Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 7, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #9

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Pretty flowers by the hotel pool!

Well, my holiday is coming rapidly to a close and I have the emailed boarding passes for tomorrow to prove it. It’s been quite a trip, but even though the world is still spinning a little (I don’t have my land legs back quite yet), I’m a pretty happy starfish as I get ready for an early, early bed time.

But let’s backtrack a little bit – I left off (besides my interlude) on a bit of a blue note, but I decided, once I got to Fort Lauderdale, that this was not the ending I wanted, so I would rally and get one last adventure.  So as DW and I made our way from the Port to our airport hotel, I let my brain do some turning. DW left bright and early this morning, but I had one day more than she, so I decided I didn’t want to spend it languishing in the hotel, even if the Ramada Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Port does have Wifi and a pool.  It’s a good thing, too – while the wifi signal is fine, it’s been windy and rained on and off, so not quite pool weather.  Instead, I asked when checking in at the front desk if they did excursion tickets to see alligators, and sure enough they do!

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A heron in the Everglades.

They don’t usually take single pickups, said Sheanna at the front desk apologetically, but she called anyway and went to bat for me over the phone.  “I know you’re picking other people up,” she said, and whether it was the excellent sass or just the power of her awesome, I was giving my credit card number and solidifying today’s visit to the Everglades.

DW and I didn’t really do much for the rest of the day. We had lunch at a place called Rendezvous down the road, then back to the hotel to do our own thing in the afternoon, like reading and catching up on our social media. (We may also have texted each other from our rooms, as DW booked her own to get a little more rest.  Also? When I texted my dad, it turns out he had bronchitis, so I suspect my violent cough was some of the same and don’t blame her at all.) We had dinner at the hotel and it was fine but nothing spectacular. This Ramada is more of a motel, with all doors going to the outside, and a bit run down on the exterior, but it is a chain and I don’t feel unsafe or like I was going to be axe murdered despite the accessibility. Then we both went back to our rooms for the night.

I got up this morning and had the free hotel breakfast, which included scrambled eggs and sausage, as well as oatmeal, a selection of cold cereal, a make-your-own-waffle batter station and coffee. Then I waited for my VIP Tours bus to pick me up and it was off to the Everglades Holiday Park.

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A pretty red bird I captured with my lens!

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Look at this beauty!

The tour was really great.  At this Park, you get a full hour tour around the Everglades in the airboat.  I got a seat at the very side, so have some incredibly fun pictures to go through.  I took a lot and even got to make good use of my new lens, so was able to get some good close ups. There were lots of different birds to take pictures of and though the weather was windy and the sky a bit overcast, it is still much warmer than home is and I was comfortable in my shorts with no jacket. The weather meant we weren’t sure we’d see any alligators in the natural habitat, but just as we were coming around to head back to shore at the end of the tour, we were greeted by a big beauty of a ‘gator sunning himself or herself on the shore.  I was happy with the Everglades tour even before the alligator spotting, so this just made my day.

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Look, Ma, no hands!

After the Everglades it was time for the show, where we got to see an alligator show. As it turns out, if an alligator is a threat to the public, they are destroyed unless they can be taken safely to a park.  So we go to see how one of the rescuers wrestles alligators onto shore for transportation. It’s sad that they are then stuck in a park instead of back in the wild, but the alternative is they will be destroyed, so even in a smaller environment, I’m glad they have somewhere to go. I can’t remember the man’s name who did the demonstration, but holy crap is he ever brave to get up close and personal with the alligators with his bare hands as his only tools. Not something I’d want to do but made for a gasp-inducing show!

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Like I said, not sure what was going on with my face, but look at these adorable I got to hold!

After that, we got to got through and see a baby alligator and pet him and also get a picture, and for a bit extra, with a snake too!  I decided to add to my collection of animal-holding pictures with the both, of course. I’m not remembering the little ‘gator’s name (Lil something or other) because the snake’s name was Emoji because one of his patches looks like a smiley face, and that just obliterated the little dude’s name out of my brain. Holding the baby alligator and the snake together was awesome, and I would definitely do it again even though my face in the picture is… not great.  I’m not sure what it is doing. Perhaps it can’t handle expressing all my happiness at holding a BABY ALLIGATOR and a PRETTY SNAKE!!! They also have an adorable baby pig I cooed at while I waited for my picture to be printed out, named Pua like the piggy in the movie Moana.

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So many good bird pictures today, so I’m sharing one more!

After that, it was back to the hotel, where I hung out for a bit. I went back to Rendezvous for a late lunch/early dinner combo, since I’ll be heading to bed super early as a result of having my own ridiculously early cab to catch tomorrow. They didn’t have a great vegetarian selection for DW yesterday (but most places here haven’t) but I have no such restrictions, so enjoyed a very good burger with friends  and some Malbec, followed by key lime pie because it is almost the end of holidays so why not? The food was great but extra kudos for the key lime pie, which was  the best dessert I’ve had on vacation and Holland America does phenomenal desserts, so you can imagine how good it was. It was too good to even stop eating to take a picture of, basically.  I highly recommend.

Now I’m back to my room, winding up my day and this set of blog entries. Unless something ridiculous or spectacular happens on my FOUR Air Canada legs tomorrow (that’s right, FOUR) and the near 20 hours I’ll spend in airports and airplanes, I’m going to call this the end of this one. It’s been a good trip, overall, even with some seasickness, stormy days, and the cough thrown in.  I’m not looking forward to the -30C weather, but I am looking forward to being home, sweet home, where I can cuddle up in my own bed and start making plans for whatever next adventure calls to me. Until then! 😀

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 5, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Interlude

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Rain in the rainforest in Puerto Rico, collected on the bus window.

