Another Day in Paradise

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Terry and I just got back from another week-long cruise. This time, we cruised the southern Caribbean, departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico on the Royal Caribbean "Adventure of the Seas". Seven days of sunshine, blue skies, warm breezes, high temperatures and all the pampering that you can only get on a cruise ship. This winter has been cruel; We've seen snowfalls that have exceeded the records for the last couple of decades, abnormally plunging temperatures, ice storms, and overcast skies since last October. It was time to get away.

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The day before we left, I shovelled my driveway three times, clearing about 20cm depth of snow accumulation over eight hours. I even got up a half hour early (5:30, too early for me) in order to clear the driveway one last time before our limo arrived to take us to the airport. We had no problems getting to the airport, or to our flight (which might have been delayed because of the snow), and soon were winging our way down to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico to join our ship.

We boarded the Adventure of the Seas at the RCI pier on San Juan's waterfront, and quickly found our cabin. Deck 2, cabin 2610 (midships, port side) was to be our home for the next week. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we skipped the dining room, and had a bite to eat in the Windjammer Cafe on deck 11, before heading back to our cabin to unpack. The ship pulled up anchor, and glided out of port at about 8pm, San Juan time.

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The morning of the first sailing day found us at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Terry and I disembarked before lunch, and took a ride "downtown", into the shopping district along the waterfront. While there wasn't much there for a guy like me (other than the beautiful scenery and the beautiful people), Terry had a blast shopping. On the way through the shopping district, we encountered a Catholic church, which we had to visit. After, Terry spent most of her time in a couple of stores, looking over fashions and fabrics, but finally satisfied herself with some winter gloves (for Mark) from a specialty shop in a tucked-away corner. Don't ask me why there was a storefront specializing in winter gloves for sub-zero climates in a semi-tropical paradise like St. Thomas; I really don't know. Ours is not to question why, ours is just to carry the shopping bags and find our way back to the ship. We strolled back to the ship, taking about an hour to walk back along the waterfront.

Our 6pm Strauss Dining Room (deck 4, table 469) reservation was, tonight, to be our first "Formal" dinner; there are usually two "Formal" nights per week aboard ship, and this was the first for this cruise. Terry looked ravishing in her black dress, and I, dashing as ever (grin) wore one of the suits that now fit me because of my constant diet. We met two of the three couples that we shared the dining table with; Eric and his wife live in Arizona, while Mike and his wive hale from Michigan. Dinner completed, we scooted off to the "Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception" (free drinks) on the deck 5 Royal Promenade, and then attended the 9pm stage show in the Lyric Theatre on deck 3. On the way back to our room from the show, we found an interesting Latin group, playing in the Lobby Bar lounge outside the Casino Royale on deck 3. We spent about an hour listening to the best Latin music that I'd heard since Cuba. After that, we wandered off to bed.

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The morning of the second sailing day brought us to Basseterre, St. Kitts. I had booked a tour of Nevis (St. Kitt's sister island) for Terry and I, and it's morning departure meant that we had to get up "early", at 7am. We showered, dressed, and made our way up to the dining room for breakfast by 8am, and sauntered out to meet our tour at 8:45. A short walk from the Port Zante pier took us to a marina where a catamaran awaited our group. The tour had four stages: first, a catamaran ride would take us from Basseterre, St. Kitts to Charlestown, Nevis. Next, a tour bus would take us around the island, showing us some sites, and delivering us to a local beach. We would have lunch and beach time at Pinney's beach, and then our catamaran would pick us up, and deliver us back to Port Zante so that we could reboard our ship. Terry wasn't happy about the catamaran ride; she's not confident about small(ish) boats on rough(ish) waters, and this was a challenge for her. But, she was up to it, and seemed to relax and enjoy the ride. I, on the other hand, was relaxed from the start. I shouldn't have been; I lost my hat to an unexpected gust of wind, and our glorious captain circled the boat to fetch it back for me. Wet hat in hand, we continued onward to Charlestown, with Terry very amused at me.

