Tag Archives: Caribbean

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

Galley Tour on Celebrity Summit

Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

Another highlight of our recent cruise and part of our chef tour was a tour of the galley.  We have done galley tours before on numerous cruises, but ordinarily they are held in the morning, and the most exciting thing you see is someone making gravy!  For this tour we were taken through the galley during dinner service, and it was quite an experience!

Chef Stephen on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

It’s been a long time since I worked in any kind of restaurant environment, and I’m not sure I actually qualify to say that I worked in any kind of restaurant!  But the things we found most impressive were how clean and organized things were, and how friendly everyone was, especially while they were busy.  I took a lot of photos on this tour, and these are just a few, to give you a “taste” of the experience!

Escalator from the dining room to the galley
Executive Chef Kuldeep Singh on Celebrity Summit
Dessert station!
Dessert station!
Dessert station!
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit
Galley tour on Celebrity Summit

Oh, There Were People in San Juan, Too!

Trio On A Bench

Cedric commented on my last post about how the lack of people contributed to the “Tranquilidad” of the scenes.  Of course not all of my photos were devoid of people, as the people are a large part of what makes San Juan special.  Here are a few photos “with” people as a counterpoint against those without.

Painting a Fine Line
Afternoon Walk
Three Dimensional
Wrong Way
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Scenery near El Morro Fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Lunch at Barrachina, allegedly the birthplace of the Pina Colada. In San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

An Unexpected Visit to San Juan

This Way!

Kathy & I recently returned from a cruise to the Caribbean.  We’re getting pretty good at the cruise thing – this was our 23rd cruise – but we’re still practicing!

An Address I Could Live With!

This cruise was on Celebrity Summit.  Celebrity has become our favorite cruise line, mostly because they just know how to do good food and good service.  While all of the lines are good, we’ve come to really like Celebrity.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Summit is one of Celebrity’s older ships, but we chose it because it is one of their smallest, at just 2,000 passengers.  The ship we were on last year was over 4,000 passengers, while we saw a ship this time that was over 6,000!  While I would love to experience one of those ships, that’s just a shipload of too many people!

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

This cruise was supposed to stop at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but Punta Cana doesn’t have a  dock for the cruise ships so it is one where they need to take passengers ashore using tenders.  The seas were too rough there for tendering, so we ended up in San Juan, PR instead.  While we looked forward to Punta Cana, we love San Juan and were not at all disappointed to end up there.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Kathy & I spent our time in port walking around Old San Juan.  We had lunch (and Pina Coladas!) at a nice restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the drink.  More to come on that, but for now, here are a few random photos from our time walking the streets of the old city.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

A Visit to Jamaica – Ya, Mon!

Sunset at the Sunset Gazebo. Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

I haven’t been terribly motivated to process photos lately but forced myself to get a few done for this post.  It’s a tough job and no one is going to do it but me! 🙂

Open air bar at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Kathy & I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Half Moon, a resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Quiet and laid back, Half Moon was just the answer to a hectic spring and early summer.  I went with  only my lowly Olympus point & shoot, but still managed to come home with a few photos.

Not a bad view to wake up to. View from our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
You almost don’t need coffee in the morning with a view like this! View from our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Shadows on the patio of our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Front of our relatively modest villa (compared to some!). Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Low Beam – as in Watch Your Head! Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Path to the beach and villas. Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Not our villa, but typical of many of the residences at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Not our villa, but typical of many of the residences at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Quitting LinkedIn

“If a LinkedIn account gets deleted in the forest and no one is around to see it, does anyone really care?”  with apologies to George Berkeley

Shore excursion to Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

I recently decided to close out my LinkedIn account.  Like I suspect a lot of folks did, I started on LinkedIn because it was supposed to be a professional networking site.  While it certainly has its devotees and I’m certain that for many people it is a critical part of their business day, I just never found it to be all that useful.  I was getting connection requests from people I don’t know who were just trying to sell me stuff, recommendations from people for skills that I probably have but don’t really care about promoting, and even after shutting off all the notifications, it was just something else I had to do.  And now, since I tend to be trying to minimize my distractions and obligations, it just seemed to be time.  I had planned to close it before the recent change in their terms of service and had already deleted most of my connections, but that email was the catalyst I needed to shut it down.

