Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Fun Ship

For Christmas, Ricky & I gave each other a cruise vacation minus 3 kids. Thanks to our wonderful parents the kids were well taken care of during our trip. It was the perfect week to get away because our area of the Upstate was having their coldest temperatures of the winter!

We began in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We flew into San Juan the day before our cruise departure, and below is a photo of our hotel, Miramar. Once we arrived in San Juan, we took a bus to Old San Juan to walk around and tour the city.

Our first sight was one of the historic forts, San Cristobal. It was already closed for the day so we just walked around the outside.
We were prepared for a lot of walking since many of the websites talked about the cobblestone, narrow streets. It was fun just walking around, not really having a plan of where we were going. We didn't get lost, so that was important!
Another view of San Cristobal.
Walking along the ocean view.
What a view!
I had to take a picture of the roofs because it reminded me of Africa!
Another narrow street with the blue cobblestone. I'm glad I wasn't driving here cause I never knew which way the cars would be coming down this street.
How'd you know we would find a Subway on our trip?? Actually, it was funny because when we got on the ship we met someone wearing a Subway t-shirt and we found out he was a franchisee in Puerto Rico!
Finally it was time to board the ship on Sunday, January 3rd. Ricky and I are checking out the balcony overlooking the port in San Juan.

We sailed the Southern Caribbean on the Carnival Victory. They have a huge TV screen on the Lido deck so you can watch movies while getting some sun.
A view of San Juan from the ship.
Relaxing after our first dinner. I had the chocolate melting cake - YUM!
A view of the fort at night as we cruise out of San Juan.
First stop, St. Thomas U.S.V.I. on Monday, January 4th.
We took a half-day shore excursion in St. Thomas - "Captain Nautica Ultimate Snorkeling Expedition."
We boarded a boat of about 20 people with our guide and driver. We stopped at 2 different sites for some superior snorkeling. We saw sea turtles, stingray, barracuda, and many other colorful exotic fish and coral.
We liked St. Thomas very much. The clear turquoise water and all the sailboats were really spectacular. As we were leaving St. Thomas we saw this pirate ship near the bay.
The first night our cabin steward, Michael, made an elephant out of towels.
Our 2nd stop on Tuesday, Jan. 5th was Roseau, Dominica. We got off the ship to do some shopping downtown. Instead of getting a taxi we decided to walk since it looked to be close. Well, it wasn't as close as we thought, but we got some exercise and probably worked off our dinner & dessert from the night before! The market reminded us of the African markets we visited in Zambia, except the Dominicans didn't like to barter as much as our Zambian salespeople.
This is a view of the rainforests in Dominica.
After our shopping in Dominica, we relaxed on the ship. Ricky took in a free throw competition while Niki soaked up some sun before our "Elegant" evening when we got all dressed up for the Captain's Dinner.
After enjoying a wonderful dinner & 2 desserts (cause I couldn't decide!), we returned to the room to find Michael's newest creation with towels--a lobster! Hey, that's what we had for dinner!
Our next island stop -- Bridgetown, Barbados on Wednesday, January 6th.
Again, we just got off the boat and ventured into town. We were looking for the "Cheapside Market" and didn't realize once we got there it was only fruits and veggies. We did find some cute shops along the wharf where we did a lot of window shopping. Then, we walked along the shore enjoying the views.
We even visited a fish market on the wharf where the locals were doing a lot of work cleaning the fish.
Castries, St. Lucia was our next destination on Thursday, January 7th. We had booked a tour with a local guy, Cosol. We began our journey with Sam, our driver, along with 4 other couples with a tour of the capital city, Castries, as Sam told us the history of St. Lucia.
We then drove through a native banana plantation where we sampled the local St. Lucia bananas. They are smaller, but sweeter in taste than the traditional bananas. We were asked to send a message to Obama that the US needs to import bananas from St. Lucia. Currently, the export only to the UK.
We drove along stopping at the fishing villages of Anse La Raye and Canaries. The first village was home to a weekly held "Friday Night Fish Feast" where the locals gather in the streets to party. Here on the south end of the island I found many reminders of Zambia -- woman walking with bucket on her head:)

This is Marigot Bay, the site where "Dr. Doolittle" movie was filmed. This is one of the most secure anchorages in the Caribbean. It's a natural harbor with plam-lined sandpits and steep forested hills.
Speaking of steep hills...can you imagine living in this house with those stilts holding it up?!
We visited Soufriere, the 2nd largest town and St. Lucia's first capital. Before arriving at the town we toured the Toraille waterfall and botanical garden.
We made a short stop to sample the local food of St. Lucia, including johnny cakes and fish cakes covered in banana ketchup. One of the drivers (pictured here sampling food) was named Baptiste. He had actually lived in the States and just returned to his home of St. Lucia.
The best part of this trip was viewing the magnificent Piton Mountains, which are a respected symbol of St. Lucia and the most recognizable landmarks in the Caribbean. The Pitons were considered sacred to the island's first inhabitants, the Amerindians. The most spectacular are the Gros Piton (2,619 ft) and the Petit Piton (2,461 ft) which are old volcanic forest-clad plugs rising sheer out of the sea near the town on Soufriere on the West coast.

We enjoyed a visit to the Sulphur Springs, the only drive-in volcano in the Caribbean. More than 20 belching pools of muddy water, multicolor sulfur deposits, and other assorted minerals were baking and steaming on the surface. Actually, we didn't drive in, but we drove up within a few hundred feet of the gurgling, steaming mass, and then walked around a fault in the substratum rock.

Once in the town of Soufriere, we boarded a small boat which took us between the Pitons to Hilton Jalousie Beach. We were given time to snorkel and lay on the beach.

Cosol tours was the best 6 hours we ever spent on an island in the Caribbean! We enjoyed learning about the beautiful island of St. Lucia.
More pictures of St. Lucia taken from the port.
This was one of the airports (the smaller one) on the island where we watched a few planes depart while we were in port.

As we were leaving the port in St. Lucia, I was taking pictures from our balcony when all of a sudden this pirate ship started shooting cannons. After jumping out of my skin we realized it was done on purpose as a send-off for us.
Another "elegant" evening after a long day, and then returning to find a frog in our room.
The next morning we awake to Basseterre, St. Kitts on Friday, January 8th.
We walked around this small town to find a craft market and a pharmacy to purchase some cold medicine. I guess the change in weather caused some stuffiness:( We did get to converse with a shop attendant who told us about her church and pastor (Baptist) and the mission teams from the States who come to help them.
I was cheered up that night by our puppy Michael made. I started missing Lizzie that night.
Our final destination on Saturday, January 9th was Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
St. Maarten had a nice Harbour Point Village Shopping, so we just stayed near the port and then returned to the ship for a relaxing day by the pool. Our last night featured a heart-shaped towel.
After 7 days at sea, we finally arrived back in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Because our hotal was not ready until the afternoon, we did another walking tour of Old San Juan. We found some local Caribbean food which we enjoyed very much.
Just down from our hotel were many name brand shops, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Harry Winston (which I took this picture in honor of my sister).
On our tour of Old San Juan we got to visit the other fort, del Morro.

After a small delay at the airport on Monday, we made it safely home to see our kids, who were very excited to see us (as were we excited to see them).