A Travellerspoint blog

Day 16 - Sea Day

When & Where

semi-overcast 77 °F

Just a quiet day out at sea after an adventurous couple of days.

Today's weather was 77 °F and partly cloudy.

A pretty non-event day on the ocean. One thing I did forget to mention, the first week of the cruise, they were replacing one of the Jacuzzi's by the pool. It pretty much took them all week to remove the old one, replace the new one, and then get the area ready for users.

When we had gotten back to Tampa, they brought in another Jacuzzi, for the 2nd one by the pool, and were working on it all week. Being in the airline business, I know that when a plane is not flying, it's losing money...even though repairs desperately need to be made.

I'm sure some thought it was an inconvenient, however it's better to do the repairs while moving, than to have the entire cruise canceled. I was amazed how quickly they replaced both Jacuzzi's for both weeks.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 22:27 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 15 - Castries, Saint Lucia

When & Where

semi-overcast 82 °F

Another great night, great sleep, and looking forward to an awesome day in Saint Lucia.

Waking up in time to watch the ship pull into port, however we couldn't disembark until our sister ship, Eurodam, came in behind us. Todays weather was 82 °F, and chance of rain. I must have been lucky, as I didn't get any rain at all.

I was super excited for this stop as this was going to be another zip-line excursion, along with a tram ride. Even though I booked the excursion through HAL, they chose Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia, which at initial show, it felt so much more professional, and more safety cautious than my first zip-line tour. I know that if I would have started here first, I probably wouldn't have done the other tour...as good as they were.

Anyway, with Rainforest Adventure, right off the start they were very professional. Safety was their number one priority, and to ensure everyone was going to be ok zip-lining through the forest's tree canopy, they had everyone do a 50yard test run to start.

That pretty much relieved any type of jitters anyone had, and before we knew it, we were paired and put into a secured gondola, climbing 2,000 feet above sea level. As we ascended, our gondola guide introduced herself and started talking about the beautiful, thick Caribbean oceanic forest, talking about different ancient trees, the tenacious vines, and had us looking for the very animated birdlife.

La Sorcière mountain is your where our aerial adventure began. At the top of the station, we disembarked for a 15-20 minute hike on a trail, which winds its way through magnificent mature forest, past some impressive buttress root systems and to our first zip-line platform. Since we all did our first zip-line, we were all ready for our downhill adventure as we experience the thrill of gliding through the tree canopy high above the bustle of the city, in the cool, verdant air of the forest.

Our knowledgeable guide put us through the paces as we zipped from platform to platform on cables suspended between sturdy trunks of giant trees. After the exhilarating flight, we hiked a short distance back to meet the tram for the final descent. Suspended above the forest canopy with ever so commanding views of the island. This was truly an experience I would LOVE to go back and visit again.

The city of Castries was founded in the mid-17th century by the French, Castries eventually became a major coaling station for the Royal Navy. The city has been rebuilt several times after suffering devastation from three substantial fires in 1796, 1813, and 1948.

Today, Castries boasts a booming tourism industry, attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. One can head to Derek Walcott Square and roam the popular area where the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Castries Central Library are located. There's also a military cemetery, Morne Fortune, to learn about the conflicts between the French and the British while enjoying a picturesque view of the landscape and seascape below. Marigot Bay was the setting for the 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie, and has been described by American novelist James A. Michener as "The most beautiful bay in the Caribbean."

The original capital of the island is "Soufriere" and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, dotted with old plantations which are still run by descendants. The island does offer botanical gardens, sulfur baths, waterfalls, and rainforest with hiking trails and many activities in the water.

As we got back on the ship, we watched as the Eurodam leave, then we followed them to the famous "Pitons", which are the twin volcanic peaks rising from the sea, as no trip to St. Lucia is complete without seeing this landmark.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 21:46 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged vacation america holland saint rotterdam lucia carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 14 - St. Johns Antigua

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

I truly did not have any plans to do anything today, but it's always nice to just get off the ship, walk around the area, try to local food, and be on your way.

