Like most folks on the road, we charge everything. So, as you can imagine, it really adds up too. I had watched my friends over the years have credit cards that gave them "points" towards flights, or hotels, etc. and had been bugging Jack for years for us to "get one of those". So, one day he turns to me and says, "Marie, we DO have one!" I said, "We do?" I thought the Credit Union was just a regular Visa?" "No, it gathers points, I just never paid any attention to them, give them a call and see what we have and what their good for". So, I got our statement, and gave them a call. Well...after all these years, and all the mileage etc that we've accumulated...we sure had a lot of points! So, I asked the nice lady if I could use the points for a cruise and she said "yes, where would I like to go?" I told her the Caribbean. She asked me for how long, I told her not less than 10 days, she said one was going out of Ft Lauderdale in January for 11 days - "perfect!" I asked her if I had enough points for a balcony room, she said "oh yes, no problem". ;-) So, folks, that's the story of how our trip got started! It seems that we still have plenty of points left over too! Guess it pays off not knowing when you have something storing up for you! ;-)
Our itinerary was this: Two days at sea (which was a nice way to get settled in), then Philipsburg St Maarten; Castries, St Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, St Martinique; Basseterre, St Kitts; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; at sea; with the last day on their private island Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, then back to Ft Lauderdale. The weather was exquisite the whole time. It did rain a couple of times, maybe 10 minutes each time - then gone. We lucked out each time as we were in shops at the time, so no big deal. Our room was great and the balcony was on the port side so we got to watch us dock each time and see the ports as we came in, which I loved - made for great picture taking! I will say tho, that Jack never really got used to the rocking of the ship and didn't really enjoy when he had to walk from one area to another "holding on" to the railings! I thought it was kind of funny, myself.
We had great shore excursions too. In St Maarten we went with about 20 others all around the island and met 5 local artists in their homes and galleries. We saw their work and got to talk with them. Each was very different from the other. A young woman, an old one, another not so old, a daughter of a man who had passed on so she was carrying on his work, and a gentleman. Each offered us refreshments and shared their "visions" with us. It was such a delightful way to not only see the island, but to "see it through someone else eyes".
|Akinom's Gallery showing, St Maarten (French side)
|Jack with the artist Monika (Akinom), St Maarten (French side)
|(Artist in white) Dolphin Home Gallery, St Maarten (Dutch side)
|A chattel house, Barbados
|Bathsheba Beach, Barbados
|Entrance to Strong Hope sugar plantation, Bridgetown, Barbados
In Barbados I went with a local professional photographer, Ronnie Carrington, and about 20 others for a tour around the island to shoot some areas that "tourist" might not see. He was a wonderful guide. Full of stories and information. We got to see so many great areas, including a fun stop at a "rum shop" where I learned the difference in rums...10 yr old, 5 yr old and "clear"...big difference! ...and the difference in the punch! Yum!
In St Kitts we took a train trip that turned into "an adventure"...one we hadn't counted on! We had really been looking forward to this trip since we love train trips. The St Kitts Scenic Railway is a 1912 narrow gauge railway that (normally) runs 3 hours for a 30 mile circle around the island. Well...ours made it about 3/4 of the way and stopped. Luckily it happened after it had crossed over the (last) bridge. We ended up sitting there for two hours! They first had to call and wait for the mechanic to come and see if he could fix it, then wait while he tried to do so, then when it was determined that he couldn't they had to call for the buses to come and get us, which were at least 45 min. away. At least there were plenty of beverages aboard and the singers did their best to entertain us! We did get a full refund, which I was really surprised at, I must say. So kudos to the ship and the tour company for that! The tour was great up to that point tho!
Our last fun tour was snorkeling with the turtles! That was so much fun! We went to Turtle Cove in St Thomas on the Castaway Girl Catamaran. What a great team they were too! We saw a number of turtles, a couple we could almost touch! Then we moved over to Shipwreck Cove and got to see a couple of shipwrecks too. All and all, a pretty cool day.
|Oldest Lighthouse, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas
|Turtle Cove, St Thomas
The last stop at Half Moon Cay was a lovely way to end the cruise. Their island was absolutely beautiful. The water was a color almost to hard to describe - between a blue and a turquoise and completely clear. The sand so soft it was like baby powder. They had a ton of lounge chairs that you could choose from in the sun, in the shade, half in half, what ever! Great food, great drinks, nice music...nice day...nice ending.
All good things much come to an end...but we were ready, and the rest of Florida is waiting for us to explore...
...kicking back in Florida, Marie
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/