I’m not going to do a proper entry today (because blah blah blah we ate then got out of the boat and stood in line to go through customs for ages then went to the hotel pretty much covers it) BUT I do want you to know I’m not going to leave off on a blue note. I may not have been able to do my snorkel adventure, but I’m not going to sit in my hotel room until it is time to go home Tuesday.  I asked at the front desk if they do tour bookings and they do. So while DW heads home tomorrow, I’m going to have one final adventure to cap off the trip. Stay tuned! 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 5, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #8

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Things I didn’t see today: conch

Today has been a bit of a blue day for me.  It was a rough night both figuratively and literally, with rocking seas that made it hard for me to fall asleep. My stuffed-up nose has compounded the issue; not only is it hard to breathe, I have apparently been snoring, which keeps DW up. She actually had to wake me up twice to ask me to change the position I was sleeping in.  I didn’t bother falling back asleep after the second time since it was nearly six and I was too afraid that I would be too noisy again.  By the time DW’s alarm went off at seven, the seas were no less rocky either. We waited in bed a while to see if there were any announcements, because it was very windy out and we weren’t sure whether the tenders would be able to get us to Half Moon Cay.  No announcement came right away, though, so we went for breakfast anyway.

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Things I didn’t see today: sand

By eight o’clock, the Captain had to make the hard call that there would be no port of call today.  The weather was too rough for the employees to get to the private island of Half Moon Cay to work today, and definitely still too rough for the tenders. No snorkeling. Just wind and clouds and another sea day.  After breakfast, DW and I went upstairs to treat ourselves to a latte, but even that didn’t work out, as the machine was broken.  We went back to the verandah to read for a while, then eventually I went back to the coffee shop to see if the technician had been able to fix the espresso machine.  No luck. I read there for a while, then went back to the room, only to find that DW was in need of it to nap. We have an agreement that we give each other space when we need it, so I just grabbed what I thought I needed for a few hours.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really feeling like much of anything beyond finding some quiet space in the room myself.  I went in the hot tub by the pool for a while, the one in the inside because there were people using them earlier so I knew I wouldn’t get yelled at.  But the room was stuffy and hot and so loud. Everything was just crowded today, on a day I just wanted the water and the fish.

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Things I didn’t see today: fish

After drying off, I walked around to try to find somewhere quiet and less stuffy.  Lots of the doors to the decks were closed off due to high winds, which just made me feel more trapped. Eventually, I made my way up to deck ten via the pool on nine, as the open air wasn’t off limits, just certain exit points.  I was able to push a chair far enough that I could hear just the waves and the boat and not the music and noise of people, which helped put me back in a better headspace. I made my way back to the room to quietly change, though DW was up by then, and then to have tea on the boat. Then it was up to the Crow’s Nest for team trivia. When nothing manifested by four, I pretty much thought that was just how my day was going. Fortunately, I’d ordered a drink, because otherwise I’d have been back in my room by 4:30, which was when trivia actually started.  I’d rushed from tea for no reason, but at least I didn’t miss it. My team didn’t win but we got the most points so far, so that was things looking up. And we all got pins.

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Things I didn’t see today: beach

After that, I went back to the room. I didn’t feel like eating yet, so DW and I watched some TV and I packed, which made me feel a little settled even as I’m sad things are over, and without one last day of shore excursions, which I was really looking forward to having.  Then we went to dinner at the Lido instead of in the dining room. It was a good decision, since it was quieter there.

We ended the night by watching the Marriage Game in the Showroom at Sea, which was a really good way to end the day. Like the Newlywed Game, each half of the couple is asked a question while their spouse is in a soundproof area, then they see if they can match. It was very funny.  Highlights?  An older couple who met on e-Harmony only 12 years ago (her daughter convinced her to sign up) had the question “how does she let you know she’s in the mood?”. The husband said she asks if he took his viagra!  DW and I laughed so hard.  I’m glad that’s how our cruise is ending.

I will admit I’m looking forward to having my feet on solid ground for a long time, maybe spending a little more time by the pool at my hotel in Fort Lauderdale (I’m there another two days) without the water crashing and smashing about as the wind blows the boat about.  Hopefully the weather will be nice and the last of my holiday will be restful.

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 4, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #7

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Stingray hovering happily.

Today was another sea day, so I’m not sure how much I’ll have to say about today. I have picked out a few pictures I’ve taken so far that I like, and I’ll share them with this entry because I like sharing things through my eyes, which includes through my eyes through my camera lens.

DW and I woke up before the alarm this morning, so we spent some time on the verandah reading and enjoying the sun and warmth.  When the wake up alarm did sound, I got out of the way so DW could do her yoga.  It was nice to spend a bit of time before going to breakfast; my stomach takes a little while longer than I do to wake up, so on the days of morning shore excursions I’ve been eating more by rote than because I wanted any of the delicious things available on the ship.

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Once DW was done her yoga, we went up to breakfast where we discovered the crepe station. DW had Nutella crepes, while I had a blueberry and whipped cream crepe with a side of bacon. And coffee, of course. That’s the thing that wakes me up most of all.

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Footprints

After breakfast, we went to the Explorations Café for coffee.  They make flat whites here, so that’s what I’ve been indulging in, while DW had a latte. We took our drinks back to the room and headed to the verandah again (and I’ll admit I took some chocolate croissants for a snack later too).  I’ll admit, in addition to reading, DW may have broken out her yoga mat for me.  Not to do yoga, however; I took a nap just out of the sun, there on the floor of the verandah. Just a catnap, but still a little rest, especially since I’d finished my book.

