I promised a story and some more photos from San Juan, so here goes. We were leaving the ship to walk through town, and when we passed one of the other piers, there was a delegation of Coast Guard officers and “local officials” standing on the sidewalk near the entrance to the pier. There were several photographers standing there, evidently press photographers due to their each carrying several cameras with various focal length lenses.
I asked one of the photographers what was going on. He said that there is a “bouquet” coming in shortly and that the officers were there to meet it. I eventually realized that the word he was trying to translate was “barque,” which is a term for a type of sailing ship.
Turns out, in just a few minutes we saw the masts of a ship sailing around the point past the Coast Guard base. It was the Juan Bautista Cambiaso, a 3-masted barquentine schooner and training ship for the navy of the Dominican Republic, along with a small tender boat that was accompanying it. The ship was manned by cadets of the DR Navy, many of whom were spread atop the rigging, waving and singing as the boat entered the harbor. It was quite a sight (and sound)!
Because there are so many cruise ships sailing these days, the cruise lines have been looking for more places to stop. And because cruise passengers like to spend money in ports, more and more countries have been trying to attract cruise ships. In some cases, ports are being “invented” where there haven’t previously been cruise ports. Often, these ports are being developed in conjunction with, and most likely significant investment from, the major cruise lines. One of these is Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic.
We visited the Dominican Republic once previously, on a Carnival ship that docked in Amber Cove, which is another recently developed port just up the coast from Puerto Plata. Amber Cove is frequented by ships in the Carnival family, namely Carnival, Princess and Holland America. We did an island tour on that cruise, so we had seen most of what we wanted to see. Highlight for me was a visit to the Brugal rum distillery, but since I can buy their products at home, we didn’t think a follow up visit was needed. 😉
The port area in Puerto Plata is called Taino Bay, and it contains the requisite spending opportunities. Taino Bay is still in the development stages, but there are plenty of shops, many of which offer locally made crafts and other wares. We picked up a couple of souvenirs, but mostly used it as a way to get off the ship, stretch our legs and take a few photos.
What I enjoyed most about Puerto Plata was that the shop owners and workers were very polite. They seemed happy to see us and were not pushy or aggressive like in other ports. It was a welcome change, and I hope it stays that way!
San Juan, Puerto Rico is our favorite cruise ship destination, and for many reasons. We love walking around Old San Juan and have discovered a number of interesting nooks and crannies, some fun shops with local wares, as well as a few restaurants to get some local cuisine.
But the highlight of any visit to San Juan is sailing past Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Also referred to simply as El Morro (The Promontory), it is a citadel (or fortress) built between 16th and 18th centuries at the entrance of San Juan harbor.
Most sailings from Florida arrive in San Juan in the late morning or early afternoon, as it is often the first port and it takes a couple of days to sail there. As it happened on this most recent visit, our 7am arrival coincided with sunrise, and I just happened to be up early enough to hit the outside decks in time. I was rewarded with a fabulous sunrise and wonderful early light on the buildings of the city.
We spent some time off the ship and walking around, and I’ll highlight those photos in another post or two.
At first this will sound absurd, but Kathy & I are currently in Ocala, FL watching the wind and rain from Tropical Storm Nicole. Why the heck would we do that? No, we’re not auditioning for a spot on The Weather Channel!
Kathy & I are heading out of Port Tampa this Friday (tomorrow as I write this) for a cruise. Our original plan called for us to drive to Ocala Thursday (today), then on to Tampa – a 1.5 hour drive – tomorrow. Once we saw the forecast for Nicole, we decided to come down a day early, knowing that there wouldn’t be a lot we could do.
Our drive down was uneventful. We didn’t see a drop of rain the whole way, although it did start to get a little breezy. We got out for dinner last evening and even managed a bit of a walk. This morning we got out for breakfast between rain bands and before the wind got too strong, and we are now watching rain blow against our balcony door. But it is supposed to blow through in time for us to get out to dinner later.
