Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back to Basics

Alright, so now we've got the cruise details out of the way. That took a whole lot longer than I had anticipated but that's alright. I'm still putting together our home video of what we managed to shoot while there, not much but combined with photos it makes for a nice keepsake. I'm also using Smilebox to make scrapbook pages with some of the photos and will have the 12x12 pages printed at Costco (where it won't cost me an arm and a leg). I've kept much of the memorabelia from the trip and want to put it together in a scrapbook the easy way since I'm no good at "real scrapbooking" acording to my friends.... ya you know who you are, I'm giving you the side eye right now eh!.

Now, back to being superwoman in the real world.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Final Destination

The vacation was finally over, by Sunday May 13th we had docked back in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We had left all our luggage outside our cabin for the porters to take off the ship in the morning.  We awoke pretty early and blah blah blah, then headed up to the buffet for our last meal aboard the Carnival Victory. 

This time around the buffet was actually pretty crowded but once again we found ourselves a nice table outside by the Sirens pool where the buffet back there still remained undiscovered by other passengers. 

After breakfast we headed to the theatre where most people had gathered and the big screen was set to CNN where we watched the "news" and socialized with other passengers until our group was called for debarkation.

At around 10:00am we were finally called to leave the ship where we found our way through the port, down an escalator and into what looked like a large garage area where all the luggage was sitting so you had to make sure you knew which group your luggage was in or it'd be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Personally I thought it would have had one of those conveyeur things like at the airport (Miami cruise terminal had one if memory serves me correct), but this was "ghetto" for lack of another term.  Nobody seemed too upset with they layout though, we only heard a small handfull of entitled individuals crying complaining that they had to go search for their luggage instead of just standing around and waiting for it to come to them. It only took a few minutes to find our luggage because we had bright ribbons tied to the handles to make things easy when we were at the airport!

We left the port, but not before one of the female port security officials made a pass at my husband.... that's alright, I ain't mad or nothing, I took that as a compliment but paws off or we gonna be cat-fighting ok. We headed outside and just took a minute to catch our breath then grabbed a cab back to the airport. 

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:00pm but arrived at the airport before noon... well before noon!  So we grabbed a seat and made ourselves comfortable.  The time passed fairly quick and we huddled with a group of strangers and said prayer before heading onto the plane.  This time we flew from San Juan to New York and had a 3 hour wait in New York for our flight to Montreal.  We grabbed a sandwich while we waited for our connecting flight and made numerous calls for mothers day to our moms and all the moms we knew until the minutes on my pay-as-you-go phone ran out! 

Our connecting flight only took an hour to reach Montreal from NY and we grabbed a cab from the airport to home.  Home sweet home minutes before midnight where we made an omlet before freshening up and heading to bed. We each had only one day off before heading back to work.  We're also planning to head back to the Southern Caribbean on a cruise again in 2014 but on Royal Caribbean, now we just have to narrow down the exact date in 2014!  I'm already excited!!!

And there you have it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday In St.Maarten

Our final destination on this week long cruise of the Southern Caribbean was St. Maarten, and by this time I was fried to a crisp.

The ship docked early, and as per usual we did the morning personal hygiene ritual prior to heading up to the buffet for breakfast then off the ship where we met up with Bernard's Tours

While we were waiting on the dock we took a few photos.

Once again we were loaded onto a small "mini-van" type of bus.  Our group had 9 people (this included the driver who's name evades me at this time).  We left the port and the driver began to tell us about the history of St.Maarten

Our first stop was an iguana farm if I may call it that!  This looked more like a chicken farm with coops and cages with I really can't say what was inside them as I was kind of creeped out about the iguanas walking around freely!  Felt like I was in Jurassic park or something.  We met up with the other tour bus and that guide held onto an iguana for everyone to have their photo taken with it and as you can see I was trying to smile bravely but failed miserably.

We had the chance to walk around this "farm" and ask questions.  I don't know if my husband asked any questions as I was too busy being scared of the iguanas that the guide kept calling over... and they were mingling with ducks too... that is so not normal in my world!

We loaded back onto the bus and headed across the "border" to the French side and stopped for a few photos while the guide gave us more information about the island.

The view of the ocean was breathtaking, I could have stood there for hours staring at it.  And the flowers, oh the plant life on all of the islands we visited was amazing, and we know how much I adore eyeballing flowers and gardens. 

Our next stop was at some beach (ya, some beach that I wasn't paying attention to when they named it because I was in such awe with the view, did I mention I have a short attention span?) 

Anyway, there was a guy on the beach showing us some of the sea life and letting you hold them for photos which I had absolutely no intention of holding anything that I never seen before in my entire life thank you very much but I did take a picture of Tony with one of the tour guides holding a pointed whateverthefrance it was. See, even Tony looked like he didn't want to touch it and he's from the islands so he knows what that was (at least I think he knew what it was).