I didn’t have lunch today, as breakfast was late enough and I’d snacked on the croissants when I finished my coffee. It was quite hot by then too, so I doused myself in copious amounts of sunscreen and then grabbed a new book and headed up to get some sun by the pool. I ordered a margarita because vacation, and read until I was too hot and had to take a dip in the pool.  I stayed there a while, then read a little more as I dried off.  I was tempted to stay out even longer, but reminded myself of the wicked sunburns I’d had and returned to the room to take a half hour break from the sun.  I set my timer and everything!  Then I let myself read on the verandah for another little while, though the sun was shining so I did have to be careful again.

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Pretty blue fish

Speaking of the verandah, I forgot to mention yesterday that DW had quite the experience on ours yesterday. She was reading on ours, angled to keep the sun from her eyes, when she glanced up and realised that she could see our neighbours reflected in the glass. Our very nude neighbours, as it were, since she had to ask herself “Is he wearing nude-coloured shorts?” followed by a quick “no! NO HE IS NOT”. It was more of a show than we got in Sint Maarten, and the beaches there are topless!

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Ships in the harbour

Once my time outside was done, I came in to cool off, then got ready for dinner. It was another gala night.  I got to wear one of my favourite dresses and felt lovely, though I didn’t get a picture and have since dressed down. The food was marvellous as usual.  I had a papaya with a rainbow of fruit to start, followed by what was supposed to be a roast parsnip soup. They brought me the chicken soup instead, and I didn’t want to send it back. It’s good for the remnants of my cold, anyway.  My entrée was veal with mashed potatoes and little balls of zucchini and a little roasted Brussel sprout. For dessert? Flourless chocolate cake. It was all so divine I let myself have a second glass of Prosecco.  Then it was back to the room where we chatted with one of our stewards for a bit as he was still finishing our towel gorilla, hanging from a picture frame at the moment. Then it was more reading on the verandah.  Tomorrow is the last day, with a morning at Half Moon Cay, a private island on the Bahamas. Hopefully it won’t be too windy for our snorkeling excursion. I am hope for one more day of fish pictures!  But whatever tomorrow brings, I’m sure it will be good things. So goodnight until then!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 3, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #6

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A very good view to wake up to!

Well, it was a gorgeous, wonderful day today in Sint Maarten, and I am tired and blissful just thinking about it.  It was an earlier start today than yesterday, since our shore excursion had a 9:15 meet up time, which meant DW and I had to get up at seven to have enough time for her yoga and my furniture rearrangement, breakfast, then getting ready to go. I woke up a little earlier than that because it was a bit rocky and I needed some time on the verandah to recalibrate, and so caught a beautiful rainbow as we sailed into Philipsburg. I had a light breakfast of fruit and a tiny teacup of muesli to start with my coffee and orange juice.  I wasn’t really ready for breakfast quite so close to having woken up, but I knew I needed to eat before heading off the boat for our adventure. I also had a sticky bun because delicious things are easier to eat even when you aren’t feeling particularly hungry, and Holland America’s are very, very good.

 

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The remains of a helicopter beneath the waves.

Our shore excursion had us getting off a very long pier with many cruise ships anchored to it, then heading to a large catamaran where we motored to our first location.  There were at least 60 people on our tour, so the first location, a snorkeling spot, was a bit crowded where the fish were, but it was still very cool.  One guide told us there we could see a sunken ship, cannonballs, and a helicopter.  We thought he was joking about the helicopter, but lo and behold, there on the bottom it was!  I’m very glad to have a camera that works above and underwater now. My snorkeling shots have improved quite a bit from the tiny, cheap one that ate batteries like candy I picked up in Hawaii years ago. That one could barely zoom and only help about 70 photos, of which maybe 10% were usable.  My Nikon AW1, however, is awesome and lots of fun to take in the water, even though people keep telling me they hope it is waterproof as I step into the sea.

 

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After finishing up at the snorkel spot, they hoisted the mast and we sailed up the coast for a while. I had a glass of rum punch, but just the one since I learned how strong rum punch is the hard way in Aruba, as we made our way to the second location, a lovely beach.  The guides moored the Golden Eagle and one made his way to shore with a cooler of drinks in the zodiac. I didn’t go all the way to shore but instead chose to float around in the ocean since it was so wonderful. Occasionally I drifted close enough to shore to feel the sand beneath my toes, but mostly I was just content to drift until it was time to head back to the ship. Once on board, we got sandwiches and more rum punch (which I let myself have another half glass of because I had a sandwich) and then a cup of sparkling wine.  I put a wrap around my shoulder so I wouldn’t burn and watched the sailboats. There were a lot on the water, and will be three times as many tomorrow, as it is the start of a race that lasts through until Sunday.  Basically it was pretty glorious.  The tour guides were great, too, and pretty funny. While we were making our way back to the boat, we came across a large raft shaped like a flamingo, adrift at sea. Not only did they slow the boat to rescue the giant floating, when he pulled it aboard, the guide pretended it attacked him, while another called out “dinner tonight”.

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One of the many sailboats on the water today.

Once back at the docks, DW headed back to the boat right away because she needed to use the rest rooms, while I had to stop in the duty free shop to replace my sunglasses, as a rim had snapped and the lens fell out. It meant I saw a chicken and her chicks just wandering freely, though! I didn’t linger long by the shops, though, as it was nearly time to sail again, and I was pretty hungry (the sandwich was just a small ham and cheese snack size). I ate in the Lido then went back to the room to shower off some of the salt and sunscreen while DW got a little more sun on the top deck. I say some, because even though I had a long shower and scrubbed twice with the soap, the stuff is hanging right in there in some spots.  I’m going to need a good exfoliating scrub when I get home, that’s for sure!

