Day five of our Christmas/Anniversary cruise, December 27, 2021. Today is the anniversary portion of our cruise, Robbie and my 15th wedding anniversary! We were sailing into St. Thomas U.S.V.I at sunrise. I went up to the upper promenade deck to watch the sunrise as we sailed into the islands. The islands were bathed in the warm golden hour glow as our ship glided past. The pilot boat slipped alongside and our St. Thomas pilot jumped onboard to guide our ship into the port.
The town of Charlotte Amalie was about two miles from the cruise port. We could have just walked into town from the port. We thought that it would be nice to get a birds eye view of the island. We booked a shore excursion that took us to Mountain Top, the highest point on St. Thomas. From Mountain Top there is a great view of the blue water of Magens Bay, the best beach on St Thomas. We met our tour group on the dock by the ship.
The gift shop at Mountain Top claims to be the home of the banana daiquiri. So naturally Robbie and I had to have an anniversary banana daiquiri! Of course the scenic overlook is through the gift shop.
We made a quick photo stop at Drake’s Seat, a scenic overlook where we got a nice view of the port and Charlotte Amalie on our way into town.
We arrived in Charlotte Amalie near Fort Christian, a fort built by Denmark and Norway in the 1600’s. We were on our own to explore the town. Our guide and safari bus driver would be back in 1 hour to take anyone who was ready back to the ship. Then again in another hour for a ride back to the ship, so we had two hours to explore. The historic town of Charlotte Amalie has cobblestone streets, lined by colorful colonial buildings with big wooden doors and iron hardware. It’s not hard to imagine the streets filled with pirates drinking grog and singing Yo-ho-ho! Unfortunately, a lot of these beautiful old buildings are filled with high end, high pressure jewelry stores. I think there were over a dozen jewelry stores in a three block area. That’s great if you are looking for jewelry but we did not need any jewelry today.
We needed to get off of the main street. There are several really pretty stone alleyways with shops and restaurants. In one of the alleyways we found Glady’s Cafe. We were getting hungry so we stopped in for a bite. It was Robbie and my anniversary! We were married 15 years ago in Jamaica. To calibrate I had the jerk chicken and a Red Stripe beer! It was great to be back in the Caribbean with my beautiful Angel on our anniversary! I love you honey!
We had a nice leisurely lunch and we missed our ride back to the ship. We needed to walk off all of the wonderful food that we had been eating on the cruise, so we took a nice long walk back to the ship. When you get back to the ship there is always cold wate and lemon-aid and my favorite the cold damp towel! We had a great day exploring Charlotte Amalie! The next day was a day at sea on our way to the Bahamas and then back to Florida.
Yesterday we had an long but awesome day exploring the Dominican Republic. Back on the ship Robbie and I had a nice relaxing evening. No matter how you spend your time on board, full tilt nightclubbing or just relaxing as we did, your floating resort is on it’s way to your next adventure. One of the things that I like about cruising is, waking up to a new and exciting port. Today December, 26 2021 we were sailing into San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is actually our second time in San Juan. On our first cruise into San Juan we visited the El Yunque Rain Forest. The rain forest was great but we didn’t get to see much of San Juan. This time we wanted to explore Old San Juan. This is why it can be nice to revisit a port.
We weren’t due to dock in San Juan until noon so we were able to spend the morning on the ship. So we took the opportunity to have a nice leisurely breakfast in the main dinning room. Before breakfast we watched the sunrise from our veranda.
As we sailed into San Juan Harbor everyone was on deck. Our cruise director was describing the sights and history of Old San Juanover the P.A. system as we sailed past. The most prominent landmark on the coast is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th century Spanish fort built to protect the harbor. Several other San Juan landmarks were visible as we sailed into the harbor. A few other cruise ships were all ready docked as the Neiuw Amsterdam eased up to the dock. It’s amazing how maneuverable these huge ships are.
