S: 2012 Cruise Vacation
BC: Created by Ruby & Randy Hudson to preserve the memories from a trip that will not soon be forgotten! Thankful that God allowed us to have such an awesome experience & share His love!
FC: Western Caribbean Cruise Norwegian Star January 15 - 22, 2012
1: Vacation begins in Sarasota, FL Jan 14, 2012 | Randy & Ruby Hudson Horse Shoe NC
2: Village of Pinecraft in Sarasota, FL Self-Serve Fruit Stand using the Honor System | Sherry Gore, Author Taste of Pinecraft Cooking & Such Magazine | Siser | Sisters at Heart | "Working" Facebooking together instead of miles apart! Ha
3: Siesta Beach | Marina Jack's at Sarasota Bayfront | Banyans & Bougainvilleas
4: Welcome Aboard!!
5: Decor on the Norwegian Star
6: Set Sail from Tampa, FL!! We were invited to a Sail Away Party by Gord & Toni Manweiler (Ontario) & daughter, Krystin (VA) in their Owner's Suite on the bow of the ship! Others from the Cruise Critic Roll Call Board joined us. What fun! | L to R Krystin, Gord, Lori & Lee (NC), Randy, Toni, Mary Ann & Jose (in front) (FL), Ellen & John (Ontario). Jack & Judy (FL) left before we took pictures
7: Day Two Jan 16th At Sea Attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle where we got to meet the crew and other people we've gotten to know on the CC Boards The water is starting to get brighter blue, although we've had some rockin' and rollin' with 4-10 ft waves today! | Relax!
8: First Glimpses of Roatan Bay Islnads Honduras | The excitement begins to build as we slowly approach the island of Roatan. So many months spent in planning & the day is finally here. We wonder what we'll see & experience and whose lives we'll touch!
9: The Mountains of Honduras | We were welcomed by this Honduran band | The Port of Coxen Hole
10: Prior to our trip, we collected donations of items & money for care packages for the children and groceries for the families in both Roatan & Belize. We assembled the care pkgs before we left & packed them in our luggage to be carried onshore in each port. | Roatan Care Pkgs included a washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, notepad, crayons, balloon, small toys, stickers, suckers, tootsie rolls. | Belize Care Pkgs included a pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, crayons, notepad, stickers, suckers, tootsie rolls. | Total of 61 pkgs for Roatan and 123 for Belize! | We packed them in qt-size ziploc baggies for easier transport. Will & Cathy Stafford came one Sun afternoon to help assemble!
11: Pouring rain greeted us as we got off the ship, but our driver, Rony, was waiting right where he said he'd be. As we drove thru the streets of Roatan, he told us all sorts of interesting facts about the schools, hospitals, government, etc. We stopped to take a picture and the children wanted me to take one of their rat, "$1 for a picture?" They were too cute to say "no". Our 1st stop was to buy souvenirs & then to the Bimbo grocery store where we bought 20 bags containing 3 lb bags of flour, sugar, rice, & beans; spaghetti noodles, cookies. Later we went back and bought 4 more bags full. | Beautiful hand-carved mahogany chests & tables
12: Rony's neighborhood is called "El Swampo" because the streets used to be canals until the government filled them in with mud. Prior to our visit, he & his mother had made a list of the "most needy" families to receive groceries & care pkgs. They were waiting for us at Rony's mom's restaurant where his childhood home is above the restaurant. In spite of the rain, the children were so excited & the older ones eager to help carry the groceries in. There were so many women & children packed into that small little room! It was a little overwhelming to pick our way thru the crowded room to the corner but we felt very welcomed! Those who couldn't fit in, huddled around the door with umbrellas. | Theodora's restaurant is the lattice-enclosed part with her home up above. | El Swampo
13: Before we began handing things out, Rony had us say a few words. We told them we were happy to visit their home & learn about their culture. We told them many people had contributed to help them out. Then a lady in the back asked to speak. She tearfully said she was grateful we came. They rarely get visitors & the government gives them no help, so they were very thankful for the hope we brought to them.