Our drive to Tampa in the morning should see the weather improving and the skies beginning to clear. And away we’ll go!
My pictures may not prove it, but we were at Biltmore about a week early for peak fall color. I had to “help” the color a bit in processing to make them look as fallish as they do, but they still give a pretty good idea of what things looked like.
Last week’s blast of cold air and accompanying winds discouraged any thoughts I had of getting out early and took care of our bold plans for a picnic or two. But we still managed to find some nice color on a couple of days.
I’ve got more photos to share and will work on them over the next few days.
Kathy & I are at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC celebrating our 42nd anniversary. I’ve been joking that this is quite an upgrade from our honeymoon in Gatlinburg, TN. 😉
We did an early morning guided house tour on Monday and have a few days of exploring planned, including taking in their Leonardo Davinci exhibit on Wednesday. I’ve taken a few photos so far, including this one of the Biltmore House from The Lagoon, a spot along the French Broad River.
A quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain but likely incorrectly, according to quoteinvestigator.com. Also the title of a book published in 1995.
I had an opportunity this past week to attend a day of The President’s Cup, a golf tournament here in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow Club. My brother, his son and a long-time family friend came to town from Ohio for the tournament and invited me to come along. I welcomed the opportunity to hang out with my brother for a few hours.
I don’t consider golf to be much of an in-person spectator sport, as it is difficult to really stay involved in the action on an 18-hole golf course. You either have to camp out at one hole and watch the players come by (which is a lot like watching a Formula One race where you can only see one corner of a 2-mile track) or you have to pick a group or groups to follow around the course. The advantage of the first option is that if you get to a good spot early you can stay there all day. The downside of moving around is that you have to either watch the less popular players or be prepared to look from the back of a crowd of people who were there before you. Neither choice is ideal.
I played some golf years ago but gave it up because (a) I stunk at it and (b) it can get pretty expensive. Buying the equipment just gets you the gear, but then you have to pay every time you play (unless you live near where I grew up in Sharon, PA where they have what at one time was the only free golf course in the country.) A decent set of clubs can cost more than a good camera, and I know that it is possible to spend as much on one club as a good tripod and ball head. The choice is pretty clear to me, and I’ve managed to make more decent photographs than I ever made good golf shots!
Quail Hollow is a beautiful golf course, and I was fortunate enough to have volunteered there during the early days of the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Championship, which was before the sport became as commercialized as it is today. In the early days, the tournament course was largely as it normally exists, with a few grandstands and hospitality areas. But for the most part the course was still the course, with lots of green grass, long views and a chance to sit in the shade and watch the players go by with little difficulty. It was a completely different story this time. There were huge grandstands, big hospitality structures where people could watch the tournament on television in air conditioned comfort, all with a great tax deduction for the corporate hosts. To even catch a glimpse of the first tee you had to be in the grandstand there or watching with binoculars from well down the fairway. And that assumes you had gotten there early enough to be able to see the fairway!
My cost of admission, which was not cheap, just got me in the gate. If I wanted to sit in any of the “premium” locations I needed to cough up even more money. There were a few “free” grandstands that were full long before we got there. And when I wanted something to eat, sheesh! I know it is usual at any sporting event, but $3 bottled water, $10 wraps and $11 beers can add up quick. And that doesn’t include the souvenirs. Shirts were selling for $80 and up, hats for $35 and up, and on and on.
There aren’t many things about golf that appeal to me any more, but what I always enjoyed most was the quiet solitude of a beautiful course early in the morning. A little dew on the grass, the sound of sprinklers and mowers in the distance and the occasional bird chirp. Instead, there was the chanting of team support of USA…USA…USA, strange outbursts of things like “mashed potatoes” and other sounds. It was kind of like plunking an amusement park down in the middle of a wildlife refuge! Add to that the (to me) exorbitant cost of attendance, the huge crowds and the 95 degree day with tropical humidity, and it was a good thing I went with people I enjoyed being with!