Friday, February 15, 2008

Where's My Suitcase?

For those of you who have been on a cruise, you know that the night before disembarkation you have to put your checked luggage outside your cabin door and it is hauled off only to appear again at customs the next morning. The bags are marked by colored tags according to your disembarkation group. Sounds easy enough. I put both our well marked and tagged suitcases outside our door and I even saw them being hauled off almost immediately. I was expecting no problems.

So we awoke back in San Juan to some scattered showers but a nice looking sunrise. We made one last trip to the buffet for a final shipboard breakfast. I hope I don't see another buffet for a long time! I may have possibly gained some weight on this cruise....or else my shirts have shrunk a little.

Then it was time to disembark. We were called by our group number and we went right next door to the disembarkation terminal to claim our suitcases and clear customs. And guess what? suitcase. I looked and looked all over but no luck. Somehow Princess managed to lose it in the 200 feet between the ship and the terminal. That's worse than some airlines I know! (AA comes to mind for one). I was pretty fed up with Princess by now. This was definitely strike three. So I filed a claim form and we headed out for our last excursion.....a tour of Ft San Cristobal and then a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery.

The fort tour went well since it was self guided. It's right on the coast and afforded some nice photos. The fort was built in the 1700's and is still kept in great condition thanks to the National Parks Service.

Then it was off to the Bacardi Distillery. After visiting the Malibu Rum distillery in Barbados,we were expecting another less than stellar tour. But it actually was very nice. We were impressed. The place was spotless, the tour was well done, the drink samples were good and we left there with a good impression of Bacardi rum. We even bought a bottle.....for medicinal purposes after my knee surgery!

Did they water this palm tree with rum?

After this it was off to the airport and then on to Orlando on a full A-300 and then a connecting 757 to DFW. The vacation was over.

Would I recommend Princess Cruises? Nope.....They still had a chance until the last day but then they lost my suitcase. They ultimately found it and shipped it to my home several days later but most of the contents were missing! It had been pilfered. I'm still going back and forth with them about this issue.....somehow and someday they will pay for this!

Thanks again to everyone for enduring my vacation stories. I'll be back on the line in a month or so with airplane stuff again. You might see some unrelated stuff between now and then. Another vacation is coming in April. Stay tuned.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to
Plane & Simple

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

St Thomas.....It's Almost Over

The last port of call on this cruise was to be St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

After the bad experience with the Princess organized excursion on Tortola we canceled our preplanned excursion for St Thomas and chose to do our own thing.

We docked near the town of Charlotte Amalie. It was a short taxi ride from the dock to town. We passed a small seaplane terminal and got to see a Twin Otter launching for one of the nearby islands.

More fun flying I'm sure!

We spent a couple of hours in the town generally doing the things that tourists do. Sightseeing, shopping, eating, etc.

We then hopped on a small bus that was headed for a sightseeing tour of the island. First stop was a nice overlook atop the island. From there we had a great view of Meghan's Bay and beyond.

Looking the other direction we had a great view of Charlotte Amalie and the port.
From there we went over to Sapphire Beach. The water was extra clear today.....very nice.

After a short stay at the beach the time had come to return to the ship. We passed back through the town on the way.

I could see why St Thomas is so popular with tourists. It was really nice!

Princess was spared from my criticism today since we did our own touring. But tomorrow would be another day.....strike three was coming!

So back on the ship for the short overnight sail back to the starting point of San Juan.

Tomorrow we would be going home.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tortola....Strike Two For Princess

A new day...A new port. Today we awoke in Road Town on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

We walked in to the small town after breakfast for a little shopping and sightseeing. The first thing we noticed was that there were chickens running loose all over the place! Everywhere you looked, you saw chickens. No stray dogs or cats...just chickens!

Another thing we noticed were the taxis. They were large American built Chevys and Fords that had been modified to carry lots of passengers. They were also painted in a variety of lively colors.

We had to be back at the ship soon for an excursion so we made the short walk back to the dock.

Our excursion today was to be a Princess organized tour out to The Baths on Virgin Gorda. It is a volcanic rock formation with exotic pools and grottos formed by giant boulders. Supposedly a great sight. We were really looking forward to this day. But the excursion didn't start off very well. The tour operator didn't have enough transportation lined up for all the guests. We waited in the hot sun for about 30 minutes before they finally loaded some of us up in the back of a small pickup and drove us over to the ferry terminal. Then they said "go ahead and get on the ferry and we'll leave as soon as the rest of the passengers arrive". By now we were already almost one hour into the excursion and we hadn't even left yet. (The excursion was only four hours long in the first place) So we decided to bail out and ended up walking back to the ship from the ferry terminal. We ultimately got our money back from Princess but we would have rather visited The Baths. Too bad they did such a poor job of organizing the excursion....Strike two for Princess.
Tight parking today at the docks!!!

We ended up spending the rest of the day on the ship out by one of the pools soaking up the sun.

I was starting to dread the buffet!....I don't know how some people can eat so much.

But it is better than airline food....and yes, chicken was on the buffet!

We sailed for St Thomas at 6 PM.....The cruise was almost over.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Antigua & St Johns

Thanks to everyone for continuing to endure my vacation stories. I'm trying to keep them short and full of photos.Another overnight sail and we would awaken in the town of St Johns, the capital city of Antigua. The Queen Mary was nowhere to be seen today but these guys were now next to us at the dock. The "Norwegian Gem". That's quite a paint job!

St Johns was more like the cruise ship port you would expect in the Caribbean. It was loaded with many colorful shops, plenty of bars and restaurants, and lots of locals trying to get your attention and sell you their stuff whether it be handmade crafts, t-shirts, jewelry, home remedies etc, you name it.
Another excursion was on our afternoon schedule this day. It was a
pirate cruise on the Black Swan pirate ship. In this case "pirate cruise" meant "booze cruise". We sailed out of St Johns for about an hour over to a nice bay with a small beach where we were allowed to go explore and swim for awhile.