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Our towel creature of unknown species.

I did the trivia thing once again, reading in the Crow’s Nest and taking advantage of happy hour to have two glasses of sparkling Moscato while I read and waited for it to begin. The questions were harder today, but I still knew a few and felt useful.  Then it was time to drift downstairs and change for dinner, since DW and I have to get there before six if we are going to eat in the dining room, which we wanted to do.

It was much busier tonight than it has been, so DW and I didn’t get to eat alone this time, but we ended up sitting with a lovely and charming couple of 59 years, Bob and Carol.  We talked books instead of politics, and heard fun stories about when Bob’s grandfather was being taught to drive by his son in the twenties, and when he was told to stop, pulled on the steering wheel and said “Whoa!”. It was a delightful time, and the food was great too. I had a tuna carpaccio to start, with a steak salad (the steak perfectly done) as my entrée. I chose a strawberry shortcake for dessert which the waiter said he didn’t really recommend as it was just basically a “biscuit and whipped cream and strawberries.”  I think he has no idea what he was missing, because the cake part was perfect, the whipped cream a Chantilly cream that set off the strawberries perfectly, and basically it was everything strawberry shortcake should be.

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Needle nosed fishes!

After dinner, I wrote and mailed some postcards, lost a little more money at the casino ($10 only, I play more to kill time), then got a free piece of art randomly as I was walking back to my room. The art is… something else.  Jenny and Sean, if you are reading (and if I’m recalling whose story this belongs to correctly), it’s no three wolf moon, but it is definitely interesting.  Someone may get it in their stocking for Christmas, is all I’m saying.  Back at the room, I was greeted by our towel animal of the day.  DW and I aren’t sure what it is – perhaps a lobster or some kind of fish? – but it is pretty cute. Feel free to tell me what you think it is, if the picture conjures up a name! It also came with googly eyes like our elephant. I’m not sure what our stewards think of us, but I hope we are amusing them, because I stuck the first set to our mirror and now DW has put the new set above our peephole. Basically, we’re having a lot of fun.  Tomorrow is a sea day for us, so probably sun (though not too much for me, since I’m doing so well with the not burning and want to keep it that way!) and sleep and reading, reading, reading.  I’m looking forward to it, as today was wonderful, but all that fresh air and swimming against the current has made me a tired starfish!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 2, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #5

It’s the end of another day of my Caribbean adventure, and another day well spent.  Our ship arrived in Puerto Rico this afternoon, which meant DW and I could have a leisurely morning.  We didn’t get out of bed until nearly nine o’clock, and if breakfast were indefinitely available, I’m not certain either of us would have gotten out of bed even that early. It’s vacation, and we are enjoying the slow pace.

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A little taste of what my day had in store, from the El Yunque observation tower!

My coughing has improved somewhat, which my ribs are thankful for, considering the way they’ve been taxed over the past couple of weeks, and notably eating isn’t really triggering them anymore.  It made my English breakfast of fried toast with scrambled eggs and beans with cooked tomato and mushroom that much more delicious. Of course, I forwent the traditional tea with my breakfast in favour of coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, which tastes way better than the carton OJ I get at home. I don’t care what the commercials say, carton orange juice is not nearly the same.

After breakfast, we read on our verandah for a while. It’s definitely an upgrade I’m glad we made, and not only because it is good to have a convenient place to keep an eye on the horizon when the seas are stormy and I’m feeling queasy. DW was considering booking a last minute shore excursion, but decided to explore on her own in the end.  So as we docked, she made her way off the boat while I finished getting ready for my rainforest drive.

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I’m very glad that I decided to change my booking from the hike to the drive, as neither my lungs nor my ankle were up for anything too strenuous today.  I turned my ankle badly at roller derby a while back, from which it hasn’t fully recovered, and a rogue wave in Fort Lauderdale knocked my foot around and didn’t help matters.  I was, however, up for the drive to El Yunque rainforest, with Tour Coop and wonderful driver and guide Mitzi. She was very informative as we drove the fifty minutes through old San Juan, then the newer metropolis of San Juan, into Carolina. The bus was air conditioned though it was still a bit warm, and the swaying curves of the road combined with my motion sickness medication meant I was close to napping on the way up. Fortunately I managed to perk up after a few minutes outside at our first stop, the visitor’s centre at the rainforest where you could use the restroom, then head off for a short trail through the rainforest that took you in a winding circle.

It was nice to be in the lush green, surrounded by tall trees with the light glowing through, birds unseen high in the trees though heard in their lovely songs, with a murmur of wind.  I did see some birds, however; a couple of crowing roosters and at least one hen scratching her way through the leaves. There were signs that identified some of the fauna, and Mitzi had pointed out some of the local plants as well on the way to the visitor’s centre, like the trees with orange flowers called African tulips and the red ginger, now in bloom. The signs also pointed out some of the wildlife one might see while walking through the rainforest, including the Puerto Rican boa, if I recall the name correctly. Sadly, I didn’t see one, though I will be examining my photos closely just in case. I really love snakes!

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My little lizard friend

Though I didn’t see any snakes, just as I was heading back to the bus, I did manage to spot a lizard, which made me very happy.  I thanked him for popping out for a picture before I made my way back to the bus.  As the doors closed behind us, the rain began to lightly fall, though it stopped by the time we got to our next stop, the observation tower.

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The observation tower

Looming up like a castle above the trees (and at a high enough elevation my ears still haven’t unplugged), the tower gives you a near-panoramic view of the rainforest, blocked only on one side by the mountain peak. You can even see the coast, though it was a little hard through the clouds today!  The climb was a little daunting considering my cold, but I did it anyway and was so glad I did, even though the rain made the steps a bit slippery in places.

