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Published: February 22nd 2015
JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: CARIBBEAN CRUISE 2015
January 17, 2015 (Saturday)
We're up at 3:30... That's less than 3 hours of sleep. Will probably be facing some "jet-
lag" this evening. It was about 5:20 when we arrived at the Mobile airport, instead of 5:00.
Several items could not clear security (larger than 3.6 oz). There was hair spray, toothpaste,
a 1 pound jar of cream, Oil of Olay and a $60 tube of Josie Maran face cream. An
expensive learning lesson.
Saw Bethany and waved her back to the screening area. She "rescued" all our items that
had been trashed. Then the P.A. called our names. There were 8 minutes for us to arrive at
the gate, or we'd miss the flight. Made it!
The U.S. Airways flight to Charlotte, NC left at 6:00 a.m. We flew into a brilliant orange
sky at sunrise. Then most of the passengers napped on the plane for awhile.
Landing in Charlotte about 8:40, our watches were changed to Eastern time. Janet had a
very wobbly walk, and was using her new cane. (Thanks s-i-l Susan). The airport staff got us
a cart and we were taken to the correct concourse and gate. That saved us a ton of steps.
The flight was delayed about 20 minutes so we left at 10:00. Each of the seats had a small
screen ahead of it. We could view movies, television shows, music, games and a GPS. I liked
the GPS mode. It showed altitude, speed, miles already flown, miles to our destination, air
temperature, local time in Charlotte, local time in San Juan, and a small plane which showed
our location on the map. Also, I spent a little time relaxing and playing Black-Jack. We ate
sandwiches and M&Ms while we flew for about 2 and 1/2 hours. Changed our watches to
Atlantic time. Both our suitcases arrived... this is good news.
Upon landing in San Juan, the temperature was a humid 85 degrees, and there were palm
trees everywhere. Flagged a taxi and found out he was only 10 days on the job and still learn-
ing his way around. Well, we were dropped off at the wrong location. Good grief, as we be-
gan to pull the luggage down the sidewalk, another taxi driver stops and knows exactly where
our hotel is... three blocks away. Janet and I settle into a large room at the Casa Condado
Hotel. There is an airy porch close by, with views of the street, where we can eat breakfast
tomorrow. We sleep from 3 until 7. I think that got us past the jet-lag.
Ashford Avenue was a few blocks away, where we found the Latin Star restaurant. We
had the same meal: breaded red snapper, Spanish rice and pinto beans. The iced tea had slices
of lime, not lemon. For dessert, tres leches cake hit the spot. We sat outside, but in a covered
area. On one wall was a huge mural with Puerto Rican history scenes. On the opposite wall,
there were 32 pictures of celebrities who had eaten here. From NBA stars, Miss Universe
contestants to Olympic athletes.
One block away we found vendors selling a variety of jewelry at their sidewalk table. My
wife was so HAPPY! Had to purchase several items. And the three young people were so
friendly, that I even took their picture.
Walgreens was located across the street and we bought several "replacement" items, that
did not make the flight with us. Back to our room about 5 minutes later. With no telephone in
the rooms, I arranged for an 8:00 wake-up knock on the door. In bed at 11:15. A wonderful
January 18, 2015 (Sunday)
My cell phone rang at 2:15 a.m. It was 15 after midnight in Mobile. Bethany was calling
to check on us. So I gave her the highlights of the day. Back to sleep on my first night in
Puerto Rico! And the knock on the door did occur at 8 a.m. Our continental breakfast this
morning includes pastries, pound cake (?), bananas, orange juice and coffee.
There is a small safe on the wall, where we placed our passports and money. Wanted to
walk a few blocks to the Atlantic Ocean. Wow, such beautiful blue water. I wonder how
often I'll utter this expression... beautiful blue water, in the next week.
Check-out was at 12 noon and we walk a few blocks until we hail a taxi. In less than ten
minutes we arrive at the Royal Caribbean port. There are luggage tags to place on our suit-
cases. And surprisingly, a questionnaire to fill out about the e-bola virus. The check-in goes
smoothly and we're given plastic cards (SeaPass) that serve as our I.D. and room key.
At 1:30 we board and will have the luggage delivered to our room 8030. We make our
way to the 11th floor and the spacious Windjammer Cafe. There is a buffet spread out for the
passengers. I really think I'm going to enjoy this place. Janet ordered a Bahama Mama for me
to sip on and unwind. Relax! It's going to be a great vacation.
As we enter our stateroom, the curtains are open and the balcony is calling us to come see.
Janet wanted to take a nap and I wanted to walk around the pool and explore the ship. And at
5:30 there was a mandatory gathering to discuss what to do in case of an emergency. I started
chatting with two nice ladies standing in front of me, and found out they were also part of the
Alabama Pharmacy Assn. group: Donna and Elizabeth. Hey, the first two people I talk to are
now my new pharmacy buddies.
At 7:30, the A.P.A. has scheduled a meet-and-greet in the Imperial Lounge. We signed in
and were given our pharmacy "cruise shirt" and a few other items. On Wednesday there will
be a group photo and we'll all wear these shirts. It was a treat to see fraternity brothers,
friends and professors that I had not seen in years: Ralph and Becky Sorrell, Derrell and Gay
Massey, Dr. Keith and Maryanne Campagna, Donna Majors, Elizabeth Tyson and Dan
McConaghy. A lot of talk about "the old days", of course. And the fun days ahead of us. (Dr.
Keith and his wife MaryAnne had been chaperones in 1979 when the Auburn senior
pharmacy students made their "drug trip" to visit Abbot Labs in North Chicago, IL and then
Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, IN.) A hostess brought around wine and "green drinks". We tried to
figure out what was in the green drink that made it taste so good.
