Travel Fun (Part 2) Falmouth Jamaica and Grand Cayman

FAIR WARNING – LOTS of photos!  Travelogue of my recent cruise on the Regal Princess- Western Caribbean Jan 27-Feb 3 2019.

My recent travel adventures included a visit to Falmouth Jamaica.  I’ve been to Ochos Rios a couple of times, and the ship offered many tours that took you from the port in Falmouth to the numerous tourist sites in Ochos Rios.  I could not decide on what to do, as I did not want to wander about independently and I had no desire to spend an hour or more on a bus headed to Ochos Rios.  So, my been there done that attitude kept me at the ship.  I wandered off with another passenger and my sister and explored the huge port area, full of shops, bars, and restaurants.  Rain was in the forecast, and threatening to let loose at any moment.  We ventured into Margaritaville for lunch and an adult beverage.

Margaritaville Falmouth Jamaica

That is quite the set up in this port, complete with a pool and swim up bar. We opted for a table under “cover” because of the impending rain, not wanting to be caught with a table full of food when the skies opened up. I enjoyed a platter with Jerk Chicken, rice and beans and  a delicious banana margarita. My lunch, with 16.5% sales tax and a 20 % tip ran $40. YIKES!  The tip was good because the service was great.

Selfie with Princess the waitress

( Side note – travel brings fun experiences and great memories.  When I started to work on this post, my nearly 11 year old grandson was very interested in the picture below, with the various countries currency.  He immediately used the calculator to convert his US Dollars monthly allowance into Jamaican Dollars! It was great fun watching him figure out the calculation necessary. He was impressed by the result of the  large number that the allowance would be in Jamaican dollars. Grandma didn’t delve into the relative “value” of the various currencies…he figured it out on his own  )

The bill for lunch

Our waitress Princess was fantastic and made sure she got her photo taken with mine! #MVILLECARIBBEAN  She really was attentive and earned that tip !  My sister was NOT a big fan of the LIGHT Red Stripe beer.  She ordered a “regular” Red Stripe and liked it a bit better.  There were all kinds of kiosks and shops with everything you could imagine buying just outside the door of Margaritaville.  In fact, you had to go through the obligatory gift shop to exit to the dock area. In my typical fashion, I wandered along with my sister while she shopped here and there.  I came home with memories but no stuff.

Just as we got back on the ship the weather gave us what it promised and the drizzle turned to steady rain.  The temperatures dropped and we spent the rest of the day on board the ship in the comforts it offered.

Rain over the resort in Falmouth Jamaica

I did some checking on the “next day” forecast and it looked MUCH better –

planning ahead for Grand Cayman

My excursion plans in Grand Cayman had been set for 3 or more months!  The weather forecast was perfect!!

Plan for Grand Cayman

I started my day like this –

Perfect start to the morning in Grand Cayman

From the balcony, I had a view of the dawn over George Town Grand Cayman –

Morning light in Grand Cayman

And I could watch all the lifeboat “tender activity” as well –

Regal Princess Tenders

You can see we were NOT the only ship in town. This meant busy docks, busy tours, busy shops.  My tour was fairly early, so I was off the ship right after breakfast. Once I tendered over to the dock, I could see 4 ships from that location!

4 ships in Grand Cayman

I often wonder if Grand Cayman will ever invest in docks suitable for cruise ships!  The tour group quickly gathered, and in minutes we were off on a mini-bus to the West Bay.  We arrived quickly and selected our bikes, and set off with our leader –

Bike tour guide

We had “single speed beach cruisers” , not mountain bikes as advertised in the tour description.

Bike ride equipment

I had to remember how to use coaster brakes.  But, all was good and we road a fair distance for the tour. About 3 miles into our ride, we made a stop at the Cayman Turtle Centre where we had an opportunity to hear about the breeding program and to see the very large turtles in the breeding pond.  It was a good stop for some water, restrooms and sightseeing.

Breeding turtles

The photo doesn’t show the size of these turtles.  They were 3-4 feet across.

Cayman Turtle Farm breeding pool

As I was editing photos for this post, I “googled” the Cayman Turtle Center and came across a very disturbing story from National Geographic about this turtle center and the crowding.  My photo below shows that crowding –

crowded in the breeding pool

While touring, I did not realise that this crowding together was problematic until later when I read that article linked above.  The “handling” indicated in the article was done also.  I always chose not to “touch” the animals, as I think it is stressful regardless of the environment.  I remember scuba diving in Hawaii in 2008 and being told “don’t touch” the green turtle, when he swam near us. All of the visitors were offered an opportunity to “hold” a young turtle for a “selfie shot”, and I did take lots of their photos!