After taking pictures at the observation tower, we went to one last stop, which was a beautiful set of waterfalls, perhaps even the ones I would have swam in the bottom of had I made the hike. Still, I got to take lovely pictures in the rain – rain in the rainforest, what a treat! – since it began coming down a little more in earnest (though I wouldn’t quite call it heavy). I imagine the hike would have been in the rain, too, which might have kept hikers cool if they didn’t wear a rain jacket, but might have made for slicker terrain to navigate.  All in all, I was very pleased with my day.

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Also pleased with the day was DW, who ventured off on her own even though it made her a bit nervous.  She found a visitor’s centre nearly right away, and they gave her a map of old San Juan and some suggestions of where she might explore.  She made her way between two old fortresses, found a place called Pigeon’s Park with a gazillion of the namesake bird, and had sorbet that she practically had to drink, it melted so quickly. After about three hours, she made her way back to the boat to cool off in the pool, then slathered herself in sunscreen to get her tan on. Of course, this is when it went overcast.  Good thing she has lots to spare!

Since I’d only had my late breakfast, I was pretty hungry by the time the tour was over, so made my way back to the ship as well.  Had the port been close to a beach, I might have stayed out a little longer, but it is mostly shops I had no interest in buying things from, so I went back to the room.  DW was just getting ready for dinner as well, so I quickly rinsed the bug spray and sunscreen off in the shower and dressed for dinner in the dining room, since DW was up for joining me. We got to sit just the two of us again and share our day, so I won’t even hold the “oh, there ARE two of you!” against the host.  DW found it pretty funny.

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I ate turkey, but this is a crowing rooster in the rainforest. Because why not?

Dinner was delicious as ever.  I treated myself to two of the appetizer/soup/salad course because I’d skipped lunch.  A goat cheesecake and a mixed berry chilled soup.  I had a turkey course with an apple stuffing, root veggies and Brussel’s sprouts, and believe it or not it was the Brussel’s sprouts that made that decision.  I do like them and I guess they were calling me.  For dessert, I had a whiskey chocolate cake. It was an excellent decision.  After dinner, I killed a little time in the casino, in part because it was a non-smoking night, and I wanted to show my support for keeping things smoke-free (even though when I cough right now I sound like a thirty-year veteran chain smoker). I was prepared to lose $10 and only lost $5 (and killed some time while I was at it!), so I’m calling that a win. And when I came back, the room had been turned down so I have a swan on my bed.

Tomorrow’s excursion starts a little earlier, so I’ll sign off for now. I’m looking forward to more fun in the sun tomorrow. It’s supposed to be up to 28 degrees, so the sail and then beach time should hit the spot.  Until tomorrow!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 1, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #4

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One of the fish I “caught” with my camera today.

Greetings from somewhere on the ocean, between Grand Turk and San Juan. I’ve had a day of fun in the sun, gotten a little colour on my face, and happily managed to follow my sunscreen and coverage regime closely enough that while I have a patch of pink here and there, so far I’m not lying in bed slathered in aloe and regretting all my life choices.

Today was a shore excursion day, as our boat docked in to Grand Turk sometime around 8:00 a.m. this morning. Of course that doesn’t mean that DW and I were running off the boat at that hour; rather, since our excursion wasn’t set for close to noon, we let ourselves wake up at our own pace (with an alarm for nine, just in case). DW did her morning yoga on our verandah (despite the distractions that come with a docking) while I took the time to shower and dress for the day, plus I moved the beds around.  DW and I have taken to shifting the room a little more at night so the beds are even further apart, in the hopes of sparing her my cold.  It means that there’s less room to navigate between the end of my bed and the closet, so we push things back into place every morning so the stewards aren’t inconvenienced by our eccentricities.

After we were both ready to go, we made our way upstairs for breakfast.  It was still a little too close to wakeup time for me to truly enjoy my eggs, bacon and hash browns, but believe me, food is not lacking on this boat at all.

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The bride dances barefoot with her new husband.

After breakfast, we packed our backpacks for the day and sprayed ourselves silly with sunscreen, then disembarked to stroll the beach at the port until our excursion time. The water is so blue, expanses of cerulean that can hardly be believed even when in front of your eyes. The sand was beautiful too, mostly a soft, fine grain that DW compared to baby powder, though every now and again there was a patch of newer sand that was tiny shells beneath our feet. We made our way back to the end of the port to find our shore excursion a bit early, mostly because I was melting and in need of shade. I’m glad we did, because while we were hanging out listening to the live musician, we got to witness a newlywed couple come off the beach from their wedding and spontaneously decide to have their first dance there, to the sound of the musician playing Caribbean songs.

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I pet this shark!  I’m very brave!

After that beautiful bit of romance, it was soon time for our Snorkel and Sting Ray excursion. We were on a small tour, only about 20 of us on the boat operated by Chukka Tours.  Our crew was Captain Stumpy (yes, that was embroidered on his shirt, I checked), Romeo and Derek, who took us to a lovely bit of reef where I tried out the underwater capabilities of my camera in something other than a dip below the surface at the Boston Aquarium. I am in need of practice yet, as the screen is hard to see with foggy goggles underwater and my aim is off (I managed a picture of half of DW underwater, for example), but I still got some nice shots and I’m sure more will come.

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Me holding up a stingray like a pizza!

Once our time at the reef was over, we made our way from the reef so a small cove with more of that soft sand and plenty of stingrays to play with.  I love the way they feel and how they curl around my feet like curious kittens.  I also got to hold two of them, got a “back massage” from one, and kissed one for a supposed 7 years of good luck.  I still lost the four dollars I played at the slots in the casino tonight, so it remains to be seen whether it will work.  As for being a fool for kissing the ray?  I don’t feel sadly about it, not when DW witness one guide kiss his “little buddy” goodbye and say thank you when he thought no one was watching.  Plus how else is the ray supposed to know I love him?

