Caribbean Cruise 2010

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sandy has setup another cruise during her winter break from grad school. This time, her father, Charlie is coming along. She found a two week cruise (actually two one week cruises back to back) that leave out of San Juan on the Caribbean Princess, a Princess Grand Class ship.

The Caribbean Princess is one of five similar ships in the Princess fleet. We've been on two others, the Star Princess and the Grand Princess. The deck plan of the Caribbean Princess is similar to those. The detailed views are in this PDF file. We will be in cabin B221.

Caribbean Princess Caribbean Princess Specifications
Decks 18
Passenger Elevators 14
Passengers 3622
Crew 1200
Gross Tonnage (based on volume) 112,894
Net Tonnage (displacement) 50,227
Length 950 ft
Width 118 ft
Draft 27.7 ft
Built 2004
Bow Thrusters 3 units, 2992 bhp
Stern Thrusters 3 units, 2339 bhp
Props 2 x 6 blades
Main Diesel Engines 4 x 11.5 MW
(14,500 bhp)
2 x 8.6 MW
(11,300 bhp)
Cruising Speed 21 knots

Our itinerary is:
Day Date Port of Call
Day 1 02 Jan 10 Fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 2 03 Jan 10 Depart San Juan
Day 3 04 Jan 10 St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Day 4 05 Jan 10 Dominica
Day 5 06 Jan 10 Grenada
Day 6 07 Jan 10 Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
Day 7 08 Jan 10 Aruba
Day 8 09 Jan 10 At Sea
Day 9 10 Jan 10 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 10 11 Jan 10 St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Day 11 12 Jan 10 Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Day 12 13 Jan 10 Antigua
Day 13 14 Jan 10 St. Lucia
Day 14 15 Jan 10 Barbados
Day 15 16 Jan 10 At Sea
Day 16 17 Jan 10 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 16 17 Jan 10 Fly Home

I'll have more to write about this cruise as I discover it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010, Dallas/Ft Worth about 1400 GMT-6

We rolled out for our trip at about 0500 this morning and headed to LAX to catch our flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth. We've connected at DFW and are at our gate for the 2nd leg to San Juan, Puerto Rico. There is no free WiFi at this airport, but, unlike LAX, there are AC outlets all over the place. Some have USB connectors as well. The first leg went well, nothing special to report. We got lunch here at a BBQ place and are waiting 90 minutes for our 2nd flight.

Update, Saturday, January 2, 2010, San Juan, Puerto Rick about 2300 GMT-4

By the time that we walked from the American Airlines terminal to the Continental terminal, Charlie as already waiting for us. We made it to the hotel but one of my bags got left at the taxi stand and we had to turn around to get it. It was there.

Sunday, January 3, 2010, San Juan, Puerto Rick about 0900 GMT-4

We are staying at the Quality Inn in the Candado district. The room is small but adequate. The task for tomorrow will be to simply get on the ship.

100103_caribbean_cruise__san_juan_puerto_rico_candado_lagoon_7996.jpg The hotel had a free breakfast, which was actually pretty good. It was served on the roof floor of the hotel. This is the view looking west from the hotel toward old San Juan. The water is the Candado Lagoon with parts of the old fort barely visible in the distance.

Sunday, January 3, 2010, San Juan, Puerto Rico, about 1500 GMT-4

We have made it onto the ship with little difficulty. Our hotel checkout time was noon but the ship wasn't supposed to even start boarding until 1400. We got to the ship just after noon and we were on board by 1230.

100103_caribbean_cruise__san_juan_puerto_rico_old_san_juan_7999.jpgThis is a view of Old San Juan from the ship. Old San Juan is really a little island that forms the barrier for San Juan Harbor. This ship is moored on the inland side. The large building with the dome is the government building with the remains of the old Spanish Fort, El Morro, behind and above it on a bluff protecting the harbor.

We cleaned up and changed from our travel clothes then got lunch. Since we have few sea days and the ship was going to be sitting here until 2300, I did my typical video tour, primarily to see what was different from the Star and Grand Princesses.

