Another Caribbean Cruise

Discussion in 'Postcards from Planet Earth' started by Shale, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. Shale

    Shale ~

    December 14, 2015
    Another Caribbean Cruise

    On December 10th I got back from my ill-fated cruise to the Hawaiian Islands in November where the ship lost a generator and we only stopped in Honolulu. Princess Cruise Line gave us our money back and also half price on a future cruise. I had taken 8 Caribbean cruises out of the Port of Miami on various other lines, but Princess only goes out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. One of the places I have always wanted to see was the Panama Canal so I found a Princess cruise to that plus Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, which I stayed in my travels of 1975. So, I booked the half price cruise for January 24, 2016, despite the inconvenience of having to travel up to Broward County.

    January 21, 2016

    In three days I am going on the Caribbean Cruise. My grandson, Kevin said he could get me to Port Everglades on Sunday. I haven't arranged a way back yet. I discovered that the Airport shuttle I used in FTL and MIA don't do the port, so I will likely take a shuttle at the dock to MIA and bus home from there or as a fall back, take a Broward bus to Aventura Mall and the S or 120 home from there.

    Anyhow, looking forward to this cruise as I will go to a couple of places I have never been, such as the Panama Canal, Aruba and Colombia. (I was in San Andres but that is a Colombian Island off the coast of Nicaragua). This will be the furthest South in the Americas I have been.

    Today, I bought a penlight to pack whenever taking a cruise. I always get inside cabins, which are totally dark when the lights go out. I like sleeping in total darkness but when getting up to use the toilet, I hate turning on a big light, so now I can get a little light to navigate the room in the darkness.


    Also, for anyone taking a cruise I would suggest you pack a flashlight; something I learned from the cruise where the ship lost its generator. It was 5 AM and I was up having coffee with a dozen other old men when the lights went out. The upper decks had emergency lighting but for those below deck, still in bed or just getting up, it took a while to get the electric on to all parts of the ship. Those ppl were in total darkness in their cabins. Well, I guess most iphones give enuf light to dress by, but since I don't have one of those, I now have my penlight.

    January 22, 2016

    Today is a rainy washout day, just what I need to get into packing for a trip South of Florida. Got an E-mail today from Princess with the Subject: Emergency Notification. Always a scary prospect this close to departure but it was about the Zika virus in some Caribbean islands and South America which is dangerous to pregnant women.
  2. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 24, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    On My Way

    My grandson Kevin drove me up to Fort Lauderdale today. My cruises usually leave from Port of Miami but Princess only goes from Port Everglades.

    Ft. Lauderdale from deck of Island Princess Jan 24

    This is the first time I’ve been here so we arrived about an hour early. Early is better than “missed the boat.” There was already a line processing in so by the time I was supposed to arrive at the port I was already in my room.

    Cabin on Ship B403 Jan 24

    With all the blizzards in the Northeast U.S. ppl laf at our “cold” weather in the low 50s but it was uncomfortable this morning. By 11 AM it was at about 60 degrees F. and I was comfortable in my shorts & polo shirt. However, Just as in San Francisco when I was dressed like that and everyone else was bundled up, I was the only one in line without a jacket. One of the workers even mentioned it. IDK, for a guy who lives in Miami Beach because I don’t like cold weather, I seem to do better with cool weather than ppl from the north.

    I was surprised to see so many old ppl on this cruise. I can understand it on a cruise with a lot of days at sea but most Caribbean cruises have younger passengers. In fact, when I saw 3 ppl sitting together who were in their 30s they really stood out. I have seen a couple more ppl under 50 but they are exotics on this cruise – a half-dozen out of 2400.

    Leave Ft. Lauderdale Jan 24 beach/surf

    Well, so much for my first day aboard, mostly exploring my new neighborhood for the next 10 days. Got the 200-minute Internet package so 20 minutes a day ration to keep in touch with my cyberfriends.
  3. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 25, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    At Sea

    It is much warmer today but very windy. The wind is coming from the bow so the19 knots we’re going might have something to do with that. This morning at 9:30 I saw mountains on an island to the West, which was likely Cuba. At 6 PM I saw it again and checked the navigation display on the TV and it was Cuba. That is one long island and we’ve been going by it all day.

    I went to the ship gift shop to get an oversized mug that I’ll never use with the ship’s stats on it to add to my 4 other cruise ship mugs. I saw a nice T-Shirt commemorating my trip to the Panama Canal and got it as well.

    Panama Canal T-Shirt Jan 25

    I found the gym and it is not the usual big one on many other ships. No big windows to look out while running or cycling it is a bit claustrophobic. IDK if Iwill use that as an excuse to blow off exercising or just admit to my laziness.