Once back on the boat, I made my way to trivia again.  I played with one of the couples I’d joined yesterday, and another three people. We didn’t win, but we did do better than yesterday with a total of ten correct.  It was happy hour in the bar, so I tried a Naugh-Tai and got a second for $2.  There was much rum and pineapple juice. It was pretty tasty, and I’m not just saying that because of all the alcohol!

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Our towel elephant!

After that, I made my way back to the room to finally shower off some of the salt water.  My hair up so it was hard to tell how bad it was, but I could feel the salt on my skin when I touched my eyebrows.  Fortunately a couple of shampoos and soapings seemed take care of that.  DW wasn’t feeling the dining room tonight so I went on my own and did end up sharing a table. It was neat though, because it was a couple from Indiana and another from Edmonton, which is the closest to home DW and I have ever found on our cruises.  I skipped the drink with dinner this round since I figured the rum I’d had earlier was enough, and had a duck pate for my appetizer and a veal on corn polenta for my entrée. Of course I couldn’t resist the coconut rum cake with coconut ice cream for dessert!  All very delicious.

I meandered my way back to the room via the shops where I picked up insect repellent for tomorrow’s excursion, since they say on the ticket to bring it and better safe than malaria, then through the casino (goodbye, four dollars). Then I sat on the verandah with DW a while, longer than we might normally have because our room time has meant we’ve turned down turn down, and we kind of wanted the extra towels.  Our efforts to stay on the balcony paid off, as we got our towel animal; today, an elephant.  Tomorrow we don’t pull into San Juan until noon, so I suspect it will be a nice leisurely morning for DW and me.  I’m looking forward to another day’s adventures!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | February 28, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #3

You may have noticed I didn’t post an entry yesterday; I could blame this on my refusal to spring for the internet, but while the expense is playing a role in how I do my blog entries (in Word first, pictures selected and resized in advance, et cetera), I’m afraid yesterday had its own challenges that prevented my writing at all.

Yesterday was our last at the Margaritaville, and the night of sleep was, to say the least.  Since we couldn’t find earplugs for DW, I took a generous dose of Nyquil and tried to keep my coughing down with losanges. Between the lack of sleep from the coughing and medication in my system, I woke up feeling absolutely wretched. Taking a dose of Dayquil to fix it turned out to be a very wrong decision, making me feel anxious and didn’t help with the coughing either. DW ended up going to breakfast without me so I could lie down a bit longer, which helped.  She also brought me a croissant to nibble on, which I wasn’t sure I could manage, but it turned out to be really helpful.  So was the large peppermint tea I picked up at the hotel coffee shop afterward, since it did more in terms of soothing my throat.

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Sailing away from Fort Lauderdale!

After killing some time in the lobby, we got a cab and headed for Port Everglades, where the Nieuw Amsterdam was waiting for its guests to board. Thank goodness we took at cab and didn’t try to drive ourselves, as the Port is very large and extremely confusing!  By then, I was feeling much better, though a bit nervous that my persistent cough was going to keep me from sailing.  Since I haven’t had a fever, however, there was no issue. I didn’t even have to see the nurse!  The wait to board was kind of funny, too; we were given a boarding number to go in a group when called, and the attendant kept having to repeat that she was calling “numbers to 28 first, then letters”.  She even sang the alphabet at one point.

Once we boarded, we had some lunch (a bit chaotic, since everyone seems to go right as they board), then DW explored a bit while I started unpacking, since my luggage had arrived first.  Then it was the mandatory safety drill. We did a bit of wandering and I switched out one of my shore excursions as neither my bum ankle nor my poor lungs were proving to be up to the strenuous hike I’d booked, then finished putting my clothes away.  DW wasn’t interested in the dining room dinner, so I pulled on a dress and headed there myself. I got asked at least four times if I was waiting for another party when I was brought to my shared, but at least the table attendant wasn’t trying to make pity conversation to a lone diner, which was DW’s experience.

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The blue, blue water.

The dinner company was lovely, as was the food. I had a chilled guava and passionfruit soup, followed by the snapper with a fruit salsa on top, with rice pilaf and corn.  I don’t usually go for fish, but I wanted to try the snapper. It was fairly good, but I couldn’t finish nor could I order dessert, as the waters were fairly choppy and even though I’d taken motion sickness medication before we boarded, it just wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling suddenly queasy.  I tried a little peppermint tea but in the end had to head back to the room to take another Bonine and lie down.  Perhaps it was the pills that may cause drowsiness, perhaps it was the ongoing cold, perhaps it was a combo of the above, but that was my evening from before seven o’clock had even rolled around.  I dozed in my dress in bed before finally changing into pyjamas and calling it a night.

Sleep, however, is a good remedy, because today there’s been some marked improvement.  I’m still coughing but it’s less of a dry, hacking cough (though my ribs are incredibly sore from coughing so hard), and while I did have to contend with some seasickness this morning, after some time on our Verandah keeping an eye on the horizon, I was able to go for a late breakfast with DW. It was a sea day today, and there were some squalls, so I bought myself some sea bands that do acupressure on the wrists, plus some herbal stuff to put behind the ears. I wasn’t taking any risks.  Then DW and I headed back to our balcony to read for a bit.  I also went up alone and participated in the group trivia, and showed myself worthy by knowing the first question right off the bat. They were looking for the book first called “First Impressions”, and this former English major knows it was one of my favourites, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”.