14: Here are the many precious faces of the women & children of Roatan. Words cannot describe how humbled & blessed we felt to be able to bring a little joy & some smiles to so many faces just by a giving a small gift & some food. Perhaps the biggest gift of all to them was knowing that someone cares, and they are not forgotten!! We couldn't have done it at all without the help of our wonderful, caring driver, Rony Bennett. From such humble beginnings, he has managed to provide for his family by running his own tour company, which appeared to be quite successful. Rony is a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle man with a vast knowledge and love for his home. We have made a friend for life!!!
15: After we had given out our goodies, Rony continued our tour of the island of Roatan. We were saddened by the condition of the homes that these people live in. Later, he took us back to the restaurant his mother, Theodora, runs. We had a delicious lunch of garlic & cajun shrimp, rice & beans, steamed chayote squash & carrots, and fried plantains. Theodora presented us with a very small dish of homemade hot sauce & told us to use it sparingly. We later found out that you are supposed to use mere drops of it & Randy used 6 spoonfuls! He was rendered speechless for about 10 minutes! Before we went to eat, Rony stopped at a roadside stand and bought us local, home-baked cookies made with coconut milk & dried pineapple inside. Yum! | This picture reminded us that in the midst of all the squalor, God's beauty is still present!
16: As our tour continued, we learned that 60% of Hondurans on the island of Roatan attend church. The first churches there were Methodist, but now they have all kinds, Church of God being the majority. Top left is the beach at Sandy Bay, where the school children have their recess on the beach. To the right of this box are the shops at West End. Here the streets were narrow & packed with shops. Bottom right is the orphanage which is different than what you might think of. Children whose parents are in jail come here until they get out, etc. Bottom middle are the huts at the Anthony Resort, where Rony used to work. You have to take a small motorboat to the island to sleep. Bottom left is the beach at Flowers Bay, where Hurricane Wilma destroyed the flowers the beach was known for.
18: The Noni Plant
19: And so ends our wonderful day in Roatan! An experience we will treasure and never forget!
20: Our first glimpse of Belize was from our spot anchored 5 miles from shore! When we disembarked from the ship, we had to climb down narrow stairs to a small platform, where we stepped across to the tender boat! | We were met at the port by Miss Nancy Coblentz, driven there by Ed & Judy (head of the Amish Mennonite Aid mission unit in Belize City), accompanied by Miss Nancy's great-nephew, Dwayne Coblentz from Holmes Co, Ohio. Our first stop was the grocery store, where we purchased 6 boxes of food-5 lb bags of flour, sugar, rice & beans, & lard, to which Miss Nancy also added ramen noodles. | Belize City Belize
21: We went back to the Mission House to pick up the others who wanted to ride along to visit the school. The parents of Miss Nancy's helper, Delilah, were also visiting from Titusville, PA. We helped Miss Nancy cut apart the bags of chips to take to the children. These pictures are of the Mission House & the church across the street.
22: Before going to the school, we began delivering the groceries to the needy families. At each home, Miss Nancy would approach the house, calling "Morning!" It is quite clear that she is a well-loved friend in the community. Then she would introduce us as Randy & Ruby who came off the big ship by the sea, and wanted to bring some things to help you." The 1st woman had 5 children who were in school. She was very thankful for the groceries! The 2nd woman lived in the house where the "drug boys" live. We went there early while they weren't home & it would be "safe."
23: At the next house we visited, we learned that the woman's 9 yr old son is in desperate need of heart surgery, which has been scheduled for later in Jan. The little girl's name is Cecily and she was intrigued with her "sweet", which they call suckers and candy. Dwayne was having a blast handing out suckers to the children and watching the delight they had in such a simple thing. The 4th house we went to had the name of a gang, Crips, carved on the gatepost. This woman takes care of her many sons & grandsons. The little girl wanted to pose for a picture & then wanted to see it on the camera. So cute!
