Coruna to Zürich) and as far afield as Tel Aviv and Moscow.
To find flight prices, use Skyscanner: http://www.skyscanner.com/. Note that flights within Europe can be cheap booked in advance, but go up sharply closer to travel, and do sell out. The same goes for fast trains - Madrid to Barcelona is cheap if you book in advance and accept non-refundable and non-exchangeable tickets, and expensive at the last minute or if you need full flexibility.
Harold's given you good advice. If you are dying to see Paris, you could spend 3 days there, then take a train or plane to Barcelona. The train is certainly more comfortable. The train stations are close to the city centers, so they are cheaper and easier to get to, then you relax and ride in comfort, roomy seats, a dining car (just snacks and sandwiches usually, but cold and hot drinks, wine and beer), and probably outlets at your seats to charge your electronics. You can pick up food in the city or at the train station and have a picnic meal on the train (also true if you decide to start in Madrid, then the train to Barcelona). But you'll be jetlagged in Paris, not the best way to see it. and 3 days is not much. But it is Paris.
I'm personally not a fan of Geneva. I have been there numerous times and its still doesn't wow me. I would definitely visit Barcelona or Paris instead. Since you have 6 days I would split the two places having 3 in each. It will be easy to fly between the two places. look at www.skyscanner.com for inter Europe flight options It will probably be cheaper than the train and much quicker. I would also suggest Rick's Mediterranean guidebook. It will cover sights for Barcelona and explain how to reach the cruise terminal. I would also get a Paris guidebook. You are going a long way for this trip so I think its wise that you are adding time.
There is plenty to see in Barcelona for a few days. You can also wander up or down the coast if the weather is good. We rented a car, starting in Barcelona, and headed west and north first. We spent an afternoon in Montserrat then stayed the night in Zaragosa. The next day we visited a castle in Olite, then spent a night in Pamplona, before continuing north.
In your time frame, I'd try to visit Montserrat (maybe as a daytrip by bus, check with the TI) but focus more on the beach communities north of Barcelona that are easily reachable by train. If you go off the train line that runs along the coast, plan to use a rental car. Buses will get you anywhere but you can lose a lot of time waiting for the next departure.
Thank you for the replys ! We really do not know where to start or go. Have traveled a lot in the US but our first European trip. We are in our youthful 60's ( the men I should say) . Paris for a couple of days or would that be more work than fun? Straight to Barcelona and explore from there?? It will all be different and fun anywhere.
As said earlier... six days are not really that long taking into account everything you can do in the regions of each one of the cities you mention. You would probably be much better off choosing one and exploring the city and the surroundings. Going to another one for a couple of days only might be very stressful. For Paris, for example, you need much more to see it through.
"It will all be different and fun anywhere. "
Exactly. That's why none of us are giving you direct answers, just guidelines to help you figure out what will be best for you. There is no "one size fits all" or "right and wrong" in travel.
The way I like to phrase it is, "On this trip I will see what I will see and I will miss everything else, and that's fine, because it's all good."
Two of the ways I figure out where I want to go are reading guidebooks and watching videos. For instance, here's Rick's video about Barcelona from 2008: http://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show/barcelona-and-catalunya
and two of his on Paris from 2012: http://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show/paris-regal-and-intimate and http://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show/paris-embracing-life-and-art.
Assuming you have 6 nights, I would spend 4 in Paris and 2 in Barcelona. Longer in Paris because ...
-- you may have to deal with the effects of jet lag
-- you can get more satisfaction out of a shorter time in Barcelona, it is easier to get to know
-- your ship will depart late afternoon or early evening, giving you most of that day in Barcelona