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The Sixth Fleet Center does not have a permanent office in Alicante. The good news is-that saves you a trip: they set up shop right aboard ship. In Benidorm, the Center is located on the pier near Fleet Landing, next to Beach Guard. As soon as ships dock, they'll be able to help with everything from where to catch a bus to where to spend a night in town or how to take one of the many tours offered in this part of Spain.

Sixth Fleet ports of call are also located throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Ship visits ensure continued access to essential bases and infrastructure. Engagement capitalizes on naval strengths of mobility and sustainability, using the inherent prestige of U.S. flagged warships. Formative engagement is further enhanced by incorporating the full range of naval assets -- including Seabees, the chaplaincy, the Judge Advocate General corps, and civil affairs units -- during port visits.

Even though Alicante and Benidorm are two very different cities, they are virtually right next to each other on the Costa Blanca (Benidorm is 25 miles north), meaning much of the information for one applies to the other.

Alicante The name sounds Spanish enough, doesn't it? But just to underscore how diverse this country really is-how many "foreign" influences there have been over the years, the name was first Al-Akant, given to the Roman settlement that was invaded by the Arab Moors. Records show the Romans settled this port about 200 years before the birth of Christ. But the Moors were here when the area developed, and you can see their influence today in the swaying palm trees (imported from Africa) and the typical African and Arab dress still worn by descendants of those Moorish settlers.

Today, Alicante is an important port city along the Costa Blanca, and equally important as a tourist destination. Even with the hordes of tourists that descend on the area every summer, Alicante has retained its unique Spanish charm and the city has recently renovated its wide pedestrian walkway along the main drag, the Esplanada de Espaa. If you want to take in the one sight that says the most about the city, don't miss Castillo Santa Barbara, the castle that was in use during the Roman rule 2,200 years ago. All the conquerors that followed used the castle and, when the Spanish kings finally kicked out the Moors in the 13th Century, they expanded it. If the beach is more your style, Playa Postiguet is Alicante's main strip. It gets very crowded in high season, so you may want to take a short boat ride to Tabarca Island (see "Day Topping" at the end of this guide for details on how to get there). Tabarca is also important in Alicante's history. Treasure-hunting pirates were a big problem along the Costa Blanca in the 16th Century, and Tabarca is where some of them used to hang out.

Best way to get around Alicante is on foot or by cab. Taxis are metered here and bartering isn't necessarv. Make sure the driver uses the meter and tip him 10%. For trips to Benidorm, use the UBESA buses at the main station or the FGV train along the beach. Good, inexpensive "Restaurant Row" along Calle San Francisco (see other side) . Best value is the fixed-price menu del dia. Tip the waiter, but no more than 5-10%.

The barrio area of great clubs borders on the seediest part of Alicante and there can be big trouble with drugs, knives and prostitutes. Avoid dark alleys and be wary if approached by young people wishing to "practice English" -- particularly when they offer to lead you to an "interesting place." Often, it's an alley. Always use the Buddy System, and never walk into a place where you can't see inside. They're strip-tease joints that will charge you very high prices for very little pleasure.

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