24: On the way to visit the school, Miss Nancy points out the home she lived in here in Hattieville. Though they are no longer there, nearby were 14 barracks, a hospital, church & mission house. when she arrived in 1966. Each barrack had 60 rooms and housed the ones who lost everything after Hurricane Hattie came through & devastated the country of Belize | Miss Nancy had received word that this woman was in desperate need of food, but she said she didn't know her. When we got there, she realized she knew her after all! She was so happy to see her friend again. The leaves on the tree in the middle picture looked like ruffles. So unique! The house to the right is where Miss Nancy butchered 150 chickens on a regular basis!
25: Miss Gloria was our favorite special lady of the day. 90 years old and almost blind with macular degeneration, she took some time coming to the door. Her husband is completely blind. Even though she had fallen just that morning & hurt herself, she came to the door praising God, thanking Him for His goodness & faithfulness! SHE was an encouragement to US! And she was so grateful & kept praising the Lord for how good life was! Truly uplifting to see the conditions she is living in, but yet she praises Him, not only for the things we brought, but for the life she has! | Sherry Gore's friend, Grace Henry, lives in the little shack with the white door. And she considers herself blessed to have more than most people!
26: Ed drove us with Miss Nancy, Dwayne, & Miss Nancy's niece, Suzanna & her husband, Danny & baby girl, Elisa (from Missouri) about 30 miles outside Belize City to Hattieville to visit the Pilgrim Fellowship School where Miss Nancy used to teach. Our visit was a surprise, but Principal Hughdelle quickly gathered all the children outside on picnic tables & benches. They were very well behaved even tho Brother Hugh reminded them to remember to practice self-control. There was a lot of excitement and many smiles as they assembled.
27: The children delighted us by boisterously & enthusiastically singing 5 songs for us. They sang "He Has Made Me Glad" "God is Our Father" "You Are Holy" "Walk, Walk in the Light" and the "Pilgrim Fellowship School Song" They were so cute clapping their hands and stamping their feet. We thoroughly enjoyed it! When they were finished singing, Bro Hugh called them up by grades so we could hand out the packages. Dwayne handed out his suckers & Suzanna handed out the chips Miss Nancy brought.
28: Miss Nancy pointed out the young teacher in the top left photo as one of the students she taught, who is now a teacher herself. Brother Hughdelle is a Creole pastor, whom Miss Nancy intends to have preach her funeral when she passes. They are both clearly loved and respected by all. | Pilgrim Fellowship School Hattieville, Belize
29: Next stop was down the gravel road to the preschool. This small building had open doors & windows & joy emanated from it! The teacher had the children sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children" for us. They sang heartily and happily. After they sang, we handed out our packages, and were short one. Miss Nancy dug in her purse & had enough to give the last little girl, who didn't even seem to realize she was getting something different.
30: After our visit to the school, we made our way back to Belize City, where Ed's wife, Judy and Delilah & her parents met us at the Friendship Chinese Restaurant. Dwayne treated us all to a wonderful lunch. Ruby had Lobster Lo Mein and Randy had Fried Lobster, Shrimp, & other Seafood. Back at the Mission House on Haynes Street, we took a walk around the neighborhood. Although we had asked Miss Nancy where the worst part of the city was and she said Haynes Street and one other street, we did not feel in danger at any time. | This rental was missing part of the roof! | and we thought Honduras was poor... | One of the better-looking houses on Haynes St.
31: Tourist Village where we bought a hand-carved palm tree, jewelry made out of coconuts & a Belize hat & flag. | These precious children live here! | The port at Belize City & view of our anchored ship
32: The Port in Costa Maya Mexico | Gorgeous blue-green water & beautiful flowers!