Our bus tour was interesting; we learned all about the importance of Charlestown to the island. The island of Nevis has fewer citizens than most small towns in Ontario, and while Charlestown is the "big city" to most of them, it has a distinctly "small town" feel to us. Points of interest included the clothing store, the local banks (a branch of BNS included), and the police station. Other, more significant, points of interest were intended for the Americans on the tour; Alexander Hamilton (an American "Founding Father") was born on Nevis, and his birthplace still stands as a museum and site of the Nevis Assembly Chambers. Next, we stopped at the Nevis Hot Springs, where water, heated to 108° F by a dormant volcano, bubbles up from the ground. This has been a "therapeutic bath" for a couple of centuries, and I couldn't resist a quick dip in the hot-tub waters. Another stop took us to the grounds of the (now closed) "Old Manor Hotel", a sugar plantation renovated and converted into a guest hotel. Here, portions of the sugar mill still stood, along with the buildings and out-houses of the plantation. There was a sense of history and purpose here, something as strong and durable as the hand-cut stone blocks used to build the place with. Leaving the plantation, we wandered back along the highway to Pinney's beach, where we had a meal and rum punch drink, and some beach time. Over too soon, the catamaran ("Shiggedy Shack") beached in front of us, and we all reboarded for the return trip home. More rum, this time mixed with Coke, and the trip was over too soon and we were soon back aboard "Adventure".

Tonight, we attended the exclusive(ish) "Welcome Back Party" for repeat cruisers, in the "Studio B" ice rink on deck 3. More drinks, this time sparkling wine, and more entertainment, a short speech from the Captain, and a longer speech from the on-board "booking agent". Enticements to book more cruises, which (I shamefully admit) worked. Another stage show, more Latin music, and we again tottered off to bed.

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The third sailing day was a "day at sea"; we had no ports of call that day. So, this was a day for relaxing on deck, sipping (gulping) pop and reading in the sun. Up with the birds (very sleepy birds), off to breakfast in the dining room, and then on to the Solarium on deck 11 for some sun. Somewhere in the distance, the Activities team held the Belly-Flop contest, and that kept most of the crowd away from the really good spots. Terry attended a "Beginners Spanish" class, and I paid down a bit of money to reserve our next cruise (I told you that the enticements worked); booking onboard has it's bonuses, and we are getting into cruising, so this wasn't an unexpected expense. Another fabulous dinner, another stage show, more Latin music, and we again tottered off to bed. Getting the picture yet?

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We arrived in Oranjestad, Aruba on the morning of the fourth sailing day. We couldn't book the tour that we wanted, so again, we explored the city instead. The city has installed a short, four block tramway, running from the port into the shopping district of the city. As the ride was free, we hopped aboard and got a brief tour of Oranjestad. At the end, we explored a bit of the edge of the shopping district, and then proceeded to shop our way back to the ship. Many stores were entered, few items were purchased. We stopped for libations; Terry had a local fruit drink, and I a local beer. There was much bling and many tourist traps, and even a few genuine art pieces to see and consider. Returning to the ship, we again concluded our stay with dinner, a show, and a musical performance outside the casino.

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Willemstad, Curacao greeted us on the morning of the fifth sailing day. This was our "day at the beach", a short boat ride to a local beach, 3 hours of sun and sand, and a boat-ride return at lunchtime. Terry got in some shopping in a small mall adjacent to the beach, and picked up an elegant Agate necklace. I had the pleasure that night, at the second Formal dinner, of escorting the most attractive and best dressed woman on the ship. Another sumptuous dinner, another reception (this time, the "Exclusive Top Tier Event" in the deck 5 Imperial Lounge), another extravagant show, and off to bed again. This is the life.

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The sixth sailing day was another "day at sea"; we had no ports of call that day. To while away the time, we attended the Ice show in "Studio B" (the ship's skating arena). Other than that, it was another day to sit in the sun, relax, and enjoy the ambience. As part of the disembarkation process, we packed and placed our luggage outside our room before our (now routine) dinner, show and concert.

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We returned to San Juan, Puerto Rico on the morning of the seventh sailing day. A long day, we were up by 7am for breakfast at 8 (the dining room and cafe close by 9am on disembarkation day). We waited around until about 1130, and finally disembarked the ship at noon. It took a while to reclaim our luggage, pass through Puerto Rico customs, and board our airport transfer coach, but we made it to the airport by 1pm. Another (long) wait for our airline tickets, a short wait in the security line, and a medium wait at the departure lounge, and we were aboard our return flight by 430pm. Finally, we made it home to Toronto by 8pm, and back to Brampton by 9pm. A long day of travel ended with us back in our own beds, dreaming of the next cruise.

Wanna come with us?

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