Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cruise to Bahamas - Half Moon Cay

While St. Johns was Dan's favorite place (and it was wonderful), Half Moon Cay (pronounced "key") was mine.  This privately owned island in the Bahamas was paradise.
 
The water was a bright, clear turquoise and the sand white.  There was a great band (they even played Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke for me) and a barbeque.  The weather was perfect although Dan thought the water was a bit too cool (low 70's).
 
Parasailing, swimming, sand castles, snorkeling, feeding sting rays, bicycling, kayaking, bus ride, hiking...almost anything your heart desires.
 
Only about 35 people live on this small island.  Most of the staff commute from a larger island (Eleutheria), an hour and a half commute each way.  What a commute though!
 
It really felt like a holiday.  Only one shop and about a half dozen booths so it was more laid back than the cities we have been to. 
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

St John

Arriving at St John we meet outside the National Park building. I am a little worried that the hike will be too strenuous for me. The guide reassures me that there is only a slightly steep section at the beginning of the trail. Total walk is less than a mile and a half. I think I can do that. There are some little kids, so that will keep things moving slowly.

What a lovely walk it turns out to be. Along the way we stop a number of times to look at the plants and trees. A beautiful frangipani caterpillar takes our attention for awhile as everyone trades out to get a good look. Through the trees the beautiful Caribbean is visible with islands in the distance. Our guide does a nice job pointing things out to us and answering our questions.

At Honeymoon Cove another group is arriving on sailboats to go snorkeling. We just strip down to bathing suits and get wet. Very refreshing and relaxing. Before long it is time to walk the short distance to where our ride takes us back to the ferry.

POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

St Thomas

The guide on the ferry recommends eating at a seafood restaurant in Frenchtown. It turns out his directions and where we end up may not have matched. Anyway we have a delicious seafood lunch at Hook, Line & Sinker – and it is in Frenchtown. We’re away from the tourists, so it’s a quiet area. Outside is a small marina, two iguanas are sunning themselves, and a seaplane takes off.

The waitress gives us directions to the shopping district. It looks further than I want to walk, but I make it with the help of an ice cream cone.

Only a couple of stores are of interest to us. One makes jewelry from a black coral. Fortunately they need permits to collect it and can only get pieces that are broken off and dead. The designs are intricate, mainly because they have to glue pieces together to make them large enough to work with. Some of them are very simple designs and a few of them are stunning.

At the other store we buy three bottles of rum for $22.50. Turns out it is the same brand and cost as the ship, just different flavors. Oh well. At least we take a taxi back to the ship.

POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

St Thomas 2

Tonight we ran into Dick and Marion Stevens for dinner. Marion is Dan’s second cousin who we met in Tampa a few weeks ago. We had run into them a few times but never could figure out when to meet for a meal. Turned out we were all going to dinner at the same place so it worked out great. Food was very good tonight. Stuffed.

Now the interesting thing is you can get pretty much the same food in Lido which is a buffet as the Rembrandt but I like the Rembrandt more. There is no cost for the meal at either but you get served at the Rembrandt instead of going through the line and the food seems slightly fresher, made to order instead of being made up a few minutes in advance.

Afterwards, we went to listen to comedian Jim Labriola. Very funny guy. Laughed a lot.

Been a long day. Tomorrow I have another acupuncture session and also a session with a personal coach who is going to go over Pilates with me for strength and posture. Since I live in an RV, I need a program that doesn’t require a lot of equipment or a membership in a gym. We choose places to live which don’t have gyms when we can and there certainly isn’t room for a lot of equipment. Pilates sounds like a good option. Keep you posted.

POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

US Virgin Islands

The lights of San Juan fade behind us as we sail into the night, headed for St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Waking in the morning we’re there, heading into West Gregerie Channel and Crown Bay to the dock. Surprisingly I find out that it’s only about 75 miles from San Juan. We must have stopped or circled slowly all night. I find sleeping on a boat with gentle waves to be so relaxing. Too much and seasick symptoms start showing up, but last night, oh wow – I slept great.

