|Caribbean Adventure, January 2017
|A window in Tom's universe.
This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to
share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and
Tom Ballard Photography
This site is BEST viewed in GOOGLE CHROME!!!!
Holding a stingray on Antigua
Celebrating life on Barbados
This page has been set up to share the details of my most recent adventure in the Caribbean.
It started with a short visit and adventure on the island of Puerto Rico, in the town of San Juan.
Then I boarded the Adventure of the Seas cruise ship, an ole friend of many cruises, and set sail
for a week of adventure in the Caribbean Islands. I left home on January 5, flew to the island,
settled in the Embassy Suites, enjoyed a happy hour, then dinner, got some rest, and started
the next day on a full day of adventure. A local company picked me up, took me with their group to
see the El Yunque National Forest, then on to an evening of kayaking in the dark, and moonlight, to
see some magic in the water. Back at the hotel, it was time to eat and get ready for some morning
exploring in San Juan. On the 7th, I was up and gone fairly early to explore the old fort and some of
downtown, then back to the hotel for my bags, then on the ship for boarding and settling in! Now, to
follow the rest of the story, go the individual days, read the comments, then watch the shared
images from that day.
January 05, 2017.
This set shares memories of the day I left home and traveled to San Juan, where a couple days
later, I will start a one week cruise. In this set, I have an early departure, in snow! Was a small
amount of snow, but it was slippery snow, whatever that means. It was not easy to drive on, but,
I made it. The plane I flew on had set at the gate all night, so it was covered in fresh snow. Then,
for some reason, once loaded, we did not de-ice at the gate. We left the gate, went to a holding
area, de-iced, twice,then, left! Was a sardine ride. Coach seats on American 737 planes is about
as bad as flying can get! But, I guess you get what you pay for! Cheap seat hunters like me have
driven the price down so far that the airlines now have people sitting in each others laps! The
area once used for 3 people, now can hold 8! Figure that one out. And, now, American will no
longer allow the low fare people to bring carry on bags! You can bring an animal, but not bags!
How funny is that, but, no, they do not charge by the pound, for your body! That is next. On the
way home, I had two people sitting next to me that were so big. One was 100 pounds overweight,
the other about 80 pounds over weight! Did they pay extra! But, no matter, I traveled to Miami,
then on to San Juan. If anyone cares to know, the travel company I use for my flights and my
cruises is, www.cruisesonly.com. They do a great job! In San Juan, I caught the taxi, at a set fee,
to the hotel, the Embassy Suites. In San Juan, nearly all hauls are set fees! I really like this hotel.
Have stayed in others, but this one is my current favorite. Not cheap, but nice. Has Happy Hour
from 5-7:30 PM. Then breakfast buffet in the morning, at different times, depending on the day!
Once checked in, it was time for a walk to the 24/7 market behind the hotel for a few last minute
items, then Happy Hour, then dinner, at the Outback Steakhouse, in the lobby! With that complete,
it was time for bed. Will be an early rise in the morning, for breakfast, then off to a full day of
touring! The day of touring was pre-arranged, before leaving home! All in all, a good day. Enjoy the
memories of my travels.
January 6, 2017.
Today is a full day of playing! First, I am picked up at my hotel, where along with others we travel to
a meeting point where we gather up more trippers! While we wait, at a roadside business, I have a
smoothie, like the one our guide was having. Cost about 3.5 dollars. Was very good! Make from
Soursop fruit! Was told it would keep me from having cancer! I hope so!The adventures
today were arranged through VIATOR Tours. The actual vendor for the two adventures was a
local company named BESPOKE. Alex will be the leader for the first part of the day, which is a
hike in the El Yunque National Forest. Not to be confused with a National Park. Our guide told us
this area was set aside as a National Forest, so that parts of it could be used for the good of the
people, etc, which cannot happen with a National Park, etc.. The rain forest on San Juan provides
the clean drinking water, etc, for the people of the island! I think our guide said the forest gets over
400 inches of rain per year! Our guide took us to the visitor center, then to a trail head, where he
lead us down near a waterfall, to view and to swim. I viewed, but did not swim. Just after arriving, a
large group of young people, in town for a swim event, arrived and filled the basin! So, I stuck to
doing photos! But, our guide went back to the van, to move it, and wait for us to arrive on a return
trail. We eventually made our way out of the forest and to the highway back to the roadside fruit
stand, where we got a bite to eat. There were no food places open today, due to a local holiday!
After we fed ourselves, we were driven to a meeting point, where an owner of the company,
James,picked us up and drove us on to the location where we would start our evening adventure,
which was a kayak trip through mangroves to see luminess stuff in the water! Only problem was,
there was a moon out this night, so the viewing was almost non-existent. To get some viewing done,
large tarps were pulled over us, then, in the darkness, under the tarp, we could see a small amount
of the luminess that we came to see. Then, we headed back to where we came from. This was an
experience! Paddling in a mangrove, in the dark, is challenging! But, everyone returned, and our
company man, James, drove all of us back to our hotels, etc. Once back at the hotel, it was time for
refreshment and food! See photos to find out what I had! Tomorrow, I am touring the Old Fort in
San Juan, and doing a small walk in town, then off to the ship, for the cruise!
