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Automotive Traveler Magazine: Vol 3 Iss 3 Page 76

Fly, Drive, and Cruise: Plotting a Spanish Wine Country Road Trip

Joseph Babiasz saves money on a repositioning cruise so he can splurge on a special automotive wine tour.

Looking ahead to repositioning cruises can pay big dividends for travelers who like cruising on land and at sea. Consider the transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean that departs Barcelona on 30 October 2011. Book now, and it will set you back less than $40 a night. With what you save, you could treat yourself to a five-day automotive tour of the wine country southwest of Barcelona.

It was while thumbing through Back Roads Spain, an automotive travel guide published last year by DK Books, that I found my inspiration for this fly-drive-cruise itinerary. Specifically Drive Nine, "Vineyards and Gothic Treasures, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia to Delta de l'Ebre"--a tour that encompasses the cava cellars of the Penedès as well as Gothic monasteries and the fortress of Montblanc.

The route comprises 210 miles through the picturesque hills and valleys that once separated the Christian and Muslim regions of Spain. Today the area is a food and wine lover's mecca.

I suggest flying into Barcelona on 25 October, making the walled medieval city of Montblanc your home base for three nights followed by a night in Tortosa. Then head back to Barcelona on the 29th, boarding the ship the following morning.

Now, the specifics:

Flying in from the States, you will likely arrive in Barcelona mid-day on the 25th. Do the usual tourist thing and rent a late-model car at the airport, then head southwest. Visit First Car Hire Direct to set your pick-up and drop-off dates.

I selected a luxury premium car for myself. When the results were returned, however, I was offered a Renault Megane convertible, not something I would call premium. And while a convertible would certainly be fun, not at $750 for five days.

More reasonably priced alternatives included familiar cars, such as a Ford Fiesta or a Volkswagen Golf for about $160 a week, as well as several