Thursday, October 28, 2010

a note about the entries

Due to the amount of time it takes to upload these last few entries are without images they will be added when I return.



St Kitts and Brimstone Park Oct 28, 2010



The next stop on my journey is St Kitts and Nevis - two islands in the Caribbean - one developed St Kitts and the other less so - Nevis.

Having visited here one before I was hoping to get over to Nevis but nothing was scheduled so I opted instead for a tour to a batik factory and gardens and a historic fort that is on the UNESCO site list.

The ship was docked and ready to unload by 8:AM and I was among one of the first off given that we exit on Deck 4 and my cabin is on deck 4 - I had about 45 minutes before the bus left so I walked through the Port development and took a few pictures - found were one of the internet shops was and it is only $5.00 an hour or $7.00 a day for your own wi-fi.

Then onto a small van for the trip to the first stop - a brief look at the Governor General’s home and a cemetery that housed the remains of the first three Prime Ministers since independence in the 1980’s.

Then it was on to the batik factory - I am not much into that but the grounds were nice and there was a good display of flowers.

Back on the bus where the driver was giving us a good narrative of the area as we drove to the Fortress.

It is an impressive site - lots of history as the British protected this vital link in their supply routes - and beat the French to get sole possession of the Island.

Then returned to the port - used the internet for an hour - tried to upload these entries but no success - need to save in doc. Files instead of Works or Rich text.

Then brought three Caribe beers for $5.00 and drank them in the plaza - don’t know if it was the heat or what but I didn’t enjoy the taste of that brand.

Tomorrow Barbados - originally I wasn’t going to do anything but booked another adventure trip - more on that tomorrow - then we finally get a rest day before heading for Aruba and Curacao.


Virgin Gorda Baths excursion Oct 27, 2010


OCT 27, 2010

We sailed overnight from Samana to Tortola - this is a new port for me - sailing in this morning the beauty is outstanding - some 50 islands or islets make up the B.V.I.
as they are collectively known - just waiting for the all clear for us to go ashore and unlike yesterday there is a dock here - I have the above tour booked and I leave the ship on level 4 which just happens to be the same level as my cabin.

Well how do I describe today’s wonderful, exhilarating day - in simple, plain English how about the following one word - WOW!!!. What a great day and another great excursion.

Exiting the ship we board a catamaran for the forty minutes ride to Virgin Gorda - one of the islands that make up the BVI - the seas are choppy and there are a few oohs and aahs as we dip up and down with the waves - we are provided with some commentary by the commander of the ship - CAPTAIN WAYNE - as he wanted us to call him - finally we reach the pier where we then board open air buses for the ten minute ride to the Baths - which are a national park.

After a brief introduction explaining our options - down the trail to the beach with full facilities and a bar - then through the caves if you wish - and a alternate trail back up to the buses or any version of this we have two and one half hours to do as we please

Our tour guides lead us down the steep, rocky trail to the beach which took about fifteen minutes as some of the less mobile ones or those not to sure footed slowed the pace for the faster walkers - we reach the beach and that was enough for some people to spend the rest of the day - there are change rooms and a bar and grill and a beautiful beach - I change into my swim wear and get into the water and splash
around for a while before started to do the fifteen or so minute walk through the caves - unique rock formation mingled with water - little more than ankle deep today - ladders and ropes etc- while it sounds scary all it really takes is a little patience and follow the footprints and yellow paint on a few of the rocks and you will be okay.


For me the start meant getting down on all fours and crawling through the opening - see next photo - after that it wasn’t all that difficult - down a three step wooden ladder - up a small rock incline with support rope - suck the gut in for a narrow passageway - wait while some hikers going the other way and before you know it you are at the final platform and descend to Devil’s Bay beach - a beauty. See second image on next page.


I then spend some time walking along the beach and exploring some more rocky areas which led to another secluded beach - no one there - took some more photos and then return to the beach and started up the alternate trail back to the trailhead - I am hot and sweaty and a little tired as I didn’t sleep all that well last night - adjourn to the restroom to change back into the shorts and out of the sandals which are wet and full of sand - I had remember to bring a plastic bag to put them into so as not to dirty the rest of the stuff in my day pack.

Then sat down with some of the others on the tour - grabbed lunch - hamburger and fries with tip $15.00 - high but the meal tasted good.

