Aruba, March 7 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

The description:

Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

aruba

Semi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.


Our day:

Aruba, 8:00am–6:00pm

Weather Forecast:  Mostly Sunny High 82 / Low 79

Sunrise 6:52 am / Sunset 6:50 pm

From the Navigator:  Overnight Coral Princess maintained a southeasterly course and this morning we will make our final approach to Aruba.  A local pilot will assist in navigating the vessel to our berth in the capital city of Oranjestad.  This afternoon, with all the passengers onboard, we will let go our lines and maneuver out of the harbor, before altering course to starboard and setting westerly courses toward our next port of call, Cartagena.

When we woke up, we could see that we were approaching port.  I watched the process from the balcony, then we went down to deck 7 (Fiesta) to wait in line for disembarkation.

2014-03-07 07.59.05

Arriving at Aruba

2014-03-07 07.42.12

Of course, I checked in at Foursquare :)

2014-03-07 07.59.14

Container ships on the dock. In the distance, near the crane, is the Hooiberg volcano.

2014-03-07 08.08.35

The Freewinds often hosts local functions in the ports it frequents, such as jazz concerts and movie performances in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These events are usually free but often support island charities through entrance fees or suggested donations.[21] Local artists are often showcased. It also caters to different international conferences and events. The ship’s leisure facilities include a restaurant, lounge, cabaret, swimming pool, movie theater and beauty salon.

2014-03-07 08.04.38

More containers

2014-03-07 08.08.51

Arriving at Aruba

Off the ship, we went through the terminal and met our bus.  Turned out, Rosie and Jim were on the same tour.

We rode in the bus for a while as our tour guide mentioned some Aruba facts and showed us some points of interest.  One of the most interesting and pertinent facts for me was that all restrooms on Aruba cost $.50 to use except the Natural Bridge, which was $1.00.  Yuck!

One of the first things we saw was a roundabout with a McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food.  I also saw a store called Rat Land which I hope means something in Dutch than in English.

rat-land

Their license plates say “One Happy Island” but people are more happy when it rains.  They get very little rain there.  The island is very desert-like with lots of cacti, like we saw in Phoenix, AZ.

Our first stop was the California Light House.  There were some mini-Stonehenge rocks there.  We couldn’t go in.  This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. It was formerly open to the public until a suicide occurred, which prompted authorities to restrict public access to the lighthouse.

2014-03-07 09.20.42

California Lighthouse

2014-03-07 09.19.25

At the California Lighthouse, looking at the sea

In Aruba, they make piles of rocks, similar to those we saw in Iceland.  In Aruba, tourists stack them up and make a wish on each rock they add to the pile.

rockpiles

Back on the bus, we went to DePalma beach.  That was down a path next to the Riu hotel.  All beaches here, like Barbados, are public.  The Riu had a “garden” of big rocks, surrounded by hedges and flowers, complete with a gardner tending these rocks.

Lots of activity there like wind surfing, parasailing, etc.  We walked past the little shops (they had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins!) and got on a flat-topped ferry boat for our semi-submersible.

The semi-submersible didn’t submerge at all.  The only “submersing” it did was when we walked down the stairs to take our seats by the portholes.  In some of the photos below, you can see the bottom of our craft on the top of the water.

Even their own website says that they do not submerge at all:

The Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine is a state-of-the-art semi-submarine developed in Australia for use on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique vessel does not submerge. You step down into the hull of this cruising underwater observatory and sit in air-conditioned comfort just 5 feet below the water’s surface, viewing amazing Aruba sea life through large clear glass windows.

They should call in non-submersible instead.  There must not have been a reef or anything because all we did was circle the shipwreck, the Antilla.

I was a bit upset by all the divers’ bubbles coming from underneath us.  That couldn’t have been safe for them to be diving under a boat, whether it submerged or not.

Whatever.

2014-03-07 09.55.50

Ferry “Stingray”

2014-03-07 10.18.39

Shipwreck of the Antilla. You can see a diver’s fin in the top of this picture.

2014-03-07 10.18.57

Shipwreck of the Antilla. The jellyfish-looking thing in the upper right is air bubbles from a diver.

2014-03-07 10.23.48

Shipwreck of the Antilla.

2014-03-07 10.29.19

Shipwreck of the Antilla.