Christmas/Anniversary Cruise 2021: Day 3, Part 2, Christmas Day! Mount Isabela de Torres, Dominican Republic
We had a great time on our walking tour of Puerto Plata. We returned to our minibus to climb the mountain! It was a long steep winding road to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres. We got a good look at the beautiful countryside along the way. The higher we climbed the better the views became. Towards the top, the road was very steep! Our minibus was having a hard time. Rambo told us that we would probably need to get out and push! Luckily the minibus made it to the top without our help. When we arrived at the top we were literally in the clouds. We were there to see the Christ statue on the peak. It was barley visible through the clouds. Puerto Plata below us was totally obscured. The Christ the Redeemer Statue is a smaller replica of the same statue in Rio de Janeiro. The clouds were moving rapidly and we were able to get nice views of the statue and Puerto Plata below. There is a cable car from Puerto Plata to the peak of Isabel de Torres. It was temporarily closed.
The Isabel de Torres National park has a beautiful botanical garden. After we took in the views of the valley below, we took a walk through the garden. The stone pathway wound its way through the beautiful lush garden. We came to a small cave. Rambo said he brought a group of 14 here and only 13 came out! He was kidding, I think….
There was a replica of an early Dominican home complete with its own herb garden. Rambo was very excited to tell us all about how the early Dominicans lived. He plucked herbs from the garden and invited everyone to smell how fresh they were. He was really having fun showing us how they used a device that looked like an old butter churn to grind coffee. He was very funny shaking his booty as he ground the coffee. He was telling us all about the house and how they lived. The roof was made from the base of palm fronds. It was a very interesting place. The path wound its way down the hill and was fairly steep! We were worried that we were going to need to go back up the hill! We were happy to see that Rambo had the driver bring the mini bus down the hill to meet us.
The first full day of our cruise, Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. We spent the full day at sea enjoying the ship. We started the day with a nice breakfast in bed! Well not really in bed but we could’ve if we had wanted to. The night before we filled out our breakfast menu and hung it on our stateroom door. In the morning, right at the time we specified, our hot breakfast was delivered to our stateroom. It was very nice watching the world pass by through our veranda window as we ate our breakfast. It was very yummy too! We were far from camera ready so, sorry, no photos.
We wanted to work off that wonderful breakfast and also minimize the weight gain that always happens on a cruise. We took a brisk walk on the windy Promenade deck. We did 6 laps which equals two miles. We had to stop from time to time to watch the Brown Boobies chasing the Flying Fish that were jumping out of the water as the ship cut through the waves. As we were walking, I was seeing lots of photographs. So I took an extra lap to take some photos.
We were on our way to the Dominican Republic. This is the port that was switched at the last minute right before we left. The cruise port at Amber Cove is a fair distance from the places that we wanted to visit, so we booked a shore excursion. A shore excursion can be expensive, but in a port like this, it’s probably the best option. They were giving a talk about the shore excursions in the main showroom. We went to the talk to help us decide which excursion to do. We booked the Mountain Views and city sights shore excursion for the Dominican Republic.
Time to eat again! The reason the we always gain weight on a cruise is all of the wonderful food available pretty much anytime you want. We can’t let it go to waste! We popped up to the Lido deck and ordered a pizza for lunch.
There was another talk in the main showroom about the Caribbean. It turned out to be a sales pitch for rum. So we went back to our stateroom watched the flying fish and relaxed until it was time to get ready to eat again! This evening was gala night, so everyone dressed up for dinner. We had a very nice Christmas Eve dinner in the main dining room. After dinner we went to see the dance show in the main showroom. The Step One Dance Company put on a nice show.
My wife Robbie and I enjoy taking a cruise for Christmas and our anniversary. Unfortunately the past couple of years the cruise industry has been shut down. We have been unable to take our Christmas cruise. So we were really ready to cruise. Things have been getting better, the covid cases have been dropping. Everyone on the ship needed to be fully vaccinated and have a negative covid test to board the ship. Masks were also required everywhere inside of the ship, except your cabin and while eating or drinking. So this year we thought that we would take our Christmas cruise. We booked a 7 day Caribbean cruise with Holland American Cruise Line. Enter the Omicron variant! Covid cases were rising, ugh! We had committed to going, so we made the decision to continue with the cruise.