While I found basically the same ship, there are some differences. This ship is set up for warmer weather. The 3rd, of four, pools is open while on the other ships, it is enclosed. The Star Princess didn't even have a big screen TV. On the Grand, it was above the 2nd pool. On this ship, it's above the 3rd pool. On the Star, deck 17 forward is a "sports" deck with a jogging track and a tennis court. On this ship, that whole area is taken over by the spa. There is no miniature golf course on this ship. The buffet on the Lido deck actually has 3 serving area vs 2 on the other ships. The third one is aft at the center of the ship. There is a half court basketball court on deck 18. The kids areas on deck 16 aft are laid out a little differently. Maybe it's my imagination, but there seem to be even MORE bars on this ship than on the other ones although admittedly, I don't pay much attention to bars as I don't drink.

Monday, January 4, 2010, Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands, about 1200 GMT-4

100104_caribbean_cruise__saint_thomas__virgin_islands__crown_bay___crown_bay_8001.jpg The ship was docked at Saint Thomas by the time we woke up. We had nothing planned here as it is mostly a shopping destination. The ship moored at Crown Bay to the west of the town which is on the south side of St. Thomas. The little boat in the photo is either a very high class yacht or a very nice small cruise ship. There were about a half a dozen crewmen scampering about polishing everything in sight.

100104_caribbean_cruise__saint_thomas__virgin_islands__charlotte_amalie___main_street_8007.jpg We caught a "taxi" ($4/head) to the main town of Charlotte Amalie. This is a view on main street. I have never seen such a dense concentration of jewelry stores. There were quite literally more than a hundred of them lining the street on both sides and on most of the side streets for blocks. We actually did find a store selling overpriced T-shirts, another that had a camera counter and a liquor store. The last time we were here, most of the shops were selling cameras.

100104_caribbean_cruise__saint_thomas__virgin_islands__crown_bay___caribbean_princess_8009.jpg When we got back to Crown Bay just before lunch, I managed to catch this shot of the Caribbean Princess. This ship is huge, but not nearly as big as the Oasis of the Seas (6000 passengers) which is due in tomorrow.

Monday, January 4, 2010, At Sea, Caribbean Princess, about 1800 GMT-4

100104_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_cruise_map_8014.jpgWe've just left St. Thomas en route to Dominica. We've been to Dominica before on our cruise across the Atlantic. The navigators's map shows that the cruise is roughly a triangle running between destinations only a night's cruise apart. The leg between San Juan and St. Thomas is so short that we were able to leave San Juan very late and cruise along slowly and still make it. this also allows the last leg, which is the longest, to be a sea day and still to arrive on time to allow the next cruise to leave late on the next leg, where the first stop will also be St. Thomas.

100104_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_st._thomas_8017.jpgThe navigator also posted this map of St. Thomas.

100104_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_stateroom_bed_8013.jpgOur inside stateroom is virtually identical to the one's that we've had on other Grand class ships. This one is actually next door to the one we had in Antarctica.

100104_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_stateroom_desk_8012.jpgOur desk is our computer center. We have the same problem with the power. When the bathroom light gets turned off, it wakes up the computer due to a USB event. This is due to a transient that gets through our USB hub's power supply and results in a "USB Wake Event" on the computer.

It is pretty clear that I have a satellite internet connection. On most ships, internet is pretty expensive. It costs between $0.40 and $0.75 a minute depending on how you buy it. It's slow too, maybe 30 kbytes/sec when the usage isn't high. However, Sandy and I have been sailing on Princess quite a bit in the last couple of years and we now have a "platinum" status. This gets us $75 of free internet for a one week cruise and $100 on a typical longer cruise. However because of the funny way that this cruise was booked and the way that the ship accounts for it, we effectively get two one week cruises back to back and a $75 credit for each week with unused minute rollover between weeks. $75 gets us 150 minute so our "cost" is $0.50 a minute. But after the rebate it is essentially free. We did have to pay a $3.95 connection charge for the first week and I'm betting we'll have to pay it again for the second week. When the internet is booked on the first day of the cruise, there is a 20 minute bonus, so we'll end up with up with 340 minutes for $7.90.

