After our Constellation cruise we headed home by way of Ponte Vedra, FL to meet up with John Linn and his wife Linda, who live nearby. On the way we made a stop at the Juniper Springs Recreation Area of Ocala National Forest. It was an interesting place, with mineral springs that you could swim in (we didn’t) and lots of greenery. We met John and Linda at Bird Island Park in Ponte Vedra before going to their home then having a lovely dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant. It was nice to meet another long-time “online friend,” if only for a few hours. But Ponte Vedra is on the way to lots of places down that way, so it’s likely we’ll be in the area again!
We’re off again. Back to Florida to visit different friends, hop on another cruise ship with them for a few days, then slide back into town just in time for Christmas! Good thing our shopping is done…. 😉
On the island of St. Martin, it had been a few years since we took the time to visit the capital of Philipsburg, so we took the water taxi from the cruise port and spent a few hours there. While the buildings show a hint of old Dutch architecture. we find that most of the businesses are bars, jewelry stores run by non-St. Martians, and hotels. Go to the beach or shop is about it. Or take pictures. 🙂
St. Martin is best experienced on an island tour with an experienced guide, a trip to a nice beach or a lunch at a restaurant on the French side. We have done this many times in the past and it is a much better time! We just didn’t want to do it this time.
St. Kitts is another of those islands we’ve been to numerous times, and more often than not choose to stay on or close to the ship instead of trudging around the island with the rest of the tourists. This is another place where we got off the ship long enough to stretch our legs, visit a store we wanted to go to, and take a few photos. It’s easy to spend an hour or so then get back to the ship before all the pool chairs are claimed! 😉
I find the island of St. Thomas to be one of those places that has been spoiled by its own success. That is to say, a beautiful place that has been over-populated, over-commercialized and over-developed, to the point where it is little more than a shopping place with beaches. I know that sounds mean, but like a lot of places what made it famous and desirable ain’t there any more.
We got off the ship long enough to walk around the immediate port area long enough to stretch our legs and get a few steps. I did manage to take a few photos, which are fun but nothing especially interesting. Probably not tourist photos, at least not all of them!
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.
We were sitting at breakfast one morning, waiting for our food. I was looking up at the dining room ceiling and decided to take a few pictures. A really nice man at the table next to me turned and asked, “could I see what you were taking pictures of?” I showed him the screen on my camera, and I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like “fascinating” or “interesting” or “excuse me I need to go now.” Just kidding about the last one. 😉