Hits and Misses on P&O Arcadia

P&O Arcadia

Arcadia in Auckland, New Zealand

Cruise ships have a lot of things in common with one another, but they have differences as well. Depending on what any individual person looks for in a cruise they are bound to find some ships more appealing than others – though it won’t always be the same ship since one person’s ideal ship is different from another’s. On the P&O Arcadia, we found a lot to like and not much to dislike.

HITS

It’s always a bonus when a ship has a self-serve guest laundry. Usually it costs something to use, but you can wash more clothes for less money than sending them out for the crew to wash for you. The Arcadia not only had guest laundries, but they were free to use, so twice as nice. It could get crowded with people waiting when all the machines are full, but the trick is to do your laundry at times not popular with other guests.

free laundry on a cruise

Arcadia launderette

Being a British ship, the Arcadia had a very different menu than what we find on American ships. We quite enjoyed trying a variety of different foods – some of which we had never heard of like Bubble and Squeak or Syllabub. The English couple at our dinner table sometimes had to explain to us and the Australian couple what some menu items were. Dinners also included little extras like the plate of sweet tidbits set out after the regular dessert. I kept hoping to see Harry Potter’s favorite treacle tart on the menu so I could give that a try, but it never showed up. Can’t have everything I guess.

cruise ship afternoon tea

crumpet and sweets tray at afternoon tea in the P&O Arcadia dining room

Dinners weren’t the only time food had a starring role on the Arcadia. The British love their tea. Tea time wasn’t just a few tables in the dining room for whomever might attend. Tea time on the Arcadia expanded to the Lido deck as well. People could either go to the dining room and have afternoon tea served to them, or chose the Lido buffet for self-service tea. The Lido’s tea included almost everything served in the dining room plus some other afternoon snacks. The dining room did have crumpets though, which the Lido did not. In both places they served tea cakes, delightful treats I had never seen or even heard of before. They weren’t really cakes, closer to a roll, yet not exactly one of those either. A light and airy bread delicious with cream and jam. Of course the Arcadia always has a good selection of tea flavors as well.

full tea service in every cabin

The cabins have an electric teapot and a wooden box with tea bags, instant coffee, milk and biscuits (which in the USA would be called cookies)

Tea was not confined just to public decks on the Arcadia. Each passenger cabin came equipped with an electric tea pot, and a little wooden box with tea, coffee, biscuits (cookies), and milk – which they use in their tea. Rooms other than suites weren’t stocked with flavored teas, but a trip to the Lido easily cured that – and late in the evening packets of hot chocolate were available there as well, which could be taken to the room for future use just as easily as your favorite flavored teas.

British cruise ship games

people playing deck quoits

We found a new game we’d never heard of on the Arcadia. Every day they held deck quoits competitions. Deck quoits involves throwing little rope donuts at a target on the deck. In the daily tournaments partners were assigned randomly so there were never any specific pairs of people who could win every time. I went from having no clue how to play or score the game at the start of the cruise to actually winning a match near the end. I got lucky on that one both with a skilled partner and an unusual streak of precision in my own throws. We also enjoyed the wii bowling held in a pub each afternoon. Ships always provide some sort of fun and games, but these were things we hadn’t seen on other vessels.

thermal suite

heated ceramic chairs in the spa

I definitely enjoyed being able to wander freely about the inside of the ship without ever running into any smoky areas because the ship had no indoor smoking. We also had a muster station that was uniquely the best of both worlds in a lounge with doors exiting directly to the deck under the lifeboats. Muster drills may have been more miserable back in the days of always being held at the lifeboat stations, but in the event of an actual emergency going to a meeting place in the bowels of the ship where some ships have their muster stations now seems contrary to executing a timely evacuation. So having a comfortable lounge with doors that open directly to the lifeboat stations is the ultimate in good choices for a muster station. In case anyone reading this doesn’t cruise, muster stations are where passengers go in the event of an emergency and every cruise starts with a muster drill so people know how to find their assigned muster station should an emergency situation ever arise.

hydro therapy pool

pool in the thermal suite

We quite enjoyed the thermal suite on the Arcadia. It does cost extra, but we splurged for the full cruise pass – which did not cost anywhere near as much as what some of the other lines charge for it. The ship had no spa cabins so the thermal area was rarely ever crowded and often we had it to ourselves. (Some ships have spa cabins that come with use of the thermal suite.) Originally destined for Holland America, the Arcadia has the same hydro pool and ceramic chairs as Holland America’s directionally named ships (Westerdam, Noordam, etc.)

cruise ship info

P&O Fleet from wall poster on Arcadia

The Arcadia had tasteful decor throughout, and one especially fun to read and interesting bit – a mural depicting the history of P&O and its ships. Lots of ships have movies, but the Arcadia had a dedicated area for a little movie theater with several rows of comfortable chairs of the sort you might find in a fancy home theater of a house with a room dedicated for just that purpose. It didn’t hold a lot of people at the same time, but many showtimes throughout the day meant that a lot of people could get in to see that day’s movie. People could sign up for in advance for a reserved seat. Each day had a different movie with no repeats.

MISSES

Really the only major miss I found on the Arcadia is the same miss on almost every cruise ship with an outside promenade deck, particularly one that goes all the way around. That miss is having a smoking area on one side of the promenade deck. A lot of people walk and jog around the promenade deck. It’s a great place to go for exercise. There’s shade, shelter, a continuous pathway, and a great view. If just one person comes out to use the smoking area, then every single person out walking or jogging has to pass through that smoke on each and every lap – not very conducive to good health. Placing the smoking section somewhere in an area where nobody needs to pass through would be a much better idea.

P&O Arcadia

promenade deck on the Arcadia

The only other miss I can think of for the Arcadia is a lack of good breakfast options, but we always managed to find something to eat. The Lido buffet had a lot of stations all serving a full English breakfast. Anything else was pretty scarce, but it is a British ship so maybe that is what they all want. They did have oatmeal, but no fresh fruit or berries or anything to put on it. The waffle station rarely ever had anyone working there. If you did find someone they tried to pull an old cold waffle out from under a counter rather than making a fresh new one – which in itself explains why the waffle station was not very popular. The dining room had a bit more choice, but a revolving menu meant some common breakfast items were only available once a week. At lunchtime where there’s usually a good salad bar at the buffet on American ships the Arcadia had a selection of cold cuts instead, but they did have a lot of other lunchtime options including bowls of salad somewhere in the buffet.

