CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN SEPTEMBER 2009
Ah Yes! Another Caribbean Cruise! After a fabulous flight on Continental (yes, they still serve real meals!) to Ft. Lauderdale, we set sail on the Carnival Freedom. We had balcony suites and breakfast by room service each morning – what a treat to sit on our own balcony and watch the world go by. Full screen current movies were shown each evening on the Lido deck by the pool. My God! What a peaceful experience! The first 2 days of our cruise were at sea. It was heaven to just relax! We wore our Tilley hats everywhere – a must have for travel!
We landed in Puerto Rico on 14 Sept. If you get to San Juan, be sure and have dinner at Barrachina – the home of the “original” Pina Colada. The food and atmosphere was very colorful and fun. Next we went on to the Parrot Club for a Mohito drink. Antonio at the bar was funny and interesting. Although Puerto Rico was interesting, it was a very big city and not one of my favourite ports. This was our only evening stop in any port.
Our next port was the absolutely stunning island of St. Thomas. I could stay on this island for a very long time. While Rick spent the day at the world famous Magens Bay beach, Patrick and I walked the old city of Charlotte Amalie. The old brick warehouses, housing many lovely little shops, were a real treat to see. Th little pathways bewteen the building were made of cobblestone and added a very charming touch to our walk. I bought a hand made linen tablecloth and a linen apron; both were intricately embroidered and very fragile.
We had lemonade (it was already 35 degrees at 10am) at a wonderful upstairs restaurant called Bumpas. Really great homemade lemonade and yummy looking sandwiches.
We hopped into a cab and took at tour of the island. At the Great House Botanical Gardens, we had “The World’s Best Banana Daiquari” and trust me, it was fabulous!
An average home “on the hillside” is about $US 400,000 and the view here are terrific!
St. Thomas was beautiful. friendly and very, very clean. This is my favourite island in the Caribbean. Note that in one of the above photos, another cruise ship docked behind us – a unique photo, I thought.
Next stop was Antigua. Unfortunately, I had heard that this port was very dirty and it was! The general rundown condition of the port area was a real disappointment. If you are a shopaholic, there must be hundreds of big name brand stores – truly a shoppers paradise. Finally, we took a taxi to a small beach. Deck chairs were $5, no towels (unless you took along the ones from the ship), changing rooms grungy. The only really good thing about Antigua were the very friendly and pleasant local people. Because we could not find an appealing restaurant, we ate on the ship.
A highlight of the tour for both Patrick and Rick was the Island of Tortola. We booked a tour, through the onboard booking centre, to the Virgin Gorda & Baths. An air-conditioned ferry picked us up right beside the ship. The 35 minute trip featured stunning water views and also an on-board full screen movie. Very comfortable and well worth booking in advance.
Arriving in Virgin Gorda, we transferred to a small island bus and arrived at the Baths. The Baths are not actually baths, they are huge boulders with stunning pools between them. There was a long pathway down to the beach but the stepping stones were well placed – took about 10 minutes. Patrick and Rick took the walking tour through the caves and really enjoyed it. The walk was steep and not suited for me with my sore back so I stayed on the wonderfully clean beach. The water was so clear that I walked out in it up to my chest and could still see the pretty little fishes swimming around my feet. If you value beauty and serenity, this is the place for you!
We had a really great tasting rum punch after the long walk back up the hill. Wonderful trip and not to be missed!
One thing to note is that there are no beach “hawkers” in Tortola. I would also stay here for a week or two and there are many accommodation options available for any price range.
Today, 18 September, was an exciting day for me. I love Bingo and in the morning, I talked Patrick into going to the big Bingo in the morning in the Victorian Lounge. I told him that I was ‘feeling lucky”. Being such a good son, and because he had nothing else to do at that time, he came with me. There was only one game played that morning for $10 per card or 3 cards for $20; I chose the $20 package. The game was an X, which is usually won in about 30 numbers. At 12 numbers, I told Patrick “I need 2 numbers”. His comment as he texted away on his iPhone was “oh yeah?” As the 15th ball was called, I whispered “I need one number.” Just as I said G48 to Patrick, the caller said – “under the G, 48.” I jumped up and yelled “Bingo” and jumped up and down. Okay, okay, I was excited! I was the only winner at 16 numbers! My choice was $1000 or a cruise for 2, ocean view cabin. I chose the $1000 because we like to have balconies and that was not an option in this case. Wow! What a thrill!
In the afternoon, I still felt lucky and could not either Rick or Patrick so I went by myself. I won the 2nd game by myself again and the prize this time was $125. Smaller prizes in the afternoon.
In the hot sunny afternoon, with nothing to do but lay in the sun and read, Patrick and Rick marched me over to the deck top water slide. It is about 18 stories high! Quaking in my flipflops, I waved the guys goodbye and climbed to the top. It was really, really windy! Down I went, around the curves, splashing and screaming! After making a big splash at the bottom, I survived the slide. Naturally, the guys did not go down – they just wanted to see me make a silly of myself. Huh! They were not disappointed.
Just like on our last cruise, we reserved a table at the only “pay” restaurant on the ship, the Sun King Restaurant. We had a lovely meal; the wine was suggested by the sommelier was superb and he amazed us with his knowledge. Patrick had a Louis XIII brandy that was warm and very special. We all had the chocolate desserts which were a treat – little tastings of 4 different chocolate temptations. Afterwards, we had a photo taken.
I only tried my luck at the Casino a few times, without winning anything at all. Just a note: the Casino must be closed when in port and remains closed under the ship reaches International waters so if the ships stops at alot of ports, not much daytime gambling takes place.
Our last stop was Nassau. NOT a good place to visit. However, the slow paced sail into the port was very beautiful. Yes, the Atlantis Resort was massive but really, just one more large theme hotel………… Nassau itself was very unclean by the port. The docking area was so big, that there were 7 cruise ships in port when we were there, coming in one right after another! So, if you are claustrophobic, you will hate being “herded” through a huge indoor marker with only 1 door way at the end. I guess that is to persuade you to buy something in frustration of being stuck in a packed building with 15,000 (7 ships at the same time) other ship mates. After about 25 minutes, we made it out and were definitely not impressed with the “tourist trap” environment of Nassau. Even Senor Frogs was ugly. 3 beers and 1 plate of nachos was $US 65 and tasted as terrible as it looked. Servers were very unfriendly and almost rude. Don’t go there!
In retrospect, we should have braved the mass at the beginning and taken a tour.
Always take a Tilley hat. Always book a balcony suite – room service is free and breakfast on your balcony in the early am is a real treat. Book at least one night in the “pay” restaurant – it is a welcome change form the dining hall atmosphere on other nights. Don’t over pack, you won’t need as much as you think. Try to book at least 2 trips from the on ship Carnival Cruise Booking Centre. Take your headset if you listen to music – sometimes it gets pretty noisy. What the travel guide books say is sometimes not what you really want to see. Take in those late night movies on the deck. Nothing quite like watching a movie under the stars!