Then it was back on the buses and boat and back to Tortola.

I walked around the town for about an hour - stopped into Pussers Pub and Grill where some of the CC meet and greet gang were enjoying a beverage - grabbed a coke and chatting with Big Green - Bud and then may my way back to the ship and collapsed onto my bed.

Had supper once again in the buffet and later a snack in the Blue Lagoon and then watch Game I of the World Series for a while before hitting the sack - It was 8 -4 when I went to bed and the final was 11 - 7 . A wild one with more scoring than some NFL games.

Tomorrow we visited St Kitts - been there once before - am doing a tour to the Fortress National Parka and Gardens - it will be easy compared to the last two days.

As I am typing this Thursday morning we are approaching St Kitts as I can see it from my porthole window.


Samana and a Waterfall hike Oct 26, 2010


When you are returning to a cruise port that you have previously visited you have the advantage of perhaps knowing what you might want to do in advance - on my first visit there two years ago I did the Cave and Mangroves excursion which is considered one of the top tours in the region.

On the other hand it can be a disadvantage in that you are concerned that perhaps your choice this time around won’t be as eventful as your previous one.

Fortunately I made a good decision - a waterfall hike to the El Limon Waterfall - about a 30 minute drive from the tender port and then a 30 minute hike to the waterfall - seen above with me - thanks to one of the locals for offering to take the photo.

The day started with us spotting land about 10AM - the first such sighting in two and a half days.

Once the ship dropped anchor next to the RCL Enchantment of the Seas we waited for the tender boats to get into position - we all met in the Stardust Lounge and were taken down to the tenders - it takes about 20 minutes to reach the tender pier in Samana where we were greeted by the locals and directed to our open air van to take us to the trailhead. There are nine of us during this excursion including two of the entertainers from the ship - Pedro was our tour guide and provided us with some information about the school system and the local economy.

We then arrive at the trailhead where we were advised that because the trail is very muddy - partly because of the soil and partly because of heavy rains earlier in the day - that we should all wear gum boots which were provided free of charge - after changing into my swim wear I donned a pair of the boots for the approx 30 minute walk to the falls - the trail gently loses altitude until you can hear the roar of the falls where the trail steepens for a very short distance and then VOILA - the falls and a beautiful nature swimming pool enfolds - we have twenty five minutes to enjoy the water - I walk around to the side of the falls to get some pictures and then leaving the camera behind get into the water - the temperature was pleasantly cool given the heat and humidity on land.

We were greeted to a pleasant surprise when we noticed at the top of falls one of the locals preparing for a cliff style dive and before we know it he is in the air and on the way to the water - caught that on the video cam but that file will have to wait until I get back and have lots of time to internet upload it.

We then returned to the trailhead - I decided to wear my sandals back as the gum boots were chafing my legs - they are a little dirty but none the worse for wear - I enjoyed a cold El Presidente beer and then back on the bus for the return to the tender port.

One of the guys was extra thirsty so Pedro had the driver stop and he hustled in a brought him a large one quart size bottle of beer.

We arrived with about an hour to spare before the last tender but seeing that there was a lineup and I myself was still thirsty I went in a brought another beer and drank it along the beer - it is okay to do that in Samana

Got in the tender line but the first one filled up so waited about another five minutes and got on that one - back on the ship around 5:30PM

Was hungry so headed for the buffet and then to type this blog entry.

Very glad that I selected this trip - it was well worth the money spent.

Tomorrow Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Two days at Sea Oct 24 - 25 2010

SUNDAY OCT 24, 2010 - AT SEA

I awoke on my first full day at sea feeling sluggish and fatigued - probably not surprising given how active the past few days have been - did attend the morning Meet and Greet - good turnout about 70 - 80 people attended at various times throughout the hour - some juice and light snacks provided by the ship - Bud “Big Green” was in charge as he did most of the organizing for this event - after that was over I spend most of the rest of the day laying down and/or book reading as I just didn’t have any energy - didn’t see much of the gang that I met yesterday until after supper and after sitting and discussing the world with them and having a couple of amber lagers I started to feel better - took in a show called - the Perfect Couple - a take off of the Newlywed type of show and then it was onto the Stardust lounge for the late show of the NCL production of “On Broadway” - I am not into those kind of shows but I thought the production and singing was first class - after the show was finished it was back upstairs to the Galaxy of the Seas lounge for a 70’ retro night with the mandatory Celebrate, We are Family, YMCA, Stayin Alive dance medley - it was well attended.
The weather is sunny with cloudy periods but a fairly strong breeze is keeping it a little on the cool side.