At 8:30 the pharmacy get-together was winding down as the Adventure of the Seas left
the harbor. Janet and I went up to the pool where the calypso band was playing. It was fun
watching the line dancers. Janet is much better now, and no longer using her cane. We stayed
there awhile before going to the promenade deck on level 5. Since the main dining room was
closed, we visited the Promenade Cafe. There were 5 varieties of sandwiches and 5 types of
dessert. On the way back, we shopped and found a souvenir bracelet.
When we returned to our room, we could see the lights of eastern Puerto Rico. Janet
wanted to order our breakfast, via room-service for tomorrow morning. So we marked our
menu choices and time preference and placed the paper on the outside door handle. Went to
the balcony and looked up at hundreds of stars. Nice! In bed about midnight.
January 19, 2015 (Monday)
I woke up at 3 a.m. and looked out the window. I saw the lights of two more cruise ships.
They were probably 2 miles away from us. Had set up a 6:15 wake-up call. I got going, while
Janet wanted to keep sleeping. Sound familiar?
Room service delivered breakfast at 7:45 and we enjoyed it on our balcony. There was
bacon, scrambled eggs, stewed tomato, pastries, yogurt, orange juice and coffee. And there
was a great view of the island. Welcome to St. Thomas!
The two of us left the ship about 8:30 and took a trolley ride to the shopping mall area.
We went to the large clock, where our tour was supposed to meet. Near the town square is a
statue of "The Little Mermaid". It is a replica of the statue in Copenhagen, Denmark harbor.
I spot Ali in his coral colored IMI shirt. There were 8 couples of tourists on the morning
tour, from 9:30 - 11:30. We are in the city of Charlotte Amalie and received a continuous
history lesson about St. Thomas. It is approximately 13 miles long x 4 miles wide. This is
one of the 4 islands which make the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Croix, St. John and WaterIsland
are the other three islands. Vehicles are driven on the left side of the road.
The island was under control of 6 different countries, before becoming a territory of the
U.S.A. First was the Spanish, as Christopher Columbus stopped in St. Croix in 1493. Then
the Dutch and the English. After the French, the Knights of Malta ruled the land. Finally,
Denmark was in control until selling the islands to the United States in 1917.
There are three scenic overview stops. Saw Blackbeard's Castle at the first stop. Then for
about 30 minutes we stop at the Mountain Top. A sign says it is home to the Banana
Daiquiri...Over 7 Million Daiquiris Sold. Well, we didn't make it to the daiquiri location. The
jewelry section was at the very front. Guess who was super excited? Larimar jewelry! This
"as blue as the ocean" larimar is found in only one location in the Dominican Republic.
As we made it back into town, we passed the oldest building on the island, built in 1671.
FortChristian was constructed by the Danes. It was undergoing renovation. It is home to a
museum, telling of life of the early colonists.
It started to rain a little as we got off the tour trolley and went to an outdoor market. This
is a place where you use your barter skills. Never accept the first price. We bought more
jewelry, two tee-shirts for me and a tropical looking stretchy dress for Bethany.
As the rain let up, we stopped at the Tanzanite Jewelry store. So many beautiful selections
to admire. A tennis bracelet looked fine on Janet's wrist. The $5200 price rather surprised
We walked down one block to Jen's Island Cafe and deli. This old building has been
around since 1840 (the Commercial Hotel and Coffee House). Lots of the original brick is
still viewable. We both ordered fresh conch in butter sauce with yellow rice and fried
plantains. Decided to try the rum cake for dessert. I could probably eat this 3 or 4 times a
week. Did I say how delicious it was? Instead of the ordinary iced tea, I had to try the brewed
lemongrass tea. What an unusual flavor. I noticed the four people at the adjoining table. They
were using 2 phones, 1 laptop and 1 tablet. All 4 were mesmerized by their electronics.
Took a taxi to the port, then walked back to the shopping mall area. Visited several stores
until we found Pandora's. Janet was very pleased with her new bracelet and cruise ship
charm. Her jewelry shopping was now complete??
Showed our Sea Passes to the crew and were back on the ship about 3:15. Janet wanted to
nap for a few hours. I put on my swimsuit and went to the pool. Alternated that with the hot
tub, which seats 12. The ship whistle blew at 5 p.m. The calypso band came onstage. Let the
dance party begin! Dozens of people joined the line dancing. Think my favorite ones were
Macarena and YMCA. Then there were music videos on the big screen for at least an hour.
The GPS map was shown, then web cams of different areas around the pool. Hey, from
the hot tub, I even saw the bald spot on my head. I think it's gotten bigger.
Such a diverse group of folks aboard the Adventure of the Seas. From babies to people in
their 80's, a variety of ethnicities, colors and languages. Our guide, Ali, told us this morning
that St. Thomas was a melting pot. Well, we sure have that on our cruise ship too, with about
4000 passengers. So I shouldn't have been surprised to see four women in thong bikinis. But
what I'll remember most is how salty the large pool is. Everyone seemed to comment about
that, when getting in. So much buoyancy, it was easy for people to float.
Back into the room for a few hours and it felt good to get into dry clothes. As I sat on the
balcony, I worked on my travel diary. We left port about 6:00 and I took a few pictures of
the sun setting.
After a hot shower, we're going to the Windjammer Cafe for a supper buffet. Tonight's
theme was Asian food. It included sushi, Malaysian rice and Singapore rice. And of course
more fish. I absolutely had to try a soup I'd never heard of: Banana and rum chilled soup. Not
bad at all.
There was a Zultanite jewelry presentation we wanted to see. And that $19,000 ring
looked fabulous on Janet's finger. Maybe another day. We went up to deck 11, past the pool
to the treadmills and exercise area. It was closed for the evening. So, early to bed at 10:30.
January 20, 2015 (Tuesday)
Wake-up call at 6:30 and quickly into the shower. Janet finished her routine and we're
back at the Windjammer for a breakfast buffet. Corned beef hash is not usually on my plate
at breakfast, but I think I need some today.