Overall we really enjoyed the Arcadia. If P&O was based somewhere more convenient for us than England we would definitely sail with them again. Perhaps we’ll find another opportunity sometime. A bonus of sailing with P&O is that time spent there counts as loyalty points with Princess.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
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Havana Cruise Ship Port

cruise ship in Cuba

Holland America Veendam in Havana, Cuba

Sailing into Havana, ships negotiate a narrow channel with the guidance of a local pilot. Local pilots board the ship prior to entrance of most any port so that part is standard procedure.

Havana Harbor

Harbor entrance in Havana from inside the Harbor

Coming into port is quite scenic with a historic fort on the port side and the historic buildings of old Havana on the starboard.

cruise ship port in Cuba

Cuba cruise terminal with derelict terminals in the background

Looking at a map of Havana, it shows 3 piers at the cruise terminal. Arriving there you see that while the one where the ship docks is in good condition, the other two derelict terminals are partly roofless and rotting.

Havana cruise port

Havana cruise ship terminal

At most ports it’s recommended to take ID with you, but often you won’t have to show it to anyone to get back onto the ship. In Cuba you have to bring your passport. First thing you do when you get into the terminal when you get off the ship and last thing you do leaving the terminal to get back on is go through customs. You need your passport and visa to get off the ship. They take a photo of you in which you are not allowed to smile and stamp the passport at that time. They need to see it again when you go back. Their photos are the only ones taken inside the port building. Passengers are not allowed to take any there.

Havana, Cuba

old Havana near the cruise dock

You’re not supposed to use American money in Cuba and Cubans don’t take credit or debit cards from American owned banks so even if all you are going to do is tip people it’s best to go to the money exchange after you get through customs. Or bring along cash from somewhere else like Canada that you can use to tip people with – though they then have the hassle of exchanging that money. The ship recommended exchanging money in $50 increments to make it easier and quicker getting through the line. They keep a 10% tax on US dollars on the way into Cuba as well as the 3% exchange rate. When converting leftover CUC’s back to dollars on the way back to the ship you again pay the 3% exchange rate, but not the tax. You do not have to pay the 10% exchange tax on anything other than US dollars, just the 3% exchange rate, another good reason to bring Canadian dollars, euros, or if you happen to have some left over from a previous port stop, Mexican pesos.

Havana

plaza across the street from Havana cruise terminal

The exchange booths are only fully staffed until 8pm so if you return to the ship later than that the line can be quite long and slow assuming the exchange is still open. We came on a ship that goes to Cuba every week so we just gave our leftover Cuban money to our cabin steward as a bonus tip rather than wait through that long line because he could make good use of it. Some people got rid of their Cuban money by shopping at the gift shops in the port building because they had shorter lines than the exchange did. Another option would be to spend it all before returning to the port building and avoid the lines altogether.

Cuba church

church at the plaza across the street from the cruise terminal

Cuban citizens use Cuban pesos (CUP), but foreigners use the CUC or Cuban Convertible Peso. It takes 24 CUP to make one CUC. The CUC is supposed to be equivalent to the American dollar, but since they take both a tax and an exchange rate you lose money in the exchange process.

Havana Malecon

Malecon in Havana

The ship docks right in old Havana so there’s lots of historic buildings within walking distance and great views right from the ship. Walk carefully though because the surface is often uneven whether due to being paved in old cobblestones or through wear and tear or lack of maintenance. The Malecón waterfront walkway is not far from the cruise ship dock.

Havana sunset

sunset over Havana

If you are American or cruising to Cuba on a ship sailing out of an American port you have to fit into the criteria in which Americans are allowed to visit Cuba. Cruise ships use the people to people category, and set up excursions which fulfill the requirement. Anyone who booked their cruise after June of 2017 has to do an excursion through the ship which lasts at least 8 hours on a full day visit or 4 hours on a half day visit if they want to get off the ship. Once the required excursion is complete people can then explore on their own. If the ship stays overnight or visits a second Cuban port you have to fulfill the excursion requirement again to leave the ship on a different day. The good news is that the ship takes care of your visa and mountain of paperwork when you book their excursion – at least Holland America did.

Cuba cruise port

Cuba cruise ship terminal building from a plaza across the street with some strange statues

If you are not American and sailing on a ship that did not go to Cuba from an American port then you have a lot more freedom just to be a tourist because other countries do not have all the restrictions on traveling to Cuba that the USA does. If you are American these non-American cruise lines are not likely to let you book their Cuban cruise.

More Info About Requirements for Visiting Cuba

Cruising to Cuba

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maui Cruise Ship Port – Lahaina

Lahaina Cruise Ship Port

cruise ship and tenders

Explorer of the Seas and its tenders in Maui

When cruise ships stop in Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii the ship anchors a short distance from shore and drops its tenders to bring passengers to shore. The ship’s tenders are the lifeboats that are a bit taller than the others. They have double hulls and 2 propellers instead of a v-shaped bottom with just one propeller like rest of the lifeboats.

watching the tender load from our deck 2 window

Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas has tender docks that open out of the side of the ship. The tenders tie up to these docks for passengers to board. One of them was located just under our window. It was about half an hour after the time listed before people with excursions started to board from that dock, but if they boarded on time from the one closer to the stern we wouldn’t have seen them. The announcement that tenders were open for the rest of the passengers came an hour ahead of the approximate expected time.

Trilogy sailboat in Hawaii

Trilogy returning to Maui at sunset

We had a sail and snorkel excursion with Trilogy that took most of our time in port, but after the early tender announcement we went right to the tenders in hopes of beating any possible line that might build up. We got right on a waiting tender and made it to shore with a bit of time to look around. The tenders come in on the same dock as ferries to the island of Lanai, and the Trilogy catamaran left from the same dock as well.

