Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Caribbean Queen
Now we're sharing the same dream...

Ok, here's my recap of my last week...pardon any typos, but I'm typing this as I'm eating beef jerky, so that's making it mildly difficult.

On Friday (Dec. 29) I drove up to the cities with my friend Erin and her family (plus her brother's girlfriend and another friend). We stayed overnight at a Comfort Inn near the Mall of America. Nothing too exciting happened that night. The next morning we flew from MSP (Minneapolis-St Paul airport) to Chicago (ORD?). We then took another flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, arriving around 10pm. We stayed at the airport hotel. We took a taxi into town and ate at a restaurant. It was pretty good. I had a Puerto Rican Burrito, which was pretty much all the burrito fixin's sitting atop a fried plantain (in lieu of a tortilla). It was interesting. I think I like "regular" burritos better, but it was nice to try.

The next morning we took a taxi to our cruise ship--the Carnival Destiny. When it was built in the late 90s it was the biggest cruise ship ever. Now it's not. But it is still fairly impressive. We got our luggage on board and registered and stuff. At this time it was a little after noon and our ship didn't leave port until 10pm, so we had time to spare. So we left the ship to go to an old Spanish fort.

The fort is called El Morro (El Castillo San Felipe del Morro). It was built to guard the entrance to San Juan bay, and defend the city from seaborne enemies. It was finished in 1589. It's the oldest Spanish fort in the New World and I believe it's the largest fort in the Caribbean. It's a World Heritage Site. It was used to stand in for an African slave fortress in the movie Amistad. It was pretty cool. It's one of those places where you can get a lot of neat pictures.

We then boarded the ship for good. We explored the ship and stood outside on the top deck as we cruised out of port towards St. Thomas, our next destination. It was really windy up there. That night was New Year's Eve, so there was a lot of partying going on. They fell back on the ol' "throw beads to excite the crowd" deal. I didn't see anyone flashing their boobs, though. It was pretty fun, but as it was the first night with Erin's family and friends who I didn't know too well, I was a little reserved. See pics of our room, which was a pretty nice size. And we had a window which was nice. I got a pretty picture of a sunset one night.

The next morning we woke up and were in St. Thomas. St. Thomas is a part of the US Virgin Islands. Only virgins are allowed to enter. ;) St. Thomas was originally occupied by the Dutch, but the US bought it in the early half of the 20th century. Actually, it was originally occupied by native peoples (Arawaks, Caribs, and Ciboney) but they were all but exterminated by the whiteys. Fyi, the amount of slavery that took place in the Caribbean is absolutely astounding. Seriously. Anyway. Kelsey Grammer was born in St. Thomas...there's a little bit of trivia for you.

We took a taxi to a beach called Magens Bay. It's apparently one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (according to National Geographic). It was pretty nice, but I was surprised to learn that. It does have really nice white sand. The vista provided shows an aerial view of Magens Bay, taken by me en route to the beach. There was a boat in the bay with a black bottom (see picture). Rumor had it that it is Brangelina's boat...apparently they were filming something nearby. We did not see them, but we saw the alleged boat.

We then got back on board and the next morning we woke up in Dominica. Dominica is its own country. It is one of the only islands in the Caribbean with any indigenous Carib people left. Their status on Dominica is kind of like the Native Americans' status in the US, I think. Dominica is a volcanic rainforest island. It's beautiful. Parts of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed here (for instance, the part where Jack is pretending to be the leader of that tribe thing where they then have sword fights in giant water wheels, etc).

We went on a rainforest aerial tram ride. It was great. It's very mountainous and green. It's also known as the "Nature Island of the Caribbean." They get 352 inches of rain a year, have 365 rivers, and 8 volcanoes. Most Caribbean islands have 1 volcano, maybe 2. So Dominica kicks their asses in that department. On the way up, the tram runs close to the rainforest floor. On the way back it rides high in the canopy. At the top we got off and walked a short way down, including crossing a little suspension bridge over a big crevasse. It was neat-o.

The next day we woke up in Barbados. Barbados was my least favorite island, but I think it was due to the excursion we did...we didn't get to see much of the island. Barbados was mainly occupied by the British. It was highly dependent on its sugar plantations (as most Caribbean islands were, I suppose). It's thought that rum was "invented" on Barbados. We went on "The Jolly Roger Party Cruise." You get on a pirate ship (complete with a skull and cross bones flag), sail around Barbados, and drink unlimited free rum punch. People get seriously wasted. It's kind of funny. They also drop anchor for a while and make people walk the plank. They also have a rope swing that you can go off of, which was fun. So it was fun, but not as cool as the other things we did on the other islands.

The next day was a day at sea because we were heading to Aruba which is way down in the southern Caribbean (it's only 20 miles from Venezuela). We didn't do too much that day. It was kind of boring, actually. But, the next day we arrived in Aruba, which was my favorite island (although Dominca was pretty cool in its own way). We saw a house on the beach that our catamaran captain said is rumored to have been designed and built by Tom Cruise, but he also said that he has been living on Aruba his whole life and has never seen him, so he doubts the rumor.

Aruba is Dutch, has a mostly arid climate, and is very flat. On Aruba we went out on a catamaran and went snorkeling at a few different places as well as eating lunch on a beach. We went snorkeling at a shallow reef. There were a lot of really cool fish. The reef itself wasn't brilliantly beautiful, but there were some pretty parts. It was a lot better than anything we saw in Thailand, Joleen. I saw all your stereotypical reef fish. No sharks or anything, though.

We then went snorkeling at a shipwreck site, which was really neat. The pictures here didn't turn out too great because it was deeper and darker. During WWII the Dutch and Germans fought. The German ship Antilla was a u-boat supply ship and it was based around Aruba. The Dutch demanded that the ship surrender, so the Germans evacuated but sabotaged the ship so it exploded and sunk. It's the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean. I saw a really huge fish here. I don't know fish species, but I swear it had to have been 1-2 feet long (it's hard to tell size because you're not really sure how far away things are when you're snorkeling). I have a picture of it, but it doesn't tell you much because there's nothing to scale it to in the picture. In the picture with what looks to be a sort of railing, there's a form in the middle "window" part that is the fish in question. We then went to a beach for a short bit. It was very pretty.

The next day was at sea again, and again it was very low key. The next day we arrived back in Puerto Rico, went straight to the airport, then flew home (via Tampa and Chicago). And that's it.


At 1/11/2007 10:57 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Nice update. Your life right now is so exciting. Trips, trips, trips!! I liked the photos, especially the one of the old builing in Puerto Rico...can't remember the name. Sounds like a lot of fun....want to hear more about the entertainment, though. I heard the Platters were on board. NO WAY!

At 1/13/2007 12:36 AM, Anonymous joleen said...

Sunny says the fish is a grouper. And you suck for getting a free cruise. FYI, we just got back from Vegas and you will be jealous when you hear about it.


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