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Signs of an afternoon well spent.

I went back to the room after that, and bumped into DW who was coming back from having grabbed lunch.  We went up to the Lido deck together after changing into swimsuits to sun, and I grabbed a yummy sandwich (portabello with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and arugula with garlic aioli) and a dessert (deep fried bananas sprinkled with cinnamon sugar) before finishing my book in the sun. I jumped in the pool even though it was quite windy, which turned out to be a bit cold, so I made my way to a hot tub for a bit, which proved a better decision.  As I was heading back to dry out, the alarm sounded and our mandatory drill listening skills were put to the test. As said in the drill yesterday, incidents are usually contained by the first response team, which was the case here. The captain didn’t have to send us to the staterooms to dress warmly and get our PFDs (stage two) and no one went to the muster station. That didn’t stop our hearts from leaping into our chests at first, but considering the steel drum lessons below us never faltered, we were not too worried. Of course now we have the same song stuck in our heads over and over, but what can you do.

After drying off a bit, DW decided she was up for coming to the dining room even though it was a gala night, so we went to our rooms to change. It turned out to be a pretty awesome decision when we got there and they asked if we wanted to share or sit by ourselves.  We somehow managed to refrain from vigorously high-fiving at that.  I’m sure many guests are lovely, but lovelier is not having to repeat where we are from and what we do for a living ad nauseum, plus there was absolutely no danger of politics coming up.  The dinner was fabulously delicious, too, especially since I didn’t feel awful this time.  For the appetizer course both DW and I had pineapple with toasted coconut and drizzled with honey.  DW ate a salad for the next course, and I had a chicken soup in the hopes of helping get rid of more of this cold. For the main course, DW had a truffle and mushroom risotto while I had the duck with broccoli, fig, and a corn-cranberry pudding.  Amazing.  Even more amazing? Making it to the dessert course, where we both had the lemon meringue cheesecake.

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Sunset with a whisper of moon and a shining star (or Venus, probably).

After dinner, we changed into warmer clothes to catch the last of the sunset on the deck. It took some manoeuvring; you’d think after three cruises, DW or I would have a better idea of where we were going, but you’d think wrong. We went up first, then realised all the restaurants were in the prime sunset spots, went down to four only to realise that three – the place we’d done our emergency drill – was the one we wanted to be on. We got some nice photos before heading back inside out of the wind.  Neither DW nor I was interested in the shows or other goings on tonight, so we’ve called it a night. Tomorrow is a day off ship and a snorkel adventure. I’m looking forward to trying my camera out underwater and getting some (hopefully) good shots to share tomorrow!  Until then!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | February 26, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #2

Today started out a bit roughly, though it turned out with good outweighing the bad.  I’m suffering the tail end of a cold, and while I’m feeling much improved in the long run, the hacking cough is lingering.Despite Buckley’s pills, the chest-shaking cough has been waking me up at night. Worst yet, it kept DW up as well. I’ve purchased more cough drops and liquid NyQuil, which has a history of working better for me, so hopefully tonight will be more restful for the both of us.

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This bird hung out with us at breakfast. As per the sign, we did not feed him. The delightful baby seated next to us, however, is another story.

Despite the rough morning, DW and I still felt like each other’s company for breakfast, albeit a bit later than originally planned for, and this turned out to be an excellent choice.  We went to a place called Giorgio’s, which has a sit-down breakfast as well as an attached bakery. DW and I both had the veggie omelettes, which came with a delicious roll. Also there was fresh-squeezed orange juice, which is leaps and bounds ahead of anything in the grocery store at home. Florida really knows what it is doing when it comes to orange juice.

After breakfast, we decided to make it a beach day. DW and I put on our swimsuits and grabbed our sunscreen and books and made our way to the activities desk at the hotel, where we picked up beach towels – two each! – and got wrist bands to get our beach chairs.  The most exciting part? They came with an umbrella, which meant I had shade from the sun in between bouts in the ocean. Considering how badly I burn despite my stringent sunscreen regime, this made me very happy.  We spent the day getting warm in the sun, then cooling off in the ocean.  Also, there may have been a Ben and Jerry’s break.  My waffle cone was dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, and the Tonight Dough I chose as my flavour was an excellent one. I regret nothing, not even how fast I had to eat it because of the melt factor.

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Sun, sand and surf – an excellent way to spend an afternoon!

It was a bit windy in the later afternoon, though I still decided to go in the ocean with my waterproof camera to get some photos. I did get some nice ones of the beach, but I also got a nose full of salt water distracted by picture taking. I tried to get a picture of my feet underwater but the water was fairly churned up and it looked like nothing.  After that dip, with the sky a bit overcast and the wind going, plus my book read cover to cover, I decided to head inside to wash the salt water out of my hair and off my skin.  Then I chilled in the room until DW got chilled enough to come in too; having smartly decided not to venture in a third time, she was good to stay on the beach longer than me.

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The sunset view from our balcony.

We both read in the room for a bit after that, before heading back down the Broadwalk to the Taco Spot for dinner again.  Normally I don’t like eating at the same place twice in a row, but we knew it was good and had an excellent selection of vegetarian fare for DW. It did not disappoint. My white wine sangria was even yummier than yesterday (likely because there was even more melon in it), and this time we both ordered a taco combo.  It came with two tacos (chicken for me, bean for DW), rice and black beans, and a side of the most delicious corn on the cob I have ever eaten. There was not just butter on it, but parmesan cheese, pepper and salt, cilantro, and maybe garlic. I’m not quite sure of anything other than how incredibly happy it made me to eat it.

