Tag Archives: Caribbean

Big and Little

Big and little. Allure of the Seas and Marella Discovery docked at the Port Zante cruise terminal in Basseterre, Saint Kitts

One of the things that always amazes me about cruise ships is their size! The loop in our neighborhood that I walk around some mornings takes 5 laps to make a mile. The walking/jogging track on Allure of the Seas takes only 2.5 laps to make a mile!

Marella Discovery is what cruise ships used to look like. She was placed in service in March 1996 as Splendour of the Seas. With a capacity of 1,830 passengers, she was considered state of the art at that time.

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, by comparison, holds 5,402 passengers. When she was introduced in 2010 she was the largest cruise ship in the world. That title now belongs to Wonder of the Seas at 5,734. That’s a lot of peoples! 😉

I just posted a gallery of photos from this cruise and our recent swing through Florida at my Adobe Portfolio site.

Walking track on the promenade deck of Allure of the Seas

Back At Sea!

Sky Princess departing Cozumel, Mexico at sunset

Kathy & I spent last week on our first cruise in nearly 2 years, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas out of Port Canaveral.  It felt good to get back on the water and we had a great time.

There has been a lot of sensationalistic reporting in the media about cruising, with much hype around the occasional rare but real report of some kind of outbreak.  Covid is only the latest hand-wringer.  I’ve said for years that cruise ships have been among the cleanest places we’ve visited.  They have always been very vigilant about cleaning in an effort to reduce the spread of all kinds of passenger-borne bugs.  A report of an outbreak of any kind is fresh meat for a media looking for anything to wring their hands over.  Yes, it happens.  But relax.  It was fun.  Yes, we had to take a Covid test before we left home.  Yes, we had to wear a mask on occasion.  But we have to do that at home anyway, and it was a lot warmer in Cozumel than it is back here in NC! 😉

We paid a visit to Kennedy Space Center before the cruise.  I took a few photos and will have more to share over the next few days.

Gridwork on the canopy of the Solarium area of Harmony of the Seas

My Latest Project

Grid of 8-inch Squares on a 28×37 Gallery Wrap

I mentioned in an earlier post how we had recently had our bathrooms and bedrooms repainted, and that I had been given the “assignment” of providing prints for the walls.  I’ve been thinking for a few months about the proper theme and color palette for each room.  I’m still cogitating on the bedroom and master bath, – actually waiting for a new chair and draperies to arrive – but I finally settled on a scheme for the hall bathroom.

Grid of 8-inch Squares on a 10×28 Gallery Wrap

I’ve always tried to stay away from using other photographer’s work in my bathrooms, not being sure how that would come across. 😉  I’ll admit to previously having a John Shaw print and a Les Saucier print in our master bath, but neither of those two gentlemen are ever likely to set foot in our house, let alone the bathroom.

20×30 Canvas Float Wrap

In general, Kathy & I are going for images that capture our sense of travel, showing a sense of the places we have visited without being “literal.”  When we decorated our sunroom with prints from a St. Martin artist, we wanted it to “feel” tropical without sea shells and palm trees.  The colors and fabrics express that well.  For our bathroom we wanted a splash of color – ideally Caribbean-inspired.  I think we got there with these three selections.  We’ll then get to hunt for accessories to go with what we have and these prints.  Another reason to get back on the road again soon!

For now these are just files – my print lab starts their “sample sales” soon and I’m hoping to save a little $$$ by waiting a few weeks! 🙂

Thoughts on Three Cruises In Four Weeks

Brilliance of the Seas docked next to Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

We didn’t set out to book three cruises, honest!  It just sorta…happened. 🙂

Carnival Breeze in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We had previously booked two weeks on Royal Caribbean’s (RCCL) Freedom of the Seas out of San Juan in January.  The ship was scheduled to go to drydock for extended renovations the week after we were due to get off.  But due to lots of reasons irrelevant to my post, Royal Caribbean needed to move the drydock back one week and cancelled the second of the two weeks.  We didn’t want to travel all the way to Puerto Rico for just a week (our preference – lots of people do it), so we decided to cancel the first week, too.  We re-used the plane tickets to go to San Juan this past November instead.

Norwegian Dawn in Roatan, Honduras

Because of the cancellation of the first week, we ended up with a credit that needed to be used by February, so we found a 5-night cruise on Brilliance of the Seas, another RCCL ship sailing out of Tampa.  We had never sailed out of Tampa before, and figured with our credit that this would be an inexpensive way to take a short cruise and check out Tampa.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Meanwhile, friends of ours had booked a Carnival cruise out of Port Canaveral for the following week and “suggested” that we might want to go along.  It doesn’t take much “suggestion” to get us interested in a cruise!  So, we booked a cruise on that ship for the next week.

Aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Our son Kevin likes to cruise also, and he has been sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).  He mentioned that he wanted to take a cruise in February and suggested (there’s that word again!) that it might be fun if we went together.  So we checked around and found a cruise on Norwegian Dawn out of Tampa.  But the catch was that there was a week’s gap between the two cruises, so we would need to find something to do for a week.  In Florida, in February?  Not hard to do.

Schooner Bar aboard Brilliance of the Seas

We have been working on visiting different National Parks, and had never been to The Everglades.  So we decided to find a place to stay in South Florida for a week, where we visited Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and drove through some of the Florida Keys.  More on those later.  Then we drove back to Tampa to meet our son and take the third cruise.  When it was all done we had logged about 3,000 car miles, who knows how many cruise miles, and about 4,000 photos!

Grand Atrium aboard Norwegian Dawn

A few thoughts:

– People ask us about the different cruise lines, and although it sounds like a cop-out, they are all good.  Different lines tend to cater to slightly different demographics, but things like ship size, home port and cruise length tend to make a bigger difference than the name of the cruise line.

– We tend to prefer smaller ships and this was borne out on these cruises.  The RCCL and NCL ships were each about the same size – approximately 2,000 passengers, while the Carnival ship was about 4,000 passengers.

– We’ve always assumed that shorter cruises would attract more of a party crowd, but the 5-night RCCL cruise was one of the most laid-back we’ve done, and seemed to have a very high number of repeat cruisers.  The Diamond Club, a lounge for passengers with a certain level of cruises with the line, had so many people that it overflowed into an adjacent lounge.  The Carnival and Norwegian cruises each had a high number of first-timers – a very interesting contrast.

– Cruise line food is very good regardless of the line.  Dining choices are either fixed, with the same table and waiter at the same time each night, or flexible, where you eat where ever you want each night, but with a different waiter and different table each time.  We have always preferred fixed seating, as we like to establish a relationship with our waiter.  But one of the disadvantages of fixed seating is that a lot of the food has to be prepared at once and can sometimes be overdone.  Flexible seating tends to be more cook-to-order, so the food is often fresher, hotter and usually properly done.  This is especially important with fish!

– We really liked cruising out of Tampa and did it twice.  The city is nice – much like Charlotte in terms of age and size, but on the water.  The port is very easy to get in and out of, and parking is a snap.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas enroute to Tampa, Florida

I’m sure that’s more than anyone wants to read about my vacation, so I’ll leave it at that for now!

Big A$$ Yachts

Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St Thomas, USVI

One of the things I enjoy while cruising is checking out the huge yachts that appear in Caribbean ports.  They can be seen year-around, but mostly during the winter when it’s too cold for the French Riviera or Monaco, I guess.  They seem to gravitate toward St. Thomas, St. Martin and San Juan, probably because they have harbors and marinas large enough to handle ships their size, and airports to handle the private jets of the owners.  My understanding is that the owners don’t actually sail on them, they just have crew to take the ship to whatever port they wish to sail from, then the owners hop in on the private jet for a long weekend or a week.

Here are two of the notable spottings from our recent cruise.

Yacht “Eclipse” in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From Wikipedia: M/Y Eclipse is a superyacht built by Blohm+Voss of Hamburg, Germany. Her exterior and interior were designed by Terence Disdale. The yacht was delivered to Russian businessman Roman Abramovich on 9 December 2010. At 162.5 metres (533 ft 2 in) long Eclipse was the world’s largest private yacht until the Azzam was launched in April 2013, which was 17.3 metres (56 ft 9 in) longer. The yacht’s cost has been estimated at €340 million. (Note: the Carnival ship we were on was 306 meters or 1004 feet long, but carried 4000 passengers and 1400 crew!)

Yacht “Excellence” in St Thomas, USVI

From Wikipedia: The 80m Excellence yacht was built in 2019 by Abeking & Rasmussen. She features an exterior design by Winch and an interior by Winch. She cruises at 14 knots and reaches a top speed of 17.0 kn. She can sleep up to 14 guests taken care of by a crew of 20.

Oh, and while not exactly a superyacht, a properly-equipped catamaran is always a pleasant sight. 🙂

St Thomas, USVI

Keepin’ It Real – Roatan Island Art

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

One of the paradoxes of cruising is that while the ships visit beautiful islands, their very presence can detract from what makes the islands beautiful in the first place.  Each day we were in Nassau, for instance, there were 5 ships in port, with total passengers of more than 18,000!  The entire island of Roatan, Honduras has a population of 50,000.  And when there are 3 ships in port, that can add another 8-12,000 people just to the area around the port.  Many of those people buy stuff, which is great for the economy, but it can make it hard to enjoy being there.

It’s getting to the point where if you’ve seen one port you’ve seen them all.  We joke about it here in the states – every strip mall has a Subway, a dry cleaner, a nail salon and either a CVS or Walgreen’s.  Throw in a Chinese restaurant or pizza joint and they are the same everywhere.  On cruises – in the event that you have money left over after all the spending opportunities on the ship – you get a “Port & Shopping Map” for every port, which directs you to the so-called “ship recommended” places to buy diamonds, tanzanite (which I think was invented for the cruise passenger!), fancy watches, color changing t-shirts and tote bags, booze, chocolates and on and on.  But enough – I want to talk about something fun.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Kathy & I make a point of seeking out places in each port that are off the beaten path, locally-owned & operated and provide a flavor for the place itself.  Sometimes it is a nice local restaurant, a beach or just a tour.  Where we can, we like to find shops selling things that we are happy to bring home.  We found such a place on Roatan, Honduras.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Island Art is a small craft shop located on the “main drag” of Roatan, about 200 yards from the cruise terminal.  I found it on Google Maps and am glad I did, because it isn’t listed on the “Port and Shopping Map.”  But it should be!  Yeah, you have to walk past all of the “ship recommended” shops and actually leave the port area.  Once you say “no, thank you!” to 300 taxi drivers wanting to take you on an island tour, you get to a part of the street with a number of restaurants and the straw market.  Directly across the street from the straw market in a colorful and whimsically designed shop is Island Art.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Everything in the store is sourced and hand-crafted by Yourgin Levy, his wife and sons.  Yourgin is a native Honduran and is intimately familiar with the indigenous wood, stone, shells and other materials he uses in his work.  He speaks passionately about his island, his crafts and his family, and told us that he got his start selling his jewelry on the beach.  With encouragement from his wife, family and others he worked hard to get a storefront to sell his goods.  The items in the shop and the shop itself reflect the passion he has for his work and his island.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

I was especially impressed by the different kinds of wood that Yourgin uses in his work.  I don’t remember all the names now, but cedar, mahogany and rosewood were common.  These woods are not easy to work with, even with power tools!  And the results are just beautiful, with Yourgin’s passion for Roatan showing in each piece, and especially in his descriptions when he tells you about them.

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

Kathy and I ended up buying a couple small items, a sea jade necklace and a wood wall hanging, mostly because it was the first stop on our cruise and we didn’t want to chance running out of room in our luggage or breaking something on the way home.  On a future cruise which stops in Roatan I would definitely plan on buying something larger, like one of the beautiful hand-carved sailboats, a cutting board or serving tray.

Whatever you choose to do on Roatan – and you should do something because it is beautiful – have your driver drop you off at Roatan Island Art.  Or just walk there from the ship.  And when you get there, take the time to talk with Yourgin and experience the passion and love he has for the island of Roatan and for Honduras.  I’ve written this because in my own heart I feel strongly that this man and his shop deserve the publicity.  Go there!

“Roatan Island Art” gallery in Roatan, Honduras

All Aboard!

Central Park area aboard Symphony of the Seas
Ice skating show at “Studio B” aboard Symphony of the Seas

Spending a week (or two) aboard a cruise ship with 6000 or so of ones closest friends can be a little challenging, especially for someone who tends to be a little introverted.  Yeah, that’s me.  Kathy too.

Royal Promenade aboard Symphony of the Seas
HiRO show at the Aqua Theater on Symphony of the Seas

We’ve been on enough cruises to know how to find our own space and can usually do so pretty reliably.  During the day there are always a few spots on board that are out of the way and quiet.  That usually involves a lounge or the library, but could also mean a sun deck away from the pool or the Promenade, where there is no food or bar service!  Of course we could always retreat to the balcony of our own stateroom.  We found such places on Symphony of the Seas, but there were also places where it was so noisy that individual voices pretty much disappeared.  Those places were never our first choice, but sometimes finding a comfy seat in a noisy place was preferable!

In Cozumel, Mexico aboard Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas in Costa Maya, Mexico

We have come to really enjoy cruising.  After this last cruise, which was actually two separate cruises that we sailed back to back, we’ve been on 25 cruises!  And we have two more booked, one for later this year and one more in January next year.  Needless to say it is an important part of our travel plans.

Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas
Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas

I’ll have more to say and photos to post about some of the specific ports and experiences from this recent cruise soon.  And I still have some posts to write from our trip to Florida.  I’d better hurry up though, because it won’t be long until we embark our our next adventure.  Stay tuned!

Aboard Symphony of the Seas
Aboard Symphony of the Seas