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Published: December 19th 2017
Hello Everyone! I'm trying out a new way to send out my travelogue. This way I can even attach a map! Unfortunately I can't place the photo's in the text. So not sure if I will like this format or not, but going to try it!
We had our Annual Holiday dance on Thursday, 14 Dec. (see pictures!). It was well attended & great fun. This year we also allowed folks to BYOB & we enjoyed a lovely social visit after dancing. We had saved back some of the finger foods for more eating afterwards!!
Friday I spent packing all day! Hadn't had time to do anything before, so really did take me all day! Luckily I had my lists, so knew what I needed. Not too complicated this time since we were heading on a cruise & didn't have a single night to spend other than on the boat. Also all warm (read probably HOT) weather, so didn't need to pack for another climate! It was a disappointing day because Dan & Sandi confirmed that they were canceling out due to illness! Too too sad!!
Jim & Mozelle were gracious enough to volunteer to provide our airport
delivery early on Saturday morning & we flew out of Phoenix to Dallas & straight on to San Juan, Puerto Rico - arriving at the Airport in San Juan at 9:15pm. The airport was pretty much empty at that time - all the shops/food venues were closed & shuttered! But the airport itself looked in fine shape - either it had not suffered hurricane damage or it had all been repaired. The Viking folks were in the baggage area to meet us (no customs required) & after what seemed like an interminable wait (they had to send for a bigger bus - had they not realized that about 50 of us were arriving at the same time???), we were loaded on 2 buses & took the short drive through town to our ship at the port in Old San Juan. Enroute, our 3rd party hired young guide pointed out that we were crossing a bridge to get to Old San Juan because it is on a separate island. She also pointed out that there were lots of areas without power - mostly recognizable because the signal lights were not working. Only about a 15 minute bus ride & the ship's
staff were waiting for us at the port & made short work of getting us checked in & on our way to our cabin. Our Cabin Stewardess met us at the staircase, (calling us by name no less) & letting us into our cabin to show us how everything was set up. She asked us how many bags we were waiting for & took off to go find them. She was back with them in about 15 minutes. Amazing! George & I were both pretty wired & even though it was 11pm Puerto Rican time, our body clocks still thought it was only 8pm, so we got everything all unpacked & organized while we enjoyed the Black Box wine we had smartly packed in our luggage! Finally to bed about 3am Puerto Rican time! Took a few pictures of the night sky from our balcony cabin.
We enjoyed a lovely night's rest, barely getting up in time to have lunch up in the World Cafe (Viking's buffet) before heading to our included Old San Juan walking tour. For those that don't know about Viking Ocean, they are trying to do an Ocean going cruise that is treated more like
a river cruise. Therefore there is an excursion on every port day that is free (well, the price is included in the overall cost of the trip). There are other excursions offered that are an additional charge too, of course! So, this was the included tour for this port. I think I overheard someone say that due to all the hurricane damage to the roads, etc, they were not offering any of their other excursions at this port. I had never even looked, figured we would still be too tired to do anything else!
Anyway, just walked from the Port along the water's edge (got a shot of our Viking Sea & for the first time realized how much smaller it is compared to the usual Ocean going cruise ships - the Costa makes it look tiny!!) & up to Castillo San Felipe del Morro (a US National Park & World Heritage area). Our guide seemed to be pretty honest about how things were going at this point. Apparently things were not too good financially before Hurricane Maria, but now, it's a real mess. He was basically a historian, but had lost his full time positions & was now
doing as many odd jobs as possible to keep up his financial status (tour guide occasionally & part time with FEMA). His home outside the municipality did not have electricity restored yet, but he had purchased a small generator that was helping. He seemed pretty upset with his own Puerto Rican government rather than the US. Seemed to feel that the Mayor was begging for help rather than trying to use all the in house available resources to make things work. He was very happy with Viking for being the first cruise line that had brought tourists back to Puerto Rico. Costa was there too, but still missing most of the others. And apparently this week was the first time anyone had come to visit. He pointed out that this weekend was the first time that any of the street vendors had set up for sales and that they had just opened up the bridge to allow vehicular traffic onto Old San Juan. The blue cobblestone streets were still there (from Spanish Colonial days). We didn't see much hurricane damage in particular - although there was a huge tree that had toppled & the root system had been painted in
the Puerto Rican flag. There was a couple swimming just over the wall from the Governor's Mansion & he mentioned that previously there had been signs prohibiting swimmers from that area - not only due to security for the Governor's Mansion, but because of the open sewer pipes that went out into that particular bay!!! Yuck! He also pointed to a sign prohibiting the use of "drones." Too funny, but seriously, there had been a security issue due to drones being available to anyone & the Governor's Mansion was a security risk! Apparently this is the oldest continually occupied Governor's Mansion in the America's!
After the stop to look over the famous Citadel (last visit we walked all around it!), we went almost directly back down to the ship, with just a short stop to see the oldest Cathedral in Old San Juan. Not incredibly impressive, but one beautiful stained glass window that had survived this hurricane. The most interesting thing to me was the unbelievable traffic, bumper to bumper on every tiny little street. The guide said it was all locals who were thrilled to be allowed back over the bridge!
There was a rainbow across the
bow of our ship as we headed up the dock to get back on board! Had worried that we'd get drenched, but only had a couple of sprinkles.
We made it to our first official dinner meal & immediately fell in love with our head waiter (Olexai from the Ukraine) & his 2 assistants (Betty from Indonesia & Vicki from the Philippines). Tables are not assigned here on the Viking Sea, but discovered that we could request this table for 2 next to a window, so that's our plan!
We took a short tour of the ship, including the fancy spa & fitness center. There is even a Snow Grotto so that you can do a true Nordic experience of hot to cold. Not sure that we'll do that, but interesting to know it's there!
All day at sea today. Fairly calm seas with mostly sun throughout the day & a beautiful sunset for the evening. George's knee popped when we were dancing our one & only dance last night & he's been icing it all day. Very irritating. We'll see how things progress. So...... so long for now & I'll continue with our tour of Bridgetown,
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