Our next stop was St. John's, Antigua where the weather was 80 °F, partly cloudy. There were two other ships in port with us, P&O Cruise, Ventura, as well as Silversea - Silver Wind. It's always fun to see other ships in port, whether they're much bigger, or smaller, it's great to see so many people enjoying the luxury of the open water.

Getting off the ship and walking up the pier, it was extremely disheartening to see/hear all the taxi drivers vying for your attention and fare. It's such a put off, that they're almost grabbing people and pulling your attention away from what you want to see/do. I would highly recommend, if you were to visit here, be sure to book a taxi ahead of time, and KNOW where to go to be picked up!

St. John's serves as the country's industrial powerhouse, the city also serves as one of the most developed in the Lesser Antilles. The verdant, undulating island is the largest of the Leeward Islands and is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

Antigua has a long association with Britain, having only gained independence in 1981. One of the island's most picturesque spots is English Harbor, where a fortress was erected, at Shirley Heights, to protect Antigua's commerce.

Within the harbor is Nelson's Dockyard, with a monument dedicated to the British Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was based on the island for three years in the 18th Century. The Dockyard fell in disrepair on being abandoned by the Navy at the end of the 19th Century but was reopened in 1961 after 20 years of restoration work. The waters around the Dockyard and the Harbor are now filled with splendid yachts making their way to and from Antigua. There's a botanical garden with native flora in peaceful surroundings.

The Capital of St. John's was, during the 18th Century, the principal British military stronghold in the are. Today, it's a thriving Caribbean town, where nearly half of all Antiguans live. (or drive taxis)

I was able to find a quaint little restaurant that seemed to be the only place with wifi....it was very hard to log on as everyone was trying to use it. Food was decent, came out quickly, and gave me enough to last me until I got back on the ship.

There was a special show later on in the theater, all the hardworking Filipino crew, who were able to, took center stage to present their traditional music, song, and dance from their homeland. It was a true spectacular show!!

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 21:00 Archived in Antigua and Barbuda Tagged st. vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal johns Comments (0)

Day 13 - St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

I was sure beat from walking the previous day, I was sort of looking forward to sleeping in and not doing much, however, having a window room, I was awoken by the never ending "Welcome to St. Thomas" welcome committee.

I did watch them for a while and wondered if their energy was going to be this exciting the whole morning....sadly, it was. Weather was 80 °F, and Sunny.

Since I visited St. Thomas previously (both in flights and another cruise) I chose just to hang around the port and see what was around. I thought I would check out the tram ride up the side of the mountain, however it was still down from last years hurricanes. There was also a Ship in the opposite port that was still in for workers trying to help rebuild the island.

Christopher Columbus is credited with "discovering" the Virgin Islands in 1493. It remained under the Carib Indian habitation until the Dutch West India Colony settled an outpost in 1657. Its fine natural harbor, named Charlotte Amalie, was a haven for trade and attracted famous pirates such as Blackbeard, whose castle sits at the top of the hill overlooking the harbor. Just like Blackbeard, you can follow the same 99 steps for a spectacular view. St. Thomas abounds natural beauty, and the hilly terrain offers lookout points with spectacular views of the crystal clear water and the neighboring U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The island's sugar plantations lost profitability after the abolishment of slavery causing labor prices to skyrocket. With sugar plantations no longer able to maintain its workforce, the island's economy sank into a sharp decline. Seeing this as an opportunity, the U.S. purchased St. Thomas and two other islands in 1917 for a total of $25 million as part of a defensive strategy during the First World War.

While the island never saw battle, the innovations of war gave the island just what it needed to turn the economy around, large ships and airplanes capable of transporting lots of leisure-seeking people. Today, St. Thomas is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean as the island is capable of, and often does, support influxes of 20 thousand visitors a day.

This may have something to do with the port being a renowned shopping mecca with some of the best jewelry and fine goods available at a steep discount. Even though the tram was closed, it does go atop the islands highest peak, or, you can visit an underwater coral reef observatory where numerous marine protected area are accessible from St. Thomas which make it an ideal place for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. There are plenty of tropical ecosystems where you can observe many kinds of coral, fish, and migratory birds.