We then strolled around and there was a tall look out point that we were able to climb and get more photos before leaving this area and we tried to take some video too but our video skills this time around were truly lacking for what ever reason but we did come away with a lot of great digital photos so no complaint really.

We boarded the bus and headed towards Orient beach... the "clothing optional" beach where we were greeted by mister sunbaked naked guy who really aught to go put some clothes on for goodness sake!  Our guide told us that he really wants folks to take his picture, well that being said I still thought mister sunbaked naked guy better go put some clothes on!!  Seriously!!!

We stayed on the side of the beach were only partial nudity was permitted and chose a beach chair just far enough away from miss sunbaked droopy boobs who desperately needed to go put on a bra.  Seriously, that's just too much nakedness in one day for me. 

We rested beneath an umbrella on comfortable beach chairs and had a beer.  Yes I know, woman who doesn't drink alcohol had quite a bit this week eh.  Anyway, that's the only one I had that day so no harm done except it gave me a headache because I can't hold my liquor.

We spent about 90 minutes here just relaxing and hiding from the sun under a beach umbrella... ok I was hiding, Tony was enjoying the sun.  We munched on a bag of potato chips and then before you know it, the time had passed so quickly, guess I may have had a bit of a nap there. 

While we waited for our driver, Tony got into a game of dominoes with one of the other guides, then we boarded the bus and away we went headed towards Maho beach where we could watch some planes land.  

It was past noon and the sun was hotter than hot.  If it wasn't such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place I'd swear I'd ended up in hell it was so bloody hot.  And to add insult to injury, I was so sunburned that I had to wear a long sleeve shirt to cover my arms, they were so pink and purple looking like I may have done some serious damage to them over the course of the week.  Ask me if I intend to return to the southern caribbean anytime in the near future... HECK YEAH!!!  IN 2014 GOD WILLING!!!!!  Only this time we'll stick to Royal Caribbean lines and skip the Carnival cruise lines.

So after we left the naked beach, we headed to Maho beach where I looked like I was in disguise with my sunhat, sunglasses, and a long sleeve shirt, not only that, I put a beach towel to cover my legs too.  Ya, it was THAT SUNNY and hot. 

Like pretty much everyone on that beach, we patiently awaited a plane to take off from the landing strip.  Being the curious george

Finally a plane was coming in from shore, we watched it land and after a few more, we headed back towards the ship and were deposited near the docks where we were able to do some shopping or in our case - browsing before heading back onto the ship.

Once aboard, we freshened up then headed to the buffet for, yes need I say it again for the umpteenth time... sigh, burgers and fries. Then we made our way to the pool deck for some blow me away live entertainment that just left me speechless (yes I'm being sarcastic at this point).  I had to mention in the youtube description that this video is not the guest karaoke but the duo that usually performed in the main lobby bar (whatever that bar was called).

After we took in a show, we went to dinner, then watched Disney's The Lion King on the big screen outside (ya, that was the movie... I loved it!) and then we called it a night... our last night aboard the Carnival Victory.

Next stop.... San Juan, Puerto Rico to go catch our plane home!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Around St. Kitts

We're getting closer to the end of our vacation. Thursday was our stop in St. Kitts. Once again after our morning hygiene rituals and hitting the buffet for breakfast where we sat outside to eat rather than inside, we eventually made our way off the ship by 8:30am.

We were a bit confused by the set up as there were taxi cabs waiting in one area to snag passengers and shuttle them off to a beach, and there were tour guides provided by the cruise ship in another area which we were not interested in, and lastly there were security and other personnel walking around, some with signs looking for people, or signs indicating the name of a tour.

We were confused!!!

We went to one of the security guys and asked for Greys Tours, figured he'd know where we could find them. Eventually he pointed us in the right direction. You see, I was supposed to book Greys Tours on line but forgot, so was really hoping they had room for us and luckily they did! His tour was priced at $48 per person but he also offered group rates if you booked a larger group in advance.

The tour bas was somewhat larger than the mini-van bus we had in St. Lucia but otherwise pretty much the same. It held 22 passengers (this included the driver). Our bus was filled with folks from one group who were on a group cruise aboard our ship. I'm not sure if the group was a church group but I assume they were as they all knew each other personally, spoke of their church and that we had the pastors wife, daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter in the group. The majority of that group were in their sixties, excluding the daughter, her husband and child, and us! One lady who introduced herself as Flo (short for Florence she said), took my hand and apologized for us having to be stuck with them all day! I said it wasn't a problem. Then another lady who's name evades me said that they were a crazy bunch, this made me laugh.

Mr Thenford Grey, the owner of the tour was also our driver! Once we all got organized we boarded the bus and headed off on a scenic tour of St. Kitts.