Holding turtles for selfie shots

Again, I don’t think those of us on the tour had any idea of the article in National Geographic and the stress these turtles were put under.  It was a “fun activity” at the time, but in hindsight, it makes me a little sad that this was being promoted by cruise lines.  80% of the visitors at the turtle center come from cruise ships. I selected this tour because I thought I was doing a healthy “good” activity.  Well….back on the bike ride, we went straight from there to HELL !  Literally…..

Of course, the path to Hell is paved with Rum Cake and we did stop by for a sample on the way there!  The view on the way to HELL was pretty nice!

Rum cake stop

That stop took place at a “tourist shop” where you could taste the cake and buy your souvenirs too! I had my bite of rum cake but went back out to enjoy the view!

Nicky's tour stop

Like I said — next stop was

Just a stop over

looking at the dead coral in Hell

I found this sign on the viewing platform –

The story behind the name

For an easier to “read” description – check out the wikipedia version https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Grand_Cayman

I did get my passport stamped in the general “store/gift shop”; spent my money on postcards and quickly wrote notes to loved ones in the event I never returned.  I DID return home, but the post cards are still making their way through the international postal systems of the Cayman Islands and the US Mail.  No one has received theirs yet.  😦

While standing on the viewing platform, I noticed a vine flowering and I thought the contrast between limestone looking quite dead and the new life of the vine was interesting –

flowering near the dead coral in Hell, Cayman Islands

It made me think that even amidst the bleak, dead limestone God gives new life.

We were soon back on our bikes and completed our circuit of the West Bay.  We rode a total of 6.83 miles on the tour with very little elevation change. It was a nice pace, of 7.6 mph according to my “STRAVA” app.  

We had a few minutes to have a nice drink at the Commodore Restaurant and Bar while we looked out at the bay and cooled off from our ride.  A cold beer was just the ticket after all that exercise!  Our ride back to the ship was a rather hair-raising ride with a driver who was “in a hurry” to make another pick up. No tip for him!  I did a few videos while I was on that wild ride in the bus and hoped they would be in my “google cloud” if I ended up dead!  We arrived safely back to the docks and I tendered back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at the pool!

Pool time in Grand Cayman

It was a perfect end to the day!  This is one of my favorite parts of cruising!  Have an adventure, then come back to the ship for some relaxation!

More later……..

 

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Travel fun, delays and challenges Part 1

PHOTO INTENSE…..fair warning…… (this is a multi-part post)….

I’m back from a week of travel with my sister.  Travel can be fun, but not always!  Some parts of it are just a pain in the neck!!

It was a GOOD week to be away from Delaware where the temperatures were in the single digits during the night and a flurry of snow turned into 3 inches!  The Saturday morning I departed from home “in the dark” and was at the airport only a few minutes when the morning light caught my eye.

Waiting for sunrise in SBY

Those quiet dawn moments on the flightline are one of the few things I miss about going to work.  Then I remember it was the ONLY good thing about working the midnight shift, and that dawn’s early light meant the shift was going to be over soon.

Hubby always teases me about getting to the airport so early. I had an 8:30 am flight, which according to TSA rules meant a 6:30 arrival.  Well, I guess I can tell you that our little airport knows how to handle the big crowds! I got comfortable and put my feet up watching the folks check in !

All checked in

Then of course, once TSA opened the security line for the flight, I breezed right through….only to find myself at odds, waiting on a 4 hour delay. Seems the flight crew didn’t want to fly, and we had to wait on ANOTHER crew to arrive from Charlotte to take our aircraft out.    I kept myself entertained while I waited patiently.  I wrote out  16 invitations to the upcoming Cruise Critic Meet & Greet for the officers onboard the Regal Princess.

4 hour delay

Then, I studied the ship map….again….just to make sure I knew where everything was once I boarded the following day.

Ship map Regal Princess

Finally at 12:05 we were out on the runway, ready to depart!!

Time to go

What a way to start a vacation~!!~  It was a lovely day for flying and taking photos from the airplane window.

heading to Philadelphia

Our 29 minute flight from Salisbury Maryland (SBY) to Philadelphia PA (PHL) takes you along coastal Delaware before crossing the Delaware Bay and flying over New Jersey as you approach the Philadelphia Airport.

homes on the beach Delaware

The funny part of this story is, by car, we live 30 minutes or so from the Salisbury Airport, and 2 hours from the Philadelphia Airport.  I often take the flights out of Salisbury to avoid that 2 hour drive!  It really didn’t pay off on this occasion. My “next” trip in March will be out of Philadelphia!! (Really, those reservations were made months ago, it was just a better deal!  But, that means the dear husband will be driving  me to the airport and home again, and overall that is 8 hours for him in the car for my trip, which I hate to do!)