Welcome to St. Kitts! Walking to the end of the pier at Port Zante, there is a sign:
Welcome To St. Kitts...Home of the Brimstone Hill Fortress...The Gibraltar of the West
Indies. Caribbean Journey Masters is our tour group provider. Kenrick is our guide and gets
ten of us into an air conditioned van. Like yesterday in St. Thomas, the driving is done on the
left side of the road. The island measures roughly 23 miles x 6 miles.
We started our 3 hour tour in the capital city of Basseterre. We're given a little history as
buildings of major importance were pointed out. Driving through the residential areas, I soon
see that this place is not nearly as prosperous as St. Thomas. It looks very economically de-
pressed. The unemployment rate is supposedly 6 %. I also notice that many homes do not
have a driveway or even a place to park their vehicles. I'm curious what they do.
Leaving the city there is lots of wild sugarcane. It is no longer harvested. A governmental
decision. So at the typical harvest season, the sugarcane just rots. One of our fellow tourists
commented that now there are diabetic birds. Seems to me like a missed opportunity for a
natural resource. That's a shame!
On the left is the University of Medicine and Health Science. And a little further is a
College of Veterinary Medicine. That's the only place where I see the white students. For
96% of all St. Kitts is inhabited by descendents of the early slave trades. They were bought
and brought from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations.
Our first stop was Romney Manor and Botanical Gardens. It was once owned by Samuel
Jefferson, the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (the 3rd President of the
U.S.A.). Much earlier, it was home to a Carib Indian village. Ten acres of tropical gardens
included a 350 year old saman tree.
The manor is also home to Caribelle Batik. Using Sea Island Cotton, the fabric is dyed,
one color at a time. Then wax is used to resist dye on parts of the fabric, then designs are
applied. Very colorful, and lots of the batik was on sale in the adjoining room. We purchased
a few pillow cases and scarves.
Our next destination was the Brimstone Hill Fortress. It's listed as a United Nations World
Heritage Site. And what a view from this height (about 800 feet). We could see the two
islands of Saba and St. Eustatius. Eustatius is very small, only 8 square miles and a
population of less than 4,000. But what I found most interesting about this Dutch
municipality was that it has changed ownership 22 times! And for Saba, it has a rich history
of pirate activity and proclaims itself as the best scuba diving in the world.
Now, for the fortress, it was designed by British military engineers and built by African
slaves. It was constructed intermittently between the 1690's and 1790's. Cannon were first
mounted here in 1690. In its heyday, the fortress was known as "the Gibraltar of the West
Indies". In 1782, the French laid siege to the fort. After a month, the outnumbered British
garrison surrendered. However, just one year later, the Treaty of Paris in 1783 restored St.
Kitts and Brimstone Hill to British rule. The British abandoned the fort in 1853. Fully
restored now, it was an amazing place to visit.
Our tour van returned us to the port and we wandered through a few stores. Janet found
some real good deals on freshwater Caribbean pearl earrings and garnet earrings.
St. Kitts has about 40,000 residents and around 75,000 monkeys on the island. One of the
islanders had 3 monkeys and would take a few pictures of the tourists (for $10) with the little
monkeys on your shoulders and head. Cute! I saw another vendor that had shirts on his
monkeys. Before I could think, I had three more monkeys on me and more pix. That was a
We come aboard the ship at 3:00 and go to the Windjammer for lunch. We had been given
shopping guides and I notice an ad from Diamonds International. You were given a free
bracelet with the purchase of a $5 charm. There are actually 20 charms in the set, designed
for cruise ship tourists. In St. Kitts we got the "monkey" charm. We'll try to collect four,
from our 4 different ports of call.
At 5:00 there is an impromptu pharmacy get-together, near the pool. We talk about what
we did today and there are a few pictures taken of the group. After 45 minutes, I'm in my
swimsuit and heading for a cool pool. I alternate that with a hot tub. I chatted with a young
couple from Toronto, Rajah and Rita. They are of Indian heritage. Then I start talking base-
ball with Dan, from south Chicago. Interesting. We watch the sunset as we leave the port.
Janet and I visit the Windjammer at 8:30 for dinner. Tonight there is an Italian theme:
antipasta, anchovies, spaghetti and my favorite was the bolognaise sauce on pasta.
Back in the room I discover that there is a light for the balcony. I go out there and work on
my diary while Janet goes window shopping.
At 10 p.m. I started watching a movie on the big screen, by the pool. It was Alexander...
And the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. About 15 minutes later I went down to
the casino. Didn't drop any coins tonight, just watched people stuffing the slot machines.
Folks were also enjoying the poker and blackjack tables. And there was a large machine that
took quarters. Sometimes the quarters would push other quarters over the edge. There were
also $10, $20 and $50 bills plus an I-pod. It looked mesmerizing.
Going up the elevator with a large group of teenagers, they talked about going dancing.
I made an instant decision to go to Studio B and go dancing too! I watched the cruise ship
dancers for about 20 minutes, then heard "Everybody out on the dance floor!" Hey, there are
people from 8 years old on up. Before I know it...I'm going down these steps...onto the dance
Noticed several people out there older than me. So, let's go for it. And for the next 45
minutes, I danced with about 200 of my newest friends. High energy!!! It was more than just
dancing; it was an aerobic workout. Fun!! In bed at midnight.
January 21, 2015 (Wednesday)
I get a 6:25 wake-up call and it is still dawn. Get ready for the day. At 7:15 I'm on my
way to the Windjammer for another wonderful breakfast. I saw my pharmacy buddies,
Elizabeth and Donna. Serendipity, I joined their table in the Island Grill section.
Down on the 2nd level I find the Alaska conference room at 8:00. I settle in for my
continuing education programs. Four hours later we have finished. About 50 of us gather
on the stairwell for a group photo. Hated that I couldn't contact Janet in time to be in the
picture. She looked nice, dressed in blue and wearing a pretty, new blue and yellow scarf.
We went and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. This is our "at sea" day. Actually, it will be close
to 38 hours at sea. Nothing but blue sea and blue skies!
As we made our way to the spa area, the foot guide was available to evaluate our foot
strides. He was selling arch supports, but not the one-arch that you find in a Dr. Scholl's
section of a store. These had FOUR separate arch supports in them. Can't believe what
an amazing difference I could detect in just a few minutes. They were not cheap, but worth
every penny. Got 2 sets for Janet.
Time to go relax at the pool for a couple of hours. Then we enjoyed another buffet supper
at the Windjammer Cafe. Afterwards I visited the casino again. A new machine I saw tonight
was the Key Master. Gamblers were ever so close to winning a $100 bill, but no one did.
Checking for more activities for the evening, I headed down to Studio B to watch adults
play a scavenger type game called Quest. It was a lot of fun. The emcee was looking for
various items such as a piece of fruit, or false-teeth, or an appendix scar, or a daily schedule
of activities, or a piercing that is not in your ear, or a very hairy back, or three men from each
group with pants in hand. It was a hoot! Back in the room at midnight.
January 22, 2015 (Thursday)
Up at 6:00 today and have an early breakfast. Welcome to Aruba! We leave the ship at
8:30, not knowing the time of our excursion today. Anxiety city. I had definite times of the
three other on-shore excursions, just not this one. Asking at the information desk, we are
given directions to the Atlantis submarine. We'll need to be here at 11:30, for a 12 noon
There is an open air market close by and I see the perfect souvenirs for my pharmacy
staff. Delft blue ceramic shoes. Looks like the wooden shoes from Holland. Cute. As I'm
buying those, a van driver approaches Janet. He needs two more passengers and we'll go on
a 2-hour tour of Aruba. $20 each and we join an English couple. He points to interesting
sights as we drive through Oranjestad, the capital city. What was rather unexpected was that
most all the grocery stores on the island are owned by Chinese people.
Our first stop was Casibiri Rock Formation. It is a cluster of huge tonalite rocks, weighing
several tons each. They inexplicably rise from the desert soil to create an unusual setting.
Upon hiking to the top, there are great views of the island.
We continued driving to the northern tip of the island. Passed through the neighborhoods
where the rich folks lived. Wow, beautiful houses. And with only about 15 inches of rain
each year, there were cacti everywhere.
Our second stop was the California lighthouse. 100 years after its construction (1915), it is
being renovated. The lighthouse gets its name from the vessel California, which shipwrecked
near this spot in 1891. I now have another photo of me and a lighthouse.
We were on the scenic coastal road heading back to town. Passed a shipwreck about 50
feet offshore. Also saw several kite-boarders. Kite-surfing sure looked like fun. After about
two hours us 4 tourists were dropped off near the port. There was a Diamonds International
store across the street. We went inside to purchase our $5 charm of a dolphin. Looked at
several pretty, and expensive, items. Janet asked about the ammolite earrings. This just might
be something we buy for Bethany. I thought they were pretty and the saleslady took that as a
cue to start boxing it up for us. It was $850 and she was pushing too hard for the sale. Had to
say no again and just walk out.
Just a few blocks away and we're at the AtlantisSubmarineAdventureCenter. A Once in
a Lifetime Undersea Experience. There was a large sign on the wall with technical
specifications. 65 feet long, can hold 48 passengers and 3 crew, and an approved depth of
150 feet. It has been in service at Aruba for about 25 years. Learned that Atlantis also has
submarines in Barbados, the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Curacao, St. Martin, Guam and
A boat took us from the dock out to sea. When the submarine emerged from the water,
there were 48 travelers that had to board our ship. And then, we slowly start drifting down.
Most surprising was how white the sand was. A color card in front of me listed 74 Fish of
the Caribbean Reefs. We were able to see colorful fish (especially blue colored), an eel, an
octopus, barracuda, a sea turtle, a few types of coral, sponges and two shipwrecks. As we
were about to settle on the sand at -145 feet, the theme song from Jaws came on the P.A.
system. We'll now cross this great adventure off our "bucket list".
We walked back to the ship and had lunch. On the 11th level, there were beautiful views
of Oranjestad. We napped for the next hour before leaving the ship again. Got a taxi ride to
the beach by the Radisson Hotel. The water was chilly, but after a short while, I was able to
go completely under. Hey, I'm swimming in the Caribbean Sea in January. Thought of other
places where I have been swimming: the Pacific Ocean at Costa Rica; the Atlantic Ocean in
The Bahamas; the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama and Florida; and the Mediterranean Sea at
Spain. We were there for about 90 minutes. Janet took some great pictures of the sunset.
Picked up a few seashells and coquina rocks. I continue to try and pick up a few rocks at each
We need another taxi ride to the ship and we enjoy talking to the driver, William. Show
the SeaPass and we're back on board. Felt better after the shower.
Checking the list of activities for the evening, I want to go to Studio B and watch Cool
Art... Hot Ice. These international ice skaters were spectacular. The main couple was from
Ukraine. Other members were from the U.S.A., Finland, Canada, France, the CzechRepublic
and the United Kingdom. That hour went by too fast... they were great.
Back to the room and Janet is calling for room service for a hamburger supper tonight.
Her medicine has made her real sleepy so she calls it a night. I go back to the pool area where
there is "Dancing Under the Stars". And the special treat tonight is the big spread of food. It
was interesting to see where bread was baked into different items: a palette that included a
cluster of grapes and a real bottle of wine, a small rabbit and a decorated piece of bread with
pretzel swirls coming out the top.
Enough eating and time to get out there with lots of line dancers. One fun dance was the
Wobble dance. And a few favorites were Bad Romance and Y.M.C.A. Gee, it was fun! I
make it back to the room at midnight and see a sky full of stars.
January 23, 2015 (Friday)
Another 6:00 wake-up call. After a shower, I'm going up to the pool level to attempt to
get some sunrise pictures around 7 a.m. Successful! In the distance, I see eight freight ships
heading towards port. Janet and I go to breakfast at 7:45.
Welcome to Curacao! We have booked a 6 hour tour today. After leaving the ship there is
a 3 block walk to the Radisson Hotel lobby. We arrive on time at 8:40 and meet several other
couples. At 8:50 the tour van arrives. Three Auburn pharmacists and our wives joined 15
others. One pharmacist has painted his toenails orange and blue. That's the War Eagle spirit!
Our guide, Michele, makes two more hotel stops, and we're on our way. He points out
different sights in the capital city of Willemstad. There are about 170,000 residents. And
85% of the population is Afro-Caribbean. 750 monuments populate the island and bridges are
named for former Dutch queens. Very impressive is the Queen Juliana Bridge. Built in 1974,
it stands 185 feet above the water. That makes it the highest in the Caribbean.
Then we go to a section that is being restored. We park and walk through a Curacao
Garden district. We see aqua-ducts and cisterns for holding rainwater. Yes, collecting rain
water is how people obtained their fresh water. There are sidewalk cafes and a sculpture
garden. At one time, this was a hub of the west African slave trade. The kingdom of Benin
was also mentioned.
Restoration began in 1995 with the purchase of a house in the old section of Willemstad
called Otrabanda (the other side). Plans include building a museum and a resort hotel. In all,
65 buildings compromise the largest exhibit of the Museum Kura Hulanda. But the Dutch
Colonial architecture is really the star of this 8 block village. Proudly called "Paradise
Restored" it is listed as a U.N. World Heritage Site.This historic area of Willemstad is a
European Colonial Ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity. The city's
historical architecture is of a strikingly genuine and colorful European origin set in a tropical
environment. Nothing like it can be found elsewhere in the Dutch West or East Indies. Pretty.
Now is our chance for a quick tour of the Blue Curacao liqueur factory. Blue Curacao is a
liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curacao.
Though the laraha fruit is bitter, the peels are aromatic and flavorful, maintaining the essence
of a Valencia (Spain) orange. Exotic spices and herbs are also included in the recipe. It was
first developed in the 1800's. It was interesting to see the alcohol being poured by hand from
large plastic pitchers into the glass bottles. There was a "free tasting" table with four flavors
to try: orange, coffee, chocolate, and rum raisin. Plus, there were different size bottles for us
tourists to purchase.
Driving the coastal rode, we passed two desalinization plants. It was much needed for an
island that has no rivers. Before these were built, rain water was collected and held in
Fort Nassau is our next stop. It was built in the early 1800s by the Dutch. The British
occupied it between 1807 - 1816. The Dutch then retook the island. During World War II,
the fort housed a detachment of American soldiers. Upon leaving in 1947, the fort was left
empty until it became a restaurant in 1959. Being one of the highest spots on the island, we
had some great panoramic views of Willemstad. And we could see the nearby oil refinery.
A few miles outside of town we stop at the Jan Kok plantation. The original plantation
house dates back to 1704. After 1823, they began extracting salt from the St.MarieBay.
More than 100 slaves were brought in to work with agriculture and cattle breeding. The
present house dates back to 1840. In 1910, the salt plains produced 16,000 barrels of salt.
Still common today in the salt marshes / reservoir are dozens of pink flamingos.
The plantation house is well preserved and beautifully decorated. It now houses an Art
Gallery. What struck me about all the paintings were the vivid colors: reds, yellows, blues
and greens. There is an open air studio of Nena Sanchez with an art garden to stroll through.
Time for lunch and Michele stops in "the middle of nowhere" as he likes to call it. There
really are no businesses close by. The small bistro is called e-lanturnu. At the top of the place
was the phrase "Bon Apetit" in six languages. The entire group enjoys sitting outside under
tamarind and fig trees. We ordered the "healthy" baguette, containing cheese, tomatoes, hard
boiled egg slices and cucumbers. For a drink I saw blackberry pop. While reading the ingred-
ients on the can, it looks like it is really black currant juice. It was good and cold as I watched
a bright yellow bird fly into our nearby tree.
A little more driving and then we stop at Playa Kenepa Grandi. This beach is probably the
best beach to visit on the entire island. Natural white sand and crystal blue waters that look
like turquoise make this spot an amazing place. Plus, there are vendors there selling local
dishes, snacks and drinks. The peanut brittle was out of this world. Absolutely beautiful!
Our last stop on the tour takes us to Shete Boka Parke Nashonal. It is located on the rocky
north coast of the island. The largest and most spectacular of the seven inlets ("bokas") that
make up the park is Boka Tabla. It's an underground cavern carved out of the limestone cliffs
over millions of years by pounding waves. It is like visiting the birth of a new cave. Steps cut
into the rocks lead us directly into the mouth of the cavern. It was very slippery.
Driving back to Willemstad, we pass one of the highest points in Curacao. Looked rather
like the Matterhorn. And then, about 3:15 our tour is completed. Soaked up so much history.
Janet wanted to go right on board the ship, check on more jewelry and take a nice, hot
shower. I stayed on land and walked to the RIF Fort. The fort was built in 1828 at the
entrance of the St.AnnaBay for protection from pirates and invaders. The five foot thick
walls now house an upscale shopping mall. There are several restaurants, a museum and 80
stores for shopping. Plus, great views of the water. Hot and humid at 90 degrees. Wow, not
what I was expecting in January.
A few blocks away was an open air market... on the water. Bought a tee shirt and a few
souvenir magnets. Across the water, I snapped a few more pictures of the pretty, pastel colors
of the buildings that make up the World Heritage Site.
At supper we talk about the highlights of the day, plus this past week. Tonight's menu
includes fish stew & peach soup. In a few hours we'll be on our way back to Puerto Rico. We
go down a few levels to the General Store for a few items. And guess what else we find? A
great sale on jewelry. Time to start buying presents for Christmas.
At 9:00 I head on down to the Theater. For the next hour, we are treated to a music show
by the Las Vegas Three Tenors. They are Bobby Black, Paul Vann and Lou Gazzara. Wow,
such an outstanding show. I enjoyed songs by the Doobie Brothers (Long Train Running,
Where Would I Be Now, China Grove), the Moody Blues (Nights in White Satin), the Four
Tops (My Girl), the Beegees (Staying Alive), the Righteous Brothers (You've Lost that
Loving Feeling), Danny Boy, You Lift Me Up, If I Could Just Hold You Again, and a few
songs from Frankie Valli. Just a wonderful walk down memory lane.
They then asked if there were any country music fans. We were quite surprised to hear
that "the country tonight is Italy". So, we were treated to some Pavarotti type songs. They
finish with an interesting combo of "Sorry seems to be the hardest word" with some Italian
opera songs. A great performance.
I took a few photos of them in the lobby, as they were selling CDs. Look forward to
listening to them again when I return to Alabama. And I'll "Like" them on Facebook.
Back on my balcony to see a sky full of stars. Another good day ushers in a good night!
January 24, 2015 (Saturday)
After my 6:15 wake-up call, I head upstairs for an early breakfast. Janet sleeps in today,
as it's a long day back to Puerto Rico. I have another 4 hour Continuing Education class to
attend. Well, that was rather informative. And then our AL Pharmacy Assn. director, Louise
Jones, wraps up the program. Looks like the APA will coordinate / sponsor another cruise in
the Caribbean in 2 more years. Looks like there will be several repeat cruisers.
I had my camera and wanted to take a few pictures of several of Auburn's Phi Delta Chi
Pharmacy Fraternity brothers from around 1979. There is Ralph Sorrell, me, Keith Conner,
Dan McConaghy, Derrell Massey and one of our favorite professors, Dr. Keith Campagna.
Turns out, there were several female Phi Delta Chi members on the cruise. Well, we had to
take a few pictures with them too. Included in these photos were Gay Massey, Bp Ballard,
Mary Schwartz and Rebecca Sorrell.
I was back in the room by 12:30. After Janet showed me what she had been shopping for,
we went on to lunch. Janet had a 2:00 appointment about some health products. I rested for a
little while, then put on my swimmies. I went to the pool and saw Janet as I went to grab a
towel. So, we went back to the room for her to get into her swimsuit. Spent a few hours out
there. We alternated between the cool pool and the hot tub.
Our lounge chairs were very close to the stage and soon the music director was encourag-
ing people to get up and start dancing. Hey, the line dancers were right in front of us. After
listening to several songs, my feet made me get up and join them. Danced "the Wobble" and
lots of folks were singing while dancing to "I want to know if you'll be my girl". Fun!
We leisurely head back to our room to start packing. Then we're back at the Windjammer
for supper. The Compass (activities schedule) showed many events going on tonight. At 8:45
I was on the 5th level to watch a "flash mob" break out into singing and dancing. That was
enjoyable to watch. Then I went by one of the piano bars and watched a few people singing
karaoke. Hey, that guy sounded just like Meat Loaf up at the piano.
I finally saw the Chapel that was on the 15th level. Had to take the stairs to get there. It
was quiet, of course since I was the only one in there. There's a pulpit, so I imagine that a few
weddings have taken place here. I saw two Holy Bibles that were presented by the Gideons;
a couple of hymnals and two books with scriptures from the Psalms and the Torah. From the
2nd verse of Genesis, chapter 1... "And the earth was without form; and void; and darkness
was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
I felt at peace reading that, considering the past seven days at sea.
Grabbing my camera, I went up and down several flights of stairs, taking pictures of the
art-work in the stairwells. Then back to the room where Janet is out onto the balcony. We see
dozens of stars and the constellation Orion. Think we see lights from the western tip of
Our suitcases are packed and have been placed outside our door. Crew members will pick
them up sometime this evening. Then we'll retrieve them in San Juan when we prepare to go
through Customs. At 9:45 there is an Island Frenzy Parade on the 5th level. Crew members
are dressed as island characters with huge head-pieces. The music played fun songs such as
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and the "Witch-Doctor song".
I saw that at 11:00 there was a Belvedere's Silent Party in one of the entertainment areas.
What in the world is a Silent Party? Walking into the room, we were given headphones.
They could be listened to in English or Spanish. Well, it is a dance party. There was a very
large screen above us that showed music videos. No sound or music, just the videos. Dozens
of us dancers were out on the floor, just dancing away. I didn't know anyone there, but it was
fun just dancing. Songs and singers included: Tom Jones, Pit Bull, Lady Gaga (Bad Ro-
mance), Psy (Gangnam Style), the Wobble dance and the crowd favorite... Y.M.C.A. It is
about midnight as I finally get into bed. What a wonderful day...
January 25, 2015 (Sunday)
Up at 6:45 this morning. I have a sore throat and didn't sleep too well. Also, a whole lot of
coughing. Did not plan on this. Went to the Windjammer for breakfast. Took a few pictures
of 3 or 4 crew members we had come to know. I showed Janet the "prize" I caught last night
at the Island Frenzy Parade. It was a small, Kid Fun, pair of binoculars. She suggested that I
give it away. Saw a 5 year old girl at a table with her family. I walked over and told the
family my story and gave it to the little girl. They we pleased.
Janet and I have three carry-ons that are tagged as we make our way down to Studio B
at 9:15. This is our designated time and place to meet. Our group of about 100 will
disembark at the same time. Waited for almost one hour... then we're on our way.
Our two large suitcases are waiting for us. We had filled out the paper for declaring our
purchases while outside the country. Showed the passports as we breezed through Customs.
Several taxis are right outside, waiting for the tourists. Within ten minutes, we've arrived
at the RadissonAmbassadorPlaza in the Condado district. We decided months ago to stay in
Puerto Rico for 3 days, to extend the vacation. We pre-check in at 11:00. The bell-hop stored
two suitcases and three carry-on bags. Check in starts at 3:00. Hey, let's walk one block to
the beach. So many "postcard" pictures of blue waters, green palm trees and white sandy
beaches! We even start to thinking that we might retire here one day.
