Caribbean Cruise
Carl and Virginia
Dorothy and Ross
March 28th - April 4th, 2004
Saturday, March 27 - Enroute to San Juan via Miami
Our cruise began from Atlanta on American Airlines flight 1917 (S-80 or super MD-80), and then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico on flight 513 (B-757 - see left). The trip was relative uneventful until a crosswind landing at San Juan thanks to a recent rain squall. Arriving at 11 PM, we hassled with National Rental Car to upgrade to a vehicle that would hold four adults, six large bags, and carryons. Even with confusing directions, we made it to the Holiday Inn Express in the suburb of Condado (6 miles from the airport) where we fell into bed!!!
Sunday, March 28 - In San Juan and Boarding ship
We walked to a nearby chapel (Stella Maris) and lunched at Wendy's and Dunkin DoNuts (this is part of the USA), after discovering the beach. Concerned about returning rental car and finding our ship, we went early to board, but not before a short drive through old and new San Juan. Our ship was built in 1999, registered in the Bahamas, 848 feet in length, 105 feet in width (beam), 78,000 tons, all at over 20 knots (MPH). Truly gorgeous, it is really a floating luxury hotel, with a casino, swimming pool, five hot tubs, track, spa, many lounges and dining areas.
Our Hotel
Us at the hotel
A live oak
Condado beach
Carl on beach
Young girls at 8 AM
Beach at Marriott
Gate at Marriott
Carl again
Us at beach
Monday, March 29 - Island of St. Thomas
Departing the port of San Juan around midnight, we arrived at our first stop of St. Thomas, (home of both Blackbeard and Bluebeard) at 6 AM, our standard routine for the rest of the week. Distances between islands are small so we never went full speed. For example, the first night we only went about 60 miles, and, to add to our angst, there was a minor squall, with rain and rolling waves. Barely perceptible, it was a clue for Dorothy to apply her anti-nausea patch (Scopolamine)! Only 32 square miles, St. Thomas is one of the two large islands in the U.S.Virgin Islands (USVI), and St. John the other. The four of us (along with 4 others) joined a covered, guided tour of the island after contracting at the dock with the woman owner/operator (for $15 each) who took us up the mountains, to the beach, and to shopping. The USVI are US possessions, use our currency and postage stamps, but they drive on the left hand side of the road (British rules).
Our ship in harbor
Carl shooting the bay
Another view of harbor
Our van lady
Ross and infernal laptop
Life boat drill
Another proposal
A private beach
Tuesday, March 30 - Island of Antigua
This second island was larger, about 100 square miles, and gained its independence in 1981. The trip from St. Thomas was somewhat longer, 150 to 200 miles, taking 13 hours (6:30 PM to 7:30 AM) due to a ferocious head wind. A former British colony, Antigua has a local island currency (2.60 Caribbean dollars = $1 US), but here we contracted neither tour coach nor rental car. Instead, Carl and Ross did a walking tour of the city (also St. John's), its shops (many Lebanese/Syrians), and the Anglican cathedral (St. John the Divine). The people seemed to be the poorest of all the islands, and they tolerate raw sewage in the gutters of the street. By now, we had gained our "sea legs" and were surviving the beds, diet, and anti-bacterial hand washing at each reboarding. However, Virginia became ill, and was diagnosed with a sinus infection and bronchitis by a young, handsome, blue-eyed doctor. We were never sure whether he was really the official ship's doctor, but after her examination, antibiotics, and an invitation to revisit, she seemed to perk up! Of course, a margarita also worked wonders!!!!
The port of St. John's
Stained glass windows
The cathedral and street
Our ship in harbor
Main dining room
Bow of our ship
Under way
The stern of the ship
The side of our ship
D&R at dinner
D&R coming aboard
As we'll remember her ...
The Jolly Roger, party sloop
Wednesday, March 31 - Island of Martinique
The farthest from home and closest to the Equator (and South America) that we went, Martinique is also the largest island we visited (in excess of 100 sq. miles) and remains a French possession; i.e., they adhere to French law and pay tax to France. Carl and Ross joined 4 other people (2 from Quebec and 2 Chinese-Americans from DC) in the port city of Fort de France in a taxi minivan. It was driven by Pierre Julians, a delightful guide who spoke both French and English, having lived in the US and Europe. Virginia and Dorothy remained onboard, talking, resting, reading, eating, and attending craft classes. The main attractions were the church of the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart), a banana plantation, a rain forest of mahogany, a sugar cane farm and mill, and a few fishing villages (with stalls selling steaks from 6-foot blue Marlins at 8 Euros per kilo, or $ 5/lb). Of course, the beaches had not white but black (volcanic) sand, and topless people!!! We also saw the Pitons (large peaks) and Mont Pelee, a huge (4500 ft.) volcano that destroyed the island in 1902, leaving only one survivor out of 30,000 in the coastal town of Saint-Pierre!!
