FC: CARIBBEAN CRUISE | October 2011 | BAHAMAS U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS PUERTO RICO GREAT STIRRUP CAY FLORIDA
1: After planning for our Orlando trip, we thought we should extend our vacation to a second week. Orlando is also very close to Port Canaveral which is where many or the cruise ships dock, so we hunted for a cruise deal. From Florida, the most obvious cruise destination is the Caribbean. Chris had never been to the Caribbean before but Steph had been to the West side, which naturally left East Caribbean as the best choice for this trip. We finally settled on Norwegian Cruise Lines, specifically on the Norwegian Sun. This cruise ship traveled from Europe over to the Florida to avoid the winter weather. We were there for the same reason.
2: Phil Ko gave us a ride from Orlando to Port Canaveral. We just finished a one week vacation with him and felt bad that he had to leave (not as bad as he did going home). The Norwegian Sun is the smallest ship in their cruise line, but we were pleasantly surprised with how nice the cruise ship was and how friendly the staff were.
4: Nassau was our first stop and we were greeted with great weather and scenery. The beaches looked pretty nice, but we were eager to explore the island by foot. | Nassau, Bahamas
5: We picked a side road and started walking down it. It was surprising how many dilapidated houses there were. We came to a cemetery which exuded an eerie feeling, and the neighbour-hood started looking even more run down. At that point, a car stopped right next to us and the window rolled down. We cautiously spoke to the gentleman who was dressed immaculately in his Sunday best suit and bow tie. He warned us to avoid going further down the road to a bad part of town and suggested that we head towards the church around the corner. We promptly changed direction. Past the church, we ran into a little home-based museum that displayed Junkanoo costumes for local festivals. We chatted with the owners and they let us in for free. Funny where our adventures take us.
7: One of the landmarks was the Queen's staircase celebrating Queen Victoria's reign. 600 slaves dug out the 65-step staircase from limestone, each step representing one year of her reign. The local guide told us they originally built 66 steps, but when someone restored the stairs they paved over one step making it 65. No matter - Queen Victoria's reign was only 64 years. The guide joked "The slaves couldn't count."
8: Nassau was a nice little place. We wished we had more time to explore, but alas, it was time to leave.
10: good eats | We were quite impressed by the food on the cruise ship. While the buffet was average, plated lunch and dinner was always available at the formal dining room, and it was pretty good.
11: We had great choices from lamb to steak, lobster and fine cuisine. And of course a large selection of yummy desserts.
12: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
13: Our next stop was the U.S. Virgin Islands. Instead of taking the ship excursion, we docked then went to flag down a cab for a private tour in an air conditioned van for half the price. As the cabbie described, St. Thomas is the capital of a group of islands making up USVI. This is the biggest island by far, and it is still pretty small at that. There is beautiful scenery from all a directions, but you can tell that their main industry is tourism which makes up 70% of GDP. You can also tell that Caribbeanites are very proud people. They want you to love their island, and give back-handed compliments to other islands. However, everywhere you go they play Bob Marley, even though he is Jamaican. Island pride is one thing, but Caribbean pride is another.
14: Magen's Beach
15: Downtown landmarks and shopping
16: Spectacular views
17: Yacht Haven Grande
18: Every cruise ship has evening shows, but we both agree that the Norwegian Sun's acts were some of the best we've seen. They had a very talented song & dance troupe, and very impressive hypnotist and juggler. The Jazz band was great too.
19: Two of the seven days were sea days, so the ship provided workshops and things to do. But our most popular activity was sleeping and eating.
20: San Juan | Puerto Rico | Our Favorite
21: San Juan is a city mixed with history and character. The city used to be a key port in the Caribbean and was known for being enclosed by city walls and forts. When the population grew, people needed land to build homes outside of the walls. After much debate, the leaders agreed to tear down walls, but many of the imposing forts remain as historical buildings.
22: Old San Juan | Old San Juan is a vibrant city with a distinct personality. There are cobblestone streets everywhere and the buildings are colorful (literally). It feels like an old European town, with splashes of Latino flare. The people are laid back and friendly going about their own business and taking reprieve from the heat in the shade whenever possible. Being there feels like you traveled back in time to a different era.
24: Mofongo | Steph running from a flock of pigeons!
25: Must do: | Play San Juan | a | Sunset at the harbour | We made sure we played a game of 'San Juan' in San Juan before we left!
26: We should mention the cruise had a one-night only chocolate buffet. Delish. The line up was ridiculously long. It's amazing how many overweight people there are on the cruise, but not surprising how many we saw lining up.
27: chilling on deck
28: Great Stirrup Cay | The last day was a beach day on a private island owned by NCL
30: With the cruise over, we had time to spare in Orlando. Mini golf was the order of the day!
31: Arrgghh...our trip is over!