The drinks were included on this excursion and before we even reached the beach, several folks were already showing the effects of the very strong rum punch that was flowing freely. The operators wouldn't let us swim to the beach so we had to be tendered because of the rough waters.

Soon it was time to return to the cruise ship. The waves were pretty big by now and the little pirate ship was all over the place but nobody seemed to care. There was even some dancing going on! (Or at least it resembled dancing) That rum punch made the return ride a very smooth sail for most everyone on board. Nobody fell overboard.....I think.

So back on the Crown Princess and time to clean up for the buffet.

We sailed at 6 PM.....Next stop......Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple

Thursday, February 7, 2008

St Lucia & The Pitons

Todays cruise port would be the city of Castries on the island of St Lucia.

It was another beautiful day in the islands as I went out on deck first thing in the morning. Our ship was the only one in town, or so I thought until I looked out to sea and there was the Queen Mary 2 again. They must be stalking us! They were anchored just outside of the port. Maybe they were too big to dock in the port.

The days excursion was to be a catamaran trip out to the Pitons. The Pitons are twin volcanic peaks that were formed millions of years ago and rise to over 2000 ft. Once on board the catamaran we staked out a nice spot for our towels and enjoyed the smooth seas and the nice scenery. Rum punch was included in the price of admission but the beer was extra!

Once there we stopped for a Kodak moment. Out came everybody's cameras. Then it was time to turn back to base.

On the way back we stopped at a small beach for a short swim. We were quickly surrounded by the locals in their kayaks trying to sell their wares. Shells, trinkets and other assorted stuff.

After the swim we cruised in to tiny Marigot bay. Looked like a great place to vacation for a few days. Then it was back to the ship and soon we headed out to sea again.

As we sailed out of Castries, we passed right by the airport. I could see an ATR and some other assorted smaller planes. Must be some great flying down in these islands!
That runway doesn't look too long! That's our ships shadow on the shoreline.

Back to the buffet now!!

Next stop....Antigua

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Malibu Beach in Barbados??

After an entire day at sea after leaving San Juan late at night we awoke in Bridgetown, Barbados.

That's the neat thing about normally sail at night and wake up in a new port
every day.

I got up early and went on deck to look around and could see that we were docked next to a Club Med ship. I could also see another cruise ship arriving in port. It looked to be a big one so out came the camera.

A small crowd had ga
thered with me and I soon figured out why. We were watching the Queen Mary 2 arrive. I think it's supposed to be one of the grandest ships in the world. Sure looked nice to me! Our crews used to layover on the original Queen Mary in Long Beach, Ca. I have stayed there several times and I was truly impressed with the ship. I'm sure the new one is even nicer.

Our days activities included a short ride into Bridgetown for some sightseeing. But there wasn't really much to see there. It wasn't much of a cruise ship port as you would imagine. It was a little dirty and not the safest looking place to be hanging around. We didn't stay too long.

Next we went on a Princess organized shore excursion to
the Malibu Rum distillery and Malibu Beach.

As I mentioned earlier, we had always had good luck with Princess Cruises so we expected a well organized and fun excursion. Not this time.....The distillery was only a five minute drive from the ship and man was it ever a nasty place! I used to work for a big beer company and I've toured several breweries so I know how important cleanliness is to the brewing process. Malibu Rum clearly does not follow any health practices. The distillery was old, dark, very dirty, smelled of garbage and sewage, and was just a disgusting place to visit. All of us on the tour were commenting on how we will never buy Malibu Rum again.

Then they pointed to the beach and said "go enjoy Malibu Beach and be back on the bus in two hours". The beach was decent but the view wasn't too special. The freight docks were on one side and the distillery on the other. In reality it was called Brandons Beach but Malibu decided to call it Malibu Beach to promote their rum products......Strike one for Princess.

So back to the ship and off we sailed at 6:00 PM. The Queen Mary was getting ready to set sail as well but we beat them by a couple of minutes. Their decks were pretty full of people either watching us leave or watching themselves leave Barbados. In any case, I'll bet a lot of photos were taken of both massive ships leaving port that evening. The sunset made for some great shots.

Next stop.....St Lucia.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Headed Out To Sea

It's funny how sometimes non aviation folks can interpret things completely different than they were originally intended.

For instance, my last post was titled "Down For Repairs". I was just trying to make a play on words that I am personally off of flying status temporarily while I go on vacation and then have some knee surgery.
It never even occurred to me that someone could think that my blog site was down for repairs!

But I received several e-mails from people thinking that my site was being repaired and when could I expect to have it up and running again. I'm sure that the aviation related folks that read my stuff knew what I meant but for the regular type readers I can now understand how it might have been a little confusing. (No harm done in this case but it goes to show how a little thought before posting something online can be helpful).

My next few posts will be non-airline related stuff since I'm not flying the line right now so you'll have to endure my vacation stories. Sorry...

As I mentioned previously, we had a southern
Caribbean cruise planned.

Our first day of vacation was a travel day from DFW to San Juan. We went via Orlando and had some sit time for shooting photos there before boarding a completely full Airbus 300 for SJU.

The weather was great at SJU. The approach is typically over the harbor and today it offered a nice view of San Juan. I could see our ship waiting for us.

A smooth landing followed by a cab ride to the cruise ship terminal and soon we were on board the Crown Princess. We'd had good luck with Princess Cruises before so our expectations were high for this trip.

So far so good....time to get in the buffet line!!

We sailed at just after 11:00 P.M.

Next stop, Barbados.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple