San Juan, Puerto Rico…Off the ship for new photos…

Tom took this sunrise photo yesterday morning as our ship was a few miles from Puerto Rico.

As we’ve become more experienced cruisers, we’ve learned to determine when it makes sense for us to get off the ship.  For example, yesterday, as our ship approached the port of Puerto Rico, the bustling city attracted our attention, offering plenty of places to walk to explore the nature of the area. 

I’m impressed! His photo taking is improving!

Now, as I write this, we are docked at the pier at Grand Turks and Caicos, a small island country.  All we can see for miles on this clear, sunny day, is once again, a man-made beach, pool, and shopping area, owned by the cruise lines. We are unable to use our Xcom Global MiFi as no signal is available from this small. As a result, we are posting today, using the ship’s WiFi at $.33 a minute for the package we purchased at the second leg of this back-to-back cruise.

Tom took this photo from our balcony of the captain on the bridge, as the ship entered the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico early yesterday morning.

With no respite from the blaring sun, we’ve decided to stay aboard,  use the self-service laundry on our floor in preparation for tomorrow’s packing. This will be the last cruise we’ve booked on which there is self-service laundry. Going forward, we’ll have no alternative but to pay the exorbitant fees to have the laundry done by each ship’s laundry department. 

 El Morro Fort on the island of San Juan.

Again this time, we have some serious rearranging to do, putting all of our vitamins inside the various suitcases,  using the duffel bag for clothing only.  There’s no way we’re willing to experience the difficulty we had boarded this ship as described in our post of 4/10/2013.

 San Juan appears to be a busy business and industrial city. Maybe someday we’ll experience this smaller ship with only 296 passengers with a crew of 207.  Intimate smaller ships are especially appealing to us.

Much to my dismay, my bum shoulder is acting up so much I can barely move my right arm. Taking two Aleve on a full stomach last night and again this morning, I’m hoping to get some relief after a few days of this regime. Moving to the Norwegian Epic in two days, leaves me worrying that I won’t be able to haul my share. 

The Silver Cloud, of Silversea lines, a 296 passenger, 207 crew members on the ship.

This morning, when getting the $14 of change needed for two loads of laundry plus two little boxes of laundry soap, we discovered that this ship will arrive at Pier D in Miami while the Epic will be loading at Pier C. If we plan to be among the last passengers off of this ship when disembarking, and we’re lucky enough to find a porter with a large cart, we’ll manage to move over with relative ease, once we go through customs.

 The busy port of San Juan.

Entering a ship preparing to sail doesn’t require a customs inspection, only a trip through security.  So far in all of our travels, customs had not been an issue. It was Carnival’s onboard security that gave us the difficulties with the vitamins.But we shall see. Nothing in our travels is a certainty. One can never relax anticipating any procedure to be a breeze. This, we’d anticipated and has been confirmed over and again.

As for Puerto Rico, it was a lovely city, clean, orderly, well policed. Modern US  and international stores lined the
boulevard. Vendors were in abundance with little of the expected hawking. A few beggars clinked their near-empty pop cans, hoping to attract a generous passerby, unfettered by the police.

Parrots posing for us as we walked along the boulevard.
Getting off the ship at various ports has been relatively easy, only requiring that we show our “Sign and Sail” card which they swipe through a  scanner revealing our ID and photo. Upon returning, both the card and driver’s license or additional photo ID is required. The lines to get off and on can be lengthy and slow.Our goal has been to leave later and return earlier, thus avoiding the rush of passengers.

In only an hour and a half of walking we’d seen the entire area, not wanting to get too far from the pier with the early 3:30 pm sail time. Content, that we’d seen everything in the immediate area, we returned with ample photos unloaded our stuff and made our way to the pool.

While trying to get a good shot of these parrots, the vendor kept moving the cart, readjusting the cart in the fierce winds, making it difficult for me to get a good shot. Nonetheless, they took an interest in my close proximity. Thanks, Parrots!
Within minutes of arranging our chaise lounges, towels and beverages, a movie began to play on the poolside movie screen, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. A few years ago, I had inattentively watched this movie with my precious granddaughter Maisie, too young to appreciate it at the time. I spent more time watching the expressions on her face than paying attention to the movie.
 Familiar stores lined the streets of San Juan.

As the movie began, I found myself entranced by its sweet story, unable to tear myself away. Tom, less interested in it, eventually wandered to a shaded area to read the latest book on his phone, while I stayed put until the movie ended. At one point, tears welled up in my eyes  not only for the tender story but the memory of the time spent with my granddaughter. Of course, we miss them all.

Equally familiar fast food restaurants were available.

Dinner was pleasant at another table for six in the Golden Olympian while lively conversation ensued among the three couples. My dinner was almost perfect except for the following: I’d asked for Caesar dressing on the side.  The salad was swimming in a thick dressing. I asked for non-starchy vegetables to include cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli and a small amount of carrots. 

 A replica of an old pirate ship.

Instead, my lamb was laying on a bed of puckered overly cooked green peas (starchy) with a single piece of broccoli and cauliflower. My cheese plate was decorated with several juicy pieces of fruit (I can’t eat fruit due to carbs from sugar). 

 Horse and buggy waiting for visiting passengers to partake.

Rather than complain, I scooped the peas onto Tom’s plate and moved the fruit onto my saucer asking for additional steamed veggies which I received  in perfect order. It’s not easy to feel  full and satisfied after a meal when one doesn’t eat bread, potatoes, rice, beans or dessert. Veggies seem to fill the bill for me when a remaining pang of hunger strikes when others are enjoying gooey desserts.

As we approached the  end of the boulevard, we spotted this fountain and began making our way back to the ship to ensure we’d arrive in plenty of time to depart San Juan.

Tom ordered the Seafood Newberg finding the flavor inconsistent from his same order only a few nights ago, liking it much less the second time. We’ve found many inconsistencies in the food on Carnival, although overall, it has been palatable. Of course, nothing so far, can compare to the amazing food on the Celebrity Century with their designated gluten free menu and gourmet flair.

 Tom pointed out the mud stirred up as the ship fired up to depart the port of San Juan.

Off we go, living on ships for the next two months, except for the 13 nights in Dubai. Tom asked me if I’m bored. Ha! First off,  boredom has never been an issue for me. I’ve always been able to find a way to entertain myself when alone and when with Tom, the idle chatter, laughter and banter never ceases, hardly leaving time for boredom.

 The sunlight view as we left San Juan.

For us, where we are is irrelevant, as we easily find ourselves wrapped up in the moment. We even got a kick out of doing our laundry together today. 

A glorious morning…Three days and counting…

Goodbye view! We’ll always remember or we can always check here to be reminded of how much we’ve enjoyed this resort and beach.

After a night of fitful sleep, I awoke at 4:44, wide awake, thoughts running through my mind.  “When does the “motor” stop running?” I asked myself, longing to go back to sleep.

 The gentle sound of the sea at night has been soothing.

Picking up my smartphone-with-no-contract from under my pillow while putting on my spectacles-for-old-age on my eyes, I continued reading the Kindle app where I left off last night. Mindless reading. Not necessarily worthy of mention.

This is the beach we walked almost every day in Belize. We’ll miss this.

Fortunately, it was mindless enough that I dozed off to sleep for yet another hour, dreaming about what I had read.  Oh, yes, clutter my mind with mindless drivel so I don’t go there…my own worrisome thoughts as we near the end of our time in Belize.

As I lay there the second time, contemplating arising, a refreshing thought hit my brain.  No worrisome thoughts are necessary!  I’m a girl (albeit an old girl) that will be cruising for the next two-plus months (except for the 13 nights in Dubai and two separate hotel nights in Barcelona between cruises) and I’ll be looking forward to the following:

1.  No bed to make
2.  No meals to cook or grocery shopping
3.  No dishes to wash
4.  No laundry (perhaps a little hand washing)
5.  No cleaning (only tidying. Tom picks up after himself)
6.  At least one fun dress-up night a week
7.  The ocean around us with breathtaking photo ops
8.  Socializing if we choose, or not
9.  Three pools at which to lounge
10. Movie theatres inside and outdoors (we love movies)
11. Live entertainment if we so choose
12. Educational seminars
13. Ports to visit
14. Tom can drink and I don’t have to drive home
15. Easy access to a fully-equipped fitness center

These are the key points that appeal to me. For Tom, he’s enjoys all the above, except for the health club.  These points drove my mind to a place of imagination.  Imagine, we were living somewhere and were preparing to go on six cruises, almost back to back.  I’d be jumping up and down with excitement.  Tom would be doing his usual smile, enthusiasm tempered with no apparent jumping up and down.

Caribbean Sea, thanks for sharing with us!

Can I let go of all of the things that can go wrong in the six hours from leaving here Tuesday morning at 8:00 am until we’re aboard the ship by approximately 2:00 PM? Only six hours, I keep reminding myself. Only six hours. 

“Get a grip!” I tell myself, “Get a grip!”

We’ve got transportation plus booked two more cruises!

Yesterday morning, we returned the golf cart to Captain Jak’s Resort in Placencia Village. At a cost of $1200 a month after doling out $5000 US for the next two months to live in the fabulous Laru Beya Resort, there is no way we’d consider paying $1200 a month for a golf cart rental. Cars are much more. 

We choked to pay the $350 for the week we had it. However, in essence, we never would’ve found this place without it. It proved to serve us well.

The golf cart rentals at our resort are $35 US for 12 hours and of course, $70 for 24 hours (no deal here).  This morning I asked if they’d give us a special rate for four hours once a week enabling us to go to the grocery store and out to eat.  The lack of enthusiasm indicated it was an unlikely option. 

Compared to our past experiences traveling to Mexico, it appears that “negotiating” is less likely in Belize. As we continue our travels we’ll surely discover that each country has its own demeanor as to dealing with “tourists” in their continued efforts to “make a deal.”