The plan today is to go on an eco hike and a swim on St. John Island. After breakfast we head out, go out on the dock and find the ferry. The weather is quite pleasant with a light breeze and it’s mostly sunny, probably around 80. The waves are low so it doesn’t bother me.

Islands pass on either side of us. They are heavily treed, or at least quite green, and dotted with a lot of houses. The guide points out the homes of Michael Jordan, Madonna, Alan Alda, Michael Jackson, and Tim Duncan.

Two of the islands are for sale. It’s a package deal – only $12 million – and it includes a resort where people spend $12,000 per night to stay there!

 
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Puerto Rico-Land at last!

I woke up in the middle of the night and could tell that we had docked at Puerto Rico. The ship was still. Yesterday was a little rocky.
 
This morning we went on a 5 hour tour of the rain forest. I don’t know how the driver can drive so well and talk on a hand held microphone at the same time. Turns out he had practice as a New York City cabbie. The rain forest was interesting and I’m glad we did the tour, but I did feel a little rushed. This was especially so at the first stop where we didn’t have time to see the 12 minute movie in English because the Spanish version was running. Tough to do both in a 20 minute stop.
 
Took a fairly easy hike in the rain forest. No rain today although they have about 240 inches a year. Rain lasts an average of 22 minutes so it comes down heavy. The guide kept naming trees that weren’t indigenous but then he later said something like 200+ plants/trees are indigenous.
 
On the way back to the ship I saw an iguana on a wire (telephone or power?) just like you would see a bird sitting. We were on a fast road so we were gone in a flash and I don’t think anyone else saw it. It was incredible to see.
 
We had angels watching over us 3 times. The first, was when we went on the hike in the rain forest, our guide didn’t go, but there was another guide who went with his group. We tend to tag along with others, so we llisten and he pointed out the nests for the endangered native parrot.
 
Then later, we were looking for somewhere to eat and a man with his wife/child said the non-tourist place was a few streets away. He grew up in Puerto Rico and lives in Napa, Florida now. He didn’t have any accent and was with the family so it felt safe although I have to say he wore us out walking up a steep hill. Food was good. I had a Puerto Rico tamale which is a little softer than the ones I am used to and Dan had a chicken creole. Finished it up with fried sweet plantains and coconut flan. Very yummy.
 
The last angel was when we were walking around and started down a road. Just before we went under a bridge, a man on the far side of the bridge said not to come there, that it was a “hood”. Another man a few minutes later said it was an area where they dealt drugs. Considering that the first man was hanging out with the other hoods, we were grateful that we were warned. We decided after that to stay where there were more people. It is hard not to look like a tourist. In a way it is better to look like what we are, tourists, so people look out for us.
 
I am officially tired but I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done and felt good about that. Over 11,000 steps today so I got my workout.
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Monday, November 24, 2008

An unexpected day at sea

First of all, I don’t recommend the late dining if you have to get up early the next morning. Even though I ate lightly, it was hard to be comfortable laying down shortly afterwards. In the end, I slept very well. Did I say the mattress is very comfortable? 
 
We arose before 6:30 to get ready, have breakfast and disembark at Grand Turk. After breakfast we found out that the winds were too high and we were not going to dock at all today. We are awaiting the final word on that but it doesn’t look promising. It is overcast and the wind doesn’t seem all that bad…at least the waves don’t look high. But it isn’t worth risking it.
 
So if that is the case, a quiet day will be nice. I’ll probably get another acupuncture treatment, read, maybe swim or go to the exercise area. We’ll see. I heard one person grumble about being stuck on the boat another day but it will be fine with me. I may get something to lessen the queasiness. Fortunately it isn’t really bad but it is fairly persistent.
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Monday, November 24, 2008

An Extra Day At Sea

I seldom (read that never) have a day in which I haven't planned what to do in advance.  I may not always do it, but I have at least some plans.  So it was unique to suddenly find ourselves with an extra day at sea.  Lots of choices on what to do:  classes, spa, gym, read, play games, eat, talk to people, explore the ship, eat, write my blog, and did I mention you can eat?  (Fortunately I didn't pig out.)
 
