Bridgetown, Barbados – January 1, 2013
On Christmas Day, 2012, we were fortunate to be joined by Hillary and Tyler in Georgetown, Guyana. For their “big” gift, we gave them small, matching boxes. If one shook the boxes, one could hear something rattling. That “something” turned out to be a few Guyanese coins — to throw the kids off the scent.
When they finally opened their boxes, the look of puzzlement on their faces was priceless. Each box contained several small bits of paper. On each piece of paper was a different letter. We told them they had to work together to sort the pieces of paper into two words. When that was complete, they would know what their actual Christmas gift was.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, they were able to figure out they were going on a Caribbean cruise! They were very excited! We were all excited!
As we slept New Year’s Eve night, resting for our departure on January 1, the start of the third world war rudely and unceremoniously awakened us. At least that is what it sounded like, a battle! At the stroke of midnight, many in our neighborhood began setting off fireworks. They were not just little bottle rockets or black cats. No, they were like NASA booster rockets. There were a few times I thought we would have pieces of our house falling in on us.
It seemed I was drifting back to a sound sleep when our 05:30 wake-up call came courtesy of my Blackberry. By 06:30, we found ourselves with one of the embassy drivers on our way to the airport. There were virtually no vehicles on the road (no doubt due to the “war” last night), so we arrived at the airport at about 07:20; a land-speed record for Georgetown! We checked in and began our wait.
Thanks to Leslie’s recent hip surgery, we were the first ones to board the plane. Just before they closed the door, Leslie and I were able to move up one row to an exit row. It is amazing how much comfort that little bit of extra legroom adds to the flight.
At about 10:15, we took off, heading out over Venezuelan air space. Just as the flight attendants started the beverage service, we got into some turbulence. Thankfully it did not last too long.
As the flight attendant served Leslie and me our tomato juice, Leslie asked him if there was any food. He very nicely said there was not. About three or four minutes later, an attendant from the first-class cabin stopped by our seats with a tray. I figured she was just there to remove the drinks we had finished. Much to our surprise, she handed us each a small china tray. Each had a cranberry muffin and a blueberry scone. As she sat them down, she said he had some extras leftover from first-class. We thanked her profusely.
The muffin was not warm, but the crusty sugar glaze made up for that. The scone was piping hot. The butter completely melted when it got within two inches of the scone. They were terrific; although, I must confess I felt very self-conscious being one of two people in coach eating.
We touched down at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago at about 11:05. We had to go through security before we could get to our connecting flight.
Once we got on the concourse, we bought some sandwiches, chips, and drinks for TTD136 (US$21.15). After inhaling those, we bought a magnet and key chain for TTD60 (US$9.33). It was then that Tyler noticed he did not have his crucifix and St. Thomas medal. A quick trip by Leslie back to security resulted in retrieving the lost items. Then it was merely a matter of time, waiting for our connection to Bridgetown, Barbados.
We arrived at the airport in Bridgetown, Barbados at about 16:20 on January 1. Once inside the terminal, we had to wind our way through a massive line at immigration.
Once we exited the building, we were paired up with our taxi driver, Emmerson. The ride to the hotel was BBD51 (US$25.43). He was a very nice young man. He said he would be happy to pick us up the next day to take us to the cruise port.
Emmerson dropped us off at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa. The hotel is right on the beach as its name indicates. Several locals told us that this is one of the favorite beaches on the island for the locals. The hotel itself is very nicely kept. All of the staff we came into contact with were very helpful and eager to serve. The desk clerk welcomed us and gave us coupons for four free drinks. We took those and headed up to our room which was very generously sized. It overlooked the swimming pool and courtyard as well as the Caribbean Sea.
We headed down to the swim-up bar, the dry side, and ordered our free drinks. They were a type of rum punch. They were so strong I believe they would burst into flames if they got anywhere near an open flame. As we were drinking the “napalm,” I commented Hillary about her drinking with us. She replied very matter-of-factly with the best line so far on this trip. “I’m 21, dad! All around the world!”
None of us could handle the rum punch. We reasonably quickly switched to wine and beer. We sat around a table and talked with each other for quite a while. After some time, the kids got up and mingled with some of the other guests. Tyler ended up playing pool with a young man from Finland. A little while later, both kids were talking at the bar with a young man from Great Britain. When the kids returned to our table, we all hit the eject button and went to the restaurant for dinner.
The pool and fountain. There is a small grotto under the fountain.
The restaurant was open-air. For an appetizer, Leslie and I split shrimp tortellini with ginger, soft herbs, sun-dried tomato Vierge, deep-fried capers, and cauliflower puree (BBD30 or US$15). It was delicious! For the main course, I had olive oil confit barracuda with garlic spinach, creamed potato, and lemon demi-glace (BBD45 or US$22.50). I think it was the most amazing white fish I have ever had! We finished with dessert and went back to our room.
After finishing breakfast the following morning, I tried to call Emmerson. I could not get through to him, so I just had the front desk call a taxi. We hopped in and got to the dock by about 10:30. Since Bridgetown was not the beginning point of the cruise, there were very few people trying to board the vessel when we arrived.
The ship we had selected was the Carnival Victory. We were all amazed at the size of the vessel. It towered over the dock some 14 stories. We got on board and checked-in, during which time we were all given a Carnival cruise card. We were to use that card for all of our purchases on the ship, and to get off and on the boat in the various ports.
We made our way to our cabins. They were inside cabins. They were indeed not as generously sized as our hotel room, but they were comfortable for our needs. After all, we were either going to be on deck or onshore. The cabin was simply for sleeping.
Once we unpacked, we began exploring the ship. We ended up at the aft portion of the lido deck. That is where we chose to have lunch. After lunch and some soft-serve ice cream, we continued our exploration.
Our mandatory safety briefing was at 16:00 in the ship’s theater. After the presentation, they took Leslie and the kids to our muster station. I stopped at the shore excursion desk to buy tickets for the behind the scenes tour of the ship scheduled for our day at sea, the last full day of our cruise. I skipped the muster station tour because there were only 16 tickets available for the visit. I wanted to make sure we got ours.
We went to the aft of deck 10, one floor above the lido deck. We stood there waiting to see the ship pull away from the dock. As I looked down, I noticed our dock ropes were tied up with the dock ropes of the cruise ship docked behind us. Getting lines untangled and getting away from the dock took an extra 30 minutes. We were to have departed at 17:00, but we did not get underway until about 17:30. Regardless, it was amazing watching the massive cruise ship maneuver away from the dock and out to open waters.
We were all surprised how hard it was to walk on the decks once we were underway, especially Leslie with her cane. However, I found sleeping on board while we were at sea was very relaxing with the gentle rocking motion of the ship.
Before we went to bed, Leslie and I sat on the lido deck at the stern. Since we were well away from the port, there were no city lights to interfere with stargazing. We both immediately picked out Orion’s Belt.
I found myself wondering what it must have been like some 500 years ago to sail on these same seas. It would have been much darker as there were probably just a few lanterns. It would surely have been much quieter — only the wind in the sails and the hull cutting through the sea. And perhaps most disturbing would have been the navigation devices. I feel much more “sure-footed” with all of the modern navigation aids.
First stop, St. Lucia tomorrow!!