Tomorrow, we head out to the Port to get on our boat. It’s crept up so quickly, I feel almost nervous!  Hopefully with the NyQuil, both DW and I will get a good rest and I’ll be in even better shape tomorrow to enjoy everything. I don’t have chills or any symptoms beyond the irritated throat and lungs, but I sound like a barking seal, and that’s no good for anyone. So NyQuil, NyQuil, NyQuil and probably more fresh-squeezed orange juice for the vitamin C tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | February 25, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #1

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February is a good time to trade sealskin boots for flip flops!

Approximately nine months ago, the Dolphin Whisperer sent me an urgent text that Air Canada was having a seat sale, and asked if I would consider taking another cruise with her once February rolled around. It had been a gruelling winter for the both of us, as neither of us had managed a winter holiday to somewhere we could feel the sun on our skin and warm our bones, and both of us regretted it dreadfully even as April and (relatively) warmer weather was rolling around. So a couple of vacation requests to our respective bosses and a couple of credit card entries later, the two of us were booked on another cruise with Holland America bookended by a few days in Fort Lauderdale, where I’m writing from now. This time we’ll be sailing on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam; all of Holland America’s ships end with “dam”, one may recall,  hence the title I’ve given this set of entries.

 

Yesterday was a long day of travel for DW and me. It was three legs of flights to get from Yellowknife to Fort Lauderdale, with our first flight taking off at 6:00 a.m. This meant a 3:45 a.m. wake up call. Then it was a stop in Edmonton, a stop in Toronto, and finally arriving at our final stop at 11:00 p.m. The cab to our hotel felt a little like a fourth leg, too, as DW joked, with a bit of crazy traffic and a cab driver who talked on his cell phone the entire way to the hotel.

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The very comfy bed I’m sleeping in at the hotel.  

It’s a beautiful hotel, though; we are booked in at the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort Hotel, which was a bit of a splurge on our part. It’s a beautiful hotel right off the beach, with a couple of pools and restaurants and really comfortable beds.  Of course we couldn’t get into those really comfortable beds right away, as even though it was nearly midnight by the time we’d checked in, we were really hungry.  Given the hour, we had to order in room dining service, which unfortunately had a limited menu, particularly since DW is a vegetarian and her only option was a Caesar salad. I had that as well, as it sounded the most appealing. I think it is a bit funny that seafood kept being offered when we asked about vegetarian. Fish is still meat!

 

By the time we’d settled in and gone to bed, it was two in the morning. We set an alarm for ten so we wouldn’t sleep our day away. The beds, however, are so comfortable, it might even have been worth it. By the time we got up and at ’em, we’d passed the breakfast hour, so we started our day with the lunch menu. I decided not to start with a margarita as I felt that might be a Very Bad Idea.  Breakfast booze is one thing; before breakfast booze is quite another.  The pasta I had was quite good, and had lots of garlic – a good thing, since I’m fighting a winter cold I can’t seem to kick.

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We wandered a bit around the hotel to figure out where everything was, lattes in hand, after that, before heading to the St. Somewhere Spa, where we’d booked a side-by-side pedicure, which was on special for February. Our feet were scrubbed with a mix of brown sugar, coconut oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, which smelled heavenly and felt fantastic. Nails were trimmed, feet were filed, calves massaged, the whole works. I highly recommend the treatment, as does DW, who called it the best pedicure she’d ever had, and she didn’t even drink her complementary margarita, because they didn’t cheap out on the tequila at all and it tasted too strongly of it for her. I, however, drank mine and hers. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake on my part, because while it was gloriously delicious and I was very relaxed, between that and all the cucumber water I’d consumed, I had to leave my next treatment, the Tranquil Water body treatment, not once but twice in eighty minutes to use the bathroom.  Still worth it.  I was dry brushed and then my poor, thirsty skin had a body butter applied while muscles were massaged.  Absolutely blissful.

Purchasing treatments at the spa also gains you access to the jacuzzi and steam room, which I also made use of to complete my pampering.  By the time I left to meet up with DW, I was as languid as a cooked spaghetti noodle.  DW, in the meantime, had spent the rest of her afternoon in the sun and sand, exploring the Broadwalk of shops and cafes and whatnot just behind the hotel, when she wasn’t frolicking in the ocean. She found us a cute little taco place for dinner, called the Taco Spot, where we split some chips and guac and salsa, then she had a taco and I had a burrito.  The burrito was enormous, and for only $9!  Had I known, I wouldn’t have had any chips. I didn’t even eat my share and I still couldn’t finish the whole thing.  So tasty!  As was my white wine sangria. The fruit they put in it was cantaloupe and honeydew melon, which was really refreshing.

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We parted ways for a bit after dinner (though not before stocking up on sunscreen for the cruise).  Even though it was dark, I wanted to spend a little time with my feet in the ocean and I wanted to take pictures, which DW wanted to check out a free concert they had going on in an outdoor theatre on the Broadwalk right by our hotel.  I needed a little quiet first, so I padded out alone.

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Dancing with the energetic and awesome band!

It was mostly too dark for pictures and even the ones with flash are little off because of the light reflecting off the water in the air, but it was still nice to have my feet in the water, then I made my way back to where the band was playing after a while.

 

I only caught a few songs, but they were fantastic. I couldn’t find DW in the crowd, so kind of swayed to the music alone, my feet itching to dance but too shy to just join in.  Also, they were a bit sore since I’d been barefoot on skin only recently pumiced because I haven’t mastered flip-flops yet, so that cut things short.

Tomorrow I’m not sure what plans are, though I think mostly I am liking not having plans. Another day of rest before adventuring on a new side of the Caribbean.  I look forward to it, and to sharing more with you lovely readers! Stay safe out there!

 

 

 

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