Maui cruise ship port

view from the tender pier

People can always book excursions through the ship or set things up in advance on their own as we did with Trilogy – who also had excursions available through the ship that lasted about a couple hours rather than all day like ours. The booth to get tickets for the Expeditions ferry to Lanai sits right next to the tender pier. If you take the ferry to Lanai, the Expeditions ferry people can arrange tour packages for golf, horseback riding, ATV tours, archery or clay skeet shooting, or a jeep rental. If you go to Lanai without prior plans there’s just a small store and some restrooms at the ferry landing, but it’s a short walk to a nice beach.

choose your excursion here

booths offering last minute excursions line the shore

You don’t need to take the ferry to Lanai to find something to do though. There’s more options if you stay in Lahaina. There’s a variety of things available right near the pier for anyone who did not pre-arrange an excursion. Along Lahaina’s waterfront by the tender pier all sorts of booths offer everything from parasailing to fishing. Other booths offer things like semi-sub or submarine rides, snorkel trips, or when in season whale watching. Some also offered things like helicopter rides or biking down a mountain. All at reasonable prices so anyone wandering down the waterfront looking for something to do has plenty of choices.

tourist shops

shops in Lahaina

About a block from shore there’s lots of shops. Most are geared toward tourists with things like souvenirs or food.

things to do in Lahaina

things to do sign near the stores

We saw a few signs near the stores offering lots of things to do.

all one tree

this is all one banyan tree

Just off the waterfront there’s a park that looks like a small forest with lots of trees. It is actually all one banyan tree with many trunks and interconnecting branches.

banyan tree

the main trunk branches off in many directions

banyan tree

large horizontal branches connect to many smaller trunks

You can walk under the tree between its many trunks.

old fort

these ruins have a sign saying they were part of an old fort

We found a small bit of ruins of an old fort near the banyan tree.

park by Maui docks

small park near the docks

There’s another small park-like area across the pathway from all the little booths. It has a restroom, some old cannons, and a picnic area. Whether or not you plan ahead for a port stop in Lahaina it’s not hard to find something to do.

Maui Shore Excursions

Excursions offered through our ship in Maui included sightseeing tours to places like plantations or a volcanic crater. Things to do included golfing, a waterfall hike, Atlantis submarine, snorkeling or sailing while spotting for dolphins, and a helicopter tour.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Royal Caribbean, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Fold a Towel Iguana

towel iguana

Towel Iguana

HOW TO FOLD A TOWEL IGUANA

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Iguana

1 bath towel

2 hand towels

eyes and any other desired decorations

Towel Iguana Folding Instructions

How to Make a Towel Iguana Body

how to fold a towel iguana

tightly roll both ends to the center from the short side

The towel Iguana uses the standard towel animal body, same as the majority of other towel animals. Lay bath towel out flat. From short sides tightly roll each end to the center.

how to fold towel animals

Fold rolled towel in half, rolled side out. Pull the tips out from the center of each roll.

Fold rolled towel in half with rolls to the outside. Pull the tips out from the center of each roll.

how to make a towel animal body

take the tips of both ends of one roll in one hand and the other roll in the other hand and pull – this one is partly done

Take the tips from both ends of one roll in one hand and both ends of the other roll in the other hand and pull until you have pulled the rolls into legs. Set body aside.

towel animal body

towel animal body

How to Make an easy Towel Iguana Tail

making a towel animal tail

from one corner roll hand towel diagonally

Lay 1 hand towel out flat. Start rolling diagonally from one corner.

making a tail for towel animals

roll until entire towel is one roll

Tightly roll towel until the entire towel is rolled. Set tail aside.

How to Make a Towel Iguana Head

making a towel iguana head

fold both sides to the middle from the short ends

Fold both ends of the towel from the short end so that they meet in the middle and both sides are even.

making a towel iguana head

fold towel at the center with the edges of the prior folds to the inside

Fold towel in half with the ends that you just folded in to the inside.

how to fold towel animals

fold both sides down into triangles from the open end

From the open end, fold both corners into triangles with space between them.

how to fold a towel into an animal

fold long edge under

Fold the long edge of the towel under.

making a towel iguana head

fold in half with open space between triangles to the outside and fold on long edge to the inside

Fold in half with the opening between triangles to the outside and the folded under long edge to the inside.

Finishing the Towel Iguana

towel iguana

finished towel iguana

Place the tail in the opening between the legs of the towel body so the pointed end hangs out from one end of the body. Place the head between the legs at the other end of the body and flip it over. Shape the head and mouth as desired.

towel iguana

finished towel iguana with claws added

Add eyes or sunglasses and any other desired decorations like a tongue or claws.

For more towel animal folding instructions visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

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Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Oosterdam approaching Hubbard Glacier which is so vast it extends farther than we could see beyond the rocky outcropping leading to Russel Fjord – which the glacier has occasionally blocked

Most Alaskan cruises visit a glacier somewhere along their itinerary. Often they either go into Glacier Bay or cruise down to the end of Tracy Arm (or Endicott Arm when Tracy gets blocked). Not so many go to Hubbard Glacier. It’s beyond the usual path. A ship on a 7-day round trip out of Seattle or Vancouver has to go out of their way to get there since Skagway is the farthest north one-week round trip cruises usually get. If you can find a ship that goes there the extra distance is so worth it. The glacier’s 6-mile-long face at the waterline makes for quite a spectacular view.

Hubbard Glacier

several ice floes feed into this immense tidewater glacier

Hubbard is the biggest tidewater glacier in North America. It is 76 miles long and 1200 feet deep. It calves pretty actively so in the time a ship spends near it seeing large chunks of ice fall to the sea is quite likely. Though the Holland America Oosterdam stopped a mile and a half or so away this glacier is so impressively vast it seemed like we were right next to it. In fact though it took quite some time to travel through Disenchantment Bay to get to the glacier it loomed so large at the end that it seemed as if we were nearly there for quite a long time before we actually arrived.

photographing Marjorie Glacier

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay

In comparison, Margerie Glacier where the ships go in Glacier Bay is just a mile wide and extends only 21 miles up the mountain making it less than a third of Hubbard’s size. The face of Dawes Glacier at the end of Endicott Arm is just half a mile. I couldn’t find dimensions for the South Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm, but maps of it and Hubbard show that Sawyer is considerably smaller. Sawyer is the only one of these I haven’t actually seen. I’ve taken two cruises scheduled to go down Tracy Arm and both were early season cruises that ended up in Endicott instead. Tracy Arm is narrower and sometimes blocked by ice bergs.

Alaska map

Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat is north of Glacier Bay, which is north of Tracy Arm

While most of the world’s glaciers retreat at alarming rates including those most often seen by cruise ship passengers, Hubbard is one of the few that is actually advancing. It joins with nearby Valerie Glacier about 6 miles before they reach the sea.

