Archive for Caribbean Pearls 2010

Finding a charge

We have abandoned Chili’s and are clustered around an electrical outlet, seeking that essential commodity of the 21st century: Battery recharging of iPhones and laptops. Steve is sitting on the luggage cart and, fortunately, I have my travel wheelchair (did not use it on the cruise, a good thing!).

Steve is biting the bullet and buying the MIA WiFi, since his Sprint card does not seem to be working.

The terminal area is littered with “electricity” refugees, sitting on the floor or making other uncomfortable accommodations to charge their precious batteries. I see a business opportunity here…

Less than an hour now until we can check our bags & go through security.

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Bored at Miami International

Well, we have come crashing back to reality. We disembarked Regatta at 8:45 AM and arrived at the airport soon after. Our United flight doesn’t depart until 5:30 pm, so we can’t even check our bags until 2:30. The main terminal of this airport is pathetic, with very few services and limited seating.

We walked quite a distance to a Chili’s, one of the only restaurants in the pre-security area, where we have been treated to the sound of constant coughing from of one of the hostesses, obviously suffering from a nasty cold.

A strange service is offered here - you can get your luggage wrapped in many layers of plastic. It appears to be popular with travelers heading to Caribbean & South American destinations, which makes me wonder if they unload baggage in those countries with pitchforks.

Because we have all of our bags with us on a cart we have to sit near the outside of the restaurant. Our waitress is now going to make us move to a smaller table, requiring us to move everything with us. Many people on our cruise chose to fly through Ft. Lauderdale airport; they were indeed wise in their choice. I will reserve the cussing to the dear reader’s imagination.

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Through security

Well, we’re finally through security. The United counters were woefully understaffed & lots of folks were waiting to check bags.

Now we’re seated in a restaurant that looks out on the gate area, watching some of the more exotic airlines heading out (Avianca, TACA, etc). We’re having a burger that pales in comparison to Waves grill on Regatta.

Can’t wait to get home now, although we will miss the warm weather. We hope Ruby, our dear cat, has survived our long absence.

We’ll post more photos later. Tune in again in June when we head off on our Baltic cruise on the “Mouse”.

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Last day on Regatta

Well, our last day Oceania Cruises Regatta is dwindling away. It’s a gorgeous day, calm and not too hot.

Last night we ate at the Polo Club for the last time on this cruise. It was superb - Steve had the filet mignon and I had the surf & turf. We slept in, had a light breakfast, and packed most of our stuff already.

We finally tried the pizza today at lunch and it was great. We plan to eat in the main dining room one more time, then we’ll start worrying about how much weight we gained (I was at a new low on Weight Watchers just before the cruise, having dropped almost 41 pounds, so I’m sure I will have to lose a few again).

Overall, the cruise was a lot of fun and very relaxing. Highlights: The food (awesome), the low-key atmosphere, the bar & waiter staff, seeing whales in the Caribbean, sitting on our veranda, our trip on the Yellow Submarine, meeting some great people on the cruise, visiting St. Bart’s, Virgin Gorda, the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Grand Turk. Lowlights: The incredibly rude and snobby Oceania cruises ambassador (his job is to sell future cruises to people; he fails miserably at this task and should be fired), the visits to Dominica, Tortola & St. Lucia (all quite disappointing) & the Destinations staff on the ship (unhelpful and unfriendly).

We would recommend Oceania cruises to others & will certainly do another cruise with them soon, but the jury is still out on our “favorite” cruise line. We plan to do our fourth cruise on Disney in June, our 12-day Baltic adventure, and have rated them very, very high in the past. Many of the guests on this cruise were appalled that we like Disney (“all those kids, too many people, yada, yada”), but I am quite fond of the high standards of “The Mouse”. Well, we can enjoy both types of cruises and that’s fine with us.

Hope you have enjoyed our updates. We’ll probably post one more time from the Miami airport tomorrow.

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What do you do with a day at sea?

Today is one of the two days at sea that we have before getting to Miami, which begs the question – what do you do when you’re not running around on some island?

The answer is quite simple. You can do as little or as much as you want to. Today, we decided to sleep in for a while, since we always like to sleep in when we can and we didn’t have a shore excursion to run off to. After we had breakfast out on the Terrace, we decided to go do the daily trivia quiz (which we “cheated” on by searching Google for answers we didn’t know), and then watch a cooking demonstration by the Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef on the Regatta.