Let's take another taxi and go to Old San Juan. The city of San Juan Bautista was founded
in 1521 by Ponce de Leon. It is now designated as a U.S. Historic Zone. Over 400 buildings
have been remarkably preserved. I rather enjoyed the aging stone walkways and the narrow
little streets. We started at a fort, of course, the San Cristobal Fort. It was named after
Christopher Columbus, who stopped here in 1493. It is the largest Spanish fortification in the
New World. Originally built in 1664, in response to Dutch attacks, it's size was expanded by
1783. We started our tour by watching a 15 minute movie. Just soaked in the history of the
Spanish defenses on Puerto Rico.
Highlights at the fort include the main plaza, troop quarters, tunnels, a chapel, a pyramid
of mortar balls and the outerworks. We checked out a few rooms and the tiny dungeon. As
we continued walking, I heard someone call out my name. It was my pharmacy buddies:
Elizabeth and Donna. I introduced them to Janet . Then we chatted about what we had seen
these past few days. We continued visiting all the levels.
Leaving the fort, we slowly walked the sidewalk , taking in more pretty views of the blue
Atlantic Ocean. We observed the original wall (it was originally a walled city), cobblestone
streets and colorful buildings... with the distinctive colonial architecture. Wow!
Arriving at the western tip of Old San Juan, we're now at another U.N. World Heritage
Site: Castillo San Felipe del Morro. The construction of this six level fortress began in 1540.
Completed in 1580, more walls were added later. It rises 140 feet above the sea and has 18-
foot thick walls. The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. There
are several circular sentry boxes called garitas. Saw an iguana that was at least 2 feet long.
The views of San JuanBay are spectacular. Looking back at the great lawn, filled with
hundreds of people who are picnicking, we must have seen 50 kites flying in the strong
tropical breezes. With strong winds blowing today, the three flags are fully unfurled: the
Burgundy Cross, the flag of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the flag of the United
States of America. (The Burgundy Cross was the Spanish military flag). Did I mention all the
history we soaked up today?
About 4:00 we are able to flag down a taxi. Back at the Radisson, we check into our hotel.
We are pleased to have a balcony. Even better? We can see the Atlantic Ocean through a few
At 5:00 we head to dinner in the hotel's Ambassador Grill. There is a buffet tonight. So
much good eating! Back in our room, Janet gets into her pajamas by 6 p.m. I want to walk
the scenic beach route to Walgreens. I'm in need of fingernail clippers.
After passing the Atlantic Beach Hotel, I came up the walkway and around a swimming
pool. And what did I stumble onto? The Puerto Rican Jazz Festival in the park. There was a
huge screen above the stage where a band was playing. Crowded? Several thousand people
having fun tonight.
I pass by the Latin Star Restaurant, where Janet and I ate last weekend. That seems so
long ago. I find the pharmacy and make my purchase. I stopped by a street vendor, who was
lining up different tours for tomorrow. In the room at 7:11 and catch up on my travel diary.
Hey, I'll soon have another Johnny's Journeys: Caribbean Cruise 2015 I will be posting.
Tired. In bed by 8:00.
January 26, 2015 (Monday)
We slept late today, with no wake-up call. Bethany called on my cell phone at 8:30. She
had a little problem. The key to the dead-bolt lock had broken off. We decided to use my
keys and un-deadbolt the other carport door. That plan worked well.
At 9:45 we leave for breakfast. There is another buffet at the Ambassador Grill. I strolled
up to CVS and bought some medicine for me. I'm very hoarse and it is sounding like I have
laryngitis. I'm guessing it is an upper respiratory infection. Think I'll rest for a few hours.
I called the Expedia.com telephone number to verify our Triple Play Adventure for to-
morrow. Cancelled! Not enough tourists signed up. We'll get a refund on this full day
excursion. It starts with a hike through the El Yunque Rain Forest. Then there's two hours at
Luquillo beach. The finale is a kayak ride through a lagoon and mangrove trees at a bio-
We find a Blue Diamond jewelry store and purchase a Coqui frog charm and necklace.
These little frogs are quite tiny and have been a cultural symbol for centuries. The male frogs
will sing from dusk to dawn. Only the males sing and they have a rhythmic ko-kee sound.
For lunch we stop at the Orozco's Restaurant...Puerto Rican Food for a traditional local
meal. It had been recommended to us last week on our first night in Puerto Rico. We
received a large plate of pork, plantains, yucca and rice with beans. We finished this
delicious meal with vanilla flan.
Back at CVS we found tee-shirts and a beach towel. We're soon at the white sandy beach
and enjoy relaxing for about an hour. Near us is an old fisherman with a trot-line that he
throws out into the water. To our right are 5 fishermen standing on rocks. What I see is a lot
of competition as about 30 birds are "dive-bombing" for fish. And it is comforting to see a
security guard on the sidewalk behind us.
The sun sets in the west as white water crashes on the rocks, about 20 feet from shore.
Nice. Walking back down the sidewalk we see a vendor and setup a Biobay kayak trip for
tomorrow. We will be picked up at 3:30 and join a few others. Excited! Instead of supper, we
munch on Twix, plantain chips and have a Pepsi for our evening snack. In bed early.
January 27, 2015 (Tuesday)
We start the day with a 6:20 wakeup call. I'm soon on the beach to take pictures at sunrise.
Had a quiet walk with few people around. I'm looking for seashells but find just a few. What
I was pleased to see was fan coral and 3 types sponges that had washed ashore. I walked into
the water a little ways. Not far, with the heavy undercurrent signs. It was totally relaxing with
clear blue skies and dark blue waters. Saw more birds dive-bombed into the water for fish. I
looked far to the north, but no signs of a massive snowstorm. It is 91 degrees and bright sun-
shine today. Then back into bed until 9 a.m. Time for us to take a trip to the Ambassador
Grill for another breakfast buffet.