Hubbard Glacier

there were a couple very large smooth areas where giant chunks recently calved off Hubbard Glacier

Glacier watching is cold business, so if you go be sure to dress warmly. We always end up  somewhere on the bow as the ship approaches at..well what feels like glacial speed. Probably the coldest place on the ship to be, but you can’t beat the view. If you’re standing at the bow for long and not wearing long johns you’ll probably wish you were. On the Oosterdam we staked out a spot right at the center of the balcony of deck 5, which they open along with the ones on 6 and 7 any time they open the big deck 4 bow area where most passengers go for scenic viewing.

glacier watching

most people dressed warmly – and those who didn’t did not stay out on the bow long

These decks are normally closed to passengers, but they open them up for scenic places like glacier viewing or sailing into San Juan, Puerto Rico. Deck 4 is significantly bigger, and its opening well announced so it tends to get crowded there. They may or may not announce that the 3 decks above are open so it’s a lot easier to find a good place to stand there. We prefer to stay out of the crowd and knew from previous cruises on this class of Holland America’s ships that the other decks would open along with deck 4 so we headed straight up to deck 5. We were all alone up there on the Oosterdam until somebody made an announcement about the 3 other decks shortly before we reached the glacier. It got a bit crowded then, but we already had the prime spot having staked it out all throughout the long cold journey through Disenchantment Bay. I’m not sure why they call it that since it leads to Hubbard Glacier which is really quite enchanting.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier had smoother edges between the rougher ones

On the whole way in a couple crew members wandered about down on the bow of deck 4 announcing loudly and often that they had coffee and hot chocolate for sale in souvenir mugs. They didn’t make a whole lot of sales throughout the journey to the glacier so they might have been as annoyed by having to try and peddle things as the passengers were by their frequent announcements breaking into the otherwise peaceful feeling of a wild place with such beautiful scenery. Then again it might have been a way for those particular crew members to get outside and see an awesome view they may not otherwise have the opportunity to see so perhaps they didn’t mind. When they changed their announcements to free pea soup about halfway through our time at the glacier they got a better response from the crowd. We missed out on it though. We didn’t want to lose our spot on the deck above and being about halfway between breakfast and lunch time we weren’t hungry anyway.

bergy bits

small bergy bits near the glacier

We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but there were lots of bergy bits floating about in the water and a few of the little ice bergs had birds on them. Probably with cold little birdy feet. There were also a few porpoises swimming around the bay, but not within range of my little pocket camera.

Hubbard Glacier

up close you can see blue ice and different layers in the glacier

Once the ship finally finished its long slow journey up the scenic channel to the glacier it stopped and did a slow 360 turn over about an hour which gave everyone on the ship a chance to get a good view of it no matter where they chose to stand. Quite handy if you have a balcony cabin because you can stay warm in your own room until time to step out for the fantastic view. Or go back in and warm up periodically if you spend part of the journey there outside. Of course you miss out on that forward view on the way there if you stay in your room, but then again you can come and go from public areas without losing your place on your own balcony. We had an inside cabin this cruise and couldn’t find our friends that had a balcony cabin before the ship headed toward the glacier so we found a spot outside and stuck with it.

Hubbard Glacier

sailing away leaving Hubbard Glacier in the Oosterdam’s wake

Hubbard is by far the most impressive of all the glaciers I’ve seen. I’m really glad to have taken a cruise there.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Oosterdam, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rome In A Day

Rome

fountain in Rome

They say you can’t see Rome in a day, but if a day is all you have you see what you can. Carnival Vista made a port stop in Civitavecchia, which is as close as a ship gets to Rome – about 47 miles or 75 kilometers away. People who try to see Rome on their own risk getting left behind because lines into pretty much any tourist attraction are sometimes extremely long and traffic between the port and Rome can get very heavy. Trains are an option, but European trains can be unreliable at times. A crew musician on our tour said he went with ship tours after almost getting left behind once when he ventured out on his own to Rome on a previous cruise and the trains suddenly stopped running leaving him scrambling for another way back. Booking a tour whether through the ship or a reliable outside source is the way to go when visiting Rome by cruise ship. Tours have reliable transportation and advance tickets to bypass the lines. Booking through the ship comes with the guarantee that it will wait should your excursion return late, an advantage you don’t get with outside tours.

Roman colosseum

Rome’s colosseum

We took a ship’s tour that went to the colosseum, Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We chose that one because out of the tours the ship offered it went inside the most things. Bus numbers were assigned by order of arrival to the meeting lounge so who got the best or worst guides was pretty much luck of the draw. We started out with a female guide in charge of the group who rode from the port and back with us, then stopped at a train station in Rome to pick up a male guide who did the actual talking at the attractions. He was dropped off back at the train station before we returned to the port.

gateway to nothing

old gate near the colosseum

Since the ship had this itinerary open for booking long in advance of the actual cruise one would think they would have the excursion tickets arranged in advance for times that work with the ship’s schedule, but we were given a time to arrive at the colosseum that was earlier than the bus could make it through the traffic, and a time too close to that one for the Vatican for us to make it there on time either. At least that was what our guides said. There is normally a lunch break between the two, but we were told they were unable to get afternoon tickets for us so we had to fit both in early and then have lunch and free time afterword – though they may have just said that because the guide didn’t want us to eat at the Vatican Museum’s café.

in Rome's colosseum

inside the colosseum

Once we got to the colosseum we got just inside the entrance and beyond the crowd of people coming in, but not close enough to see much of anything when the male guide stopped the group while he yakked and yakked. The female guide had gone off with a couple who should never have signed up for a tour listed as mainly walking since they could barely get on and off the bus. One guide or the other had to take them to an accessible area at every stop, leaving the rest of the group with just one guide most of the time. They would have been better off on an accessible tour, which the ship did offer.

lower levels of colosseum

platform for viewing the remains of the inner workings of the colosseum

Other guides led their groups around showing them things while they talked, but when our guide finished his lengthy spiel he just said look around for half an hour and then meet at that spot. Once we finally got inside we could see a large platform with the best close-up view down into the lower area in the whole colosseum. Only groups with guides could go down there so it would have been nice if he’d done his spiel there so we could have seen that as well as having a view of the inside of the colosseum throughout his long talk. We did not have good luck with guides in Europe. First the one in Herculaneum, then this pair. It’s not that there weren’t any good guides in all of Europe. People on different busses on the same excursion from our ship had great guides. We just always ended up with the bad ones.