    Island Princess Gym Jan 25

    BTW, when I go thru the canal, that will be the furthest South I have been on this planet. I researched it today (offline using books & nav maps). The Panama Canal is at 9 degrees N. Latitude. The furthest South before that was San Jose & Puerto Limon, Costa Rica both of which are at 10 degrees. (Hawaii is at 20 degrees, the same as Merida Mexico and Bombay at 19 degrees).

    There was mixed sun & clouds today with the temp in the mid 70s so I got about an hour on the sundeck. It was nice to lay back listening to music from the Lido Deck pool. One young man played the steel drum and it is amazing the range of sound those things can make.

    January 26, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    At Sea

    I overslept this morning. With the ship’s rocking and totally dark room, when I realized I was awake and not tired and turned on the lite it was 9 AM. I went topside for coffee and the buffet was packed. I prefer getting up earlier – the day seems to be too quickly gone.

    The ship is rolling a bit, the sea is ruf with whitecaps and on deck port side is gale force winds. The starboard deck not so bad and ppl are on deck lounges sunning between clouds.

    Caribbean Sea Swells & Whitecaps Jan 26

    I was looking at the nav map on the wall when a couple joined me and we talked a bit about Caribbean travels. I couldn’t help but notice the guy looked like Tim Oliphant and he asked me to not tell anyone on board and I said sure if you let me get a pic.

    Shale & Tim Olyphant Jan 26

    [SIZE=11pt](Disclaimer: Couldn’t help lying to enhance my journal entry. The guy is Dale with his wife Mary. He had never heard of Tim Oliphant and no one else had mentioned it. He said he would Netflix the last “Die Hard” movie where Tim played the villain.)[/SIZE]

    Saw a documentary on the construction of the Panama Canal on the Pool Deck screen. A great accomplishment at the turn of the 20th Century. Plan to see it in a couple of days. Tomorrow we see Aruba.
  4. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 27, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise

    I left the ship at 8 this morning and walked the whole 4 hours until noon. Took some pix of things that caught my interest but here are my verbal impressions of Orangestad, Aruba.

    Dutch Style Bldg Orangestad Aruba Jan 27

    Dutch Style Bldgs Orangestad Jan 27

    This city is a tourist city like any other port to which I’ve been. There are all the hi-end stores of designer goods, as well as all the American fast food places like Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Subway & Pizza Hut.

    Shale on pier Orangestad Aruba Ship in Back Jan 27

    This was a Dutch colony until 1986 and yet aside from a few traditional buildings and an occasional sign there is little indication of it. Most signs are in English (FOR SALE, BLOWOUT SALE, NO PARKING, STOP) and some in Spanish. Everyone I encountered spoke English.

    Art Deco Bldg Blue Jan 27

    Art Deco Bldg Brown Jan 27 Dona Clara

    [SIZE=12pt]As for the local architecture, there is an old Dutch influence but I saw quite a bit of Art Deco style as well. The city of Orangestad appears to have something under construction or renovation at every block. [/SIZE]
  5. Shale

    Shale ~

    Their local Cinema has all the movies currently playing in Miami. IDK why they have a red British fone booth but since everyone seems to speak English, why not.

    Orangestad The Cinemas Jan 27

    Red British Fone Booth Orangestad Jan 27

    I went to Iguana Joes on the way back to the ship and had a local Aruba beer, Balashi. It was good or I was just tired & thirsty.

    Shale with Balashi Beer Iguana Joes Jan 27

    Speaking of Iguanas, those here along the sea wall are not as skittish as the ones on Miami Beach who run off if you get within 10 feet of them. I got to within a yard of those here before they even considered moving.

    Bold Iguana on Rocks Jan 27

    One thing that really stood out is how short the doors are on some of the older buildings here. You would have to be constantly alert not to bump your head.

    Shale by Short Door Orangestad Jan 27

    [SIZE=11pt]Got back to the ship at noon and had a salad & several glasses of water as we left port at 12:30. Then I went to the gym and actually did some exercise. Did some upper body while waiting for a treadmill and the stationary cycle to be available. Ran about a mile then pedaled until I felt it in my legs and my pulse got to 140. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=11pt]Hope I didn’t overdo it, because tomorrow I’d like to walk around Cartagena, Colombia.[/SIZE]
  6. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 28, 2016
    Cartagena, Colombia

    As we came into port, I was really surprised by how huge Cartagena is. Looking at the skyline, this city appears much larger than Miami. Maybe a couple of Miami’s. The city appeared to have a layer of smog and when I went to the open deck there was an acrid smoky smell to the air.

    Cartagena Colombia Skyline Jan 28 smoky

    I did not make any tour arrangements and the city did not look inviting enuf for me to make an effort to go in, so I opted to stay aboard ship.