It was a nice relaxing day at sea except for the wave activity. I got some pills for sea sickness, and they helped a little but, mostly, they made me sleepy.
 
I went to a talk on back and posture at the fitness center and decided to have a personal trainer help me with exercises I can do in the RV. Those of you who don’t know me, don’t know that we live in a fifth wheel full time. Usually we aren’t anywhere we can go to a gym to work out. Personal training will be Thursday.
 
The acupuncture helped my leg some, so I went again this afternoon. I will go again later in the week. Even though I hadn’t bought a package of 3 sessions up front, Rebecca gave me the discount. It is appreciated. 
 
Other than that, I mostly read/dozed/sat in the hot tub. the relaxing day was a welcome relief. Most people felt the same way and weren’t upset about the travel changes. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was the first time the captain had ever had to cancel a port because of weather in almost 30 years. 
 
Well, I say it wasn’t anyone’s fault but Kim took credit. She ate dinner with us and a number of others this evening. She says every cruise she goes on, something happens. Last year, one of the engines quit and they had to cancel some ports as a result. She is planning that cruise again and will just do the things they missed last year. Very good sport about it…what else can you do anyway?!
 
I ran into the environmental officer for the ship today. HAL has a very progressive recycling program. The trash cans in the rooms even have a “paper only” section and there are bins around the ship for batteries, paper, plastic, and cans.  He agreed to talk with Dan later in the week and we are going to see if we can get access to view the facilities. 
 
My energy has been very low lately and this is a good time to take it easy. I did a very light workout this morning but the rest of the day was low key. Besides an opportunity to be able to comment on the services, the acupuncture, posture/back class, and trainer session are an opportunity to give myself a much needed tuneup.  There were plenty of other choices I could have made.  Definitely, not a boring day!
 
We lose an hour of sleep tonight because of a time change. Tomorrow is Puerto Rico.
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Sunday, November 23, 2008

All day at sea

Well, I did better than I was afraid of but not as well as I would like with the rolling motion. I did sleep well, once I got to sleep…but that’s my MO, having trouble getting to sllep.
 
I’ve been wearing the wristbands and they seem to help some. Not a big problem but I'm a little queasy, especially when I go to eat. Dan likes to eat at the tables next to the windows and the view. I do better not looking out and eating something bland, like a roll, early on.
 
An acupuncture treatment today is for a long term problem I have had with my leg. Rebecca is very professional and compassionate. She showed me a better way to wear the wrist bands, 4 fingers above the rist - not three like the package says. She also pointed out a place to rub on my legl for the queasiness. Helps psychologically at least.
 
I then went to a cooking show, a shopping show, and a show about diamonds and other gems. The cooking show was fun. Chef Phil is very entertaining. I came away empty on the shopping since I am not interested in spending any extra money.
 
We had planned to do a lot of shore excursions but decided to kick back the pace and cancel the canopy adventure. Apprehension and cost won out over adventure. Decided to put the money into the acupuncture and relax rather than the usual go, go, go of our lives.
 
Oh, I won a fun shirt. It is a white tshirt with a black outline picture on it. When exposed to the sun, the colors show up. I was sitting on the front row and the guy said to stand up and show you wanted it. Everyone stood up but I wiggled my bottom and he saw me. Surprised I did that "butt" it was fun.
 
We went to Canelettom the Italian restaurant for dinner. There is no extra charge for it. The food was good, but the service was extremely slow, even though they weren’t busy. Maybe that is the style of the restaurant but it took about 20 minutes or more to place our orders.
 
Wait staff not as warm as the ones at the other places we have been the last day or so.
 
And strangely, they brought cotton candy for after dinner, before dessert! Cotton Candy? Go figure.
 