We drove throughout the city where Mr. Grey pointed out historical sights and gave us some information on their meaning. 
We continued up and down some roads where locals were selling fruits and vegetables alongside the road.  We seen more historical buildings and government buildings which were pointed out and given a brief summary.

We made plenty of stops along the way to take photos, mostly through the window of the van while within the city as the traffic was a bit congested the closer to the port you were.  Soon as we made it up a few hills we had some beautiful scenic views.

We drove to a place where there was a rock that had "ancient drawings" on it.  Had a photograph taken by it, saw a monkey too but there was no way I was going to hold it.  They also had a small shop set up to buy souvenirs, then we made our way to the botanical garden that I can't remember the name of.

Once we parked and exited the vehicle at the garden we were able to walk around and take even more pictures.  The flowers were amazing the bugs were not!  Mr. Grey was showing off a red and black caterpillar that I bravely ran away from!  Yes, even in a foreign land I have no backbone when it comes to insects!  At least I own up to it eh, that should count for something!

There was a fabric dying shop on the premises that we were able to watch them dye some shirts and were able to purchase a few items.  We basically loitered around there for a while which was nice, there was a nice breeze cooling us off but it was still mighty hot and sunny too.  After a while we all piled back into the van and headed uphill to the fort.

We made it to a fort, I'm sure he told us the name of it but I may not have been paying attention as I was busy taking pictures. We exited the bus and had a brief video infomercial of the fort and then were free to roam around and take photographs.  We missed the video though because I had to make a bee line for the ladies room!

There was a small restaurant located just off side of the fort where we were able to buy something to eat for a ridiculous price, as the tour itself only provided bottled water (no free booze on this tour like we had in Barbados & St. Lucia).

At one point Tony & I got a bit more information from Mr. Grey about the fort. He pointed out an area that was currently just a sloping hill and described to us how it used to be the sleeping quarters for those occupying the fort. His description was quite vivid too. As he was also answering a few of our questions I got distracted by a tiny lizard on the wall... it gave me the creeps! I didn't run from it though but I did run from the unrecognizable flying insect that came at me from the bushes.

There was a man with a pamper wearing monkey seated on a donkey that made for a cute photo opportunity but the man wanted you to pay to take the photo and he pretty much voiced his opinion of anyone "stealing a picture".... no way was I paying for a picture of a monkey on a donkey. I would have given a tip nonetheless but telling folks how much it cost to take the shot was just, I don't know...

I understand the economy is tough in the islands but seems every stop we made on this cruise there was someone asking for a tip for doing nothing, including the dude at the airport who quickly grabbed our luggage like a thief and chucked it into the cab then insisted we pay him a buck a bag! WHAT!!?? I thought this guy was stealing our bags, heck I was hoisting one bag into the trunk when he grabbed it from me and then he wants me to pay him! WHAT!!?? Of course I paid him though I mean, seriously, I'm in a foreign country, I don't speak the language so, duh!

Anyway, once again we boarded the bus and drove around listening to Mr. Grey as he informed us of some local history and current events.

We stopped a couple of times to take photographs and headed toward the beach for a brief stop since none of us were really interested in swimming. I just wanted a restroom break as did all the other ladies who loaded up on that bottled water!

The beach had a small area with a plate of heaven only knows what, and was feeding the mongoose. Just over to the side was another sign saying don't feed the monkeys.

There were monkeys running around in the bushes and jumping in the trees!

One tourist from I don't know what tour group took a banana and was enticing them with it giving them bits of it so I was able to get some good shots though we were at a distance, figured if monkey attacks the dude who didn't read the sign, we'd be far enough away to get a good running head start to safety, you know how it is, wild animals, rabies and whatnot, after all the movie Contagion was one of the movies the ship had showing constantly on their movie channel (along with boring Harry Potter and the Something of Something).

A short while later, we returned to the bus and drove off, seen more sights, heard more information, had a few gut wrenching jokes from those ladies on the bus and returned to the docks (at approx 3:30pm) where there were plenty of duty free shops for us to browse so we did. We picked up some souvenirs, browsed a few more stores, walked around before heading back on board.

Off to the stateroom to freshen up then up to the Lido/Pool deck to the Mississippi Grill for burgers and fries for lunch (I'm so sick of burgers and fries for lunch by this time but the buffet sucked when it came to lunchtime variety). We later found some chairs on one of the upper decks and lazied about. Took in a show later on then had dinner. Was hoping to play the name that tune game where the band plays a tune and you name it but it was in the casino lounge and I just don't get how a band can be heard over all the ringing of the slot machines, plus it was smokey as it's the only lounge that allows smoking! So STOOOOOPID!!

We called it an early night. This cruise seemed more like work than fun. We had no time to sleep, I'm so sleep deprived!! The itinerary was awesome but sheesh, no time for sleep! I ain't as young as I used to be, this trip chewed me up and spit me out (after it burnt my butt to a crisp).

Sigh, next stop .... St. Maarten.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Day In St. Lucia

Our most anticipated stop was in St. Lucia. We had prescheduled a full day tour with Cosol Tours at $65 per person. This was one tour with a relatively high price that we didn't question as we knew what it would include and the duration of the tour being 5-6 hours long was also a plus.

As per usual, the ship docked at 8:00am and the excursions met on the dock at 8:30am so we had to set the ipod alarm to go off pretty early to allow for our morning hygiene rituals before hitting the buffet for breakfast. Today however was a rainy day. The sky was grey and dark but the temperature was hot and humid. I didn't mind the rain because by now I was pretty much burnt to a crisp, the saying "put a fork in me I'm done" comes to mind!

We met with Cosol Tours on the dock along with other passengers aboard our ship. The tour bus was one of those air conditioned mini-van type of buses that sat 10 of us (this included the driver of course). We had Cosol himself as our driver and tour guide so we knew we would get the best!

We all climbed into the van and made our way through St. Lucia. As we drove, our guide, Cosol, spoke of the islands economy, how people are living, the unemployment but also said with all the fruits and vegetables on the island, nobody ever goes hungry. And as we looked around there were many vegetable stands with locals selling something. We drove past many mango trees with mangoes laying all over the ground! I'm accustomed to seeing the small crab apple trees with apples on the ground but not mango trees (especially as mangoes are so expensive in our markets). We pulled up alongside the banana fields where we exited the van and were given a tour and explanation of the banana crops. We also had the opportunity to take a couple of photographs so that's me there with the bunch of bananas and our tour guide Cosol.

We boarded the bus and began to tour again and then stopped for breakfast. Breakfast was buffet style, home cooked samplings of various of the islands foods from fried plantain, fish cakes, johnny cakes and fruits. Very tasty and most of it I already sampled and I had pleasure in letting the guide know that I was familiar with most of the foods  too because my Mother-in-law is from the West Indies and cooks these regularly. Pretty much everyone else was newly introduced to the foods. Our tour group consisted of mostly Americans but we also had a couple from the Ukraine (we were the only Canadians).

It began raining off an on again heavily at times as we drove along and Cosol continued to provide detailed information about St. Lucia.  We stopped once in a while photo opportunities and got lucky with a stop to see the "Lady Slipper" and take photos before the rain started all over again!

During our tour we had plenty of drinks that were included in the price of the tour! I tasted the St. Lucia rum punch that knocked my socks off, then I had one of the Piton beers (the local beer). I have a friend who is from St. Lucia so when I came home I told her I drank one of her island beers while on vacation, this made her very happy!

We pulled up to the water front and boarded a water taxi that took us for a brief ride across the shore to a beach where we could relax, swim and snorkel for 90 minutes.

Once the water taxi left us, the sky opened up and it poured on our heads.

I hadn't intended on swimming but got soaked to the bone nonetheless. Tony was in his swim trunks relaxing in the water while it rained and other tourists were snorkeling in the rain. It was hot so the rain didn't bother us! Eventually the rain stopped, once we were all soaked, and the water taxi returned for us taking us back to the tour bus where we had more rum punch and soft drinks, then went to see the smoking volcano thing. It smelled like rotten eggs there! phew! We were given a brief explanation from a guide who works solely at the volcano then, you got it, it rained on our heads and we ran for cover. The rain didn't last long and we were able to snap some photos of the Piton mountains before heading back into the van and driving away.

Our next stop was the botanical garden but unless you had an umbrella or a water proof camera, you may as well stay in the van.

I braved the rain and managed to take half a dozen photos but that's it because the rain came down too hard, too fast. Back in the van and off we went, more driving, more discussing the island and we noticed that Cosol was worried about the weather and explained that it should be the dry season now but this year they've had lots of unseasonable rain. Either way, we don't blame him for the rain and he did make the tour as best he could all things considered. Besides, everyone was so loaded up on rum punch it could have been snowing and we wouldn't have cared!

Towards the end of the tour we stopped off and were given hot fresh baked bread with pieces of fresh cheese... mmm that was so good! Back to the ship by 4:25pm and the ship left port at 5:00pm. We thanked Cosol for a wonderful tour but insist we will do it again on our next Southern Caribbean cruise, he went above and beyond to please his clients, well worth the money.

The day ended with the usual, freshen up, get some late lunch, stroll around the ship, see a show, have a late dinner. We tried to watch the big screen movie but it was pouring rain, though the movie was The Incredible Hulk (the good one with Edward Norton), I think that was the only good movie played that whole week and naturally it got rained out!

Early to bed, early to rise, next stop.... St Kitts.