January 07, 2017.
Today, I am get on board the Adventure of the Seas, for a one week cruise! I have been on this
ship several times! But, most of this day will be exploring San Juan.I am up early, eat, pack, leave
bags at the hotel, and take taxi to the old fort. At the old fort, I enjoy a short visit, using my old age
pass for the second time since I got it three years ago! After the fort, it was a walk around town, with
a beverage stop, then it was time to taxi back to the hotel, get my bags, taxi to the ship, and get on
board! Was all really simple! Seems simple after doing it as many times as I have! But, it went
smoothly. Dropped off my carryons, then headed for lunch! This was followed by a walk around the
ship, dinner, and the introduction show! Was a fun day. Tomorrow is a day at sea, then I get to start
the island tours!
January 08, 2017.
This was my first full day with the ship, and it was a full day at sea! Not much to do but relax!
Slept in, did a late breakfast, then an early lunch! Took in the afternoon ice show, had dinner in
the dining room, and then went to the evening show. Just so happened I was on the front row
doing photos, when a young man offered marriage to his lady, on stage. She was much surprised!
I just happened to have gotten images of the event, and gave them copies later! After the show,
there was time for a few minutes to see Elvis, then it was off to bed, as tomorrow would be my
first day of tours! Note: Food these days on this ship are really bad. I was on this cruise ship
several times before, and it was at least good. But now, it is not good. And the entertainment is
almost all gone. The glory days of cruising seem to have slipped away. If you were not cruising in
the earlier days, then you will not know what you are missing, but my experience tells me the cruise
lines are in big trouble!
January 09, 2017.
Today, my ship has arrived in Barbados, and it is there that I will do my first excursion on this cruise!
I have been to Barbados many times, but there will be places on this tour that I have not been to.
Among these things is the Orchid World, and Gun Hill.
The tour takes me to a popular ole church that is on all tours, then I am off to Orchid World, for a
walk-around, lead by our day guide. Here we get a few sips of rump punch served at the end of
this visit, then the tour moves on to Gun Hill, for views of the island, to include my ship at the dock.
After this tour is over, I stop by my favorite refreshment station, consume a few of the famous
Banks! Then, back to the ship, for some more food!
I did lunch, then, it was happy hour, and more food! But, this time I ate in the dining room, though,
sad to say, the food was really poor. Cruise ship food has really gone to hell, compared to the good
ole days! And, today I get my first towel art animal. My room attendant did a great job! Awesome!
After a short visit to the room, it is time to go watch the evening show, such as it was. Like the food,
cruise shows have just gone to hell compared to the good ole days! The current shows are barely
worth going to. After the show, it was time to check out the program for tomorrow, get my excursion
ticket ready, then get some sleep!
January 10, 2017.
This set shares my day on the island of St Lucia, another place I have been several times over the
years, but I still enjoy the excursions that take me riding around for awhile. Each trip is a little different.
This time, I took a trip that was a long drive to what I would call the backside of the island, though, I do
not know where the backside of the island actually is, but we went on a long drive!! We did stop at
several tourist stops, for photos and trinkets of various kinds. Eventually, we arrived at a Botanical
Garden, where we were given about 45 minutes to soak in some mineral baths, then walk up to a
beautiful waterfall in the garden. After the memory photos there, it was back to the bus, and back on
the road, with more photo stops, etc. At the end of the day, I am back on the ship, cleaned up, sitting
at the upstairs bar having a glass of wine and watching a beautiful sail-away! After that, it is time for
dinner and the evening activities on the ship! Actually, I do not remember an evening show for this night.
As stated before, this ship has really gone downhill, really bad.
Hope you enjoy the photos of the island as we spend the day exploring!
January 11, 2017.
Today I am on Antigua, and it is one of the best days of the cruise, because of the excursion! Today I
will join a tour that takes me to an adventure location that shuttles us out to a location where handlers
introduce us to stingrays! These stingrays are so gentle they come up and let you pet them, etc, for
food!! As it turns out, they like the handlers better than the rest of us!! The handlers tell us this is
because the stingrays recognize the handlers, etc. Might be by smell, etc, as the handlers have the
smell of food on them. I did get to feed one of the stingrays!! But the food went so fast, I did not even
see it happen!! Sucked it right out of my hand and was gone! But, this was the highlight of the cruise
for me! After the stingray feeding, we were off to another location where we did a short kayak tour
around some mangroves. Along the way, we stopped and picked up a few sea creatures to examine!
We examined an upside down jellyfish, which did sting, but not much. Also, we got up close and
personal with a sea cucumber and a starfish! After that, it was back to the dock, and time for some
rum punch! This stuff was strong!! I was a bit wobbly by the time I got back to the ship!
Back on the ship, it was time for lunch, a little down time, then dinner, which pretty much ended the day
as the entertainment options are almost nothing!
January 12, 2017.