    I made the acquaintance of a couple of women yesterday in the dining room, Virginia & Joan and the three of us walked in the port to the visitor center/duty free store, where they did some souvenir shopping and we got some fotos of flamingos, peacock and another very docile large iguana. Now I can say that I actually visited Colombia, Instead of the technicality of having been to San Andres, a Colombian island off the coast of Nicaragua.

    By 1:30 PM, it was cloudless with brite sun and no smoke so I went to the sun deck. The sun this far south is quite a lot more intense than on Miami Beach, even when cutting thru smog. I only stayed an hour, until we left and I got a pic of the entire city from a distance.

    Shale on Sundeck Jan 28

    Leaving Cartagena Jan 28

    When we left port, I went to the pool deck and got a slice of pizza and the luxury of a $6 Stella Artois, Belgian beer, which tasted much like the Balashi beer from Aruba, while watching the last part of “The Amazing Spider-Man” which I’ve seen Many times. Just a lazy day at sea.

    Beer & Pizza on Deck Jan 28

    Tomorrow morning quite early we will be in Panama going thru the locks up to Gatun Lake.
  7. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 29, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    Panama Canal

    This has been a busy day going thru the Panama Canal, seeing the operation of the Gatun Locks, turning around in Gatun Lake and repeating the journey. While this first set of locks (there are 2 more to get to the Pacific) is not a great distance, about 3 ships length it takes about 3 hours both ways, in which I took about 120 fotos along the way.

    We arrived early in the morning when it was still dark, but sun was up by the time we got our turn at going thru the locks. It was a overcast day, what you would expect in a rainforest, which was on the side of the canal.

    Shale on Island Princes Panama Rainforest Jan 29

    Going into the canal the decks were crowded with ppl wanting to get fotos thru narrow slits of the wind breaker panels. I have been quite happy on ships without this encumbrance and am not too pleased with it. (It’s a ship at sea – expect some damned wind in yer face).

    This structure is over 100 years old and is a marvel of innovative engineering of the time. So simple of design but so many challenges that needed to be surmounted. After going thru the 3 locks we were in Lake Gatun, where you could see a dam that helped create the lake that gave all the water to operate the locks using gravity.

    Island Princess in Panama Canal gate open Jan 29

    Lake Gatun Dam Panama Jan 29

    Anyhow, when we got to the lake the ship tenders were put in the water and a lot of ppl went ashore for land excursions, so the trip back was much easier to get pix and the sun came out at our backs.

    Returning to Gatun Locks Jan 29

    Island Princes in Panama Canal water levels Jan 29

    We got a certificate for going into the canal.

    Certificate Panama Canal Jan 29

    We docked at Colon, Panama at 6 PM, to pick up the excursion ppl, but it did not look inviting so I didn’t go ashore. There was nothing of enuf interest for me to endure standing in a long line to get back aboard. I noticed the ship was still at the dock at 9 PM after we were supposed to leave, but that happens - I supposed some excursion had not returned.

    Colon Panama from Ship evening Jan 29

    So, I edited fotos, went to the gym and ran a mile, then biked 3 and had my pulse up to 135 for half an hour. Kinda wore me out actually. So I went to bed at 11:30 PM. I plan to go ashore tomorrow at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. I was there a couple of times in the 1970s.
    1 person likes this.
  8. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 30, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    Puerto Limon

    I awoke at 7 AM and went topside to discover we were still at sea instead of docked at Puerto Limon. I found out thru rumors that the ship did not leave Colon until after midnight because they were waiting for an excursion that had been robbed. We arrived at Limon by 8:30 AM.

    I have such an affinity for this small port city in the tropics – perhaps it being a part of my life history. My first trip to Puerto Limon was with my Partner Jim in July 1974, then again in January 1975, exactly 41 years ago. The city must have imprinted on me then and reawakened as I walked these still crumbling, hole-strewn sidewalks today, seeing ppl of Hispanic, Indio, Chino & African diversity. It is a culture in which I am most at home.

    Shale Foto fm Jan 1975 San Jose Costa Rica

    I left the ship at 9 AM and the first thing I saw when leaving the port was a park that looked exactly as it did 4 decades past. What stood out were the Royal Palm trees, which at that time I had never seen before and their trunks were painted white. The trees are much bigger now but their trunks, tho faded are still painted white. Like the rest of Puerto Limon, the park seems to be between a state of disrepair and construction. The park borders the sea and the waves break beautifully today as they did when I was last here.

    Shale by Painted Palm Tree in Park Jan 30

    Shale by Breaking Surf at Park Jan 30

    In my wandering the streets, some off the beaten path, I found an old building very similar to the one Jim and I stayed at. It had the lattice boards at the top of the walls for ventilation, which also meant that the adjoining room could hear you and even see you if they looked over the top of the wall. An English speaking black woman said this building is being preserved but she remembers the hotel I mentioned and it was gone now.