Do be careful crossing the streets, always be sure to look both ways as locals drive on the left side of the road.

Yes, by the time I was done looking around town, the 'welcome' committee was still in their getup and at the pier....I just can't imagine them doing this every.single.day.! lol

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 20:28 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged vacation america holland st rotterdam carribean thomas hal Comments (0)

Day 12 - San Juan Puerto Rico

When & Where

semi-overcast 82 °F

We rolled into the San Juan harbor a little later than normal....the port was actually choppy and they had the decks blocked off for a little while until we had gotten past the opening of the San Juan port.

The weather was partly cloudy, and a temperature of 82 °F. As we were pulling in, we past Oasis of the Seas, which was already docked.

I was quite surprised how easy it was to venture around San Juan. Having been here many times before with the airline, I had never been in Old Town area, so I was pretty excited. Some of the tropical forests were still devastated by the hurricanes from the year before, so walking around Old Town was good enough for me.

Originally called "La Ciudad Amurallada", San Juan was founded in 1508 by Ponce de León and is the second oldest city in the Americas. To protect the transportation of gold, silver and jewels, on the route from American to Spain, the Spaniards built a series of forts, still seen today. No visit is complete without the legendary El Morro and La Fortaleza forts, nestled in Old San Juan where the massive walls protected it from the enemy.

Considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies, this area was once a walled city surrounded by multiple forts to protect access to the Spanish Main. As a military foothold the city endured many attacks by the Dutch and British, some of which proved partially successful. In fact, in 1596 the British took over Puerto Rico for 65 days. The population of San Juan continued to grow within the city walls until the late 19th century, when the island of Puerto Rica was ceded to the U.S. at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War.

Despite every effort to the contrary, many of these fortifications remain intact, giving the impression of traveling back in time as you explore its many plazas, churches and gardens. Moreover, Puerto Rico may be part of the U.S., but its music, culture and cuisine are unique fusion of indigenous Taino culture with European and African influences. Modern day San Juan encompasses a vast metropolis complete with several unique neighborhoods, which allows access to Spanish fiestas, African music and architecture reminiscent of Buenos Aires or Seville, all within one city.

Do be careful walking around in Old San Juan as there are still cobblestone streets which have been worn to a blue patina and bright flower boxes that adorn windows. San Juan is also home to the famed Bacardi rum distillery. As you do walk around, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, take a bottled water, sun glasses and maybe an umbrella since you never know when an afternoon shower will open up.

I spent majority of the day at the fort. Here's a little timeline to let you know why San Juan is so important.

  • 1493 - Columbus' 2nd voyage sights Puerto Rico
  • 1508 - Ponce de León starts Spanish colony
  • 1511 - Native Taino Indians revolt
  • 1521 - San Juan city founded
  • 1533 - La Fortaleza, first fortification started
  • 1539 - Castillo San Felipe del Morro Started
  • 1595 - First English attack, Sir Francis Drake
  • 1598 - Second English attack, Sir George Clifford
  • 1608 - Fortin San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo) started
  • 1625 - Dutch attack, Boudwyn Hendrick
  • 1634 - San Juan city wall started Castillo San Cristóbal started
  • 1660 - El Cañuelo re-built
  • 1783 - Castillo San Cristóbal, major construction completed
  • 1790 - Castillo San Felipe del Morro, major construction completed; San Juan city wall completed
  • 1797 - British attack, Sir Ralph Abercromby
  • 1897 - Part of city wall torn down to expand San Juan
  • 1898 - Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico becomes U.S. Territory
  • 1899 - San Juan Military Reservation established
  • 1943 - Name change to Ft. Brooke honors first American governor
  • 1949 - San Juan National Historic Site established
  • 1983 - World Heritage Site designated

(info from the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior, San Juan Historic Site map)

So after a full day of learning some great history and doing tons of walking, finally headed back to the ship, where Oasis of the Seas had departed, and a Viking ship was docked.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 19:43 Archived in USA Tagged vacation san america holland rotterdam juan carribean hal Comments (0)

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