Roman colosseum

almost in the colosseum

Although it is crowded, as all attractions in Rome are, the Colosseum is impressive and interesting to see. The things ancient people constructed without modern technology are pretty amazing. Arches around the outside on the lowest level were all gates that let 50,000 people enter in 15 minutes time. Far faster than people can enter in modern times through one gate and security scanners.

Vatican Museum

inside the Vatican Museum

Once there was a floor over all the things down at ground level, and underneath that was a staging area for animals, gladiators, or whatever was on show. They had elevators to bring them up to the arena when it was their turn to perform.

Vatican Museum

the Vatican Museum has a seemingly endless corridor of exhibit chambers

Contrary to popular belief, gladiators rarely fought to the death. Their masters had too much time and money invested in their training and upkeep to lose them that often. According to our guide only one Christian was executed there, the rest being killed in other venues. The Colosseum did see its share of bloodshed though with thousands of people (often executions of petty criminals) and animals dying there for the entertainment of others.

vatican museum

painted ceiling in the Vatican Museum

At the entrance to Vatican City we walked quickly past a long line of people likely facing a 3-hour wait to get in and went straight to the door, an advantage of booking an excursion with advance tickets. Once inside we went to an area with pictures of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, which the guide talked about for awhile as there is not supposed to be any talking once inside the chapel itself. There are also no photos allowed in there, though some people think the rules don’t apply to them and take photos or even videos anyway. There were a lot of phones and tablets held above the crowd snapping away without a care that no photos should be taken there – and the crowd was not quiet either. Photos were allowed in the Vatican museum and in St.Peter’s Bacsilica, though no flash was allowed in the museum.

Vatican Museum

each person is like a drop in a human river flowing through the Vatican Museum

Walking through the Vatican Museum feels something like being part of a human river that flows through from one end to the other. The museum itself is rather like a long hallway, though there is a bit of a dividing doorway between each chamber. It has ornate ceilings and walls. A lot of the exhibits are from ancient Rome. Most photos are taken upward, over the heads of the living river. The first area has statues lined up along the walls, most of which are nude. Once through the statue area there are chambers of tapestries and maps. The row of chambers goes on for quite a long way.

Vatican museum

ceiling of one chamber

The Sistine Chapel is fairly small, especially when compared with the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter’s Basilica. The lower walls were painted first, the ceiling later, and last of all the end wall representing judgment day. Each is a bit different style of art representing early, middle, and late renaissance styles.

near the Sistine Chapel

pictures of the paintings inside the Sistine Chapel

Pictures in the Sistine Chapel show scenes from stories throughout the bible from creation to the final judgement day wall. One wall scene that shows the parting of the red sea has a column in the middle representing the finger of god. When Michel Angelo painted the ceiling he put a picture of the creation of Adam where the finger of god in that painting lines up with the column in the other. He also put the face of a cardinal who judged his work unfavorably onto Minos from Hades, who judges people deciding who ends up in hell.

Vatican

outside wall between buildings

Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. It’s so big it could hold two football fields inside. It is very ornate with statues and paintings and an enormous wood carving above the high alter which is believed to be directly above St. Peter’s tomb. Every painting, statue, or carving has a story to tell if only they could talk. The current basilica was built between 1506 and 1626, replacing Old Saint Peter’s Basilica which had been built in the 4th century AD. Saint Peter was one of Christ’s apostles and died sometime around AD 64-68, so long before the original basilica was built. Large as the basilica is, and with quite a few different alcoves, an area high on the side of one alcove was pointed out as where women were allowed to sit. Apparently women were not very highly thought of in old Rome.

Saint Peter's Basilica

inside Saint Peter’s Basilica

The basilica is very ornate with statues and carvings everywhere. If you enter through the door of forgiveness during a jubilee year the catholics say that all your sins are forgiven – but while we were there they said only if you believe that to be true.

Saint Peter's Basilica

Alter in Saint Peter’s Basilica

After we left the Vatican our guide said she knew of a place where we could get lunch cheap and that all the other places around were very expensive. She also said food inside the Vatican cost a lot and that we would wait for lunch until we came out, not even giving anyone the option to see what was there or what it cost. It turned out that the place she led everyone to was actually the highest priced café around. Food there cost considerably more than other nearby places and it served pre-made food that was mediocre at best. It did not have any prices posted so nobody knew until they went to pay how high the prices were. Other nearby eateries posted much lower prices, but of course she made sure nobody saw that until it was too late.

statue

statue inside Saint Peter’s Basilica

Someone we talked to back on the ship said their group had lunch inside the Vatican before they did the tour and that the food inside didn’t cost much at all. She also said they had just half an hour’s free time left over when they finished their tour, while our group had another two hours left after our late lunch. So much of our tour time was wasted because the guide cared more about taking people to an overpriced café than about the tour she was being paid to lead.

Rome

Saint Peter’s Basilica

It had started raining before we left the Vatican. Not many people wanted to wander around and shop. Much of our group spent most of the time waiting near the meeting area for the guide to come back so they could get on the bus back to the ship, all the while wishing there had been more time to see the attractions we came to tour instead of all that free time at the end with nothing to see but souvenir shops. It just goes to show that the guide makes all the difference in the success of a tour. Rumor had it she got a free lunch for leading people to that particular café. Perhaps a portion of the profit as well since she was very careful to make sure the owner knew exactly which people and how many she brought in. She also first brought us to a gift shop with only two toilets for a bathroom break where everyone had to wait in a very long line when the café had much bigger restrooms, so all in all our group definitely did not get the best pair of guides. The couple who could barely walk were not the fault of the guides, but the rest of the issues were.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Carnival, Europe, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snorkeling in Alaska

Ketchikan cruise ship dock

Trolley by Oosterdam in Ketchikan

Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure

Snorkeling in Alaska? Brrrr. Way too cold. That’s what a lot of people think. I used to be one of them. If you went straight into the water in just a swimming suit like in tropical areas they’d be right. But you don’t. At snorkelalaska.com snorkelers are provided with 7ml full body wetsuits, boots, hoods, and gloves. We went on a cold and rainy day with weather bad enough that our friend’s flightseeing trip got cancelled. In spite of the cold wet day we stayed warmer in the water than out. It’s actually a good excursion for a rainy day because if you’re going to get wet no matter what you do you might as well get wet intentionally. It rains a lot in Ketchikan so it’s nice to book something you can do on a rainy day. It’s even better if you get to do this excursion on nice day.

getting ready to snorkel in Alaska

passing out the snorkel gear

If you come to Ketchikan by cruise ship you can book this excellent snorkel adventure through your ship. On the Holland America Oosterdam it was called Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure, same as on the snorkel Alaska website. Wear a swimsuit under your clothes when leaving the ship and remember to pack a towel and underwear so you can dry off and change after snorkeling. There’s an optional outdoor shower and hot chocolate available for everyone at the shop where it starts and ends. There’s also the option to buy souvenir hats and t-shirts.

