5/19/2010

The Various Ports of Call

We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico at about 2 p.m. Offloading was reasonable - though this was in part due to our decision to wait a bit for the mad rush to subside rather than try to be the first one off the boat. We were docked basically at the entrance to Old Town, so we hopped over to the tourist info area, got a map, and did an uphill both ways tour of Old Town on our way out to the Fort. The Fort itself was very cool - lots of nooks and crannies to explore. I asked Tim if he remembered the Menudo video that was shot there that they played during Saturday morning cartoons in the early 80s. He didn't. I was only marginally embarrassed that I did. When dad went to pay the admission to the fort ($3 each) he just verified that that was in US Dollars. We were all certain that it was, but they'd said something on the ship that made it seem worthwhile to question. And the park ranger said in his thick Spanish accent, "Yes, US Dollars. Welcome to the United States of America. We even have pamphlets in English." We decided not to argue the whole territory vs. actually part of the States thing and just gave him our money. I'm pretty sure everyone involved was playing around - if nothing else it all felt lighthearted.

It was a short day in port (2 - 8 pm) so we went back to the ship before dinner after our walk. (Did I mention that it's hilly? And that it was HOT - I think right around 90?)

That night we sailed to St. Thomas and arrived around 8 a.m. This time only Tim, the kiddo and I got off the ship. We waited til after breakfast and then hit up the visitor center just off the pier. The  things I wanted to see (historic mostly, or just of interest -- vs. shopping) were all in downtown Charlotte Amalie. It was "about a mile" and we figured, hey, we can walk a mile. So we did. I had wanted to see Fort Christian, but it was closed for renovations. And it appeared to have been closed for renovations for so long that the sign indicating this was in need of some renovations as well. So we walked by it and then up to the church and the 99 Steps. All the while thinking that we were seriously mistaken if we'd thought San Juan was hilly. It has nothing on Charlotte Amalie. And the humid had come along to visit the hot, making it a bit like Virginia in the middle of August. I thought the islands were supposed to be temperate! Not so much. The walk downtown had been pleasant. But we were tired and sweaty and miserable when it was time to trudge back, making the trek considerably less fun. Even if it was quite pretty. My sister and dad met us by the pier to do a little shopping (that's about all that was available by the pier - shopping). Then we got back on the ship about an hour before sail time.

Overnight we sailed to Samana, Dominican Republic. They don't have a pier there, so the ship anchors and you take tenders - meaning tiny little boats - to shore. The back of Tim's legs had gotten seriously sunburned in St. Thomas and the waves were crazy, making me fear my ability to remain unmolested by seasickness on the tender ride, so we ended up not heading off the ship. I would have liked to see the rain forest and mangrove preserve they tout, but perhaps on another trip. After they build a pier. We spent the day at the pool with the kiddo - who thought that was far superior to rolling around in the stroller all day.

From there we sailed to Labadee, Haiti. This is a finger of the island that's owned in its entirety by Royal Caribbean and set up as a private beach resort. Since we were in a deluxe suite (did I mention all 7 of us were in one suite?) we had access to the "private beach" area and a cabana just for us. This was awesome. It meant that everyone came ashore because there was somewhere shaded and cool (it had a ceiling fan!) to sit for the non-beach folks and we could drop the kiddo there, asleep in his stroller, and go poke about without being too far off. We played in the ocean and the sand with the kiddo for a bit (note to anyone going here: bring water shoes - the sand is lovely, but once you get in the water, it's coral, shells, and rocks and your feet take a beating walking in and out) then Tim and I headed off to do their zipline (longest one over water). This was a ton of fun and the views were incredible. Of course, we both forgot the camera so you'll just have to take our word for it. When we got back we took the kiddo to the water park for tots where he proceeded to enjoy himself more than should be legal until he was so exhausted he was out like a light about six seconds after getting back into his stroller. We strolled the shops but didn't see anything we really needed to take home with us and went back to our cabana. My sister stuck around to watch the kiddo sleep (everyone else headed back for the ship - we were getting to the end of the day) while Tim and I took another 40 minutes or so snorkeling about and looking at the very cool fish and coral. Then it was back to the ship.

That was our last stop - it was two more days at sea and then home to Norfolk. Getting off was a tad easier than getting on, but those two still seem to be the "worst" parts of cruising. As delightful as the experience was, it was and is good to be home. I do suspect that Tim, the kiddo and I will cruise again. I'm fairly certain nobody else that went with will.

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