Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Caribbean Cruise - Fort Lauderdale - Day 21 - 1/7/2013

Getting off the ship was quick and easy.  We picked up our bags in the port terminal, went through customs, and got on our excursion bus within no more than 20 minutes.  We will take a tour of Fort Lauderdale in the morning and then the bus will transfer us to the airport for our flight home.  The flight is at 4:45 pm so we have plenty of time.  We don't enjoy airports much but we like to leave plenty of time to get checked in as settled at our gate before the flight.  We had a leisurely lunch at the airport Chili's.

As for the tour, we had been in Fort Lauderdale a number of times before but we got to see parts of the city on this tour that we couldn't have seen before.  I didn't realize it but Fort Lauderdale has hundreds of miles of "fingers" connected by water ways.  It is referred to as the "Venice" of America.  You can't see the "fingers" without getting on a boat.

Of course, property in this part of the city is very expensive and there are many "rich and famous" people who have homes here.  I am not going to try to list every one mentioned on the tour but the number of recognizable names was long.  There are also many "entreprenures" with homes here with names that you would not recognize.  You would recognize the product or service that made them wealthy.  When they talk about house prices here, it in 10's of millions of dollars.  The same for the yachts.

Here are photos of the homes and waterways of Fort Lauderdale.

This yacht has a tender yacht that travels with it.  The tender carries all the water toys like speed boats, jet skis, etc.  It also has a helicopter pad on the stern.  You can see both boats in the photo.

Steven Spielberg's yacht was so big that we couldn't get the whole thing in one photo.  His yacht cost $260 million to custom build.  It looks more like a naval destroyer than it does a yacht.  If Mitt Romney (the much maligned rich "out of touch" guy) sold everything he had, he couldn't afford to buy Spielberg's yacht.  Everything is relative.

One of the fastest yachts in the world.

Christmas decorations still on display at one home.

And so the cruise comes to an end.  Sigrid and I have "been there and done that" in the Caribbean.  We will not return.  There are too many other places in the world that we haven't been and too many others that are much nicer.  We prefer the Pacific Islands and are overdue for Hawaii.

Caribbean Cruise - Half Moon Cay - Day 20 - 1/6/2013

We didn't do much of anything on Half Moon Cay other than shop and eat lunch.  We took no photos because they would look just like the ones from earlier in the cruise.  If you would like to see the posting for our first stop on the Cay, click on the link:


Sigrid did take a few sunrise photos.

Tomorrow is Fort Lauderdale and the end of the cruise.

Caribbean Cruise - At Sea (Grand Turk) - Day 19 - 1/5/2013

The fact that we are at sea today doesn't mean that nothing is going on.

In the morning, we had a Karaoke contest.  The participants were passengers on the ship as opposed to any of the professional performers from the crew.  Sigrid and I only caught the last few minutes of the show.  These two guys had no talent so they went for an American Idol style gimmick by dressing as women.

This young girl had a fantastic voice.

The contestants await the decision of the audience for a winner.  As it turns out, the little kid won due in part to having a very large and vocal family group in the audience.  We didn't see him perform so we don't know if he was a legitimate winner or not.

 After the contest came the disembarking presentation.  You have to have all your large luggage packed and sitting outside of your cabin by midnight the night before you leave the ship.  They move the luggage off the ship where you pick it back up before going through customs.  This save much time and congestion since people don't have to drag the bags around the ship as they leave.  The Cruise Director does caution you to not get too aggressive with your packing.  I guess some people have packed everything including the clothes they needed to wear the next morning.  According to the Director, it isn't much fun looking for your luggage off the ship while wearing a shower curtain.

After the presentation, the Director introduced the crew of the ship who performed a goodbye show.  Below are the culinary crew members complete with utensils they used as musical instruments.

The professional performers were last on stage to sing for us.

The Vista Show Lounge.

Later in the day, a passenger suffered a medical emergency of some sort so we had to get him to a place where he could be taken for more extensive medical care.  The ship does have a doctor on board and a fairly nice sick bay, but I guess the passengers needs went beyond what was available on the ship.  The closest island from our location was Grand Turk.  We got there in a couple of hours but had to wait until the medi-vac plane arrived on the island.  It was nearly dark before we got under way again.  We are headed back to Half Moon Cay for another day in the sun or, in our case, the last chance to by a T-shirt.

Caribbean Cruise - St. Thomas - Day 18 - 1/4/2013

St. Thomas was originally owned by the Danes.  They founded the port of Charlotte Amalie where we are docked.  Sugar cane was very profitable at that time and the island had over 170 plantations.  When the Panama Canal was opened, the U. S. wanted a base from which it could protect the Canal so it bought St. Thomas from the Danes for $25 million.  The island has been self governing since 1931 and it has the highest standard of living in the West Indies (Caribbean).  There is no doubt that it is the cleanest island we visited during the entire cruise.

A new day, a new rainbow.

The rainbow was so intense that it looked like it could burn a hole in the ship.

Very pretty!

  The Noordam in the distance.

Our driving tour used open air buses.

Megan's Bay....one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.

Looking for food in Megan's Bay.  The birds put on a great show for us by repeatedly diving into the water to get fish.

Getting the toes wet.  This is Sigrid's fifth different ocean, sea, gulf, etc. toe wetting.  We probably should have brought our swim suits.

Sigrid's hat says that it is "5 O'clock Somewhere".  This gives her license to drink Pina Coladas at 10:30 am.....hey, we have been up since 6:00 am.

We toured what has been named Black Beard's Castle. Black Beard's Castle, St. Thomas Skytsborg Tower (meaning sky tower), was built in 1679 by the Danes as a watchtower for the harbor of Charlotte Amalie. It is located at the highest point on Skytsborg Tower Government Hill. Danish Soldiers used Skytsborg as a vantage point to spot enemy ships and protect impressive Fort Christian from attacks. Fort Christian is at sea level, which was ideal for warding off attackers with canon fire, but did not offer a good enough view of the incoming ships before they entered the harbor. It is not known what year Skytsborg Tower took on the name of Blackbeard's Castle, but the infamous Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard the Pirate, did sail the Caribbean waters in the early 1700s. It has become part of the lore of the island that he used the Tower as a vantage point for his own treacherous purposes. Blackbeard's Castle is one of four National Historic sites in the US Virgin Islands. It was the centerpiece of a private residence for many years, then became a beautiful small hotel, known as The Inn at Blackbeard's Castle with the tower near the pool.

This is a bronze statue of Black Beard.  He was an intimidating 6' 3" in a day when men were much smaller.  In his last year of pirating, he captured 36 ships.  He died at age 38 (old for a pirate) when the Governor of Virginia sent a small naval force to kill or capture him in 1718.  They had a fierce sea battle before Black Beard and several of his crew were killed.

The Skytsborg Tower....yes, that is Sigrid at the top.

The grounds were nicely landscaped and there were many historical buildings that were part of the complex.

The restored Haagensen House.


The Amber Museum.

This water fall is said to have $1.2 million worth of amber rocks embedded in the wall.

A few street photos to give you a feel for the town.  It is one shop after another.  About half of the shops are selling jewellery and diamonds.

“Creeque Alley” is an autobiographical hit single written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas & Papas in 1967, narrating the story about how the group was formed.  The title song is derived from the place, Creque or Crequi (pronounced “creaky”) Alley, home to a club in the Virgin Islands where the Mamas and Papas spent time.  The lyrics “Duffy’s good vibrations, and our imaginations, can’t go on indefinitely” refer, in part, to Hugh Duffy, the owner of the club on Creeque Alley.  We found a little restaurant in the Alley and had lunch there.

This was our ride back to the Noordam.

We enjoyed the day very much....probably the best day of the cruise.  We will be at sea tomorrow as we make our way back to Fort Lauderdale.