In the past, we had to go to a designated "hot spot" area for the wireless to work. However, the ships have been installing in room wireless, which works here, so that we don't have to carry the computer around. That makes it easier to spend money on the internet. However, using the software on the Macintosh, I can connect, upload my web page updates, check my mail and get off again in just one minute. I then have about 23 minutes left each day to surf. So far, I'm running well behind.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010, Dominica, about 2120 GMT-4

100105_caribbean_cruise__dominica_map_8043.jpgDominica is about 230 square miles. It gained independence from Britain in the 1980's and has been stable, but not particularly prosperous, since then. The economy is supported by agriculture and tourism.

100105_caribbean_cruise__dominica__rosseau_vendor_stalls_8019.jpgToday was a stop at the island nation of Dominica in the southern Caribbean. Our first stop was Roseau, the largest city on the island. We'd been there less than two years ago on another cruise. It looked pretty much the same, a run down island town. There was the typical market for trinkets but not a lot else.

100105_caribbean_cruise__dominica__emerald_pool_8030.jpgIn the afternoon, we took a ship's shore excursion to Twin and Emerald falls. Both of these involved a bus ride and then a 15 or 20 minute hike into the rain forest. The "dry" part of the island gets about 65 inches of rain a year, the deepest parts of the rain forest, over 350 inches. Therefore, there is enough water to keep water falls flowing year around. This is the falls at the Emerald Pool. The larger fall was at Twin Falls that filled a similarly sized pool. We only saw one side of Twin Falls because the other fall is accessed via a rope strung down a steep hillside trail that was nothing but mud and roots.

Unlike the tour we took last time, we got back to the ship on time and they didn't have to wait for us. By the time of this writing, we've left Dominica and are headed to Grenada.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010, Grenada, about 1430 GMT-4

100106_caribbean_cruise__grenada_grenada_map_8042.jpgGrenada is smaller than Dominica, more populated and, it would appear, more prosperous. We docked at the main town of St. George's although we didn't go into town. We had only a few hours here as the ship was scheduled to sail in the early afternoon.

Grenada was the target of a US lead invasion in 1983. Those interested can find the story in Wikipedia, but the short story is that an elected government was deposed in a coup. The leftist government wasn't accepted by the US nor most of the people on Grenada so that US and a small force of Caribbean soldiers invaded, shot the place up a little and restored a constitutional government.

100106_caribbean_cruise__grenada_st._george_s_8033.jpgThis about as close to the town as I got. Sandy and Charlie wanted to take a water taxi to a nearby beach. The taxi pier is just off the left side of the photo.

100106_caribbean_cruise__grenada_caribbean_princess_8038.jpgOn the way to the beach, I got a clear and well lit picture of the ship. The beach itself was a couple of miles away. It was a nice place to hang out for a swim for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010, At Sea, about 2200 GMT-4

We've noticed a pattern developing in the evening food service. The third buffet line is sometimes set up with ethnic food. Last night, it was German (and good) and tonight it was Indian (also good). I find that I much prefer the ethnic selections to the standard buffet selections or the "higher class" selections in the main dining rooms. This ship also has several different hot sauces out including both red and green sauces out so that if the cooks don't spice it up enough, that can be fixed.

We went to the dance show in the theater this evening too, it was a latin themed show, typically very loud and energetic. There is some kind of a Caribbean buffet being set up on the Lido deck. We'll have to try that too however, this four full meals a day thing has to stop pretty soon or I'll do serious damage to my weight.

100106_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_stage_show.jpgWe went to the early stage show this evening. It was a Caribbean themed song and dance. This was a scene near the finale of the show. After the show, we went for yet another meal as Charlie didn't eat a regular dinner. I got a few more things.... again. I did weigh myself on the scale in the workout room, I have gained about a pound and a half in 4 days. I'm really going to have to cut back but there is SO MUCH food around that it is really hard to eat less. At least I'm staying off much of the carbs except fruit. I get pineapple with almost every meal. I figure that I'm eating a whole pineapple in three installments every day.

Thursday, January 7, 2010, At Sea, about 1000 GMT-4

We are still on our way to Bonaire. We don't even get there until 1100. The long legs between islands on this leg resulted in leaving Grenada early and arriving in Bonaire late.

Bonaire is supposed to be a premier dive spot. I booked a snorkel tour in the afternoon. We'll see.