Norwegian Pearl in Ketchikan

Norweigan Pearl in the fog on a rainy day in Ketchikan

We went with a mixed group of people from the Oosterdam and Norwegian Pearl. Mostly from the Pearl. Snorkel Alaska people picked us up in a van near the cruise ship docks. First we stopped at their shop for instructions and suiting up. They have quite a quantity of supplies and handed out wetsuits according to height and weight and boots according to shoe size. The most difficult part of the whole adventure is getting the wetsuit on. Their most important instruction is to put the zipper in the back. There’s always that one person who didn’t pay attention, puts the zipper in front, and then has to start over. Well in our group there was anyway.

getting ready to snorkel

sitting at the edge of the water putting on fins and masks

Once suited up fins and masks were handed out from a truck. They also had optional weight belts for people who wanted to be able to dive down a bit. Wetsuits are buoyant so weights help you to get underwater when wearing one. Anything not needed last minute stayed at the shop. Phones and non-waterproof cameras could come out to the beach for last-minute photos and then get left with the vans. Waterproof cameras could of course come along for the entire adventure.

kelp and fish

kelp and fish

A short van ride from the shop brought us to Mountain Point, the snorkeling site. A trail led through some trees to the rocky beach and somewhat of a natural stone stairway at the entry point into the water. There the guides helped with masks, fins, and gloves and got everyone into the water. When everyone was ready we all set out following a guide to places where they knew we would find interesting things to see.

sea urchin

sea urchin under the water

Alaska may not have the coral you see when snorkeling in the tropics, but there is plenty to see. There was a lot more color than I expected. Rocky areas had brightly colored starfish and sea urchins. Some of the deeper spots had seagrass where lots of little fish and some crabs found places to hide. Seaweed grows on some of the rocky walls lining the shore. It looks much prettier standing under the water swaying with the current than it does lying flat on the rocks when exposed by the tides.

sea urchin and clams

sea urchin with clams

One urchin had a couple little clams open on top of it. I asked the guide who would be eating who and she said urchins are vegetarians and the clams might have just found a place to sit. There were lots of clam shells at the bottom and a very large clam clinging to the side of a rock.

crab

crab under the sea

I also saw a variety of crabs large and small and a few snails. Some of the sealife is brightly colored and some is not. The starfish and urchins are mostly quite bright, but there were a few white sea stars. The sea urchins came in red and purple and ranged from fairly small to quite large. Starfish too came in many sizes, mainly orange, red, or purple.

sea urchin

snorkeler with a sea urchin

We started out in a sheltered cove with rocks all around and very few waves. After a snorkeling around a bit the guides gathered everyone up and brought up things like sea urchins and starfish to show people above the water.

starfish and snorkelers

snorkeler with a starfish

Later people who wanted to went outside along one edge of the rocks where the water had more movement. There a small crab clung to a clump of seaweed bouncing in the waves. Here and there kelp grew tall with long fronds trailing down from the surface. Some schools of small fish swam about while other fish stayed near the safety of the rocks.

starfish

starfish under the sea

When everyone finished snorkeling the vans brought us back to the shop where we were asked to take the boots off before going inside to keep the water in them off the shop floor.  Wetsuits were optional for taking off inside the shop or out, just as the outdoor shower was optional. Clothes and towels sat in the dressing rooms in the exact spots where people left them.

trolley in Ketchikan

trolley at the cruise ship docks in Ketchikan

Once people finished with showering and changing there was time to enjoy free hot chocolate and browse the gift shop. The adventure ended with a trolley ride back to the ship. For anyone visiting Ketchikan, whether by cruise ship or not, this is definitely a fun adventure worth doing while you are there. Whether you have snorkeled before or not, I’d recommend it either way.

white sea star

white sea star

More Blogs About Ketchikan

Dolly’s House

Duck Tour

Trolley Tour

Rainforest Hike

Walking Tour

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Norwegian, Oosterdam, Pearl, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cruising to Cuba

cruise ship in Havana

Holland America Veendam in Havana

If you are not from the USA and are sailing on a ship leaving from anywhere else in the world then Cuba is probably just another cruise ship port without that much difference from any other. Some ships even embark passengers there. If however you are American or cruising on a ship sailing from the USA, Cuba is far from the standard port stop.

old fort in Havana

fort at the entrance to the port in Havana

For decades Cuba was out of reach as a place where the average American could visit. Obama made travel there easier and cruise ships began to include Cuba in their itineraries. Trump came along and tightened the rules so while cruising to Cuba is still within the realm of possibility for now, it’s not as easy as it once was and only likely to get worse.

Veendam sailing into Havana

view of Havana from the Veendam as it sails into port

Cruising to Cuba comes with a mountain of paperwork and a lot of regulations. Luckily the cruise lines who sail there know what these are. We went with Holland America. They took care of all the necessary paperwork as well as supplying visas to anyone who booked shore excursions through them. Which is pretty much anyone who wants to disembark from the ship in Cuba because if you didn’t book the cruise before June of 2017 you aren’t even allowed to try and fulfill all the regulations independently due to the tightening of the rules. This would happen on any American cruise line as it is an American government thing.