2014-03-07 10.30.12

Sergeant major fish

2014-03-07 10.39.16

More divers’ air bubbles

2014-03-07 10.30.16

The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

2014-03-07 10.30.18

The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

2014-03-07 10.26.43 2014-03-07 10.27.20 2014-03-07 10.27.21 2014-03-07 10.29.22 2014-03-07 10.29.29 2014-03-07 10.29.32 2014-03-07 10.29.43 2014-03-07 10.30.10 2014-03-07 10.30.27 2014-03-07 10.34.29 2014-03-07 10.34.40 2014-03-07 10.34.45 2014-03-07 10.39.01 2014-03-07 10.39.08 2014-03-07 10.39.34 2014-03-07 10.42.07 2014-03-07 10.42.17

From there, we drove to the Natural Bridge past Arashi Beach.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. The landmark collapsed on September 2, 2005.  We saw the newer Natural “Baby” Arch at the northeast shore of Aruba at the same site.

I thought I had a video of this arch but it might be on my other camera.  If/when I find it, I’ll put it here.  :)

2014-03-07 11.49.48

Natural Bridge area

2014-03-07 11.56.02

New or baby Natural Bridge

Everything where we were seemed so dry, so there was a lot of cactus.  We also saw some brown doves (close relative of the North American Mourning Dove) and egrets (a type of heron).

egret

The guide said that many of the beaches were made of coral.  They have a volcano on Aruba called Hooiberg, a Dutch word meaning Haystack.  It is actually a dormant volcano located close to the center of the island. The island of Aruba was formed as a result of volcanic activity.

Off to the Casibari rock formations.  Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throughout the ages.

Aruba is made of lava quartz diorite and limestone.  There is also granite but it’s protected.

 

2014-03-07 12.27.06

Tom under one of the Casibari rock formations

2014-03-07 12.29.53

Casibari Rock Formations

2014-03-07 12.30.45

Casibari Rock Formations

2014-03-07 12.32.46

Casibari Rock Formations

2014-03-07 11.46.33

Arashi Beach

2014-03-07 12.34.42

A little lizard on the rocks.

2014-03-07 11.46.32 2014-03-07 11.46.43 2014-03-07 11.46.58 2014-03-07 11.46.59 2014-03-07 11.50.13 2014-03-07 11.57.06 2014-03-07 11.57.12 2014-03-07 12.33.05 2014-03-07 12.33.33

We didn’t get to see the gold mill or downtown Oranjestad but we were happy to head back to the ship.  I was surprised and pleased when the crew gave us cold water and cold towels.

2014-03-07 18.00.56

Oranjestad from our ship balcony.

2014-03-07 13.41.47 2014-03-07 17.10.22 2014-03-07 17.10.27 2014-03-07 17.12.43

Back on board, we took a little nap, went to the library saw the singers and dancers do a show called Motor City, another excellent show.

After dinner in the buffet, we went to the Princess Theater to see Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

http://youtu.be/OiTiKOy59o4

Panama Canal Cruise

I know I’ve talked about my good friend, Alice, several places online but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her here.  There were several places she dreamed of going but never got the chance to go.

My DH always wanted to go to the Panama Canal.  In November, I started looking at cruises and finally settled on this one.  It was a very expensive Christmas/anniversary/birthday gift – for many years – for him but I remembered Alice and thought that we have to do this now, while we have the opportunity.

Here’s where we’re going…

Coral_10DayPanCanCaymans13-14_R1_CA

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Tuesday, March 4

4:00 PM

Day 2

At Sea
Wednesday, March 5

Day 3

At Sea
Thursday, March 6

Day 4

Aruba
Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

arubaSemi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.

Day 5

At Sea
Saturday, March 8

Day 6

Cartagena, Colombia
Sunday, March 9

7:00 AM-2:00 PM

One of the more interesting cities on your itinerary steeped in history. This was the transit port for all the wealth Spain derived from South America. The famous “Old City” is comprised of 12 square blocks filled with attractions, boutiques and restaurants.

Throughout Colombia, the Spanish Empire’s influence in the New World is self-evident. Its fortress walls, quaint narrow streets, and balconied houses are all vivid reminders of Spain’s hold on Cartagena and throughout the Caribbean and South America. This is the land of El Dorado and flamboyant adventurers in search of the ever-elusive gold. Cartagena’s well-constructed fortifications defended its borders against seafaring pirates whose attacks lasted for more than 200 years. Today this modern and bustling city, seaport, and commercial center still boasts much of its original colonial architecture. Your journey here will provide you with a significant link to the region’s grand past.