My underwater camera is a simple point and shoot deal that uses 35 mm film. I didn't have any at home so I figured that I'd buy some along the way. This is turning out to be harder than I thought. There is not a bit for sale (except in complete point and shoot disposable cameras) on this ship. Nor have I seen any at any shops we've been in. When we were in Maui about 6 months ago, I had the same problem there. I did find a single roll at an ABC store on Maui. It really does look like film is quite dead.

Thursday, January 7, 2010, Kralendijk, Bonaire, about 1700 GMT-4

100107_caribbean_cruise__bonaire__map_8044.jpgBonaire is a member of the Dutch Antilles islands. I'm not sure of it's political situation but Dutch seems to be the primary language with English spoken as a secondary language. This island is very unlike the others we have been on that are forested. This is a desert island, it gets about as much annual rain as Los Angeles, about 12 inches a year. Most of the island, especially to the south is dead flat with virtually no elevation above sea level. The hills to the north rise to an estimated 100 feet.

100107_caribbean_cruise__bonaire__kralendijk_8049.jpgThe main town on the island is Kralendijk. This is about half of the downtown. The airport is just south of Kralendijk. I did manage to find a photo shop a couple of blocks from the pier. A roll of 24 exposure 400 ASA ran me $8.40 US. It looks like it might be economically feasible to replace this film camera with an underwater digital camera. The lady in the camera store told me that they have been told by the film makers that there won't be ANY 35 mm film made in 2 years.

100107_caribbean_cruise__bonaire__wind_sock_beach__8051.jpgMy shore excursion took me via a bus to Wind Sock Beach, just south of the ship. It gets this name because it is right at the end of the runway for the airport. The water was clear enough although not crystal clear. The darker blue area is deep water, there is a cliff there that goes down to about 125 feet. There were lots of typical tropical fish in the shallow water. I did see a couple of octopi huddled in holes in the rocks. They are nocturnal so they hole up during the day. I had about two hours to swim and I used most of it, getting out only when my legs were really tired. I took a few photos, those will make this page later after I get them developed and printed to CD.

It's a short hop to Aruba, about 35 miles. I have another snorkel excursion planned there in the afternoon. We'll see how it compares.

Friday, January 8, 2010, Oranjestad, Aruba, about 1700 GMT-4

100108_caribbean_cruise__aruba_map_8056.jpgAruba is another island of the Dutch Antilles group. This is our furthest southwest port, this evening when we set sail, we will be headed back northeast toward San Juan. This island is also low and flat but it appears to be even more prosperous than Bonaire. To the north of the port, there are several large resort hotels.

100108_caribbean_cruise__aruba_oranjestad_8054.jpgThe main town is Oranjestad. As we walked through town, we found it clean and well maintained. In the morning, Sandy, Charlie and I walked into town for a short distance and found a row of typical trinket shops. I had a snorkel tour scheduled for the early afternoon so I didn't stay out long. Sandy and Charlie went out again later to tour the local fort.

100108_caribbean_cruise__aruba_snorkel_trip_8064.jpgI got on a catamaran sailing ship and we caught the wind (with some help from diesel engines, to the north end of the island to a reef where I snorkeled for about half an hour. I didn't get any good pictures because there was moisture inside the clear camera case and the lens fogged up. As the boat moved to another snorkel spot, I tried to dry it out, but the next time out it leaked. The film may be toast. The second spot was a sunken German freighter that was scuttled in WWII after the Germans invaded Holland. The ship was in Aruba at the time and it was taken over by Dutch Marines, but the Germans still managed to sink it. It sits in about 60 feet of water and is in pretty bad shape, but it is still recognizable as a shipwreck.

On the sail back to the ship, the wind caught my cap and tossed it overboard. I'll have to look for a new one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010, At Sea, about 1300 GMT-4

100109_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_swell_8069.jpgToday is our only sea day on this part of the cruise, and this is the sea. This as rough as it has been, which means not much. There is just enough swell to be able to tell that this is a ship and not a hotel.

Tomorrow, many of the passengers disembark, they're done. We have to get off the ship too, but we'll get back on later. Our plan is to take a cab into Old San Juan, wander around a bit and return for a late lunch.

100109_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess_security_device_8065.jpgThis device is mounted on the outside passageway near the bow on deck 8. There is another one on the other side and two more at the winch room at the stern. These look like some kind of acoustic protection device. When activated, I am guessing that they emit an intense and abrasive sound pattern to chase off any small craft that venture too close. There aren't any Pirates of the Caribbean around here anymore but I expect that the whole fleet has been fitted with these devices, and perhaps others, for self protection.

Update 18 Jan 10. It turns out that I was way off base on this device. I located the manufacturer at and they make industrial sensors. I didn't find this exact device, but I located similar ones that are laser sensors. Since these are mounted at the bow and stern, I assume that the sensors are used to locate structures, such as docks and piers, adjacent to the ship to provide more information on proximity during docking operations.

Sunday, January 10, 2010, San Juan, Puerto Rico, about 1800 GMT-4

This is the starting point of the second half of our cruise. We got off the ship and caught a cab to Old San Juan for a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was the old Spanish fort, El Morro.

100110_caribbean_cruise__san_juan__puerto_rico__el_morro_overview_8070.jpg This is the fort of El Morro. It was built by the Spanish in the 14th century and expanded regularly. El Morro protects the entrance to San Juan harbor. It was attacked five times but never fell. To end the Spanish-American war in 1898 Spain granted Cuban independence and ceded Puerto Rico to the US.

It took us about two hours to wander through the place but we were moving pretty slowly as Charlie has mobility problems.

100110_caribbean_cruise__san_juan__puerto_rico__el_morro_sandy_in_stairwell_8087.jpg I caught Sandy by surprise in an odd triangular stairwell inside El Morro. There were "secret" passages all through the place.

100110_caribbean_cruise__san_juan__puerto_rico__san_cristobal_observation_tower_8096.jpg Another fort was build a couple of hundred years later, the Castillo San Cristobal. This fort guards the north shore of Old San Juan. The observation post in this photo was added by the US in the 1940's as a lookout for German submarines.

After the forts, we caught the free bus to ride around town for awhile and then hired a taxi back to the ship.

The first half of our cruise provided us excellent, if not a little humid, weather. Temperatures were in the 80's most of the time. The humidity was also in the 80's. There were NO bugs and only a little wind on Aruba. We had no rain at all. The seas were mostly calm. The food was good and plentiful. I'm hoping for a similar experience for the second leg.

One thing that we did notice already is that the menu for the first night in the dining room is the same as it was last week. The first day's "special" pizza at the pizza stand is the same too, a cheese and anchovy pizza. I expect that we'll see a repeat of the menu every day of the cruise.

They also ran the same "Treasure Hunt" contest from 1600 to 1800 too. You get a card with 10 spots, each with the name of a "feature" of the ship such as the spa or casino. Each location provides a stamp on the card. A completed card can be turned in for a raffle at the sailaway party. This little marketing trick is to get the new passengers acquainted with the various places on the ship where they can spend more money.

Monday, January 11, 2010, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas USVI, about 1745 GMT-4

100111_caribbean_cruise__st._john__usvi__trunk_bay_8108.jpgOn our second visit to St. Thomas, USVI, we elected to pass on St. Thomas itself and visit the neighboring island of St. John. St. John is mostly a US National Park. There is one real town on the island, Cruz Bay. There is a ferry that goes directly from Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay. However, we ended up at a beach, Trunk Bay. This is as nice a beach as one could hope to find. The water was clear, the sand clean, the surf small and sea bottom in the swimming area free of anything but sand. There was good snorkeling around the rocks just off the beach.

The park service had even left concrete markers with blue and white tile insets describing the fishes and coral that could be found in the area. I snorkeled for less than an hour, virtually circling the rocky island a couple of times. Charlie and I also spent some considerable time just swimming in the clear water.

100111_caribbean_cruise__st._john__usvi__trunk_bay_8110.jpgTrunk Bay is somewhat northeast of Cruz bay. To get here, we took a taxi from the ship to downtown Charlotte Amalie ($4 per head), the ferry to Cruz Bay ($12/head), another taxi to Trunk Bay ($6/head) and then paid admission to the beach ($4/head). Snorkel gear was available on the beach for $5. The travel charges applied the other way too. We left a trail of money behind us.

100111_caribbean_cruise__st._john__usvi__cruz_bay_iguana_8121.jpgThere was only one ferry back, at 1545, that we could take to get back to the ship so that we left the beach a little early to make sure that we were there at the ferry when it left. We "rented" a table at JJ's Texas Coast Cafe while Charlie and Sandy sipped on beers. There were chickens and iguana, like this one, scurrying about. We saw even more of them on the pier when we got back to the ship.