Anyway, when I finally arrive in Philadelphia, my “new connection” required another wait once I arrived.  So, I stopped for lunch and a well deserved adult beverage!  I enjoyed an Angry Orchard cider with my “Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich” while I relaxed and waited 2 hours for the “new connection”.

Waiting on flight in Philadelphia

I had a view of a cruise ship leaving Port Everglades as our flight approached Ft Lauderdale!

Approaching Ft Lauderdale

This day of travel was a good reminder of why I always, always, always, fly in the DAY before the ship sails.   I am glad that was not the Regal Princess !  That would not have been a good finish to the day.

I finally arrive in Fort Lauderdale, much later than I had originally planned. Rain greeted me while I waited for the shuttle to the airport hotel.  My sister had arrived from Nevada a few hours earlier, had the room, and had dinner ordered from a local place that delivered.  I dropped my luggage in the room, opened the suitcase to “dry out”, and relaxed for the evening.  Note – I always always always pack my clothing in Space Bags (available on line or in your local big box stores).  This is NOT the first time my suitcases has gotten wet in transit! It was easy to take out the space bags, wipe them with a towel and let the suitcase air dry in the hotel, then reload them in the morning. The suitcase dried easily overnight in the hotel room, set near the air conditioning vents.  If it had not been dry, I would have used the hotel hair dryer!

The morning view from the hotel room window was nice, but there was a bit of drizzle to start the day.

Rain threatening to spoil the day

I used the hotel shuttle to make a quick trip to K-Mart near the hotel and picked up a few necessities (2 bottles of wine for the ship).  It was too drizzly to make the walk to the store and I wanted to make sure I had the essentials for the cruise.  Later in the morning the sky cleared up nicely and I was able to take a nice walk before it was time to board the shuttle to the ship.  My sister and I planned for one of the latest shuttles (Noon), to avoid some of the crowds at the hotel and at Port Everglades.

Shuttle to the cruise

Our hotel uses a service for that transportation which was quite efficient. We were READY to go.  Streamlined boarding was wonderful. A good tip to the porters at the port got our luggage taken care of quickly, and having our Cruise Medallions already made it the fastest check in ever. No waiting. We walked up with our boarding pass, our Medallion, were given our cruise cards, and we were on the ship within minutes of arriving at the port.

It took no time at all to settle into our “Deluxe Balcony Cabin # R509 ” on the Regal Princess.   A big improvement from the original inside cabin we had booked, and the upgrade was well appreciated.

Deluxe Balcony R509 Regal Princess

This cabin had a love seat and a significantly smaller bathroom than our mini-suite on the Regal in December. But the extra space was nice in the cabin and we enjoyed having the balcony.

Our pre-ordered water, and my cup for the “soda” package was already in the room.  (In December when Hubby & I cruised on the same ship, they had a shortage of the cups for the “soda” package, and compensated us with multiple large bottles of water in lieu of the cups.  We never use the cups on the ship, we just bring them home, so it was not a big loss).  I do like the new design!  Much heavier tumbler than “last spring”.

New Soda package cups

I just had to add the wine to the fridge. A call later in the afternoon for room service to deliver the “liquor & beer” and we were ready to sail!  We made plans to attend the Platinum and Elite pre-dinner cocktail party every night.  I liked the new drinks being offered daily. These were “specially priced” for the cocktail party and we were tempted with many of them.

Exclusive Elite Lounge specials

As we wandered around the ship, we enjoyed looking at all the other ships and the activities as they all prepared to depart.

Departing Port Everglades

As we sailed out of the channel, the Regal Princess played the LOVE BOAT theme with the ships horns.  I’m sure the residents hate it, but I loved it!!

Our itinerary was to take us to Princess Cays, Bahamas, a tender port for Monday.  The dawn was beautiful.

First sunrise

Sadly, there was just too much wind and choppy seas for us to safely tender and the Captain chose to skip the port.  Later in the day we had to endure the rain that accompanied that wind, and it made for a soggy sea day. The crew was quick to arrange new “onboard activities” in the Piazza, the center of the ship; and in other public spaces. I enjoyed my time “under cover” on the Lido Deck.

