Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Port Too Far: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

By the end of our Antigua excursion, we had begun to realize that we needed to back off and relax more on the Summit. As a result, I cancelled our planned excursion for St. Thomas in time to get a refund. I am so glad I did, though that was one of my favorite options: a boat ride out to St. John's Island and a tour featuring ruins of one of the last operating Caribbean sugar plantations. Normally I would have bristled and perhaps left the Bug on the Summit while I went on the tour. But I knew I had pushed my sciatica and my knees about as far as they could go. So I cancelled, and then I went up to the spa to enjoy our various therapeutic bath options. They were wonderful! I did the same thing Thursday afternoon after our adventure in St. Maarten. Of course I realize I could have gotten infected in the spa, just as easily as on St. Maarten. Either way, I got the bug and boy howdy was I glad by Friday morning that we didn't have an excursion! Instead, I guiltlessly took it easy on the boat, eating a little as I felt like it and soaking up the comfort. Fortunately, the scenery was stunning enough.

View from our veranda
Sky Ride to Paradise Point...maybe some other time.
We would have been down there...8am sharp...ready to go to St. John's
Think I'll go back to bed for a bit...not feeling well...maybe too many Caribs
I finally risked a bit of breakfast up in the Oceanview Cafe, and then we went out onto the fantail to take in the views

We loved this boat and dingy!

Oh, those wild and crazy Norwegians have arrived!
We then decided to go somewhere cooler (and hopefully somewhere that had working wi-fi, as the Oceanview was on the blink), and so we wound up down on the main (fourth) deck. We sat in a lounge for awhile, but the Bug got cold, so we went outside and found some comfy chairs.
Oh my, the big yachts in harbor at St. Thomas!
Stunning harbor, truly
Such beautiful water and skies!

Bar and restaurant at Paradise Point, wonderfully lit, so to speak.
After a long nap for me and ship-rambling for the Bug, I took more pics from the veranda as the crew prepped to get us underway for our last night at sea: the return trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Norwegian liner led the way...She's about our size
No thank you...I had enough Caribs yesterday.
Thanks, y'all!
Views as we left port
Jack Sparrow?
Boeing 737
More reminders of the past, when King Sugar ruled the Atlantic

Take us home, Captain Kate...if you please.

Hope to revisit when I'm feeling better, St. Thomas.
You were truly a port too far for us, but you are gorgeous!

We awoke the next morning to find we were already docked in San Juan

Castillo San Filipe del Morro eclipsed by modern structures
El Capitolio; Castillo de San Cristobal beyond
La Iglesia San Agustin and Escuelas de Puerto de Tierra
We had not seen Adventure of the Seas since last some of us would share flights with some of them...hope they had as good a week as we did!
Our faithful crew helped us finish packing (including stowing themselves in my carry-on bag)
We cleared customs with our new hat and fan (BIG spenders!), and then it was off to the airport.
Somehow I thought this was an appropriate breakfast? Definitely not BRAT diet fare. 
I did pick up a couple of travelers at the duty-free store, and we bought Danabug a shirt, a hat, and a new bag.
I had to have a mojito before boarding, you understand...the 737 is very hard on my legs.
A rumble down the runway, and we were wheels up!

I survived the flight to Chicago, but my snack box was, again, the wrong thing to be eating when infected. I would regret this later. 
This after-flight margarita probably wasn't a bright idea, either?
O'Hare was its usual adventure, with lots of walking!
But hey, we got to see Edward "Butch" O'Hare's F4F Wildcat!
Finally we were back in Dayton...with all our luggage! 
I lost one lens cap...that was it, so far as we can tell. What a week! 
And look who was waiting to greet us back home! Ms. Pinky!

Of course I have been sick ever since, but I am BRATing and coping and getting well. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will have recovered enough to enjoy some Christmas vittles, which likely will set me back. Good news is that neither of us really gained any weight on this cruise! We were too busy gallivanting around and sweating in the warm climate. It was the trip of a lifetime with my love of a lifetime. Best anniversary ever!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Poem, 2015

Christmas falls hard this year
Too fast, too soon…no time
To recover from a second
Honeymoon; so much like
Our first wedded year, when we
Were rushing and flinging
All things everywhere! Christmas
Falls hard, like a river-bank tree
Giving way to the seething
Deluge that has consumed it.
Always the crush, the push
The undercutting, the brushing
Aside of time to sit and wait
To contemplate Advent.
God comes to us, yes, but not in
The flooded din of what we
Have made: a holiday monsoon.
No, God comes to us in full-moon
Mindfulness and whispering trees.
Stop. Listen, please. God is here...
Wherever we gather in love.