Dropping off the golf cart left us five miles south of our resort.  We could walk around the little town for two hours to catch the next bus at 2:30 for $1 US each or grab a cab for a total of $10 US (for both of us). 

Finding our way to the famed long sidewalk along the beach, we walked its entire length.  See quote below:

“Aside from the beach, the main attraction in Placencia is the world-renowned main-street sidewalk, cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most narrow street.” It’s 24 inches wide in spots and runs north–south through the sand for over a mile. Homes, hotels, Guatemalan goods shops, craft makers, and tour guide offices line both sides.”

An hour later, after the long enjoyable walk along the sidewalk in almost 90 degrees and a massive amount of humidity, we decided it made sense to grab a cab back to Laru Beya, rather than ride the bus.  It was time to build a relationship with a cab driver.  We lucked out (so we think thus far) when Estevan responded to our taxi hail.  

Along the ride, it took no time for me to chime in and ask him how much he’d charge for a once-a-week trip to the grocery store in Seine Bight, which would include: picking us up at the resort, driving to the store, waiting for us while we shopped (we promised not more than 20-30 minutes), then driving us back to the resort. 

Estevan hesitated to give us a price.  He asked us to suggest what we’d pay.  No problem.  We offered him $10 US for the round trip, including the wait.  He agreed without hesitation.  Beginning this Wednesday at 9:00 am, continuing every Wednesday for the next two months, Estevan will arrive to take us grocery shopping, out to breakfast or lunch, or any other outings we may desire during his daytime shift!  We’re relieved.

There are four restaurants within walking distance.  We’ll alternate these from time to time preferring to cook our own meals in our upcoming (as of Sunday) well-appointed granite kitchen, dining at our own table, and chairs on our outdoor veranda about 20-30 feet from the ocean.  

We can’t wait to cook our own meals  The restaurants, all loaded with ambiance, offering well-prepared local flavors, serve tiny portions.  Neither Tom nor I snack between meals and enjoy hearty portions when we do dine.  Each night after dinner, we find ourselves still hungry, wishing we had access to something we can eat.  It’s not easy here in Belize with limited foodstuffs in the minuscule grocery stores, most of which are more like a 7-11 than an actual grocery store.

Today, we spent the entire afternoon by the pool. The sky was clear, the humidity down and the temperature was a paltry 82. Perfect! We met a lively Canadian couple by the pool, yakked up a storm, and are meeting up with them to go to Robert’s Grove buffet tonight.  

On the cruise ships, we enjoyed meeting couple after couple.  With our past tumultuous week, we hardly felt like socializing. Now, as we get ready to move to our villa tomorrow morning, we’re feeling all the more relaxed and at ease. 

We officially booked the two cruises for October and November 2014.  The details on the first of the two is on yesterday’s post. 

Here are the details on the second cruise:

7 nights departing November 9, 2014 on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Epic
Brochure Inside $1,799
Our Inside $599
You Save 67%
Brochure Oceanview $2,399
Our Oceanview $829
You Save 65%
Brochure Balcony $2,399
Our Balcony $829
You Save 65%
Brochure Suite $2,699
Our Suite $979
You Save 64%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Sun Nov 9 Miami, FL 4:00pm
Mon Nov 10 At Sea
Tue Nov 11 At Sea
Wed Nov 12 Ocho Rios, Jamaica 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Nov 13 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri Nov 14 Cozumel, Mexico 10:00am 6:00pm
Sat Nov 15 At Sea
Sun Nov 16 Miami, FL 8:00am

We upgraded to the Mini-Suite for both of these cruises, giving us a sofa, a desk in about 20 more square feet.  In a cabin, 20 square feet makes a substantial difference.  The additional cost to upgrade was $75 per person per cruise, well worth it for the total 21 days at sea.  We’ll stay on the same ship, in the same cabin enjoying extra amenities which we will share with you as they occur.

(We love cruising. The little cabins don’t bother us at all, easily maneuvering around each other. I’m not afraid t of rolling seas and noises anymore. Tom never was. We love the food, meeting new people every night, the entertainment, the classes, the movie theatres, and the pools. I love the health clubs and health orientated classes. We love it that neither of us had a moment of seasickness, even in rough waters. We love cruising together.)

It’s possible that the prices on these two cruises along with our remaining six cruises could drop over the next 21 months. If that occurs up to 90 days before we sail, we’ll receive the reduced prices. 

However, it’s our responsibility to check to see if the prices have gone down informing our cruise guy, Joaquin, who will immediately give us a credit emailing us a new “cruise confirmation” indicating the new pricing.  We’ve saved $1400 so far by watching the prices! 

Time to get ready for our “double date” tonight.  This couple is one floor above our new (as of tomorrow morning) villa.  We’ll be neighbors for the remaining five days of their trip.  They’ve rented a fishing boat for a day and invited us to join them. Our luck, we’ll catch a sailfish and have no wall on which to hang it.

Ah, the joys of being homeless.