So far haven’t decided to get an internet package - will see how it goes in the ports although I would like to upload these journal entries while on board. Then it was off of bed.


Two months to Christmas!

Woke up feeling much more cheerier which is usually the case after a day of fatigue - the fatigue is something that I just have had to live with as has been a part of my life the past few years.

It is windy outside so don’t know how much sun worshipping I will do but I am now in shorts and expect to be in shorts for the remainder of the cruise.

Will probably search out my cruise buddies now that I know where they are hanging out.

I did check out the internet - you can access the NCL web site for free and it was slow so I am a little less inclined to purchase a large package.

Have lots of photos to edit from the trip - it’s either do them now or wait and do when I get home after transferring them to my laptop. Decision - Decisions - Decisions - who was it that used to say that on TV all the time.

I am happy to be in an ocean view cabin - while only a porthole rather than a full window it still provides much needed light and saw a nice sunrise this morning.

I also did check out the gym facilities - wasn’t that impressed - much smaller than on some of the other ships and they only have one bike, a couple of recumbent, elliptical and plenty of treadmills - while all provide the same basic cardio results I have always preferred the bikes since it is a natural extension of my outdoor riding.

Well after dinner I did purchase an internet package - a 100 minutes for $55.00 + 15 bonus minutes - checked my email to see what is going on in the world - nothing earth shattering so hopefully tomorrow after I get back from my excursions I will take my Netbook and go to one of the hot spots and upload these entries to the blog.

The wind continues to blow hard - whether it has anything to do with tropical storm Richard I don’t know as we don’t get the greatest of TV channels on board to check on weather conditions.

Tomorrow we arrive in Samana in the Dominican Republic for our first of eight port stops - it’s only a day hour layover and a tender port as well - as I have a ship’s excursion booked I don’t need to worry about tender tickets and because I am a gold status Latitudes members I weren’t need tender tickets anyway as I get priority tendering anyways. It is one of the perks you get for being a frequent NCL cruise passenger.

Not taking in the show tonight - it’s a comedian and that’s something I am not all that thrilled with + tomorrow night be will do a late night “adult humor” .


Boarding the Norwegian Spirit Oct 23, 2010


A year of planning has resulted in the day of reckoning - boarding the Norwegian Spirit in Boston on Saturday Oct 23, 2010

I awoke early - did some internet surfin - then had breakfast and explored the area around the Sheraton Hotel - Copley Square and Newberry Street.

Returned to the hotel and did the final packing and then proceeded down to the lobby to meet up with Debra and Rick and the taxi ride to the ship - took about 20 minutes to get there - Rick paid the tab - wouldn’t except anything for it as his logic was I would have have to pay if you weren’t along.

Dropped my bags with the porters and then proceeded into to terminal and very shortly I was in line to get my room card etc.

Then there was perhaps a twenty minute wait before boarding started - during this time found Dave and Kathy, Jim and Judy and some of there friends so we all boarded together - as our rooms won’t be ready until after 2PM we adjourned to the main Windows Dining Room for lunch.

There was an outbreak of the noro-walk virus on the previous cruise so everything is done by staff - no self-service to start the cruise.

After lunch we met up at the rear of ship to await muster and then sail away.

Muster was slightly different - you know longer have to bring your life jacket from your room to your muster station - this was a change that I had read about but wasn’t sure if the Spirit had implemented it yet.

After muster we reconvened at the rear of the ship to await sail away - I spurned a Cruise Critic sail away because I am not sure how much of Big Green I want to expose myself too.

And we waited and waited and awaited some more - we watched both the Crown Princess and the Jewel of the Seas depart and we waited some more - finally at 6:30 the Cruise Director announced what we already knew - our sailing was delayed by a minor glitch that should be fixed shortly and wouldn’t affect our arrival time in Samana on Tuesday.