33: Looking outside the Port at the replica of the ruins. | Arriving in the Port of Costa Maya, Mexico we made our way to the Native Choice Booth where we assembled with our group for the Mayan Experience Tour. Our group loaded into 2 vans and made a 45 min drive to the Chocchoban Ruins. | Most of the trip to the ruins was through one of the top two Mangrove Reserves in Mexico. Occasionally we came across small communities.
34: Chocchoban Ruins
35: The Mayans built their roads thru the jungle on platforms like this. | This pyramid was a religious one, as told by the square shape.
36: We learned from our guide that this pyramid would have been for the common people. There would have been a plaza with a round altar & the houses built around the plaza. | To the right is the chewing gum tree. The Mayans used the sap from the tree to make their cement for the pyramids. They made the diagonal cuts in the bark for the sap to run down and be collected.
37: This was the plaza area where the houses would have been built around it. The higher their stature in the community would be displayed in how high the platform for their house was built. Then when they died, often the houses were collapsed in on top of them to be their burial ground. The plaza would have been carpeted with jaguar furs and the houses painted brightly. The tree at the top right is a strangler tree. Bats would eat the fruit & then "deposit" the seed in the top of the tree which would grow roots down & strangle the tree.
38: The green plant above was an orchid that draws it's moisture from the humidity in the jungle air, rather than through a root system. The next photo is of small coconuts, mainly used for sweet coconut oil. This would be a luxury-type coconut. These pyramids were the Sun and Moon pyramids. The rock below has a small hole all the way through, which on Dec 21st, or winter solstice, the sun shines directly through as it lines up perfectly. The Sun Pyramid is on the left and the Moon Pyramid on the right.
39: Leaving the ruins, we traveled about 15 more minutes to Chocchoban Village to eat lunch in a Mayan home. These were some of the houses we passed along the way. Most of them did not have glass in the windows or even windows at all. Mayans do most of their living outside, using their houses only to sleep in.
40: Our lunch at the Mayan home was truly an unforgettable experience! We were greeted by the mother & father, who did not speak English and their daughter, who spoke some English. Although our guide had to speak for them, they were very gracious hosts. The kitchen was an outdoor hut with a thatch roof and an open fire. We learned how to pat out the tortillas & fry them on the "original non-stick" limestone "griddle".
41: These napkins were hand embroidered by the mother. I bought two of them for $15. | This was a great example of how the Mayans "live" outside. They do their cooking and socializing outdoors
42: Our meal was served buffet- style and consisted of chicken (cooked in a pit in the ground) with all kinds of spices & flavors, beans & rice, steamed chayote and carrots, Mayan "sushi" which was a tortilla wrapped around boiled eggs, with ground pumpkin seeds & some sort of leaves. The food was served with tortillas, salsa, & hot sauce. Dessert was tortitas & fried plantains and oranges & bananas with sweet milk. Our drink was a tea made from hibiscus leaves. Delicious!
43: such a tiny woman! | The children playing seemed so happy! | Lipstick plant | Mother & daughter showed us traditional Mayan dance | Our driver, Erik said his 1st language is Mayan, 2nd is Spanish & he's learning English. He did very well! Our guide above was Veronica & she was excellent!! Below is the chapel at the home.
44: The Port of Costa Maya Mexico
45: The beautiful scenery of Costa Maya, Mexico We have truly enjoyed our visit and hope to return someday!
46: Our 2nd visit to Cozumel... a little familiar, a lot new! | We hired a driver thru "Cozumel Hiring a Driver for a Day" and were lucky to get Gerry, the driver we requested. We actually got in to Port early and off the ship early so had to wait a bit for him to come. He started out by taking us to the North part of the island, around the city and then across to the East side of the island. This Divers Memorial commemorates those who have died doing what they love. Cozumel is the #2 diving spot in the world.
47: Beautiful scenery! | The only conquistador to stay and mix in with the Mayans by marrying the Mayan princess. | This is one of 6 planes of the only Mexican unit to take part in WWII. This is the entrance to the Air Force base. | This castle is being built by the owner of the Mega Mart | This yacht belongs to a rich Russian who comes to Cozumel to dive. It has been here about a month. | Poinciana tree?
48: As we drove thru the streets of Cozumel, Gerry pointed out many interesting buildings and told us lots of facts about the city. He was an awesome guide! | Free clinic or hospital | Catholic church where Gerry attends | Primary school
49: Gerry drove us across the island of Cozumel where we made lots of stops to take lots of pictures! We saw Punta Moreno, Coconuts, Playa Chen Rio, Playa Bonita, etc. Gerry was very patient as we stopped frequently. He offered to take pictures of us, too, as well as taking care to help us over the rocks & opening our doors as we got in & out of the car. He challenged Ruby to try to use Spanish words and told us alot about the island. The beaches were beautiful and the colors of the water were mesmerizing.
51: We spent a lot of time at El Mirador, listening to the waves crash on the beach and climbing all over the rocks. Gerry found a large piece of brain coral that we took a picture of (shown below) Ruby really enjoyed the thatch roofs with the ocean in the background. Randy loved the rock formations with the holes clear through. The beaches were so beautiful and fairly secluded. It was so nice to enjoy them without a lot of people around. We spent several hours along the east coast of Cozumel.
53: El Mirador
54: We reached the southern-most part of the island and started back up the west coast, where we stopped at Mr. Sanchos. We had lobster tacos and shrimp quesadillas, chips & salsa, & caribbean fries on the beach with Horchata (rice milk & cinnamon drink) and Jamaica (hibiscus flower tea) drinks. We only had about 10 min to get in the water. This was Randy's favorite part, as the water was so clear and the fish swam all around you. They were silvery gray fish with black stripes. Next time we come, we'll spend more time swimming with the fishies!
55: On the way back to the Punta Langosta Pier downtown, Gerry serenaded us with Mexican love songs. He dropped us off at the Mega Mart where we purchased coffee, Horchata & Jamaica drinks to take back home. | Before getting back on the ship, we stopped at a jewelry store where Ruby got a genuine 1 ct Tanzanite ring! A long-time dream fulfilled! Members of the crew welcomed us aboard for the last time...
56: Fabulous Food!
57: On the evening of Day 5, we got to experience the Chocoholic Buffet! We enjoyed looking at all the chocolate & ice sculptures & ate our fill of the chocolaty goodness!
58: We loved our nightly towel animals, with the penguin & the turtle being something new for us. Our souvenirs from each port we visited were displayed on our shelves in our stateroom. | Our favorite nightly entertainment was the Melodic Trio, 3 brothers who harmonized & blended so well. They played in the Grand Atrium almost nightly. Another favorite was David Pellegrene, who played the piano & sang outside Gatsby's Bar.
59: To show his appreciation for our attendance at the Meet & Mingle on Monday, the captain invited our group to tour the bridge on Saturday morning. We felt like it was such and honor & a privilage! It was conducted by the Navigational Officer, who is the 1st Officer. He had such interesting stories to tell about his experiences! The large hand in the picture on the right is from a previous captain who liked to turn it on so it would wave to passing ships or people on shore. The picture above is the actual ship's wheel, which could be used manually if needed.
60: Back in Sarasota, we enjoyed Enchiladas on the Lanai and lots of laughs! Author, Lynn Sowell was visiting also, and Sherry invited Katie Troyer to join us and we all had a grand time! Later as the 3 ladies sat around with their laptops in their laps, Sherry's son, Tyler and Randy poked fun at them.
61: The Village of Pinecraft is a quiet, peaceful Amish-Mennonite community. We enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood, a visit to Yoder's Fresh Market, where we bought lots of fruit & goodies to take home. Sherry's weiner-dog, Winston enjoyed the attention we lavished on him. It has been a MOST memorable trip! We will cherish our memories always!