All in all, it was a very nice day, perfect weather and a perfect beach. For those planning on coming here, skip the town and all the jewellery stores and head for St. John's instead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, about 1130 GMT-4

100112_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess__2nd_week_cruise_map_8126.jpg Tortola is only a few miles from St. Thomas however, the ship still departed at about 1800 (late). The map shows that we made a lazy U-turn around St. Johns overnight. We could have stayed in port until late, but then the ship could not have opened the shops and casino. We needed to be outside the 12 mile limit. So the we piddled along just fast enough to retain steerage and got into Tortola at 0800.

100112_caribbean_cruise__tortola__bvi_map_8123.jpgTortola itself is similar to St. Thomas, except that it has less than 1/3 the population. The only major town is Roadtown.

100112_caribbean_cruise__tortola__bvi_downtown_8124.jpgRoadtown itself is pretty built up with the government building (lower left) and at least five banks, department stores, churches and all the other businesses that it takes to make up a reasonable sized town.

As we walked off the ship, we were accosted by the tour drivers offering an island tour for $20 (further into town the price dropped to $15). We'd drive around in the trees most of the time. Since you can't actually see the roads, the people on the roads cannot see much either. There was the customary souvenir stands just outside the port. The prices were pretty good, I got a cap to replace the one I lost in Aruba for $6.

100112_caribbean_cruise__tortola__bvi_typical_hillside_8129.jpgThis is the typical hillside view outside of the town, a few houses sticking out of the trees. St. Thomas and St. John's looked about the same. Actually the only islands that looked much different were Aruba and Bonaire which were generally flat.

We made a loop through the town and then walked back to the ship. This afternoon is a virtual sea day.

100112_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess__boat_drill_8130.jpgWhen we got back to the ship, all the tenders and lifeboats on the port side had been lowered into the water and were running around in a circle. I assume that this was an equipment test.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010, St. John's, Antigua, about 1800 GMT-4

100113_caribbean_cruise__st._john_s__antigua_map_8139.jpgAntigua is another one of the former British West Indies. This island gained it's full independence in 1981.

100113_caribbean_cruise__st._john_s__antigua_town_view_8131.jpgThe topography of Antigua is somewhat in between the peaks on the Virgin Islands and the flat profile of Aruba or Bonaire. The town itself appears to be a mix of prosperity and poverty with some nice buildings and some that are pretty run down.

100113_caribbean_cruise__st._john_s__antigua_sunken_boat_8132.jpgRight next to the ship was a harbor area with a mix of boats, one probably sunken in a hurricane and abandoned.

100113_caribbean_cruise__st._john_s__antigua_twin_princesses_8133.jpg There were two Princess Grand class ships in port today, ours and the Ruby Princess. Walking down the pier between them really impressed me as to how big these ships really are. There were two more cruise ships in port too. A large German one, the Mein Schiff, and a small one that looked to be the same one that was in St. Thomas the first time we were there. Therefore, the little town was crowed with tourists.

100113_caribbean_cruise__st._john_s__antigua_vendor_square_8135.jpgThere were two of the obligatory street vendor groups, one called the Vendor Mall which was right off the exit from the pier and a small, and somewhat less expensive, Vendor Square a block or so away.

We did our pass through the town and headed back to the ship for another "virtual sea day." I tried out one of the 5 or so pools, it was cold. The starboard hot tub was set to "poached." The port hot tub was about right, probably not much more than 100°F. We had lunch in the formal dining room and now it's time to settle down for a nap. It's a rough life.

In the evening, the ship was holding the "Captain's Circle" party. This is for passengers that have been on more than 5 cruises with Princess. The folks on this ship with the most days on cruise had more than 500 days. We have 90 days on Princess including this cruise. They were serving free drinks and canapés. Sandy had two drinks and got a little impacted by it. One time before, I won a bottle of champagne in the door prize drawing, not this time though.

Thursday, January 14, 2010, Castries, St. Lucia, about 2200 GMT-4

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__map_8182.jpgToday we stopped at the island of St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles. St Lucia was held by the Spanish, French and British at various times until it achieved independence in 1979. We pulled into the largest city and port on the island's northwest coast, Castries.