OK, early day tomorrow.
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our first cruise is underway!

We are underway! I had a few minutes of anxiety, not so much motion sickness as claustrophobia. But I put on my sea sickness wristbands and breathed deep and I am doing better. Still a little anxious.
 
Actually, the life boat drill was a challenge too. I was behind a tall lady (I'm less than 5 feet tall), and with the vest so close around my short neck, it was not only uncomfortable but I felt closed in again. I asked the tall lady if she would change places and it didn’t matter to her. I kept my vest loose and when it was over, we let everyone else go back to their rooms before we went.
 
OK, so much for anxiety. Now for the excitement and enjoyment!
 
The ship is much bigger than I had imagined. Almost 1000 feet long. They upgraded us to a stateroom with a veranda, which is nice. It might have happened because this is our first cruise with HAL. The ship is brand new and everything is in terrific shape. I am surprised that maintenance, especially painting, is already being done.
 
I’m impressed with the staff. They seem genuinely interested and friendly. On this line, most everyone is Indonesian or Phillipino, although it seems that crewmembers are from all over the world. 
 
We ate lunch with Herta. I hope I spelled her name correctly. She is a retired cruise ship RN and has sailed almost 100 days on Holland America alone. She does about 2 cruises a year. Her experience is that HAL staff is sincerely interested in making the cruise a pleasure, much more so than other lines. Being our first cruise, I don’t know, but I do know that they seem that way.
 
Sitting in a public area after lunch, the ship chaplain, a priest, stopped and chatted. He normally works in Ft. Lauderdale with sailors from around the world, but is cruising “on duty” for 2 weeks. His perspectives are very interesting. 
 
Most of his time is spent with the crew. They are usually away from home and family for 8-10 months at a time. Many are very poor and HAL just had a fundraiser a few days ago to raise money to help with illness or family emergencies.
 
I’ve frankly been leery of cruises before because of the excess I’ve heard about them. They go through an incredible amount of food, trash, and recyclables on a trip. I am glad to see recycling containers scattered about the ship, so there is an effort to have a minimal impact.
 
That’s about it for now. Its time for "Bon voyage!"
POSTED BY lindie hunt AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
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It’s not a dream; it is a Holland America Alaska Cruise!
 

No one knows Alaska like Holland America Line. Premium service and comfort has been perfected. Tradition is evident everywhere, from classic teak deck chairs to friendly stewards offering hot chocolate - complimentary, of course. Every stateroom is larger than most other cruise lines and offers stylish appointments such as the custom-designed Mariner's Dream bed.    Get the most from Alaska by enjoying a verandah stateroom or suite, which are more spacious than any other ships in our class. Dining on a Holland America ship is a delight to experience with detail to quality and service that is top notch. Enjoy the elegance of the main dining room, the Pinnacle Grill or a quick bite by the pool or room service.

 

Every day on board brings a wealth of activities and enrichment programs to showcase Alaska at its best. Learn new ways to prepare seafood in the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine. Keep in touch with your work or loved ones in the Explorations Cafe, powered by The New York Times. Relax in the Crow's Nest and enjoy panoramic views. 

 
What makes Holland America Line a step above?
 
  • Every cruise in Glacier Bay National Park will feature ranger commentary from the bridge and an informative presentation. A Hunan Totem speaker will talk about their ancestral ties to the land.
  • A ranger from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park will provide bridge commentary for every visit to the mammoth Hubbard Glacier. Tinged natives will showcase their culture during visits to Yakutat Bay.
  • Seattle departures will host a pre-cruise presentation by a ranger about thonal parks of the Inside Passage.
  • Land tours offering several choices to fit your time and to see the most of Alaska.
  • Comfortable domed rail cars and coaches making travel enjoyable to some of most desirable destinations in Alaska.
 

Be sure to bring your binoculars along to view the many different wildlife experiences up close.

 

 

 

 
Denise Belisle Stone
Denise Belisle Stone
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