Tag Archives: Cruise

Kind Of A Port – Puerto Plata

Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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.

Cruise ship pier in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Celebrity Constellation in Puerto Plata, 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. πŸ˜‰

Cruise ship pier in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Excavator with interesting bucket. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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.

Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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!

Flowers. Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Flowers. Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Flowers. Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Taino Bay Harbor. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Good Morning, San Juan!

Arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation

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.

Passing Castillo San Felipe del Morro on approach to San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation

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.

Arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation

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.

Passing the US Coast Guard Station while arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation

We spent some time off the ship and walking around, and I’ll highlight those photos in another post or two.

Passing Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Regional Airport during our arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation
Arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico aboard Celebrity Constellation

In The Middle Of It

NWS Radar and Approximate Location of Ocala as of 8:00 AM

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.Β  And away we’ll go!

Last Bermuda Post!

View from our stateroom window while docked in Bermuda aboard Celebrity Summit

Very few people will be interested in this, but for those few who are, here is a brief post about our stateroom aboard Celebrity Summit.

View of our stateroom window from the helipad

On recent cruises, we have recognized the relatively better value of booking an “Ocean View” stateroom as opposed to a “Veranda” stateroom. The main difference is that an Ocean View stateroom has just a window, which can range from a porthole to a large picture window, while a Verandah stateroom has a balcony, with sliding glass doors from the room. The cruise lines have been quite successful in marketing the Verandah staterooms, since they cost more, thus being more profitable. Some of the newer ships have done away with all or nearly all Ocean View rooms for this reason. But depending on the specific cruise, the price difference can be significant.

Our stateroom #6001 on Celebrity Summit
Our stateroom #6001 on Celebrity Summit

This was our third cruise with an Ocean View room, and we have found that there are certain Ocean View staterooms on certain ships, that are much larger than “regular” Ocean View rooms, sometimes to the point where they are larger than the higher-priced Verandah rooms. We have really come to enjoy the rooms in the very front of the ship. They provide an interesting view and more space, with the tradeoff that they are on one end of the ship, so you have a long walk to just about anywhere. But we like it!

So this is just a short overview of our stateroom on Celebrity Summit. Those who have been on cruises will recognize the layout, those who have not might still be interested.

A Special Treat: Sail Away From the Helipad

On the day we left Bermuda, we along with “several hundred of our closest friends” were invited to experience Sail Away from the helipad. It is the second time we got to do this, the previous time was on a cruise sailing from Barbados.

On most cruise ships, the helipad is off-limits to everyone but crew. A few of the larger ships do allow passengers on the helipad when conditions are safe. Someone always has to do the “Titanic” thing on the bow.

Generally though, sail away is by invitation only. I asked the Captain’s Club hostess how people were chosen, and she kinda answered that there was no magic formula and that the number was determined by the captain. But I do know that our past-passenger status with Celebrity – high but nowhere near the highest! – had to have helped. It was a fun time, I got a few photos and we had some free champagne-like wine. It is always a treat, and we enjoyed the experience!

The National Museum of Bermuda

The National Museum of Bermuda explores the maritime and island history of Bermuda. The maritime museum is located within the grounds of the fortress keep of the former Royal Naval Dockyard.

The Commissioner’s House is used to display a number of exhibitions. The basement shows Bermuda’s Defence Heritage, a display about Bermuda’s defenses and fortifications since 1612, and the role of local forces in World War I and World War II (this is devoted only to the British aspect of Bermuda’s naval and military history, although there is a separate exhibit devoted to the United States bases). The pillared hall is site of a two-story History of Bermuda mural by the Bermudian artist Graham Foster. The main floor has a number of themes related to Bermuda’s history including slavery, immigration, and tourism. One room is dedicated to the history of the Bermuda Race. The upper floor contains collections of maps, books, coins, maritime art, and exhibits concerning activities of the Royal Navy and the US Forces, specifically during World War II. Other buildings show shipwreck artifacts, local watercraft, or are under renovation.

Other outbuildings house various exhibits. The Queen’s Exhibition Hall/1850 Ordnance House contained a display pertaining to underwater archeology. The building known as the Boat Loft contains historic local watercraft, a collection of vintage outboard motors, and a fascinating two-story clock mechanism.

The “Other End” Of Bermuda: St. George’s

On our second day in Bermuda we took a ferry from the Royal Naval Dockyard to the town of St. George’s, located on St. George’s Island on the east end of Bermuda. St. George’s was established in 1612 as New London, and was the original English settlement on Bermuda. St. George’s served as the capital of Bermuda until 1815, when it was moved to Hamilton.

Downtown St. George’s is a quaint little place, pretty quiet except just before and after the arrival of the ferry. It also serves as the dock for smaller cruise ships, and the Oceania Insignia was docked there during our visit. The shops and restaurants there were very nice. For my money I would revisit St. George’s before returning to Hamilton, due to the hustle and bustle of the larger capital city.

After our tour, waiting for the time to return to the ferry, we had a very yummy lunch at Wahoo’s Bistro, a restaurant recommended by our guide. They are known for their fresh seafood, including their “Fish Sandwich” which consists of lightly fried local fish on raisin bread, with a tangy sauce. It’s a little hard to imagine the combination, but believe me when I say it was delicious! Sadly, I don’t have a photo of it. πŸ™ We also indulged and had a Yellow Bird, a Bermudian cocktail made with rum (Gosling’s, of course!), pineapple and orange juice, Creme de Banana and simple syrup. We only had one (each) so we would be able to make it back to the ferry dock!

Royal Naval Dockyard

Most cruise ships that visit Bermuda dock or tender at Royal Naval Dockyard, which sits at the very northwestern tip of the island. Originally established as a base for Britain’s Royal Navy, the Dockyard occupies a strategic location in the Atlantic and has played a role in many naval operations, including a key role in the War of 1812, when the British blockade of American ports was orchestrated from Bermuda.

Today the Dockyard is primarily a marina and shipping port, complete with a requisite shopping areas and restaurants, including the ubiquitous Diamonds International. The “shopping mall” was a disappointing collection of t-shirt shops and souvenir stands, a far cry from the high end shops on Front Street in Hamilton. We wasted too much time there, missing out on visiting the Bermuda Transport Museum as well as a potential lunch at a restaurant that one of our guides recommended. Next time!

Adjacent to the Dockyard is the National Museum of Bermuda, including the former Commissioner’s House which sits atop a hill overlooking the bay. I’ll detail that in another post as it is a destination unto itself.

Wikipedia article about the Dockyard