In our room at 11:30, I received a text message from the BioBay Kayak Tour Guides. No
sneakers... we need flip-flops or water shoes. Here goes another trip to CVS. Janet suggested
that we eat before our 3:25 pick-up. I stopped by Orozco's but it doesn't open until 4:00. So I
stop by the Latin Star and order a Cuban sandwich to go. Waited about 15 minutes.
Back in the room I place lunch on the table. Janet asks about the flip-flops. Oh no! I left
them on the chair. Another 4-5 block walk back to the Latin Star restaurant. Yes, the bag is
right where I left it. Oh happy day!
A couple of Pepsi Colas, a pack of Grandma's vanilla cookies and a large Cuban sandwich
makes a pretty good lunch. And in the bathroom, I noticed several descriptive words for our
supplies. The shampoo had deep sea minerals and Japanese mint. The conditioner had cherry
blossom and rice milk. And the body lotion contained white lotus and Yi Yi Ren.
Our van driver, Charles, picks us up first. Then there is a family of three from Boston.
Then three more adults from the Boston area. We are part of the Island Kayaking Adventures
Tour. A little over an hour later, we have arrived in the town of Fajardo. There were 13
kayaks for 26 tourists / adventurers. Plus four guides will be with us. Eight different tour
companies go at one time. So, 240 people leave in this first wave.
The bioluminescent bay in Fajardo (LagunaGrandeBay) is one of only five biolumi-
nescent bays in the world. It is located in the Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve. Our
guides go over a few safety features. We're told that a large house on top of that nearby
island belongs to Ricky Martin. Then we load at Las Croabas launch ramp and head out
into the water. We start by paddling across the bay to a red mangrove swamp. People try to
stay in a semi-straight line. It is important to coordinate the front paddler with the rear
paddler. We're told this stresses more than a few married couples.
As we enter the channel through mangrove trees, it is getting darker. Especially when the
canopy above blocks out most of the light. In a few areas of this channel, the current picks
up and we drift into the mangrove roots. I really thought we were going to overturn at one
point. After 10 - 15 minutes we are now out into the open lagoon. There are 15 kayaks in our
"blue group". Which means we have a blue glow stick in the front and a blue glow stick in
the back of our kayaks. Our 4 guides each have a red light on the back of their life jackets.
Our group stops in the middle of the warm biobay lagoon and one guide gets his camera
and takes two pictures of each kayak with its 2 passengers. These will be posted on their
FaceBook page. The sun has set and there's a beautiful orange glow behind us.
What is this bioluminescence about? Simply, it is the production and emission of light by
a living organism. There are roughly 600,000 dinoflagellates (a unicellular marine plankton)
per gallon of water. These microscopic creatures emit the glow of light. (Think fireflies).
Our group has finally paddled through the lagoon and into another mangrove swamp. It
is getting very dark, almost spooky. Twice, kayakers came paddling towards, then past us.
We had to slow down a little through the very narrow passages. Wow, this is fun!
Swishing our hands in the water or just running our plastic paddles in the water, we are in
awe of the white and neon blue bioluminescence. Like swirling glows of light. And bringing
our hands out of the water, it looks like we are holding sparkling blue diamonds. Ethereal and
relaxing... like we are painting with water. Just amazing!! This is rather difficult to describe.
So, check out some of the hundreds of videos of this phenomena on youtube.com.
It is now time to paddle across the lagoon again and go to the launch ramp. Happily, we all
have dry clothes to change into. Bottles of water and a few snacks await us. Another fantastic
activity to cross off our bucket list. We had never been on a canoe or kayak at night before.
What a thrill!
An hour of driving from Fajardo and we drop off the other passengers at their hotels. Janet
and I arrive at our Radisson, then go next door to Burger King for supper. We talk about this
wonderful trip ending tomorrow. Pack a little and then in bed by 11:00.
January 28, 2015 (Wednesday)
Bethany calls at 1:30 a.m. to check on us. It is just 11:30 p.m. in Mobile. Then I couldn't
get back to sleep until after 3 a.m. I woke up at 6:00 and there was a bill that had been slid
under the door. I need to go down to the front desk and settle this right now. I have had a Gift
Certificate for one free nights stay at a Radisson for several years. Well, it took ten minutes
but the young man saw where I had turned the Gift Certificate in on Sunday, when we first
checked in. Everything is set for us to check-out by 12 noon.
I give Janet her medicine at 6:30 and grab my camera. I'll just walk on down to the beach
and try to capture a few amazing sunrise pictures. Successful! As I walked to a large group of
boulders, I saw the fan coral and sponges that I had placed against one of them yesterday.
These would make an unusual souvenir.
My wife is down to her last motion sickness tablet, so there is one last trip to CVS. Passed
by the La Macaroon... a French Pastry shop. Disappointed that it was closed. In the drugstore
I saw postcards and thought I needed to buy several. For a make-do breakfast, I buy a large
cup of assorted fruit and a large cup of fresh papaya!
We sadly check-out at 11:30 and easily get a taxi to the airport. Checked in the luggage
and had no problems getting our boarding passes. Now to wait a few hours. The U.S.
Airways flight left at 3:30. Janet got a window seat. On the little t.v. screen in front of me, I
played a lot of Black-Jack. You know, I did not spend a dime at the cruise ship casino or at
our hotel's casino. And enjoyed looking at the GPS model.
There was a great view of Carolina as we finished flying over the Atlantic Ocean. When
we landed in Charlotte, we had been 1510 miles. We touch down at 6:00 p.m. Now, for a
very long wait. Our light to Mobile left at 10:40. With plenty of time, I buy two sandwiches
and a Pepsi for supper. One is Mediterranean chicken and the second is turkey and cheese on
a cranberry baguette. Pretty good, for airport food. After a little while, Janet wants coffee and
a pastry. We talked to Bethany on the cell-phone. She is at the university, studying.
A quiet flight back to south Alabama. A great ending to our trip as both suitcases arrive!
We take a taxi home and start the long process of unpacking. Life is good!
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