The bay of Fort de France
Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart)
Dome of Sacre Couer
Pierre's van
The pitons (peaks)
Banana trees
The volcano of Mt. Pelee
A fishing village
Private pool
Yachts in harbor
Carl on deck
The town
The bay
The ship's pool
Dawn Princess at dusk
The "box" craft class
A private beach
Thursday, April 1 - Island of St. Martin
After travelling the longest distance of our trip (some 247 miles) at top speed, we came to Saint-Martin (French upper half) or Sint-Maarten (Dutch lower half) which was by far the cleanest and neatest with a wonderful air of Dutch efficiency. We rented a car (a Suburu 4-door sedan, greatly under-powered) in the port of Phillipsburg (with its Front and Back Streets), and all four of us toured the island. We spent about 3 1/2 hours driving the perimeter, a distance of some 50 miles. One highlight was the international airport that is barely long enough for big jets and "island hoppers" (propeller planes), and whose approach is across a small beach with warnings that the jet wash can knock people over. Another was the beach town of Marigot (pronounced "Mar-ee-go") where there was an authentic French patisserie. After lunch Carl and Ross tested the waters of the Antilles . They initially tried the Atlantic (right) side of the island, but quickly discovered that the current and undertow made swimming there almost impossible. So they returned to the Caribbean side and a beach that fronted a condominium (Belair Hotel, a la Residence Inn) that cost $350 per night and up for a minimum stay of a one week.
Dawn Princess docking
... still docking
...... almost there ...
The beach
The Belair Beach Condo
British cruise ship
Busy dock
Sign at top of the hill
We're looking at ...
... yacht in the bay
D&R in St. Martin
Carl at resort
Me in water

NOTE: The smaller islands are the Lesser Antilles, and the larger islands of Cuba, Dominican Republic/Haiti, and Puerto Rico make up the Greater Antilles!
Friday, April 2 - Island of Tortola
On this trip, we traveled only about 50 miles and went no faster than 5 knots. One of the crew explained that the ship could stay in dock only a prescribed amount of time as they were charged for docking and length of stay. Our fifth and final island was Tortola, the smallest of our cruise but the largest in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Carl rented a Tracker from Hertz in the port city of Roadtown, and he and Virginia toured the western end of the island in the morning. Again, British road rules! We typically came back to the ship for lunch as prices in the towns were high. Dorothy and Ross found an Internet Cafe next to a washeteria, so they were both thrilled - washing clothes while emptying overflowing email boxes. In the PM, Carl and Ross toured the eastern end going to the airport on Beef Island (separated by a "toll" bridge) and returning along Ridge Road, the spine with a view of both the north (beautiful Atlantic beaches) and south (where our ship was docked) coasts. This port could accommodate only two large cruise ships like ours (up to four ships or more were docked at other ports). Two other ships at this dock were from the "My Travel" fleet, a British company, and the Princess line. The latter ship had a similar itinerary, and was the one we were originally scheduled to take (the Dawn Princess). As it followed us from St. Martin, arriving later, had to tie up in the middle of the harbor and use tenders (smaller boats) to ferry passengers back and forth.
Ships in harbor
This is the life
Dot in flea market
Dot at age 18
Lunch on the fantail
Island hopper landing
Marriott Resort
Squaw ran out of money
That fish ...
The bay
A salt bay
A rocky bay
A gorgeous cove
Great Atlantic view
The harbor
Saturday, April 3
Our last day of the cruise was called a "Day at Sea," and although San Juan was only about 50 miles away, we sailed at 6 PM (Friday) and did not dock until 6 AM (Sunday). Thus, we spent the final 36 hours of the cruise in a long, slow return to San Juan from the island of Tortola. One of the crew admitted that this was a way for us to spend more money on the ship ($ 1.75 for a coke and $ 3.50 for a beer)! The ship left Roadtown and moved southeast toward St. Croix, beginning a CCW loop of the entire island of Puerto Rico, a distance of 360 miles at an average speed of 10 knots. We initially went west past the city of Ponce, then north past the city of Mayaguez, and finally east past Arecibo to the port of San Juan. The navigation and control system of this ship is totally computerized, so that speeding up or slowing down is without human intervention. The weather for this period was perfect; i.e., little wind, calm sea, and temperatures in the high eighties.
Waiting for show to begin
... at the jewelry store
The atrium - view 1
View 2
View 3
The ship deck plans
Reception area
Deck forward
The ship stack
Upper structure
Alex d'Souza and me
The deck aft
Sunday, April 4
Back through the narrow channel into San Juan harbor, we had to go through Immigration (passports) and Customs (drug and plant/seed sniffing dogs), and we took a mini-van taxi back to our original Holiday Inn. It was our only overcast day, with intermittent sprinkles. We returned to the chapel of Stella Maris for the long Palm Sunday service, and in the afternoon, Carl and Ross took a cab to old San Juan and the Spanish fort of El Morro. Now a part of the the US Park Service, it closed shortly after they arrived, but they managed to take a few photos before touring old San Juan and the cathedral of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). El Morro (thick walls and moats)allowed the Spanish to retain control of Puerto Rico for centuries from British, French, and Dutch attacks until the US gained possession after the Spanish-American War.
The Dawn Princess
The port of San Juan
Cruise ship behind ours
The dock in San Juan
Old San Juan
El Morro
Shrines in San Juan Bautista
The fort of El Morro
Monday, April 5
The return home began with a cab ride to the airport, and then the slightly over two-hour flight to Miami aboard American Airlines flight 1600 (AirBus 300) and then on to Atlanta (after a one-hour "potty" repair delay) on flight 2070 (again S-80). An interesting observation on the over-water portion of the trip (it was dark on the way down, hence we only saw lights) was that the Bahamas are an enormous chain of islands, probably stretching for more than 500 miles, half of the distance between Miami and San Juan. Carl and Ross identified many islands, particularly Provenciales, Georgetown, and Nassau, prior to the landing in Miami over Miami Beach and the Bay of Biscayne.
Two vagabonds
It was this big ...
They went "thataway"
Dorothy and Virginia
Boarding for Miami
Ross and Dorothy
Carl and Virginia