Havana view and Christ statue

View of Havana’s Christ statue on a hill across the water from the ship

Cruise ship tours in Cuba are designed to meet all the regulations and requirements imposed on visitors from America by the American government. The ship books all their tours through independent sources as they are not allowed to use any tour providers supported by the Cuban government. Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba just to be a tourist. There’s a multi-page affidavit with about 12 different categories people can visit under.

pilot boat

pilot boat following the Veendam in front of the Malecon on Havana’s shoreline

One of those is people to people, which is where the cruise ship passengers come in. This means every excursion has to include something involving the Cuban people. It’s often community projects or performance groups. The biggest benefit they get is the tips visitors leave them when they go. Wages are low in Cuba so any of the people who can provide any sort of service they get tourist tips for come out well ahead of those who don’t. Cuban people have free schooling and health care, and subsidies for necessities like food, but they don’t have a lot of material things and even basic products like soap can be hard to get.

cuban organic garden

organic gardens in Cuba often have flowers or other plants that repel insects at the end of each row (internet photo)

Organic farming began there out of necessity following the collapse of Cuba’s sugar cane industry after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It has become increasingly important as a means for Cuba to feed its own population rather than relying totally on imports from other countries. Though the organic farming started out of necessity due to the lack of availability of fertilizers and pesticides and the loss of the market for their sugarcane crops it has now become an example of how sustainable agriculture saved a population from starvation, and proof that crops don’t need to be poisoned with chemicals to thrive. Some of the farms are open to tourists.

apartments in Havana

some of the people in Havana have nice apartments

When ships from America stay in a Cuban port all day 8 hours of people to people is required so that is how long the tours are. Once your tour is complete you are free to roam about for the rest of the day, however if your ship overnights or has a second Cuban port you have to start over again with another 8 hour tour because that is required for each day. Our ship did not dock until 2pm so only 4 hour tours were required since we were just there for half the day. The ship did stay overnight, but with an 8am departure nobody was allowed out that morning, though some did stay out late into the night after finishing their required tours. Some passengers even opted to do an additional late evening tour after their daytime tour ended.

Havana hillside

other people’s homes are not so nice

Passports are required on voyages to Cuba, and the affidavit gets turned in during the boarding process. The visas cost $75 each and if lost it’s another $75 to replace it. Our ship provided the visas, which passengers had to fill out. Getting off the ship in Cuba requires 4 documents – passport, visa, ship card, and tour ticket.

waterfront shacks

shanties and little boats

You have to go through customs when you get off the ship, at which time they collect the required visa, stamp your passport, and take a picture of you in which you are not allowed to smile. You have to go through customs again on the way back, but it’s just the passport then.

Havana view

Havana view seen in passing as the ship came into port

There’s a money exchange at the port, but Cuba has a 10% tax on exchanging American money so it’s better to bring Euros or Canadian dollars. Mexican pesos work too if you happen to have any leftover if your ship stopped in Mexico on the way to Cuba. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything money is needed to tip tour guides and the folks at whatever people to people experience they bring you to. Those people count on the tourist dollars to provide them with a means for a better living, though some people do leave their tips in currencies other than Cuban. Credit or debit cards from banks in the USA are not accepted in Cuba so unless you have one from a different country you will need cash to make any purchases.

old Havana

old Havana view from ship

While the USA has had embargos against Cuba for decades, other countries have not so they aren’t as stuck in the past as some people think. There still are a lot of the old 1950’s American cars Cuba is famous for around Havana, many of which are taxis for the tourists. These are kept running with whatever spare parts from other types of cars the mechanics can modify to make them fit and work. The taxis are brightly colored with nice coats of paint, but there are still a few of the old cars not looking nearly as nice around town that people have for private use. There’s a lot of newer cars built in countries other than the USA, which is what most of the people there drive.

Cuban taxis

1950’s American cars in Havana, Cuba

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cruising to Honolulu

Honolulu cruise ship port

Explorer of the Seas in Honolulu

Our transpacific cruise on Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas made its first port stop in Honolulu. The cruise ship docked near the Aloha Tower a couple miles from the tourist area of Waikiki. They did have shuttles to the touristy part of town available. There was somebody offering van tours of the island that would last 6 or 7 hours and cost $50. That and the shuttles was all that we saw right off the ship for anyone who had not set up something to do in advance either through the ship or on their own. We didn’t have any plans for this port, but didn’t want to go to town. If the island tour was 3 or 4 hours long we might have tried it, but neither of us wanted to sit in a van for most of 6-7 hours so we passed on that and figured we’d just walk around a bit and look for a good vantage point to take some photos of the ship.

Honolulu

view from the ship – Aloha Tower, old maritime museum, and point of land from a nearby park

When we reached the main road we had a choice of turning right towards Waikiki or left towards the Aloha Tower. Left looked more promising for ship views so that’s the way we went. About halfway to the Aloha Tower we found a small park with a great view of the ship.

ships in Honolulu

sailing ship passing the cruise ship on its way into the harbor

We stopped there to take some photos and a tall sailing ship approached, sailing past our cruise ship. As it came closer we noticed the masts were full of people standing along the beams that hold the sails. The ship passed us and continued over to a waiting crowd on a nearby dock by the Aloha Tower, broadcasting music in Spanish as it went by.

sailboat in Honolulu

Cuauhtémoc arriving in Honolulu with people on the masts

The ship looked a lot like one I had seen previously in Seattle. If it was the same Mexican Navy ship I thought we might be able to tour it, as they had tours available when it was docked in Seattle. It was already there then so we had no way of knowing how long it would take before they would open it up for tours if indeed it was the same ship and they planned to do so in Honolulu. The Aloha Tower wasn’t far and we had nothing better to do so we headed on over there.

derelict museum

closed maritime museum with derelict ships

We passed a maritime museum on the way there. It looked like something that might have been interesting to see had it been open. It had derelict ships tied to docks on either side of it and a closed sign on the door. As in permanently closed rather than just not open at that particular time.

welcoming committee

welcoming the Cuauhtemoc to Honolulu

Info on the internet said the Aloha Tower was a major shopping mall, but it turned out that portions of it are part of the University of Hawaii and there’s not a lot of shops there. Maybe there used to be. Portions of the building were empty with for lease signs on them so it has the potential for more shops in the future. When we were there it just had a few bars and restaurants, a convenience store and a store for the school.

ship maintenance

painting when the ship docks – just like a cruise ship

A small crowd of people greeted the arriving ship with song and dance. About half an hour or so after the sailing ship docked they had the gangway out to welcome visitors aboard. It was indeed the Cuauhtémoc, the very same ship I had seen once before in Seattle. Touring the ship is free if you happen to be somewhere where it docks. People are allowed to wander around some of the decks on their own. This time they offered to assign a guide to take people around who wish to see a bit more. Some of them speak English, but not all. In Seattle we had only been allowed to wander the top decks so it was nice to see a bit of the inside as well.

learning at sea

one of the sailing ship’s two classrooms

Our guide was a young girl who is a cadet in training for the Mexican navy. The ship is used for training. New sailors like her learn as they sail around the world, getting sailing experience as well as classroom learning. The ship has 2 classrooms off the cadets’ mess hall.

touring a sailboat

people wandering about the deck

We also met someone from the US Navy onboard. Besides its Mexican crew and students he said the ship also had representatives from a number of other countries, mostly from north and south America. He was a fairly recent naval academy graduate from Texas on his first assignment. Before this stop the ship had been at sea 32 days sailing from Japan. Coming into port it was under engine power along with a tugboat, but out to sea they use the sails most of the time saving the engines for times when there is no wind or the need to escape from a hurricane (too much wind.)

sailboat galley

galley staff on the Cuauhtemoc were busy preparing lunch

It’s a beautiful ship and kept up so well it looks new. There’s a plaque where you first come on board that shows the god of wind blowing the ship from Spain where it was built to Mexico. The wind god is also on the ship’s masthead. This was its second to last stop for this particular journey, which lasted over 200 days and visited many countries.