Mike and Dana, Christmas 2015

Fateful Thursday in St. Maarten

Our next island was St. Maarten, which has the distinction of being part Dutch and part French. We were to make port at Philipsburg, a town that is basically an outdoor shopping mall. It is beautiful, but not exactly our cup of tea. Cruises must receive significant incentives from certain jewelers, etc., to advertise their wares and encourage guests to visit their shops. Philipsburg, as a major shopping destination, thus would be distinct from all our other stops. Also, we were worn out from three straight days of sightseeing excursions, so we chose to take it easy, or so we thought, at St. Maarten.

I awoke before dawn, so I got to see the sunrise as Captain Kate took us into the harbor

These nice folks stood guard...there was a small craft a bit too close to the shipping lanes for comfort.
The views were spectacular!
And we were being tailed by not one but two Royal Caribbean ships!
Not sure what I see here, but it looks inviting...
Amazing light!
Entering port
We were in special company...we would share a pier with a "Love Boat": the Regal Princess
And her loud-mouthed pirates with their fancy bottled water, lol.
Speaking of...
The second pier, awaiting the Royal Caribbean ships
Freedom of the Seas! Navigator of the Seas would follow and choose to back in
My lovely Bug and I watched the action while we took our breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe
Yet another reminder of the colonial wars in these sugar islands
Now turned into mostly peaceful resorts.
After our breakfast had settled, we decided to head ashore.
We took the water taxi away from the docks to Philipsburg
The taxi offered excellent views of the harbor!
I enjoyed a Carib, the local beer, as we made our way to the mid-town wharf
Our destination
More than a mile of beautiful beach!
As you can see, diamond ads were ubiquitous.
But the scenery was stunning! This boat's flag features what appears to be a flaming Maple Leaf and a Polar Bear with a hockey stick...Canadian content, eh!
Danabug got a nice capture of me doing my thing...
The Black Mamba, another taxi
Another view of cruise ship row...
We took in the sights of town...souvenir markets sandwiched between Rodeo Drive-worthy boutiques
They had their Christmas groove on...
Ahem...some more than others...
Apparently McDonald's fared better here than on St. Lucia.
The town is only four streets deep, and about a mile long. We didn't walk the whole thing...just got a sampling of it, then turned our minds to lunch. This would be our first and last meal ashore...why eat ashore when you've already paid for such good food on board?
The bartender made Bug this wonderful virgin frozen drink, and he served me up another Carib.
Danabug had the fish sandwich.
I had grilled chicken wings and pork ribs with jerk sauce.
Man, was it tasty! I don't blame the food, actually...somewhere during the day I ingested my doom...who is to say where or when or how?
After lunch, we strolled back to the wharf, passing Brutus Buckeye along the way!
The seemingly humble Summit beside the bigger Regal Princess
Me boat! Alack...must have lost it in a card game.
In truth, I am not a gambler. I love to play blackjack, but discovered some years ago that I cannot afford to do so when real money is on the line. So we dropped not even one token in a slot in the Summit's casino, and took nary a turn at the gaming tables. Not our thing, happily. Besides, I needed that money for refreshing needs to stay hydrated, after all...
A last sigh, and then we boarded our by now beloved Summit,
in need of cool was hot on the beach! In more ways than one...
Our moon...though, ahem, not the only one we saw that day!
The Regal Princess departed with much fanfare and tooting of her great horn (it plays the first bars of the Love Boat theme, of course). After that, we dressed for dinner, which we took in the main dining room. Danabug enjoyed yet another wonderful vegetarian dish, while I had the broiled haddock. We finished our meal with baked Alaska and, after a pit stop, headed up to the fantail to enjoy the night at sea...we find we LOVE being at sea! Who knew? The Sunset Bar featured live music, and my man Bird kept me replenished with cold drinks. But something was wrong. By the next morning, it was clear that I had the infamous Traveler's Stomach...most likely from exposure to E.coli. No more excursions for me this trip! I would need to stay close to the head...tmi, I know...

But hey, Merry Christmas, y'all! Tomorrow I will post our annual Christmas poem, and then we will return to Lintheads of the Caribbean for the final leg. Peace be with you, no matter your faith or philosophy, or mine for that matter. We can live in peace...this I must believe.