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__castries_downtown_8145.jpgCastries is a fairly large city. There were three cruise ships in port today so it was pretty crowded. We took an island tour in a taxi with a couple of Canadians. It was supposed to be a "three hour tour" but it actually ran closer to five hours as the driver took great pains to show us a lot of the places that the regular tour busses do not go.

We drove over a hilly area south east of the city and through their community college which was way up on the hill in an old British military barracks. Then we stopped by a wood carving gallery and then southward down the coast.

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__anse_la_raye_8190.jpgThis is a small fishing village of Anse La Raye. The driver took us through the narrow streets of the town, as well as other small towns.

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__canaries_8160.jpgThe small fishing village of Canaries looked pretty typical of the smaller villages, the streets were narrow, the buildings old and well used, but there was no trash anywhere.

We went by a volcanic area called Sulphur Springs. There was not a lot there except for some active hot springs and mud pots, but it was interesting anyway.

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__small_piton_8183.jpgFrom there we stopped at a hotel called Laverda. This place has a very nice view of the "Petite Piton," an eroded volcanic core. This one stands about 2500 ft high. Three miles to the south is the "Gros Piton" which we were told stood 7000 ft high, but it didn't look that big.

100114_caribbean_cruise__st._lucia__marigot_bay_8191.jpgNot all of the areas were poor. This is Marigot Bay, a resort area. The hotel on the other side of the bay is accessible only by a water taxi across the bay. We then returned to Castries and the ship.

Our taxi driver spoke good english and he narrated the trip quite well including information on the local living conditions, government (which he didn't think too highly of primarily due to corruption) and customs of the island culture. This was about as good an island tour as one could find in these places.

100114_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess__explorer_s_lounge__ruben_ruiz__p1147149.jpg We went to a show in the Explorer's lounge this evening featuring a latin singer, Ruben Ruiz. He was pretty good, Sandy bought three CD's from him after the show. Much of the material was in Spanish and I didn't understand the words, but the music was good. He was on the last segment of the cruise too, but his show this time was different.

Friday, January 15, 2010, Bridgetown, Barbados, about 1900 GMT-4

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_map_8194.jpgBarbados is our last island stop (other than San Juan to get off the ship). This island is somewhat unique in that it has had only one colonial master, Britain. It is said that the island is more British than Britain itself. Barbados appears to be fairly dry and low. There is actually irrigation in places.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_stealth_ship_8193.jpgWhile we were eating breakfast, this "stealth" yacht hove into view. He was just sort of drifting off the port, apparently waiting for clearance to enter the port. We saw him again later in the anchorage inside the breakwater.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_parliament_8197.jpgWe elected to make this another virtual sea day with only a short excursion into town. We caught a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal where we were forced to walk the gantlet of duty free shops before we could even catch another bus into town about a mile or so away.

The bus dropped us right downtown. We walked a couple of blocks to the parliament buildings and monuments. Sandy got sucked into a $2 store which turned out to be a $1 store due to the exchange rate between US and Barbados currency.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_load_nelson_8199.jpgIn the plaza downtown is a statue commentating Lord Nelson, the British war hero. There was also a monument dedicated to Barbados citizens who lost their lives in The Great War and WWII. Another monument was a fountain that commemorated the first piped water supply to Bridgetown in 1861. The fountain was built in 1865.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_the_rapture_8206.jpgWe were reminded all over town about the upcoming Rapture. It seems that some folks aren't even waiting for the end of the Mayan calendar cycle in 2012.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_sandy_8208.jpgSandy and I elected to walk back to the cruise terminal in a nice park that runs along the breakwater between Bridgetown and the deep water harbor.

Like every other place we have been on this trip, the weather was good, 84°F or so, and humid. We had a very little bit of rain yesterday morning at St. Lucia, but it had stopped by the time we got off the ship. We have this afternoon and tomorrow to relax before we reach San Juan, surrender our stateroom to other passengers, and take a combination rainforest tour and airport transfer so that we can fly home Sunday evening.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_navy_ships_8210.jpgAs we were departing Barbados, I got some more pictures around the harbor. These are apparently the Barbados navy.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_gates_yacht_8222.jpgThe "stealth" ship moored directly ahead of us. One of the passengers said that he was told by a tour guide that this ship was owned by Bill Gates. He clearly has the money to afford it.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_gates_yacht_8225.jpgI got a straight on shot as we rounded the end of the breakwater. Everything on that ship that was metal was chromed and polished.