Today was a visit to St Kitts! I have been here many times, but never snorkeled here,
so I tried it. The result was that it was the worst, or near the worst snorkeling I have ever
done in my life! Terrible! But, now I know!
On this excursion, the boat did a long haul to the snorkel site, which used up a lot of time,
then the snorkeling was bad, but it did not end there. After the terrible snorkeling, they took
us to a beach, dropped us off for a 1.5 hour beach visit. For some it was most likely good
fun, but for me, I took one of the free sun chairs and headed for a shade tree, where I spent the
time! Then, it was back on the boat and headed back to home base. Somewhere in here, after the
snorkeling I think, they served us a bit of lunch, which was pretty good.
Back at the dock, it was time to load back on the ship, go to happy hour, then dinner, then to
one of the few shows they had on this cruise! Royal Caribbean has sunk so low, they there
junking out down at the bottom with Carnival and NCL. Time to move up to the higher priced
cruise lines. The show was poor at best, but was better than the comedy acts earlier. I did go
to the late game show, in the skating rink area, which turned out to produce some good
laughs before it was over! After that, it was time to prep for tomorrow and get some rest!
January 13, 2017.
Today, my cruise adventure takes me to St Maarten. I have been here many times during my cruising
adventures. This time, like most others, I head over to Orient Beach to relax for the day. But, things
were much different this time. The part of the beach where I normally visit was severely eroded. Just
what had happened, or what was happening, I am not certain, but it looked like more than 75 percent
of the ole beach I remembered is now gone. In fact, the property fence that was once far from the
edge of the water, is now in danger of falling into the water. See photos to see what I mean. I know
from historical stories, this beach has had issues before. In fact, when I was there once before, the
water was getting dangerously close to the cafe-bar on the nude side of the beach. Since then, the
damage has been repaired and a rock retainer wall has been built. It is possible more of the beach
will be treated this way as well, but in doing so, there will be no sand to sunbath on, and no beach to
play on, etc. For the time being, the resort has moved their sun chairs to high ground, which
resembles an open field, not a beach! This will be something to keep an eye on. On this visit, I also
saw lots of sea grass washing ashore. This really put a damper on people trying to play in the water,
and walk on what is left of the beach. In some areas, in front of the major beach bars, hired help
was gathering up some of the grass and burying it on the beach. Since things were so messed up, I
did not attempt to play on the beach, or play in the water. I chose to camp out at a beach bar, enjoy
some beverages and play on the internet, until it was time to return to the ship. Back on the ship, it
was time to grab some lunch, then start pre-packing for the departure tomorrow morning. I did go to
dinner, I did go to the small evening show, then it was time to get serious about final packing!
Tomorrow, I will try something new, self deporting? For this, I do not turn in give my large suitcase
to the luggage handlers in the evening, but rather I keep it with me, then take it down myself in the
morning, early! See Tomorrows entry for more on that story.
January 14, 2017.
Today is the Going Home day! This day is generally considered the least most exciting day of any
adventure, especially a cruise! And, today fits in that category! I can say that today involved a new
experience that I had not had before. I think it is called self deportation! In short that means you carry
all your own luggage off the ship, and by doing so, you can leave the ship early, like as soon as the
ship is cleared for such a thing, which on this trip, was around 0730! Normally, deportation of the ship
starts with the customer, like me, sitting their heavy bags outside their door the night before departure.
Then, on the morning of departure, passengers would go downstairs, when called, claim their bags,
and head for a taxi, etc, that would take them the airport, etc. Most times this means passengers
cannot catch a plane until after lunch sometime, generally mid afternoon. But, I happen to learn from
my agent, before leaving home, that I could self deport, EARLY on departure day, by taking my own
bag to the designated area, around 0645, then wait in line till the ship was cleaned by officials, then
off I could go. I did this, and it worked great. But, I had to give up my breakfast! The details were
that I made my way to the designated area at the bottom of the ship at around 0645, waited in line
with others doing the same thing, got off the ship around 0730, I think, rushed over to a taxi stand,
got a taxi, and was off to the airport. At the airport I got checked in, grabbed a bit of food at
Subway, then headed for my gate!! I think I was in the air before noon! My first flight took me to
Orlando, Florida, where I had time to grab some lunch, then catch the next flight on my adventure,
which brought me home, arriving at my car around 6:30 PM? I found my car with left over ice and
snow on it, but not enough to cause an issue! But, ice and snow were mucho different from the
weather I was in this morning when I left San Juan! After a comfortable drive home, I brought in my
bags and called it a day!Adventure over!! Well, not really. The travel part was over, but I am still
working on the adventure, as I consider laundry, bill paying, and photo processing as part of the
adventure. That said, when I get this set completed, I should have it all done! If you have been
following my story all the way from start to here, I hope you have enjoyed the trip. Some people
browse my stories as just a way to pass the time, which is great, but even more good is the people,
like me, who are searching for information to do their own adventure! It is for both of these groups
that I add a lot more detail and information than you would be apt to find in a simple vacation post
on facebook! Unless I think of something else later, I think this ends the adventure! Thanks for
being with me and keep a watch out for my next adventure.