Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blog Update From The Explorer
Today is the first of three straight sea days because the ship is heading back to New Jersey from the Caribbean. There is a special performance of the ice show for repeat cruisers, which we will attend in a few minutes. Every late afternoon and evening we have been enjoying the drinks and appetizers in the Concierge Lounge with the Boy Toys and other new friends.
And there have been four singing and dancing production shows which have been excellent. Mornings we have been spending a lot of time working out in the gym on the elliptical machines, and also doing some weights in an effort to get in better shape, as well as take off the “bread roll” we acquired on our India trip last Nov. The weather has been pretty good, and we especially enjoy the warmth, which we will perhaps be losing as we head north.
There were 6 port days in a row on this cruise, with the first one being Labadee, Haiti. This is really just a tropical peninsula with nice beaches and other amenities which is privately owned by Royal Caribbean. Roger and Martin arranged for the 5 of us (Jack was with us) to rent a cabana for the day in an area that had restricted entry. Here is a picture of us in the cabana:

It was a nice, shady place to hang out, with tables and a special buffet lunch served right behind it. Here is a picture of the gang at lunch:

About 20 yards in front of our cabana was a very nice beach with floating mats and snorkeling equipment we could use. And, it was such a nice sunny day that we enjoyed going in the water.
Unfortunately, there aren't any more pictures from the other places we have been because the new camera which I bought on the Adventure of the Seas in December, has already gone kaput. I will have to try getting Olympus to fix it once we return to the USA.
The other ports of call were Semana, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts, St. John's, Antigua, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Most of these places were repeat visits for us, so we either didn't get off the ship, or we just walked around a bit in the towns. Usually the only activities are going to the beach or shopping, unless you book an overpriced shore excursion from the ship. In Semana, we took the tender boat ashore, and then walked to a local outdoor restaurant Roger and Martin knew, where we ate plantains and drank local beer. It has actually been hot a couple of the days, especially yesterday in St. Maarten.
This cruise started in Bayonne, New Jersey on Feb. 6. We were lucky because there was decent enough weather that we were able to fly in there on Feb. 5 with only a 2 hour delay in our arrival. The day the ship sailed was a very clear and cool day, and we could see New York and the Statue of Liberty quite well across the harbor. Here is a picture of us with New York in the background.

There was also an interesting memorial right in the port at Bayonne called the Russian Teardrop. It is a big granite piece, split in the middle with a big metal teardrop there, and the names of all the victims of the 9/11 attack etched in the base. It was donated by Russia. This information was supplied by our shuttle bus driver, so I hope it is accurate.
If you ever have a cruise leaving from Bayonne, be prepared for a huge mess at the port. There is only one lane of traffic to get to the area where cars park and taxis and buses drop off passengers, and there is a huge backup. Also, you leave your luggage in a big tent area with the porters and then there is another long line just to get into the building where Royal Caribbean checks you in. Then you have to get on a shuttle bus which takes you about 150 yards to the entry to the ship. Not a very efficient way to check in thousands of people in a short period of time.
We will be disembarking from the ship on Friday morning and taking a shuttle to the airport. Our rig is at the Elks Lodge in Phoenix, where we hope to arrive in the evening. After a day or two in Tucson, visiting Elaine's sister and aunt, we will be heading back to California to deal with some rental problems.