Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Cruise Pictures are UPLOADED

hurrayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy finally. I took so many and it took time to weed some out and then upload them. Here's the site:

Make sure you go to the right side of each album and click on slide show.It's so much easier than trying to view them one at a time!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Last Day

Well it’s the last cruising day. It’s been such a nice relaxing trip. In some ways I want to stay floating on this ship but then again I have responsibilities and I miss my family and pets.

We played bingo 2 times today. Didn’t win either one. The last jackpot was for $8,500 and only one lady one it! Man!

Our last dinner was special. Gilbert our waiter from the Phillipines had made me a Phillipino dish Abado Chicken. It was good but very salty. I had asked him why every other nation seemed to be represented on the menu but his native land! That was very nice of him to do that. He evidentally used to own a restaurant in the Phillipines until the government decided to put a steel mill where his building was! He is married with 4 children. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be away from them 6-8 months a year. But he’s hoping for a visa where he can work in the US. I hope he gets it. He’s very hardworking. I know he will do well.

I’m going to miss our steward, Roberta too. She’s so nice. We’ve had towel monkeys, sting rays, elephants, bunnies, you name it.

Gambled the rest of my money and lost. Didn’t go to the last show. It was some comedian/juggler. I was just too darn tired for that.

So now it’s the last day….and we just went under the Key Bridge and are preparing to dock. I can close my eyes now, click my heels and say, “There’s NO place like home,” Thanks for reading my blog.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Trip Home

Well we are on the way home. It’s beautiful in the 80’s, nice breeze, blue skies. We have been so blessed with good weather on this trip. No big wins at the casino. I think in total over the week so far I’ve won almost $400 but I probably spent at least that much to win it. And Glenn has about $600.

Today I finished my book. Woooo. It’s been so long since I read a book. Usually I get all these books and get ½ way through them. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a fiction novel. I finished Fern Michael’s Hokus Pokus. It was a good mystery, adventure story. I still have another day and ½ so I think I’ll at least start Nora Roberts’s Mysterious.

Tonight is the last formal dinner. I hate those things. At this point in my life I just want to be comfortable but Glenn wants to go because they are having lobster….so I guess I will go.

We played bingo again today. No winners but we got pretty close a couple of times. Glenn likes to play bingo.

This morning Captain Rob came on and said, “Good Morning, Ladies (long pause) and gentlemen. Today I have good news and bad news. I will give you the bad news first. The bad news is we are returning to Baltimore, the good news is we have over 1,200 nautical miles to get there.” Gotta love Captain Rob. 

He also pointed out that we were over the Sargasso sea. He pointed out it’s famous for its large grass beds but I wanted him to add that it is the spawning ground for all the eels in the world…I wanted to yell it out but I thought I’d better not, someone might think I’m nuts.

Tonight the entertainment was Beatle Manics. They were very good.

It was nice not to have to worry about going to a port today. I could sleep in. I’ve been doing lots of sleeping here. Lots of naps – sometimes 2 times a day. I will be very well rested when I return. I think Glenn and I are the only people on the ship without sunburns. I’ve used a lot of sunscreen and tried to stay in the shade. Some people look like fresh cooked lobsters! Dumb dumb dumb………………..

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Labadee, Haiti

Well Labadee isn’t an island owned by Royal Caribbean. It is owned by RC but it’s actually on Haiti itself. It is stunningly beautiful. Like some kind of resort. I was a little nervous about going there because of the latest civil unrest but I’m so glad I did. Our Historical Tour guide, Lamy, is a native of Labadee. He said that when RC bought the land, they had used it for gardens and they were very angry about it. But now they are delighted and it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. I asked what about their gardens. He said they moved them to the mountain.

This one place is the major income for the country. That’s why the government protects the RC land and keeps it safe so that Haiti will benefit by the income (they get a cut of all the excursions RC offers on Labadee. Each family in Labadee has one person in their family working for RC. They pay in US dollars which is great because the gourd (currency) is devalued. When someone dies then someone else in that family has that job passed on to them. In the past the only occupations in Labadee were fishing or farming and you did whatever your father did as an occupation.

He also said that before RC came in 1985 only 25 percent of the young went to school. Now almost 95 percent go through secondary school because in secondary school you learn English and that’s the only way to get the opportunity to work for them. He said that before RC they lived in huts. Now they all have concrete block houses and a higher standard of living. However, the rest of Haiti is not so lucky. The poorest country in the western hemisphere, it was the 2nd country (right after the US) to become a free country, in fact they refer to the country as Mother Freedom. He said that it takes $400 per child to go to school. The government does not provide schooling and that’s why most in Haiti are uneducated.

Lamy believes that most of the problems in Haiti would be solved if everyone were educated. He said, “the young of Haiti (meaning his age) will be the salvation of Haiti”. He said too they need a stable government. As most people earn on average of $7 (US dollars) a day. And the reason there is fighting is that if someone doesn’t have an education and job, all they can do to earn money is wait for someone to offer them money for “doing something bad”. He said that with jobs and education the guns will go away. I pray he is right. God bless him, he thinks English is so important that he gives free English language classes in his village.

On Labadee you can do a ton of different things. We only did the tour and spent time under a palm tree in the breeze watching the ocean. RC gave us a huge lunch (free) there too. There was music. And then Glenn and I went to the Market. Where there were lots of local merchants selling locally made products. I bought another head for my collection, some soap stone carving, a painting for a friend’s birthday, some carved wood, etc. It was funny every one wanted $20 for everything and you bargained with them. But I felt so darn bad that I could hardly bargain. Glenn wasn’t happy. I’d just say, give me $20 please. I spent more $ than I should have I’m sure.

Another group of people that I need to pray for….you know we are so darn lucky to have been born in the country that we were born in at the time we were born. We have a free education (they have to pay or not go). We eat 3 meals a day (they eat 2 times a day). We can go buy clothes and food anytime we want them (they have to go to Dominican Republic 2 days a week only to shop or grow or catch it themselves). We have electricity and running water (most of them don’t). We have huge houses (their houses are maybe the size of one of my floors). We have air conditioning (they don’t). We have medical services (they still use local plants and make their own drugs or wait for Doctors Without Borders to come 2 times a year).

As you, my friends and family, are reading this I ask you three favors. 1) Pray for Lamy, Labadee & Haiti. 2) Support an organization like World Vision who helps Haiti 3) Remember to thank God everyday for your blessings, never take them for granted.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Samana, Domican Republic

We signed up for a 3 ½ hour “walking tour”. We ended being hijacked by Domani and Tomas in a bus for 5 hours. We stopped outside of a church – La Churcha, a church brought from England literally and rebuilt here by a group of Methodist. Next stop was to the Humpback Whale “Museum”. It was a one room building. With one skeleton of a humpback whale, a skeleton of a dolphin, shell of a sea turtle and some Indian artifacts. I’m sure that it is a big deal there but it was pretty sad to those who have been to museums here. We take so much for granted. We are so blessed.

Then we stopped along the way to look a cocoa, mango and banana farms. The next stop was at MaMa Juana’s……I’m sure she was a friend of his family or family or something. This was the only shopping stop we were permitted. I bought a piece of Larimar and a carved box. It was just a tiny store. They gave us a sample of some kind of wine…boy was it strong. I couldn’t drink it. Most people choked on it.

Next stop was in Las Terraras….it is some “resort” town. Beautiful scenery looking out to the ocean. The town was pathetically sad. Sidewalks maybe 2 feet and broken up into small stones. We were told to walk the sidewalk because the streets are dangerous. We had a bunch of seniors with us who were having trouble walking…I wondered why they would sign up for a walking tour! We walked one block to a restaurant of an obvious friend of his and were told this was the only place to get food. Of course there were other places. There were so many of us there, we didn’t think we would get served in the ½ hours we were told we had so Glenn and I walked the beautiful beach. Turns out it was a good thing because a coke was $12!

So our walking tour was 10 minutes of walking and 4 hours and 50 minutes of driving. I felt like I’d been kidnapped and pretty darn ticked off that we paid $32 for that tour which was not worth the money. So we got back to the boat at 3:30 pm starved because we didn’t eat lunch and just about ran to the caferteria!

Sights and impressions of D.R. – Long tender ride. A man on a roof at the dock with a rifle. Beautiful scenery & in contrast poor, small houses (maybe 500 sf at best), laundry hanging everywhere, skinny dogs, wild ranging horses – skinny too, children begging to shine your shoes—but I had flip flops. Then also lots of trees and forest areas…can’t believe there is so much forest but then again who would want to live there, what is there here for them.. Burning trash. Piles of coconut everywhere. Banks which were maybe 5 feet wide and 6 feet deep (you got to see the pictures). School is optional so there were schools with kids but lots of kids not doing anything sitting on porches. No one has screen doors, they just keep all the doors open on the house. No screens in windows, windows wide opened. People lounging inside and outside the houses. Old house made of queen palm wood (which is now illegal to harvest). New homes made of block. Lots of houses started and abandoned. Lots of mopeds and motorcycles. Gas is $4.40 a gallon. No chains like the other islands (no McDonalds, Senior frogs, etc). House are close to the street and close to each other. No red lights. Driving on the left side of the street. Lots of honking and passing in dangerous mountainous roads. Two types of toilets….some for pee-pee some for cacas (you can imagine what is caca).

Captain Rob just came on the pa…he’s so darn funny. Today he says, Good afternoon Ladies (LONG PAUSE) and Gentlemen. We are going on to Labadee Haiti or Labadee, Maybe. Maybe we get there maybe we won’t. We will get there 8 am or 0800 for those of you with an alarm clock.” He’s a hoot. The other day he said it was High Noon and he wondered how many were High at Noon today…..

Well ship is ready to get underway. I had mixed feelings about this island. One the one hand there was a great shopping center close to dock where I could have shopped but then again I would have never seen the “real” Samana warts and all. Domani said that the people on the island were not poor but were not rich sort of middle class. I would say looking at them, they are poorer than the poorest American. They live a tough life requiring hardwork, working and living off the land. Everyone is so thin.with clothes that look like they’d been second hand.

Our tour guide Domani just graduated from college after years of going to school and working. He has 4 kids and now has finished his law degree. He told us he was born in a house without water and sewage. I look around at everything I saw today and I can’t help thinking I need to pray for those people…and I will keep them in my prayers always.

Monday, May 5, 2008

St Thomas Virgin Islands

We arrived at 7 am. So beautiful a definite Kodak moment. We went on a little tour bus to the Coral World. It’s like a mini aquarium kind of place but you can go down and view the fishing and coral around it. There’s a sea turtle tank, ray tank, conch tank, shark tank. We went on a mini-sub to view the coral. There were about 20 of us. I didn’t know about (or maybe I did but don’t remember) the changes to color from light or lack thereof undersea. So I have a picture of me and Glenn blue ---- LOL

We saw numerous reef fish, a number of beautiful corals, a sea turtle, sea anemone, sea urchin, sea cucumber, conch….it was great. The way you sat straddling the sea with your face against the glass gave you maximum viewing. They had a diver come with food to feed the fish so it brought over even more fish.

I also learned about parrotfish…they eat the coral and poop it out like sand! That’s where their white beach sand comes from.

The woman who lead the trip did a wonderful job. She was funny with her pirate jokes. What is a pirate’s favorite letter? RRRRRRRRgggg She had tons of them. She was saying that a couple of years ago the ocean got to 90 degrees and the coral bleached out. They thought it was the end of them, however, the coral is coming back which is a good thing.

After the tour, it dropped us off to a shopping center near the dock. There are 7 buildings of places to shop…mostly jewelry stores. I bought something for my Mom (for Mother’s Day) and Jackie there. Then I got something for my brother. At the Coral place I got something for Mom & Dad, Joey & Katie….. We were back to the ship by 1:30. It leaves at 4 pm. I was beat. All this walking is pooping me out big time. I’m getting smarter. Typing my blog and then copy & pasting it. It was costing a fortune for me to do it on the internet……it’s so expensive but worth it to be able to share it with you.

I’m sitting on my balcony typing this, looking over the aqua blue water at a fort and pirate ship. A small – I mean tiny—island of rocks is in front of me and birds are coming and going from it. Gulls are laughing hysterically. Clouds are big white puffs on a bright blue sky. St Thomas is still full of forested areas. This place is certainly paradise. I could easily jump ship and live here forever…I can speak the language, they take dollars (with no exchange—woo hoo), and they have a subway (sandwiches), Kmart, payless shoes, beautiful white beaches, 80 degree temps, a cool breeze and happy people – yo maaaa’n how ya dooo-in?…what else does anyone want.

San Juan Puerto Rico

Okay so I have some catching up to do. Yesterday we ended up getting off the boat in Puerto Rico (San Juan) by 4 pm. I learned that Christopher Columbus discovered San Juan but he wasn’t so nice to the indigenious people. The Island is named for St. John the Baptist and there are several statues of him around locally.

We took a tour of a fort at the mouth of the Harbor, then we walked basically back to the ship. Our tour guide Bistello was very good. And funny too. We walked past important historical sites, various churches and monuments. The most interesting was the church where the remains of Pons de Leon was buried, a totem dedicated to indigenous Indians and a cool statue that was dedicated to the salvation of the island. Its really cool looking. There’s an evil person with claws which represents those who want to destroy the island, a naked woman representing the island and then another figure who represents the good who’s tearing the woman away from the evil one. Interesting.

We learned that the blue cobble stones were actually ballast for the Spanish ships. They had a problem with people knowing where their ships with gold went down because they were always the ones lowest in the ocean so they issued an edict that every ship needed to carry ballast so the gold filled ships would not be so easy to find…..not sure why they would care it seems in those days it would be difficult to get that deep anyway!
Everytime an empty ship would come it would unload it’s ballast on the docks and take on supplies. After a while there was a lot of it so they put it to good use and paved the streets with it.

We ended up at the Chapel of the Miracle. There were horse races through old San Juan. And during one of them the Lt. Governor was in the balcony of a house at the end of a street at which there was a wall that had a HUGE drop to the ocean. He noticed a horse going out of control and the horse running up the street past him. As the horse lept over the wall with the rider, the Lt. Governor said, “Christ Our Savior, Save him.” The horse died but he man lived with no injuries so they constructed a chapel at the end of the street in that spot. Tradition is that people visit there to thank God for the miracles in their lives. A wonderful place to end the trip.

Then Glenn and I walked about ½ mile down the shopping street to the ship. At the base of the street (they all go up and down, it’s mountainous) was an artistans fair. By the time we got there it was late and most had closed up. So I looked a bit and then ate a “Tripeleta”….wonderful…grilled ham, chicken and steak on a roll w/ lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup…..yum.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

San Juan Puerto Rico Today

We were supposed to be in San Juan at 2:15 pm but because of the high winds & current it will likely be 3:15. Three tours were cancelled. Not ours because it was a walking tour that can be readjusted.

The winds are incredible. I tried to walk the track today on the top deck. I made it about 15 minutes before giving up. The wind was so strong at some points it felt like a hand was holding you back. But the skies are beuatiful. No rain. Really hot. It's a little after 1 pm so at some point I need to get over to our deck to watch us pull in San Juan Harbor. That's' the nice thing about a balcony room. You don't want to worry about finding a spot for viewing.

Anyway, we played bingo today. I got close but no cigar! :( Can't wait to shop on San Juan. They say shopping is good there.

Yesterday, can't remember if I told you, we didn't go to the formal dining room but ate at the buffet. I personally like controlling my food better. But I think he wants to eat at the dining room next time.

Oh I ran into Doreen..can't remember her last name. I used to work with her when I was in high school at Shop & Rob (I mean Shop & Save). Reeney we used to call her. There's also a teen on this trip that looks strikingly like one of the girls in youth group......maybe I'll run into her again.

Yesterday Glenn & I went to play trivia. We didn't win. Another couple asked us to join us. DOn't know why he wanted us to join them. They were great by themselves.

And I went do arts and crafts yesterday. Oil pastels on a coloring page. It wasn't enough time for me to do what I think was a good job. I will work on it when I get home. (over acheiver that I am)

Well gotta go back to the room and find the DH. See you tomarrow for the next chapter in Joann Does the Caribbean.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Another Beautiful Day At Sea....

....the ocean is calm. We are somewhere below Florida...just 500 miles to go. The weather couldn't be nicer but it's so windy on deck because they are going so fast! I did a double lap this morning and nearly got blown overboard! :)

This morning we did a little more gambling. I won $140. Probably spent that much over the past couple days to get that much back.Glenn won about $100 last night after the show--which by the way was great. Made a nice purchase. Bought a beautiful caribbean sunset topaz ring. 3 carats....just beautiful. The colors are incredible. We played bingo but didn't win anything. That's okay though. I like to play because Glenn likes it. I missed the art and crafts workshop...darn.....gambling--I lost track of time. Watched the 70's line dancing class today. It was a hoot. I tried to take a picture on the top deck and my purse blew out of my hand so I'm not sure how great of a photo I got.

Last night was the Captain's Dinner. Glenn didn't want to go to the cocktail hour to meet the Captain so we just went to dinner. I'm getting tired of that place for dinner. I told Glenn I'd rather do the buffet and I can control better what I eat. Everything in the sit down dinner is really rich, salty and big portions.

I went to the gym this am too. It was pretty crowded. They are announcing hot stone seaweed facials now....ugh...I can't imagine getting hot seaweed on my face. I'm in the card room which is right next to our room. People are flooding in to play games and cards. I locked myself out of the room but it's okay because the balcony from this card room is next to ours. Glenn is sitting on the deck--that's why he couldn't hear me when I was trying to get back in earlier! Uhhhhh ohhhhhhhhhh I don't see him on the balcony...........I hope he's in the room....better go!

Friday, May 2, 2008

On the Sea

...well we are sailing, sailing o'r the deep blue sea. It's beautiful. The weather is perfect. A little chill in the air and breeze from the moving ship other than that it's perfect. We played bingo wins. We played the slots, no wins. Maybe my luck on cruise ships is going the other way.

We have 2 couples at our table. Older. One from Columbia, Lorraine and Bob. And the other from NJ, Jim and Margi. I like them alot.

Today at 4 pm I am going on a mile walk--sans Mr. Wheeler who doesn't want to go. Wish my kids were here. They'd have great fun. I miss them. If you read this and know how to contact them be sure to tell them I miss them.

We got our tickets for our excursions today too. No big purchases yet. Just a pretty blue top. Well gotta go for now. See you later! Hugs to all.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today is the day!

Couldn't sleep.Got up ober-early. I have such mixed emotions about the trip. I'm excited but I always get "buyer's remorse" before I leave home. I'm always afraid something is going to happen while I'm gone.

So ya'll pray that things are good with my parents & children while I'm away so that I can have a wonderful trip. And in return I will pray for all my blog readers that things will be good with you too. God bless!