Our cruise departed from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 23rd. We were going to Grand Turk, San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay Bahamas. A few days before the cruise we were told that the Grand Turk port would be replaced with a stop at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Apparently both ports are owned by Carnival Cruise line, Holland America is a Carnival company. The Grand Turk port only had enough personnel to accommodate one ship. Carnival and Holland America were taking turns at the port. It was Carnivals turn, so we got bumped to Puerto Plata. We had been to Grand Turk before on another cruise, so we were good with the switch.
We drove our car to Fort Lauderdale to start our cruise. The great thing about living in Florida is that we are a few hours drive from any Florida cruise port! We parked at the Park N Go parking lot. We took a 5 minute shuttle ride to our ship the Nieuw Amsterdam. Our last cruise in 2019 from Venice, Italy took hours to board the ship. The European ship was delayed by fog but still, after boarding started it took hours! This time in Ft Lauderdale, we boarded the ship in record time! In fairness, the latest ship was about 500 people short of being full. All of the passengers had staggered boarding times, we were in the 1:40pm boarding group. We arrived at the parking lot about 1:30pm. The shuttle dropped us off right at the ship. The cruise line baggage guys grabbed our bags from the curb. We walked into the cruise terminal. We had to wait for one couple in front of us to show our boarding passes, passports, negative Covid tests and Vaccine cards. They scanned our boarding pass and we went right to security. We put our carry on bags through the machine. From there we stopped at a kiosk and had our photos taken for our ship/room key cards. After the photos we walked right onto the ship. I think they scanned our boarding passes one more time, as we boarded the ship. We were in our cabin literally 15 minuets after we got off the parking lot shuttle! Our key cards were waiting for us in our mail slot.
Once on the ship everyone is required to do a mandatory muster drill. This is a practice run for everyone to gather at their assigned lifeboat in case of emergency. Normally the whole entire ship gathers on the promenade deck under their lifeboats. You are all massed together until everyone is there and listen to the safety instructions. It’s a very tedious and long process. Not to mention huge crowds of people and Covid. They changed their process for this cruise. This time we just needed to go visit our lifeboat, so we knew where it was. A crew member scanned our key cards, so they knew we had been there. Then we just needed to watch a safety video in our cabin. A much better process, thank you Holland America! We took in the view of the port on our way to the lifeboat.
When we sail out of a port, I like to go up on deck and watch the sail away. Robbie stayed in the cabin and I went to take some photos of the sail away. I like to watch the people, watching the people, as we sail through the port. People on shore are waving and yelling at the people on the ship and people on the ship are waving and yelling at the people on shore. Everyone is happy, taking photos, and having fun!
click on an image to se larger.
As we were sailing out to sea, we were treated to a nice sunset over the fantail. One of the best things about cruising is watching the sunset from the deck.
After enjoying the beautiful sunset, I took walk around the Lido deck. There is the rear pool and hot tubs with a pool bar. There is also a pizza shop where you can get a made to order pizza. Moving inside we have the Lido Market buffet restaurant. This is where you can go just about anytime and grab a bite to eat, get something sweet, or something to drink, ice tea, water or coffee. Everything is usually pretty good! Moving through the Lido Market there is the second pool and hot tubs with the Lido pool bar. Get a tropical drink and sit by the pool or have a soak in the hot tub. There is also the Dive In restaurant, a walk up diner where you can get a hot dog, burger and fries. Robbie really liked the portabella mushroom sandwich! In case of inclement weather they roll the roof closed. We had great weather and the roof was open every day. They did close it at least one night. I think we passed through some spotty showers.
Back in our cabin, from our veranda, we got to enjoy the last of the setting sun as Fort Lauderdale faded into the distance. Our cruise was off to a great start!