Light fixtures aboard Norwegian Epic

So I’m still on Facebook, although I rarely look at it and don’t share anything other than my blog posts.  I’m on Instagram but don’t post much and don’t have many followers or follow many people (by design).  I have a Twitter account but have never tweeted, although I think I might have liked or shared a thing or two.  Most importantly, the people who need to reach me know how. and those who matter the most to me are probably reading this blog.  Maybe all the way to the end! 😉

Norwegian Epic in Tortola, BVI

A Return To Windows

Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI

Long-time readers will recall that a little over 3 years I embarked on a project to build my own computer.  With my son’s expert assistance (as in he did all the hard work) I built a PC from parts and installed Apple’s OSX on it – a “Hackintosh.”  I had been a Mac user for a long time, originally purchasing a Powerbook, then an iMac and more recently a MacBook Pro.  I needed a new computer then and liked the idea of building my own, and was intrigued by the idea of running OSX on it.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

For those who like messing around with computers, building a computer can be a fun and interesting challenge.  For people like me who mostly just want to have a reliable and reasonably competent tool, the time and effort required to keep up with software updates and the workarounds required to run a non-native program on a computer got to be more than I was interested in doing.  More recently I started running into problems with the App Store telling me that the software was up to date, but the part that Adobe CC looks at to determine if I am able to run the latest version of their software thought it was an older version.  The steps required to fix that problem didn’t seem to work, and I finally decided to make a change.  Also, I was never able to get my Canon printer to run on the Hackintosh.

The Hotel 1829 in St Thomas, USVI

My choices essentially came down to two.  I could shell out the money for a new Mac, but new Macs are quite pricey these days, and the ones that I thought I needed to do the job are several years out of date.  Probably OK for my needs, but I was having a hard time with the idea of spending a bunch of money on a new computer, just to end up with my current box sitting idle and useless.  My second option was to install Windows on my current computer and run the software for which all the parts were intended.  It’s still a very capable computer, with a fast processor, 500GB SSD and two 2TB hard drives, lots of memory and a good video card.  So that was what I decided to do.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

With my son’s help (gracias, Kevin!) I mapped out the steps required to replace everything I used on the Mac with its equivalent on Windows.  And it actually wasn’t much because I don’t use a lot of stuff – the two biggest challenges were (1) moving my photo files – 4 hard drives in all including backups – from Mac-formatted hard drives to Windows-formatted hard drives, and (2) finding a suitable replacement for my backup software.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

The Mac vs. Windows arguments have been going on for years, much like the Canon-Nikon-Fuji-Olympus-Sony-Etc. arguments for cameras.  But when it comes right down to it there just isn’t a lot of difference between them these days.  I use a Windows computer at work, so other than having to remember to close or minimize from the right instead of the left, they’re essentially the same.  Lightroom and Photoshop look and act the same, Chrome looks the same, and Office for Windows is pretty much the same as Office for Mac.  A few other odds and ends and I’m pretty well covered.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

I’m not going to go into a lot of details on how I solved the two problems because I don’t have the expertise to answer questions.  For the transfer of photos I purchased software from Paragon Software called HFS+ for Windows.  That allowed me to see the Mac-formatted (HFS+) hard drives so I could copy the data over to newly-formatted Windows (NTFS) hard drives.  I originally intended to use Paragon’s Backup & Recovery software, but just couldn’t get comfortable with how it worked.  I ended up buying GoodSync, which works more like the SuperDuper that I used on the Mac.  There is no Windows version of SuperDuper, but GoodSync comes pretty close.  I may experiment with other software, but so far it seems to do the job.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

At this point I’m most of the way finished with the conversion.  My two external backup drives are still in Mac format, as I want to be sure that all the Windows stuff is operating correctly before I wipe out those drives and copy the backups to them.  There is probably a slight risk there, but I think it is wise to be sure before committing.  And I haven’t tried to hook up the printer yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me time for that project.  Since it involves starting up the printer and wasting a certain amount of ink, I want to be sure I have adequate time to complete the process!

Aboard Norwegian Epic departing St Thomas

So that’s pretty much it!  Over the course of the last 18 months or so I’ve gone from a Canon user to a Fuji user, and from a Mac user to a Windows user.  But I’ll bet you won’t notice any difference in my photos from either move.  And hopefully I’ll be able to forget about the computer for a while and just go take photos!