Deck 16 Regal Princess

I worked on my “never ending hexi project” for an hour or two, out in the fresh air with a nice drink in hand.

working on hexi's during the rain

Over the course of the cruise, I met most mornings with the “Knitters and Knatters” and did a little hand stitching. I met a nice group of “stitchers”, and am glad that the ship offers the gathering every cruise.

Monday rounded out with cocktails, dinner and a comedian, Steve Caouette, in the Princess Theater.

Tuesday was a scheduled sea day as we sailed towards Falmouth Jamaica.  It was also the day for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet, which I had coordinated before we sailed.  I had my fingers crossed that everyone would “show up”.  I was delighted to see the number of people who attended along with the ships officers.  One member came with his fancy camera and took a group photo and some random snaps of people mingling with the officers.

The manager of the Medallion department presented each attendee with a little “clip on” device to hold our medallions in.  The clip was nice and a real benefit for attending the Meet & Greet.  If you like to cruise, check out the “roll calls” on CruiseCritic.com

The weather on Tuesday was perfect for an afternoon spent by the pool.  I enjoyed using the Adults only pool area on Deck 17, were there were loungers and shade. It was a beautiful place to spend a few hours, have a nap, read etc.

pool area deck 17 Regal Princess

As you can see, the weather improved dramatically. Blue skies, blue water, sunshine and warm temperatures are what make for a perfect day at sea!

Part II coming soon…………………..

 

Airplanes and Ships

December was a busy month for us with hobbies, family and travel. The month just “flew by”.  This has turned into a “multi-modal” post!  Having been retired for over 6 years from the “transportation industry”, I love using those old “work phrases”….

Between Train club weekends, I had 2 workshops for 2nd Time Around, played host with my Queen Bees and worked on the final assembly of the Carolina Hurricane Quilt, got a 10 1/2 mile bike ride in with my daughter & granddaughter.

I started the month of December at the Train Club with the 2nd weekend of the open house season, and followed it up with a trip to the Ocean Waves Quilt Guild meeting for the annual holiday luncheon, and another gathering of the Queen Bees for our Christmas luncheon and fun gift exchange.  Sadly in between, I was squeezing in trips to see a dear friend in her last days of hospice care, and got there as often as I was able.  No regrets, I did the best I could and hoped it brought her some cheer. I was blessed to be asked to help contact my pastor for the family, and my friend as well.  Somewhere in between all this, we managed to get the Christmas tree out of the closet and assembled, and some of the lights put on.

Hubby and I were at Philadelphia Int’l Airport waiting on our flight to Florida when we saw Air Force One land. Here is a quick video I shot – Air Force One at Philadelphia .  No matter which President is in office, seeing that plane land is always an awesome sight!  (And I worked in an industry where I saw giant cargo planes land all the time, and had Air Force One on our ramp on many occasions). I just think it is a beautiful sight.  The President was in Philadelphia for the Army – Navy game.  We made sure to arrive at the airport early, so we would not get caught up in the predicted traffic snarl that accompanies any US President when he travels to a city.

Heading to Ft Lauderdale to go on a cruise in December was a lot of fun (but a crazy idea given our calendar, but a much needed respite).  We arrived on Saturday, December 8, and sailed on the lovely Regal Princess on Sunday Dec 9. We had a beautiful mini-suite on board this ship.

Princess Cruise Ship - Regal Caribe 330

Regal Princess C330

The welcome aboard glass of champagne is always a pleasant greeting!

Welcome aboard

Of course, I have a full album of photos of the trip, and you are welcome to browse through them. Regal Princess Cruise photos .  I won’t bore you with them here, but suffice to say, I took a lot of photos.  Our week on the ship was lovely, and this ship is one of the ships using the new Medallion instead of the cruise card. It was an interesting, relaxing week.   I certainly enjoyed just being at sea, taking great walks on the ship, eating endless amounts of food and desserts! We finished out the week with an airboat ride in the Florida everglades before we flew home.  Like I said, multi- modal kind of week.

We got home 1 week and a day before Christmas, and ran thru the house getting the tree decorated, the other decorations up, and the lights out on the porch before the grandchildren arrived. We got home Sunday, and they arrived on Friday and let me tell you, we were zooming around getting ready, along with unpacking and a weeks worth of washing to do!

There is lots more to the December story, but I am out of time today!  Stay tuned….I have 20 minutes to get ready for another Ocean Waves Quilt Guild meeting before I race out the door.  Happy New Year.