Our tour:

cartegnaScenic Drive of Cartagena & La Popa Monastery

Departing from the pier, you will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide, pass by the traditional district of Manga to admire the beautiful houses of the Republican time on your way to La Popa convent, built during the 17th century and dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, one of the city’s patron saints, enjoy the splendid view over the city and visit the small chapel for a look at the famous wooden statue of the Virgin, marvel at the wonderful gold leaves laminated main altar.

Continue on with your journey to a photo stop at the largest Spanish fort in the New World – Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, originally built in the 17th century, and snap pictures of the ancient towering walls and main entrance.

Take a 30 -minute drive to the walled city and marvel at the plethora of colonial buildings and age-old fortifications around every corner, as well as the old churches domes, the clock tower, symbol of the city and the city ocean views.

Continue your journey to the Navy Museum, established in 1986, restored ruins of the Jesuits school, discover the historic military efforts of Cartagena, enjoy the wealth of historical artifacts, maritime life and naval history of Colombia, enjoy a folkloric show and a refreshing soft drink.

After cooling down, take your transportation again for an overview of the modern residential area of Bocagrande, famous for its wide variety of shops, restaurants and hotels, before returning to the ship.

Day 7

6:00 AM-3:30 PM

The narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean had a colorful and turbulent history long before Ferdinand de Lesseps first dreamed of building a transcontinental canal.

Spanish conquistadors hauled Incan gold through the dense rainforest to ports on the Atlantic. English freebooters sought to ransack those ports and attack the treasure ships that sailed from Portobelo. And 49ers braved mosquitoes and yellow fever to get to the California gold fields. While the Panama Canal remains one of the great American engineering feats of the 20th century, visitors to Panama will discover a whole range of scenic wonders. Hike into the dense rainforest, home to over 1,000 species of animals. Or pay a visit to an Embera Indian village in the heart of Chagres National Park.

Disembarkation in Gatun Lake is restricted to passengers who have booked the following tours only: PC1-100, PC1-110, PC1-115, PC1-120, PC1-170, PC1-175, PC1-235, PC1-350, PC1-385, PC1-605, PC1-610, PC1-615. Passengers on these tours are taken ashore by tenders. Later in the day, the ship then retraces her route through the Gatun locks to dock at Pier 6 in Colon in the Caribbean. The tours return to this point. All remaining passengers are able to disembark in Colon, where they may explore the dockside shops. There are no tours offered in Colon.

Note: The Panama Canal Authority assigns specific time slots for the transit of a vessel through the locks. The ship will anchor in a designated area and will wait for instructions. Once clearance is transmitted to the ship, procedures begin to bring ship’s tour passengers ashore. Therefore, tour departure times may vary and will be announced onboard.

Our Tour:

trainPanama Canal Railway & Miraflores Locks (Dome Car)

Imagine traveling around the Panama Canal in a deluxe 1938 vintage executive railway car. During this six-hour tour you’ll not only take in the sights of the canal but transfer to the Miraflores Locks for an up close look at this engineering marvel.

After boarding your air-conditioned transportation you’ll make the short drive to the train station at Colon. Here, you’ll board your unique train. Reminiscent of the golden age of railway travel, the passenger cars feature luxurious wood paneling, tables, carpeted floors, soft lamp lighting, wooden blinds, air conditioning, bathrooms, large windows to appreciate the picturesque journey and open-air viewing decks that allow passengers to step outside and “smell” the tropical rainforest.

Then, you’ll leave the Colon station on an approximately one-hour train trip to the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal, passing Gatun Lake and the isthmus’ dense rainforest. During your railroad journey, you guide will provide commentary on the railroad, Panamanian history, and the canal.

The rainforests of the Panama Canal are some of the most accessible green zones in the world. With over 50,000 acres of pristine rainforest, this natural gem hosts an incredible 105 species of mammals, 525 species of birds and 124 species of reptiles and amphibians. Enjoy a light snack and beverage during this part of you tour.

The Panama Canal requires a vast rainforest watershed to feed water to its lock system, which uses millions of gallons each day. Since the rainforests are so important to the national economy, the Canal Zone has had to actively preserve its natural resources, providing pristine green areas and excellent photo opportunities.

When your train arrives at Panama City’s train station, you’ll transfer to a coach that will take you to the Miraflores Locks Observation Center to view a documentary on the history of the locks. You will also have the opportunity for a close up view of the passing ships and functioning of the locks from the top floor of the center. The lock gates at Miraflores are the tallest of the three due to the extreme tidal variation that takes place in the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the size of each vessel, you can see one to three vessels simultaneously make the transit. From the moment the vessels enter the locks, it takes approximately ten minutes for the process to be completed. The water enters and leaves the locks by means of gravity only, there are no pumps or other man-made devices that assist in this process.

At the end of this fascinating adventure, you’ll return to the pier.

Day 7

Colon, Panama
Monday, March 10

5:00 PM-8:00 PM

Day 8

Limon, Costa Rica
Tuesday, March 11

7:00 AM6:00 PM

Costa Rica’s Limon Province boasts pristine beaches, sprawling banana plantations and dense rainforest.

These Caribbean lowlands are still sparsely populated–nearly a third of the province’s population lives around Puerto Limon–and conservation efforts have led to growing eco-tourism. Limon Province offers other charms as well. Afro-Caribbean influences abound, from the lilting speech and reggae rhythms brought by Jamaican settlers to the colorful bungalows lining small fishing villages. Limon is a zesty little slice of heaven.

Our Tour:

tramRainforest Aerial Tram, Nature Walk & Lunch

Board your air-conditioned transportation at the pier and travel to an acclaimed ecotourism and research facility near Braulio Carrillo National Park. Here, glide through the canopy in an aerial tram, offering intimate views of the forest from the treetops. The rainforest canopy is teeming with wildlife and is home to two-thirds of Costa Rica’s rainforest species. Towering trees, giant ferns, bursts of color and myriad wildlife make up a large part of this incredible hanging garden. A naturalist guide will accompany you on your ride, explaining the delicate balance of the rainforest and pointing out the amazing wildlife amongst us in this intricate ecosystem. After your tram ride, you’ll be served a tasty, traditional Costa Rican lunch buffet at the charming Rain Forest Restaurant, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the forest. The orchestra of creatures in the forest serves as wonderful background music while you dine. Following lunch, walk it off with a guided stroll through the rainforest for a deeper appreciation of this complex environment from a totally different perspective. You’ll have time to visit the gift shop for eco-friendly handicrafts made exclusively in Costa Rica before we head back to the ship.

Day 9

At Sea
Wednesday, March 12

Day 10

Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Thursday, March 13

9:00 AM4:00 PM

Ocho Rios (Spanish for “Eight Rivers”) is located on the northern coast of Jamaica–67 miles east of Montego Bay. Blue-green mountains, white-sand beaches, lilting breezes wafting across flower-adorned hillsides – Jamaica is a sensual feast. Stunning natural beauty and a unique society molded by British, African, Spanish and Asian influences make Jamaica an unforgettable port of call in the Caribbean. Ocho Rios is a superb slice of Jamaica. The area is named for its spectacular rivers and waterfalls, including famed Dunn’s River Falls.

Day 11

At Sea
Friday, March 14

Day 12

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Saturday, March 15

7:00 AM

According to the popular 1960 beach movie, Fort Lauderdale is “where the boys are.” The city’s reputation as America’s Spring Break capital, however, has been replaced with the more favorable image of a prime family tourist destination, attracting more than 10 million visitors annually. The most popular beach resort in Florida is even more rightly famed as the “Yachting Capital of the World,” with more than 40,000 registered crafts calling its waters home. The city also prides itself on being the “Venice of America” with more than 300 miles of navigable waterways. Fort Lauderdale boasts world-class theaters, museums, sightseeing, and shopping.

The city sits 24 miles north of Miami and is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. Look hard and you might find remnants of three of them today. More people seem to be interested in taking a water tour aboard the “Carrie B.”

Note: Luggage is stowed on the transportation during disembarkation tours. Disembarkation tours end at the airports; therefore passengers who have post-cruise packages at local hotels must disembark at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Passengers will then be responsible for their transportation to the hotel.

Our Tour:

intercoastalIntracoastal Waterway by Boat & Las Olas Blvd with Fort Lauderdale Airport Transfer (Disembarkation)

Departing passengers shouldn’t miss this last chance to tour Fort Lauderdale’s finest boulevards, beaches and waterways, on an excursion that promises to delight. Your tour starts when you board your air-conditioned bus for a guided tour along Fort Lauderdale’s famed golden beaches, en route to trendy Las Olas Boulevard, which features a multitude of delightful art galleries, eclectic boutiques and busy sidewalk cafés. Here, you will have 20-30 minutes to browse the many interesting shops, enjoy a refreshing beverage or simply wander around this bustling, sunny neighborhood, before heading aboard the charming “Carrie B” paddle-wheel boat for a relaxing cruise along Fort Lauderdale.

Your captain and crew are friendly and approachable, and will be on hand to point out the many elaborate mansions and celebrity homes along Millionaires Row. You’ll also get close to the massive yachts docked outside the Bahia Mar Marina, Hyatt Pier 66 and the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Grande hotels. This super-fun vessel features both open and enclosed decks for your comfort, as well as a comprehensive snack bar. Returning to the boat’s docking location, you will then board your bus and head to the airport.

Webcam from the deck: http://www.kroooz-cams.com/coral/coral1.php

Winding down…

I haven’t made very many blog posts this time around because we haven’t done much except read, work, nap and a few dips into the pool.

Yesterday, we went out on a catamaran, though – the Cool Runnings III.

They picked us up at 8:15 am.  We were on time for once, but still the third of 3 couples going from The Crane.  We didn’t make any more pickups.  WooHoo!

So, we set off from the Careenage. This is an inlet into Bridgetown where several ships, boats and catamarans make berth. The “bridge” in Bridgetown is over the Careenage. There are two bridges now. The original is now a foot bridge with the newer, wider one for vehicles.

On any of these ships, they have an open bar and start off with yummy banana bread for a morning snack. After they clear the Careenage, they put up the sails and we’re off.

Tom on mobile – of course!

Our first stop of the morning was Payne’s Bay where Tom swam with the giant sea turtles.  A woman taking pictures was talking kind of snootily to someone that “In Hawaii they gave them flippers…”  I barged in and told her that they couldn’t have flippers at this stop because of the turtles but they would have them at the next.  ”So?!?”  I told her the turtles were an endangered species and didn’t like being kicked in the head with flippers.  Sheesh!

Turtle at Payne’s Bay, Barbados

The second stop was Folkstone Marine Park. All these ships stop there because it’s home to a sunken barge. This creates a home for lots of marine life. I’m not very good at recognizing fish but I always know when I see a school of sergeant major fish.

School of fish, taken from the deck of Cool Runnings III

Our last stop was a swimming stop off Alley’s beach. During this stop, we had a typical Bajan tourist lunch. The main dishes in this are flying fish, barbecue chicken, peas’n’rice, green salad, potato salad, a lo-mein sort of dish and rolls. Sometimes a sweet coleslaw, macaroni pie or beef stew is added but not today. Today’s dessert was carrot cake with cream cheese. Just like at home!

I didn’t get in the water this time but that’s ok – I just love being on the boat.

 

Something new – just as we got back to the Careenage, the captain/crew started playing this and most everyone danced their way into port.  What fun!

 

Back home and into the pool.

The next post will be the one where I list what I’ve been reading on this trip.  It will be fewer books since I’ve been working more than usual…

 

Cruisin’ With Susan, 2013

I’m so excited!  Just over six years ago Susan M, one of my Cushie friends, invited me on a cruise to Bermuda. I was delighted and excited to go. Then I found out I had kidney cancer and had to bow out at the last minute – the cruise embarked the day I left the hospital. My surgeon said that there was no way I could postpone my surgery for another 5 or so days so someone else went in my place.

So, that was it for my first (and only!) Bermuda cruise.

Then in 2008, I heard from my friend again, asking me if I wanted to do the cruise then! Of course, I said yes… She said she was celebrating and upgraded the whole cruise to the Western Caribbean. We had a superior balcony stateroom and I could wear some of the clothes I got for the non-cruise.

You can read all about our 2008 cruise here: http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise.htm and see a slideshow of pictures at http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise.html

Last year, September of 2011, we went on a land trip to Gloucester, MA.  Blog posts and pictures for that trip start here http://maryoutandabout.posterous.com/last-trip-for-awhile.

I was at work today when I saw Susan’s name pop up on my cellphone and knew she wanted to go on another trip.  As soon as I got in my car, I listened to her message.  YES!  Another cruise!