100115_caribbean_cruise__barbados__bridgetown_pando_venture_8226.jpgThere was another cruise ship in port that looked like the Ruby Princess, very similar to our ship. However, it is on the P&O line. Princess used to be called P&O. Whatever is P&O now must have ordered a ship from the same drawings as Princess.

Saturday, January 15, 2010, At Sea, about 1430 GMT-4

100116_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess__cooking_demo_8230.jpgToday is a sea day as we travel back to San Juan. This is the day that the ship's traditionally do the cooking demonstration, kitchen and backstage tours. During the cooking demonstration, the executive chef and the maitre 'd prepared a 5 course meal in about 20 minutes. It all looked pretty good and this was before lunch. I didn't go on the kitchen tour because all they do is loop us quickly through a stainless steel maze and try to sell a cookbook.

100116_caribbean_cruise__caribbean_princess__backstage_tour_p1167248.jpg The backstage tour was a Q and A session with the technical manager, the dance line manager and his assistant. Then we got a tour of the stage and dressing rooms. This is the 15 ft tall Caribbean indian puppet that showed up in a previous picture. All the lighting is automated, they don't move any lights for different shows. The singers actually sing. The dancers wear dummy microphones, they may sing be we don't hear them. Dancers are breathing too heavily to expect them to sing well.

After lunch, it was back to the Princess Theatre for a navigation talk and a description of how the ship is run. Then, nap time. Life is rough on a cruise.

The weather today is pretty much the same as every day for the last two weeks, warm and humid in the shade, outright hot in the sun. The sea is mostly smooth with a swell less than a few feet so that the movement of the ship is just perceptible.

We'll be getting into San Juan early tomorrow, we get off the ship at about 0800 for our tour then we get dropped at the airport for a long wait and even longer flights home. Many of the folks here will be headed back to the cold and snow. We'll be headed to warm rain.

Sunday, January 17, 2010, In Flight, about 1830 GMT-8

We were unceremoniously ejected from the ship at about 0800 this morning. Our flight wasn't leave for almost 12 hours. In order to fill part of this time and to transfer ourselves and luggage to the airport, we signed up for a tour of the El Yunque Rainforest, about an hour east of San Juan near the Atlantic coast of Puerto Rico.

100117_caribbean_cruise__el_yunque_rainforest_sandy_8237.jpgWe found a real rainforest, with real rain. We are on a short trail through the forest. It was cooler in the forest than in San Juan, but just as humid.

100117_caribbean_cruise__el_yunque_rainforest_el_coco_falls_sandy_8243.jpg We also stopped by the El Coco Falls for a photo opportunity. Just after this stop, it started to rain very hard but the tour was over. An hour on the bus brought us to the airport six hours before flight time.

When we got to the airport, we found that the flights had been rescheduled for about two hours earlier than they were listed when we booked them. Our connection in Miami had also been shortened from over two hours to a little under one hour. The flight left late from San Juan but arrived on time in Miami. However, our gate wasn't clear. That consumed about 10 minutes of our connection span and we were at the back of the bus so it took another 15 minutes to get off the airplane. Then we had to walk all over the terminal to get to our flight to LAX. We got there just as they were boarding and we managed to get on the plane. It was supposed to be a full flight, but when we pulled back 20 minutes, there were empty seats. They announced that there were many connecting passengers that weren't going to make the flight and American Airlines had elected not to wait for them so Sandy and I ended up with an empty seat in our row. Somebody, somewhere was probably pretty ticked that they were not in that seat.

Monday, January 18, 2010, Torrance, California, about 0030 GMT-8

We made it home in roughly the same number of pieces that we left with. The return flights were long, but uneventful. The house and cars were still here and the internet still works.

It was a good trip, looking forward to the next one whenever that might be.

This page has been accessedhit counter times since Dec 6, 2009

© 2009-2010 George Schreyer
Created Dec 6, 2009
Last Updated January 18, 2010