I decided to head to the buffet to have dinner and then adding another layer of clothes - let’s see I forgot to mentikon that although the sun was shining the wind was blowing haed making it quite cool - went back outside - finally around 7:30 PM came the announcement that the Port Authority had cleared the Captain to leave.
By this time it was dark so the hope of getting some good photos of Boston’s downtown landscape had evaporated - had to be content with just watching from the ship.

Then joined some of the others and took in the nightly show - more a potpourri of what’s in store over the next fifteen days.

My cabin is an ocean view on Deck 4 with a porthole to see the outside world and that is where I am typing up this blog entry

Tomorrow is a sea day and a big meet and greet for the large Cruise Critic group on board so that will keep me business in the morning - might check out the gym in the afternoon.

That’s all for today.



Train ride to Boston

OCT 17 - 20, 2010
Sunday Oct 17, 2010

As I don’t fly my means of getting to cruise ports is to take the bus and/or train. This year was no exception - a short bus trip across the border and into Seattle - the border went smoothly and one thing that was different this year and appears to speed up the process is that all those that aren’t carrying either US or Canadian ID go first as in most cases they take longer to process i.e. visa requirements etc.

Into Seattle with time to spare so I walked around the station area and got some good photos of the skyline and Qwest field. Onto to train for the three day trip across the northern tier States into Chicago and then onto Boston.

Shortly after boarding it’s time to book dinner time - as the number of spaces in the dining car are limited you are given a list of times that you can eat - preference is given to sleeper car riders - meals and non-alcoholic beverages are included.

You are also offered a welcome aboard small bottle of champagne which I gladly accepted. For dinner I chose a meat loaf in buffalo sauce - that was spicy and not too
hot along with a salad and trimmings - won’t tell you what decadent dessert I had.
Then it was off to bed as I was tired but I did read a little.

Monday Oct 18, 2010

I woke up around 7AM after a good nights sleep - had breakfast and then enjoyed the ride through Glacier National Park and the climb through Marias Pass - lots of fall colors and I took lots of photos albeit through the windows so you don’t get the full impact of the beauty.

Have lunch before we arrive in Havre Montana where I walk across the street from the station to a tavern to pick up a 6 pack of cold ones for the rest of the journey - you are allowed to drink in your sleeper cars but not in the coach cars..

Then it’s dinner, read the book, drink some beer, enjoy the scenery and then it was off to bed - up until this time we are running on schedule but that would change.

Tuesday Oct 19, 2010

Slept well once again but we are now running ninety minutes late and won’t be able to make up the time.

It seems that a couple of BNSF freight trains got a little to close while passing each other and cause a minor derailment which resulted in the westbound train being sixteen hours late into Spokane and then being bused to Seattle.

It works like this - BNSF owns the track and even though Amtrak is on schedule they decide to let a backlog of freight trains go first even though we are on time.

As a result I don’t have a lot of time in Chicago but a another little glitch occurred - I had checked my big suitcase through to Boston but while getting my ticket out in Chicago noticed that they were sending it through to Boston South Station and not Boston Back Bay as I requested - it seems that there is no baggage handling at Back Bay as it is only a commuter stop which is fine with me but why didn’t the porter who checked it in Seattle tell me that - well after a little asking I was able to retrieve my bag and it remained with me for the trip to Boston.

I grabbed a bite to eat at the Station - checked my email at the Metropolitan Lounge in the station and then boarded the Lakeshore Limited for the 24 hour trip to Boston.
Wednesday Oct 20, 2010

I had another good night sleep and are taking lot’s of photos - part of today’s journey - Albany to Boston is new as I have traveled that route yet.

This is also what they call a split train - at Albany - the train is split - the main part with the dining car goes onto to New York while the remainder with the lounge/café car heads for Boston - we are running on time - should be into Boston before our scheduled arrival time of 9:00 PM - we arrive about 30 minutes early - we get a different dinner - we can either choose from the lounge car menu or they have a beef Wellington dinner that they will heat up for you. I choose the latter and it tasted okay.

I am off the train and then walk the six or so blocks to the hotel in Back Bay - across from the Christian Science Monitor center and attached to the Prudential Center and other shopping places.

The first phase of the trip has be completed - now it’s a couple of days in Boston and then onto the cruise ship for fifteen days.

Well I have arrived in Basseterre in St Kitts - having a great cruise - trying to upload my journal entries from an internet cafe - no luck yet.