Port and Shore Excursions
The excursion today was Harrison's cave. we went to Barbados and stayed there on land in 1996, but since then when we've been there the cave has been closed. We went down to the tour about a hour early. Normally there is a shuttle from where the boats dock to the port building where we had to take the excursion. But not this time. Silversea is parked across from us and THEY have a shuttle, but we don't. I guess the Maasdam was too cheap to pay for it. Their excuse was that we were the first boat next to the terminal. Had I known that I could have used the scooter and they would keep it at the terminal for me while I went on the tour, it would have made my life a lot easier. We walked and I had to stop to get my breath about four times - twice while we were next to the ship as they let us off forward and the forward end was the farthermost away from the port building. It also was sprinkling, so when we stopped, we stopped under the old sugar loading silos. I got up to the port
building and one of the guards there suggested that I ask the HAL excursion lady for a wheelchair back to the ship after the excursion. But she said absolutely NOT, that the Maasdam had no wheelchairs for any such thing. She was very dismissive of our concerns.
I asked the girl who was herding the buses (from Barbados) if I could get in first. And she said yes. A man came up with one of those walkers that you can sit on - he was complaining because the front desk had said that there was a shuttle. A guy came with a scooter and they had a scooter-enabled bus there for him. When I got on the bus, it was the second bus and I sat in front
but the seat was right over the wheel and there was no foot room whatever. The man with the walker sat on the other side and he made his wife sit on the short leg room side. When we were all loaded, the driver/guide Peter came on with the walker and put it in front of the door. The bus went very fast so I was glad to take photos out the front. The guide talked very fast too. When
we got to Harrison's Cave, we had to walk in and wait for our tickets. Then we went down in an outside glass elevator and we saw a movie about Barbados. Then we were loaded into a white electric tram. When we were here in 1996, there were none of the buildings that there are now and no outside elevator. We had blue electric train/trams and we had to wear hard hats. No hard hats this time. My camera lens and my glasses immediately fogged up. I had to keep wiping them off. Also the camera had a hard time focusing as the caves were basically dark. I did get some good photos though. The caves themselves were much as I remembered. I asked the driver if he had been there long and he said since 1995. He remembered the hard hats.
When we got back on the bus, Bob took the seat by the side of the bus leaving me the aisle. The man with the walker went to sleep -he had the advantage of an 'arm' on the aisle because there was a jump seat in the aisle. I had a really hard time staying in my seat as the driver swung the bus around curves and I think it would have been better if I had put the jump seat down. But the man was asleep on it and I couldn't put it down without waking him.
We got back to the ship, and I sat in the shop area while Bob went back to the ship and got my scooter. As he was coming to get me with it, the skies opened up and rained. He sheltered under the sugar silos. Inside the building the rain was deafening - almost as loud as gunfire - I think they had a tin roof. One of the shop girls said that she would have gotten me a wheelchair if I needed one. Everyone was helpful except the HAL excursion lady. I looked at the Best of Barbados shop for a shirt for Bob but the only ones they had were flowery.
When he arrived with the scooter, we started back for the ship and suddenly I saw a man's shop with some batik shirts, so I went in and bought one. Then we went back to the ship. The ramp was quite slippery with rain - even for me to walk up. I knew the scooter would not be able to get me up the ramp, so I walked and one of the HAL guys brought the scooter up.
I was determined to at least snorkel on Bonaire, but Bob couldn't go because he just had a melanoma removed from his shoulder and the wound was still weeping. So I had booked an excursion with Woodwind, a non-ship excursion. I also wanted to see some of Bonaire, so I had booked a ship excursion for the afternoon, but when I switched the Grenada tour, I also turned those tickets
in. I had a hard time sleeping wondering if I would still be able to snorkel - have enough breath, be able to get back on the boat and whether the scooter would get me to the boat and back. It was supposed to be a 10 minute walk, but I don't know how that translates into scooter distance. I was so nervous about getting to snorkeling that I was up and anxious at 7. By 7:20 our breakfast had not come and I was dressed and ready to go. So I called. They said that I put down 8:00 to 8:30 as the time. I'm sure if I did, I didn't mean to. So he said he would see if he could send it early. We actually got the breakfast at 7:35. I left in such a hurry that I forgot my hat. Bob accompanied me to the gangway and I got off with the scooter. I tried to go out one of the gates but the guard said it was only for cars to exit.
At the other gate, the guy from the snorkeling company said I was the first one there and directed me to go down the road to the Casino sign. I tried to go on the road, but the scooter hung up on a speed bump. A man who was jogging helped me over. I went down to the first dock, but that was not it. I went a little father - no that was not it. The girl I was asking finally said "Go to the end of the road". I parked the scooter under the entrance and walked out on the dock. They brought me a chair and offered water or juice. We got on the boat (a trimaran) and put on my dive skin and they found me a hat. We went out to Klein Bonaire and some people saw turtles. We were going to snorkel at two places and they divided us up in three groups. I was in the group with all the old ladies and the least experienced. So after we did the first snorkeling session they said since is was 'fast' and comfortable in the water, that I could go up to the middle group if I wanted, and I said whatever worked. They took very good care of us, explained everything, showed us the fish and animals, gave us water, juice and snacks.
I was afraid that my snorkeling camera battery would go dead because I have not found the charger, or at least I've not recognized it. So I took photos until I got the low battery symbol and then I stopped and got out. I did get some reasonable photos. They had a professional photographer with us and he took a photo of each of us. I asked him to take a photo of the lighthouse that I saw and he refused because he said he had a wide angle lens on the camera. I took one with the snorkeling camera but it wasn't too good. I bought his CD of photos, but found it disappointing and not worth the money
On the way back to the ship, the scooter shed a part and I could see that one of the little wheels was also gone. Somebody coming in at the same time as I was helped me figure out where the part would go back on. When I got back to the ship, I found that Bob had already had lunch. It was too much effort to try to go to the Lido by myself. So I worked with the photos and waited to eat until dinner.
We've been in Curacao before and had taken most of the tours already. We arrived at the port early (it was only 40 miles) but we couldn't go up to have breakfast in the dining room until 8. We are docked in town rather than out at the 'new' dock where we were in 2006. Much better place to be. A German ship (a former Celebrity ship) was out at the 'new dock>
We talked to the guy who was dispatching taxis and he said it would be $80 each way to see the one lighthouse that we could get to by road, and $40 an hour while we stayed there. He brought us a driver, but I don't really think the taxi driver ever quite understood what we were doing. We were out and about going to locations that I had mapped that I wanted to go to and he charged
us $150 total. When we came back to the ship, I was a little bit sunburned judging by the white part of my nose under where my glasses are. We had lunch in the Lido and for the first time I had one of the ship people help me get lunch. I had Kung Pao chicken but it had no peanuts in it.
We had a night tour that started at 5:30. We drove around down and then went to the Naval Museum which was very interesting. Then there was what was called a brass band concert, but it was all percussion - no other instruments at all. The 'band' all wore t-shirts with a lime green logo on it. They started with just a few players and the various types of drums arrived as the concert went along. We got back after 8 pm. There was an internet Happy Hour which was to be from 7 to 9 with half your minutes re credited, so I went and logged on and Bob went up to the Lido to eat but the Lido was closed so he went to the dining room which was still open. Apparently the computer time is still Florida time because it said I logged on at 7:15 instead of 8:15 so I got more time back than I expected.
Originally I booked a 7 hour tour to see everything on Grenada. But I changed to the West Grenada Rainforest tour.(They take the tickets from us so I've gotten into the habit of photographing them) The excursion man said it would absolutely not be far to walk to where we got the excursion bus. But when we got off, we still had a good way to walk to get to the place where the tours
were meeting even though the boat was bow in and we got off at the bow. It was hot and sunny. We sat on the wall and waited until they called the tour. The guy with the walker was on this tour too. This time instead of putting the walker in front of the door, they put it on a seat. He sat in the single seat and put his feet up on the console. I sat in front of him next to the driver. Our driver's name was Albin. The guide in Barbados (whose name I think was Storm) and Albin had the habit of repeating the last few words of each sentence. Like "That tree is a cinnamon tree - cinnamon tree" It is like have closed captions - gives you another chance to hear what they say. Albin also added "And so on" at the end of each sentence.