We talked on the phone and decided on this trip:

Cruise-itenary-2013

Then, Susan booked the cruise and called back to say it was even cheaper than we thought it would be.  Major WooHoo.  And, we have the all-important balcony.

Maryobeachbuddies

Sailing, Sailing…

Over the years, we went on several Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.  We liked them because they were small, casual and were fairly easy on the wallet.

They sailed around the Caribbean to a variety of islands, although they sometimes changed itineraries depending on weather, crew, whatever.  One trip we were supposed to go to Saba but couldn’t make port.  A lot of people got off at the next port and flew home.

The captains were prone to “Bedtime Stories” which were often more fiction than true but they added to the appeal of the trip.  We didn’t care if we missed islands or not – we were just there to sail over the waves and enjoy the ride.

The last trip we took with them was about two years before I started having Cushing’s problems.  (You wondered how I was going to tie this together, right?)

The cuise was uneventful, other than the usual mishaps like hitting docks, missing islands and so on.  Until it was a particularly rough sea one day.  I was walking somewhere on deck and suddenly a wave came up over the deck making it very slippery.  I fell and cracked the back of my head on the curved edge of a table in the dining area.  I had the next-to-the-worse headache I have ever had, the worst being after my pituitary surgery. At least after the surgery I got some morphine.

We asked several doctors later if that hit could have contributed to my Cushing’s but doctors didn’t want to get involved in that at all.

The Windjammer folks didn’t fare much better, either. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch was responsible for the loss of the s/v Fantome (the last one we were on).

All 31 crew members aboard perished; passengers and other crew members had earlier been offloaded in Belize.

The story was recorded in the book The Ship and the Storm: Hurricane Mitch and the Loss of the Fantome by Jim Carrier.  The ship, which was sailing in the center of the hurricane, experienced up to 50-foot (15 m) waves and over 100 mph (160 km/h) winds, causing the Fantome to founder off the coast of Honduras.

This event was similar to the Perfect Storm in that the weather people were more interested in watching the hurricane change directions than they were in people who were dealing with its effects.

I read this book and I was really moved by the plight of those crew members.

 I’ll never know if that hit on my head contributed to my Cushing’s but I have seem several people mention on the message boards that they had a traumatic head injury of some type in their earlier lives.

 

Jammin’ Cat

What a nice – but early! – day.  The taxi picked us up at 7:30 am for the Jammin’ Cats catamaran.  Along the way we picked up a couple young women from Holland, then another from Australia.

We arrived at the Careenage, paid our bill, took off our shoes and got onboard.  We found a nice little place in the shade for a while before leaving the dock.

Barbados-careenage

Not long after we got onboard, we started motoring out of the careenage into the Caribbean for thesbille first snorkel site, the one where folks can swim with the hawksbill sea turtles. People coudn’t use fins here because the turtles are endangered. Due to Tom’s puncture wound, we had decided not to go in the water on this trip but it was fun to see the others swimming with the turtles.

We countinued along to a snorkel site over a scuttled French ship, the Berwin.  The Berwin is a World War I French boat scuttled in 1919 by her own crew. Her captain thought that they were being followed by a German U-Boat and decided to abandon ship first. The Berwyn sits between 7 and 10 feet below the surface depending on the tide. We could see her outline from onboard ship. Because it’s so calm in the bay and because the wreck is nearly 100 years old, it is covered in marine life, such as coral, and lots of fish.

When we left the Berwin it was time to hoist the sails and head north to Payne’s Beach.   In this calm bay we were close to land and it was pretty shallow so people could have fun swimming, floating on mattresses or going into shore.  This catamaran also had the luxury of drink delivery to the mattresses and swimmers!  Next time, you’ll find me relaxing on a floating mattress!

After a bit, it was lunch time.  Those of us onboard got to eat while the swimmers were still climbing on board.  It was a pretty standard Bajan Tour lunch – peas’n’rice, flying fish, curry chicken, salad, macaroni pie…  I’m not complaining at all, though – I love it all :)

After lunch, a bit more swimming, then heading south again.

We disembarked about 2:30 or so and got home about 3:30.  It was a beautiful day, no rain, but I was exhausted.  I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until about 8.

We got a call from the front desk – someone from the Sunday non-catamaran had called.  Tom got the number to call back on Tuesday.