The Executive Chef is a gregarious Frenchman by the name of Renald Macouin, while the Executive Sous Chef is a non-smiling German named Thorsten Czap. The interplay between the two was very funny, and they kept up a good patter as they showed how to make a ratatouille with scallops and “Veal Medallions, Mushrooms Ragout, Sautéed Apple Flambé with Calvados and Normandy Cream Sauce”.

After that, we went to one of the shops on the Regatta where Barb shopped and I went into bored husband mode. Fortunately, Barb is about as excited about shopping as I am, so we were out of there in a few minutes. Then we popped back up to our favorite little grill (Waves) for lunch. That’s where I’m writing this post right now.

Since we’re getting close to the end of the trip, there are some administrative tasks that we have to take care of. Those tasks include filling out the U.S. Customs declaration form, making sure that we have enough “Green Number One” luggage tags for our two bags and the travel wheelchair, and thinking about how to pack all of our dirty clothes into the bags again.

Tonight we have a 7:30 PM reservation in the Polo Club onboard steakhouse, followed by Brainteaser Trivia with Willie Aames (yes, the former child actor from Eight is Enough and Charles in Charge). We have been doing this with a team for quite a few nights, and we’re winning on a regular basis. Since you have to rack up a lot of points to actually “buy” your prize, we ended up giving our Big O points to one of our team members on her birthday (March 17th).

We always try to spend some time either on the deck or our verandah right around sunset, and we’ve been rewarded with some spectacular sunsets so far. It’s a great way to relax, and that’s what cruising is all about.

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Gustavia, St. Barts

A catamaran in the harbor in Gustavia, St. Barts. This was one of the lesser expensive boats in the harbor, with some amazingly expensive and HUGE yachts pulling into the slots in the harbor.

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Gorgeous Caribbean Sunset

Sunset over the Caribbean. We were blessed with a number of beautiful sunsets during this trip. This was one of them…

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The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda. These rock formations are huge granite boulders that surround the entrance to several beaches on the island.

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Yellow Submarine in St. Barts

We all live in a Yellow Submarine. This is a nice, new semi-submersible in St. Bart’s that we took around in shallow water for about an hour. Got to see lots of sea turtles, nurse sharks, rays, and fish!

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Virgin Gorda - yet another great day

I’m going to start off by telling you a little about what we did yesterday afternoon and evening after I posted about St. Bart’s. We were hanging out on our verandah after having a lovely day on the island, and at one point we heard a loud “Pssssshhhhh”. Looking over the side, we saw a huge mother humpback whale and her baby swimming alongside the ship. We yelled so that others who might have been on their verandahs could also take a look, and at least one other person saw what we were looking at. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to take any photos — we were too stunned by what we saw.

Last night was a lot of fun. We ate at the Terrace rather than at Toscana, and we were able to join our trivia team. We’ve now won a couple nights in a row, and have also gotten several second place wins as well. This morning we awoke slightly later than usual for our day at Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. Virgin Gorda is a stone’s throw from Tortola, which we visited earlier in the cruise. From the island, you can see St. John’s and St. Thomas in the U.S.V.I., as well as many of the smaller British Virgin Islands.

We took the tender over to Spanish Town, the main port on this sparsely populated (5,000 people) island. We got on a tour bus that was surprisingly similar to the open air trucks we used in Africa, and went to the highest point of the island to take a look around. We stopped a place called “The Mine Shaft” on the way back down to have some drinks (the omnipresent rum punch), and take in the views. We then traveled on to the site that the island is known for — The Baths. This is an area where a lot of HUGE house-sized granite boulders are strewn around a beach area, and you have to climb through and beneath them to get to the beach. It’s a lot of fun, although Barb was unable to join me due to her knee issues.

I went all the way over to Devil’s Beach, which is a nice snorkeling area surrounded by more o the large boulders, and then returned to the bar at the top of the hill. Barb was there with a couple who are professional photographers — the man is named “Steve” so he’s obviously a nice guy — and we had a few drinks. I walked down to the beach again to grab a bag of sand for my friend Paige Hoebel, and then we were ready to head on back to the ship. We had missed our bus, but the driver had come back and was waiting for us. He took the other couple under his wing, and we all headed back to the port to catch a tender back to the ship. This was our last tender trip; we now have two days at sea before arriving back at Miami for our trip back home.

Virgin Gorda is a nice little island; it seems fairly laid back, the poverty is under control, and the people are really nice. I think the last two ports on this trip — Virgin Gorda and St. Bart’s — were really the nicest. I’d come back to either of them in a heartbeat. We’ll sail for Miami here in a few hours, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we do over the next two days on board.

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