Grenada is a volcanic island as such has very steep hills. There is a tunnel cut through between the port and the town so people don't have to climb the hill although there are stairs too. They drive on the left and Albin admonished us at the beginning of the tour not to panic unless the driver did. We went past the bus station - buses are all privately owned. Apparently you can decide that a bus is needed where you live, buy a van and apply for a route. We went past the meat market where you could buy meat on Thurs or Friday, and then went past the fish market and the vegetable and fruit sellers. We went into the parish of St. John - it rained and I saw that all down the center of the road there were spots of rainbows from oil.
We went to a plantation where they raised spices and they explained about the different ones. We bought some. They told us that nutmeg oil was good for joint pain but you had to dilute it with something and I don't remember what. (looked it up later and it was another oil) To get to the bathrooms you had to walk over big stones, and I couldn't do it. We went through a town dedicated to the man from Grenada who won the 400 in London (Kirani James) and also by the memorial to the prime minister who was shot in their stadium in the night by the insurgents. This was the 1983 uprising which Reagan sent troops in to "protect" Americans who were going to medical school there. There were signs painted on walls thanking the US troops.
We stopped at Grand Etang National Park. We got a ticket for entrance (included but would have been $2.00) and a ticket to get a free drink. I just got fruit juice. Because I couldn't walk that far, Bob went up to the building which had information about the park and took pictures there and of the lake in the distance (it is a volcano crater). Albin told us about Hurricane Ivan
and the one the next year Emily - Ivan's sister - that took out the other end of the island.
From there we went to the parish of St. George and stopped to let people walk down to a waterfall. Bob and I didn't go. There was a man with a monkey for people to have their picture taken with. Then we went up and down some steep hills and at one point we rounded a corner and there was another van coming the other direction on our side of the road. Someone else cried out, and I
squeaked. The driver said again, not to panic unless the driver did. We went to Fort Matthew and Fort Frederick. Fort Frederick has Robbie's Bar there and also a new interesting kind of windmill.
They let us off on the other end of a large mall so that we would have to walk though it to get back to the ship. So again Bob went and got my scooter for me to go back on the ship. We got back just before the Lido closed, but we got pizza at the Terrace Grill and again the line for ice cream was too long, so we got bread pudding. I was surprised that the Lido would close when people were just getting back from tours. It wasn't just that we could not get the hot dishes - just sandwiches. It was CLOSED.
We did not get off the ship as the beach does not interest us, and I've already done parasailing here.
We were late getting in to St. Barths - the water was VERY rough and the captain moved the boat at least once. He kept telling us that we shouldn't go ashore that we should stay on the boat. I don't know what effect this would have had if we had booked an excursion. The only excursion that I saw that I would have wanted to do was a taxi tour for about $68 per person with no narrative. So I decided for that money I could rent a car.
We were supposed to meet the car rental person a 8:30. We had breakfast in the buffet just because we wanted to be ready at 8:30, and we went down to get our tender tickets. But they kept us waiting for a hour while they took the tours first. There were not that many of us non-tour people and I think they could have worked us in. Finally got to shore at 9:30 and found no car person. I tried to phone and the phone said the number wasn't valid. So I went over and talked to the guys in the kiosk including a guy who drove up in a red Chevy Spark (the kind of car we were to have) from Avis. They phoned the airport office of Turbe for me and said the lady would be back in 10 minutes. And she was.
We went over the car an located all the dents and then got the car and started off. The map had very little detail and only some vague names (no street names). And of course the port map was completely and utterly useless. We started out for the public beach which was north of town. Problem. The road to the north turned into one way south. So we bumbled around in town (very
narrow, crowded and potholed streets) and finally found a road which was going the direction we wanted, except it went straight up. We went down the other side and we had gone one beach too far. We couldn't figure out how to get back to the public beach, so I attempted to try to go to Lorient. We drove up and down the mountains, dodging trash trucks and other drivers who knew where
they were going, and coming to a circle and going out in various directions - deciding we were going the wrong way and then come back and trying another direction. Bob grumbling all the time.
Finally we took the road past the airport, and drove along the coast. It was very pretty. Roads were much better on this side. We found a parking spot. The car lady had given us a parking time indicator. She said you could park anywhere for an hour for free. When we were ready to go back to the ship, we first had to find where to turn in the car. Finally after circling the
airport area twice, I saw a sign that said Rental Car parking, and we found a place in the Turbe area to park and went into the airport. There was no one at the booth, but there was a phone lying there, so I used it and called the number on the counter. The lady said to leave the car keys there and she would get to it eventually, but I said we were supposed to have a ride back to the port. So in about 10 minutes, she came and went over the car and a man who spoke no English drove us back to the ship. I mustered enough French to say Merci beaucoup.
We got in the tender, which even at the dock in the harbor was bouncing around, and pitched and yawed our way back to the boat,
and even successfully disembarked. The dining room was open and we just made it up there for lunch before it closed
We were to meet on the dock for the Island Splendor Tour at 8:15-8:30. The dining room did not open until 8:00. In order to avoid eating in the Lido so that we would be on time for our tour, we ordered room service breakfast. Room service came on time, and was good. But the ship was late getting into Castries St. Lucia. There was a Silversea ship right in front of us (Silver Spirit), and an Oceana ship (Riviera) across the way. I was anxious to get to the tour so we went down in the elevator but it would only go down to deck 4 instead of deck 3. And on the stairs we met people coming up and they said they weren't ready for us down there yet. People kept coming and were standing around waiting - including a family with a teenager - apparently there are four of them on this cruise.
Finally they were ready for us and we found our tour section and lined up behind the lady. She led us to a bus and we got on. Then we found it was the wrong bus, so we all had to get off and get on another bus. I tried to sit in the front so I could take photos out of the front. After the first stop, I asked if I could sit in the seat beside the driver and he said it was OK. That
was better as otherwise there were too many reflections - for one thing the driver was wearing a shirt with big broad black and white stripes and it reflected nicely in the window.
First we went to a house named St. Marks (not a church). The driver backed UP the steep driveway. Then three other buses came and parked in front of us. After the tour of the house I used the bathroom and climbed back on the bus. The other buses had to move out of the driveway before we could leave.
Our next stop was where they showed us how they did the wood carvings. Bob went and petted the cats that lived there and we bought a carving which are stained with Kiwi shoe polish. Finally we went to a fishing village called Anse-le-Ray. I decided I had enough and did not get out of the bus. I took photos from the bus of the chickens running around and the various people including a guy with a boa constrictor that wanted money but I don't know if it was to hold the snake or what.
We got back in time for lunch in the dining room. There was one seven hour excursion which had started out in Castries and would end up in Soufriere and we would be picking them up there. So when we started to move over to Soufriere, I went out on deck - on my scooter this time to take photos of the island from the ship. We would going to be able to see the Pitons from the ship and I could take pictures. I took lots of pictures.
We have been to St. Thomas many times and have taken all the excursions that I would want to take. So we wanted to get a taxi driver to take us to the places that I had mapped out that I wanted to go to. After breadfast, we gathered ourselves together and got off the ship about 9:00. I asked the cruise director if we could get a taxi, and she said to go out to the man in the green polo shirt. He called a smaller vehicle to come around to where we were, as it was a long walk off the dock and I had not taken my scooter as the footing where we were visiting isn't that conducive to scootering. The cab was driven by a lady named Orellia and she wanted $200.00 for four hours. She was very helpful and even found a place for us to visit that wasn't on my list. She drove us back to the ship - we were back by 12:30. I was pretty tired. Then we had to eat in the Lido.