    Tropical Wooden Bldg like old Hotel in 1975 Jan 30

    Among my tourist fotos are the NO SMOKING signs in the park. Surprisingly, No fumar signs were almost everywhere. They weren’t here in the ‘70s. Another change is the ubiquitous cell fones just as they are all over the planet.

    No Fumar Sign Puerto Limon Park Jan 30
    1 person likes this.
  9. Shale

    Shale ~

    January 31, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    At Sea

    What can I say about today? The weather was nice, the sea smooth & calm and I just wandered about talking to strangers as if we were close friends. (Facebook IRL).

    First thing this morning in the dining room getting coffee I saw this woman sitting at a table writing in a notebook. Pointing to the notebook under my arm, I asked her if ppl comment about why she is writing. I ended up sitting and talking to her for two hours with several coffee refills. We even read passages from our journals and hers was poetic prose. BTW, she is quite an attractive 77-year-old woman.

    I then went to a lecture about the history of cruise ships and the ships with beautiful lines were those made in the 1950s & ‘60s, which most have been scrapped, replaced by the square hotels on barges that we are floating on today. He even mentioned the Norwegian Epic with the hotel added to the top, on which I crossed the Atlantic last April and said was ugly. That ship was also criticized by ppl in the industry for ruining the lines of the ship.

    In a QA session afterward, I mentioned the beautiful older ship I saw at the dock in Aruba, and was told that it was owned by the Church of Scientology for one of their costly progressions. Oh well, I still like it as a pretty ship just as I still like Tom Cruise’s screen presence.

    Freewinds Beautiful Ship Aruba Jan 27

    So, that was my day at sea.

    February 1, 2016
    Caribbean Cruise
    Grand Cayman

    I hadn’t planned to go ashore today. I was here in 2007 with my grandson on our first cruise (we went on the sub ride). But, it was a beautiful day with nothing better to do than take a tender ride to shore.

    I got a good shot of our ship from the tender.

    Island PrincessAnchored at Cayman Feb 1

    Harbour Dr. George Town Cayman Isl Feb 1

    I only stayed an hour on the island, then came back to the ship and spent an hour on the sun deck in this very intense sun. We set out to sea at 4 PM and will be at sea all day tomorrow.

    At that time I didn’t know what to do this evening (eventually decided on seeing the movie on deck “Bridge of Spies” with Tom Hanks)

    But, at 4:30 while reclining on a deck lounge in the shade with the blue, sunny skies while gliding across a smooth sea, a cool breeze started blowing across me from the bow and Roston started playing the steel pan and I fell into an “I don’t need plans – enjoy the moment.” I even sprang for a $6 beer.

    Shale Enjoying Moment at Sea Feb 1
    2 people like this.
  10. porkstock41

    porkstock41 stay positive and love your life ~311

    pretty cool to read about your cruise, Shale.

    i went on one to the caribbean, which made a stop in grand cayman. we took a taxi to the beach and i spent most of the day playing in the sand and surf like a kid. looking for seashells and stuff like that.
  11. Pressed_Rat

    Pressed_Rat Do you even lift, bruh?

    Shale must be fucking loaded going on as many cruises as he does. Must be nice.

    GLENGLEN Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

    He Doesn't Own A Car So I Think That Would Boost His Finances Bigtime...... :)

    Cheers Glen.
  13. Shale

    Shale ~

    Actually, a few years back the Caribbean cruises were so cheap that I joked I was gonna wait until Royal Caribbean paid me to go on one. Living near the Port of Miami, there is no air fare to consider, I just go by Miami-Dade County bus. So far since 2007, I have taken 9 Caribbean cruises, some just 4-day, which are quite inexpensive. This week will be my second going across the Atlantic and there was the cross Pacific to Hawaii.

    BTW, this last one to Panama Canal was half-price for being on the Hawaii cruise when the ship broke. Plus we got all our money back from that cruise, so it was basically free (except for a few hundred shipboard expenses)

    I found I enjoy the "At Sea" days as much as docking at ports so I enjoy 5 to 8 days without seeing land, surrounded by nothing but blue.

    I am leaving for the Trans-Atlantic cruise next Sunday going to England. We hit a few Caribbean Islands on the way, two I have yet to visit - Puerto Rico and St. Maarten.

    While it may seem excessive taking a trip to Europe on a 13-day cruise, this is a Repositioning Cruise, where they take the ships that were working the Caribbean all winter and now will work Europe and Mediterranean all summer. So, they are relatively cheap since they have to take the ship across the Atlantic. My airfare from London back to Miami is about $300.

    Yep, cars are an expensive luxury. Also, I live a fairly frugal lifestyle. Seldom go to restaurants or bars, only matinees at movies with Senior Discounts.

    In London I will be staying at a bed & breakfast for a couple of nites. Not as cheap as when Jim and I stayed at one there in 1977 but probably a lot nicer in the Westminster area.

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