Honolulu bus tour

Hop On Hop Off bus in Honolulu

Things to do in Honolulu

Besides taking the shuttle to town to go shopping or go to the beach, the ship did offer a number of excursions for people who booked them in advance. They had several island tours to choose from, a luau, hop on hop off bus, some cultural tours, and transportation to Pearl Harbor where people could go to the visitor’s center on their own, or for a higher price visit the USS Missouri as well. They also offered a helicopter tour and a hiking tour at Diamond Head Crater. Our ship did not have any snorkel excursions this port stop, but on a land stay in Waikiki once we went snorkeling at Diamond Head.

old style life boat

lifeboat on the Cuauhtemoc

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Royal Caribbean, USA | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Search of Cats in Old San Juan

San Juan cruise port

Carnival Magic in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nearly every time we travel to Puerto Rico we seem to end up at the historic forts in old San Juan. Our visit on the Carnival Magic was no exception. At least that was the intention anyway. Some of the group we traveled with had not been there before so everything was new to them. Our 5-year-old Australian grandson loves cats so we planned to look for them on the walk to El Morro, then either take the free tram or walk to San Cristobal on the way back to the ship.

path in San Juan

pathway near a playground and statues

From the ship we headed through town to the Paseo de la Princesa, which at some point changes to Paseo del Morro. This seaside pathway runs along the shore line from near the cruise ship docks to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, otherwise known as El Morro.

fountain in Puerto Rico

Raices Fountain

It passes by several of old town’s attractions including the Raices Fountain and the Red Gate. The Red Gate is the last remaining gate in what’s left of the historical wall that once encircled the entire city, which has long since outgrown that boundry. There’s a lot of ancient walled cities and forts around the world that are tourist attractions now. Even the Great Wall of China is currently a tourist attraction. There’s a sign in one of the displays at El Morro that says people stopped walling themselves in when the technology of the times made walls obsolete as a means of protection. I don’t remember the date on that, but it was over a century ago and long before the invention of airplanes.

San Juan's red gate

red gate from the paseo into the city

Before reaching the sea we found a playground next to the path where the kids had a great time until a policeman came along and said they couldn’t play there while the ground was wet from an earlier rain. None of the playground equipment was wet and they weren’t playing on the ground, but I suppose he has rules to enforce. Probably afraid of a lawsuit. Puerto Rico is a territory of the USA after all even though the government did seem to want to forget that when it came to hurricane relief and repairs.

playground in San Juan

playground on the Paseo de la Princesa

The paseo is home to many of San Juan’s feral cats. The cats have probably been there since the first ships landed on Puerto Rico’s shores, or at least sometime early in its history after contact by people from Europe. The cats have lots of rocks and vegetation to hide in. Once there were so many some people wanted to exterminate them, but Save A Gato stepped in with their trap/neuter/release program. They adopt out any cats that they can. They have feeding stations along the pathway for the unadoptable ones they release so we knew we would see plenty of cats if we took that walkway to the fort. We were there before hurricane Maria. Wondering if the cats survived the storm, I looked it up and found that Save A Gato brought as many as they could to shelter. Former pets left behind as their owners fled the storm joined the ranks of cats for Save A Gato to care for or re-home in the hurricane’s aftermath.

San Juan cat

Daniel with the first cat we saw that day

We saw the first cat of the day before even arriving at the entrance to the Paseo de la Princesa. Some of the feral cats will wander through town, and some of the people there have pet cats too. Daniel just loves cats, but does not have one for a pet at home so he was thrilled to have a chance to see some.

hermit crab

hermit crab along the paseo

On our last visit we saw diving pelicans from that walkway, but this time we just saw a couple of them sitting on the city wall and neither made any effort to fly off the wall, let alone dive. We did find a little hermit crab on the path though and moved it to a safer place off the walkway. And of course we saw plenty of cats.

San Juan cat

calico cat on the rocks

We found cats sunning themselves on the walkway, cats hiding in the bushes, cats at the feeding station, and even one that followed us for awhile. It was kind of like hide and seek with the cats hiding and us seeking them in the rocks and bushes along the pathway.

San Fiillipe del Morro

The paseo goes all the way to El Morro fort

Last time the path only went partway to El Morro before coming to an area closed for restoration. This time though scaffolding could still be seen along the pathway in some places, the walkway was open all the way to the fort. Part of it may even have been new. We stopped off to view the graveyard where Ponce de Leon is buried before going toward the entrance to the fort.

iguana

iguana by El Morro

We saw some small lizards and some iguanas on the way to the fort, but right out there in front of it we found the biggest iguana of all. This one had a big ruff under his chin that he liked to puff out before shaking his head about. He climbed up the wall with ease and chased away the lesser iguanas.

cemetary

looking over the graveyard from El Morro

After touring El Morro we were all hot and tired and nobody felt like walking to San Cristobol. The free shuttle wasn’t running that day. The city was in the process of setting up for some sort of major event and a lot of the streets that weren’t closed were pretty well clogged with traffic.

blue brick road in Puerto Ricl

one of the blue brick roads of old San Juan

We walked back through town where the colorful buildings with fancy doors are always interesting to see, as are the blue brick roads.

cat in Puerto Rico

cat at a feeding station

On the way back our older grandson, Justin, discovered how much closer San Cristobol is  to the cruise ship dock. He wondered why we didn’t just go there, but we’d have missed the cat walk if we had and to Daniel the cats were the highlight of the port.

cat

one of Puerto Rico’s feral cats

Other Blogs About San Juan:

The Cats of Old San Juan

Staying in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Bicycling in Old San Juan

Paseo de la Princesa and Diving Pelicans

 

Posted in Caribbean, Magic, Port Cities, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments