2016 CARIBBBEAN CHARISMA HURRICANE

Oceania


AN OASIS OF SURF, SAND AND SUN Considering the irresistible allure of the Caribbean’s pristine beaches with powdery white sands, lapping waters in more shades of blue than you ever imagined, perfect palms and fragrant island flowers, you may be surprised to discover icons of history that are just as captivating as the idyllic seascapes on this tropical odyssey. From Costa Maya, travel to the multilevel Mayan city of Kohunlich, and explore the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio and El Cedral on Cozumel. DON'T Get a close-up look at the workings of the magnificent Panama Canal from the vantage point of a Colón ferry boat. Explore a Grand Cayman turtle farm, visit a shipwreck museum in Key West and, of course, take some time to relax on the many beautiful beaches you never get to discover along the way.


Trip schedule in brief with major updates due to Hurricane Otto. The map is "out of date." Thanks to the "Thanksgiving Hurricane" and additional high winds, the planned itinerary is hopelessly shot down.

Day 1, Thursday, Nov 17, Miami (1PM – 6PM)
Day 2, Friday, Nov 18, Key West (7AM – 2PM)
Day 3, Saturday, Nov 19, Cozumel (12PM – 11PM)
Day 4, Sunday, Nov 20, Costa Maya, Mexico (8AM – 5PM)
Day 5, Monday, Nov 21, Santo Tomas, Guatemala (8AM – 6PM
Day 6, Tuesday, Nov 22, Roatan, Honduras (8AM – 3PM)
Day 7, Wednesday, Nov 23, Cruising the Caribbean Sea #1 of 3
The stops in Puerto Limon and Colon are cancelled due to Hurrican Otto.
Day 8, Thursday, Nov 24, Montego Bay, Jamaica (3PM - ?)
Day 9, Friday, Nov 25, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Day 10, Saturday, Nov 26, Montego Bay / Cruising the Caribbean Sea #2 of 3
Day 11, Sunday, Nov 27, Georgetown, Cayman Islands (8AM – 4PM)
Day 12, Monday, Nov 28, Cruising the Caribbean Sea #3 of 3
Day 13, Tuesday, Nov 29, Miami (8AM)

At least this was what was planned. As noted, some of the trip itinerary was deleted due to Hurricane Otto: Puerto Limon and Colon. Hurricane Otto was the latest hurricane landfall in any calendar year on record in the Atlantic Basin, coming ashore in Southeast Nicaragua on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016, Otto was a Category 3 Hurricane at landfall, and was the only known Hurricane to track over Costa Rica.

Day 1, Thursday, Nov 17 – Miami (1PM – 6PM)
Catch a VERY early StuporShuttle pickup about 4:45. Except that the shuttle didn’t get here until about 5:30. At least I was the last pickup on that shuttle run so we headed directly to the airport.

United 399IAH – Miami7:25A - 10:47A2:22

Fly to Miami and meet the Oceania representative which proved very easy. Transfer included. Then 3 of us take a 50-passenger cross-country bus on the long, circuitous route to the port. Four other large cruise ships are in sight. We get there at 11:30 so that is well before the planned (ship) embarkation on the Regatta at 1PM. Since we are so early, we have to carry our luggage up to deck 9 to have lunch at the Terrace Café. Then we are told the kennels won’t be at 1 but not until 2 – which actually turns out to be 2:30 (way late).

The kennel is nice but is actually sorta cramped. The pictures lied. I then went down to “Destination Services” and booked 2 of the 3 planned onboard bookings – the other isn’t even offered. At 5:30 we have the mandatory Fire/Disaster drill – which turns out to be a disaster for me. In the jam-packed crowd getting to the muster station, I get tripped on the stairs and twisted my right knee. Hopefully it will be better in a couple of days but …. The ship departs at 6PM.

Day 2, Friday, Nov 18 – Key West (7AM – 2PM)
Welcome to the Conch Republic which seceded from the US which was never officially accepted or denied.so the state of the Republic is still open for discussion.

Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which houses an impressive collection of flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and 50 different species of butterflies from around the world. Continue to the aquarium, Key West's oldest attraction, dating back to 1935 and home to hundreds of different species of local sea life. Don't miss the historic home of author Ernest Hemingway. After the rough trolly/train ride, I made it back to my kennel for some rest, then had a very nice lunch. The rest of the day is “at leisure.” We were supposed to leave at 2 PM, but some expected supplies didn’t arrive until about 3 so it was 3:30 before we could leave the Conch Republic.behind. Tonight is supposed to be windy and a bit rough. Tomorrow afternoon when we are in Coxumel is forecast to be windy and about 60% chance of rain … that Invest 90L??

EYW-006 Discover Key West (2.5 hours) $119
This delightful tour allows you to discover Key West in three unique ways: on a colorful and entertaining tour of the island aboard a Conch Tour Train or an Old Town Trolley; through a close-up encounter with local marine life at the Key West Aquarium; and on a journey back in time to the 1800s to the days of shipwrecking at the Shipwreck Treasure Museum.

You will begin your Key West discovery with a fully narrated one hour tour of the island. Riding in comfort, cooled by island breezes, you will get a true feel of this unique island - the color, the history and the atmosphere, all while viewing its most important landmarks. Along the way, your friendly conductor will point out unique details and special places you might otherwise miss, such as Hemingway House, the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S., President Truman's Little White House, the Henry Flagler Railroad Historian and many, many more sights that characterize the charm and distinctive appeal of Key West.

Following your panoramic tour, you'll enjoy a short walk to the Aquarium. Located in the corner of Mallory Square, the Aquarium is Key West's oldest tourist attraction, dating back to February 18, 1935. You will find it is home to hundreds of different species of local marine life and includes a touch tank where visitors of all ages are encouraged to enjoy a hand's on experiences with several species of sea life. The Aquarium is also the habitat of a wide variety of fish - including grouper, moray eels, barracuda, tropical fish, tarpon, sharks and parrotfish. During your tour, you will even be given the opportunity to pet a shark. When you reach the Atlantic Shore exhibit with its unique perspective on the mangroves, their inhabitants and this fascinating multifaceted ecosystem, you will have reached the environmental highlight of the attraction.

Your last stop before your tour concludes will be at The Shipwreck Treasure Museum which was opened in June 1994, as a re-creation of the 1856 wreckers' warehouse. Inside, you'll see a video presentation depicting how Key West once became the wealthiest city in America. This nautical museum serves as a backdrop for artifacts from the Issac Allerton, which sank in 1856. Don’t miss the spectacular view from the lateen tower, or wreckers' look-out. Rising 65 feet above street level, the look-out provides a great vantage point from which to photograph your ship. Please note: There may be some steps to negotiate at the Aquarium and Shipwreck Museum and those wishing to visit the tower at the Shipwreck Museum would need to negotiate approximately 100 stair steps.

TRANSLATION: This delightful (HA! ROUGH! BOUNCY! TORTUROUS! TROLLY RIDE!) tour allows you to discover Key West in three unique ways: on a colorful and entertaining tour of the island aboard a 1-hour-plus Conch Tour Train tour, and if you survive the rough ride, a visit with a close-up encounter with local marine life at the Key West Aquarium; and on a journey back in time to the 1800s to the days of shipwrecking at the Shipwreck Treasure Museum. We begin our Key West discovery with a fully narrated one hour tour of the island. Riding in EXTREME DIScomfort on a tour trolley disguised as a train by fake woodwork on the trolley engine, only slightly cooled by island breezes, we get a true (?) feel of this unique island - the color, the history and the atmosphere, all while viewing its most important landmarks.

It was a whole hour of constant twisting, bouncing and bruising (“broken” back, “fractured” knees, and about 100 bruises – not counting all the times the same places got bruised.

Along the way, your friendly conductor will point out unique details and special places you might otherwise miss, such as Hemingway House, the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S., President Truman's Little White House, the Henry Flagler Railroad Historian and many, many more sights that characterize the charm and distinctive appeal of Key West. He talks almost constantly but his location references to whatever he is talking about are so vague that we seldom know what/where is referring to.

For those who survive the awful, miserable, extremely rough panoramic tour (NOT ME!) you'll enjoy a short walk to the Aquarium. Located in the corner of Mallory Square, the Aquarium is Key West's oldest tourist attraction, dating back to February 18, 1935. The Aquarium is great but since I’ve been there, my busted butt and broken knees say to skip it.

The last stop before is The Shipwreck Treasure Museum which was opened in June 1994, as a re-creation of the 1856 wreckers' warehouse. Inside, you'll see a video presentation depicting how Key West once became the wealthiest city in America. This nautical museum serves as a backdrop for artifacts from the Issac Allerton, which sank in 1856. I really wanted to see this but all the aches and pains made me decide, after 10 minutes, to head for my bed on the ship. I hadn’t wanted to miss the spectacular view from the lateen tower, or wreckers' look-out. Rising 65 feet above street level, the look-out provides a great vantage point from which to photograph your ship. Please note: Those wishing to visit the tower at the Shipwreck Museum would need to negotiate approximately 100 stair steps – impossible for me with my knee and newly tortured back.


Day 3, Saturday, Nov 19 – Cozumel (12PM – 11PM)
Enjoy a day snorkeling, diving to fabulous reefs, exploring the jungle with an ATV, relaxing beside the pool at a beach club, strolling a vast beach and visiting an ancient Mayan temple but due to delays and weather, none of this was possible / done.

Since we were over 2 hours late getting out of Key West yesterday and also hit some relatively high wind and currents, we arrived in Cozumel, not at 1, but at 3:30. We were so late that several longer excursions had to be cancelled or drastically curtailed including the one I'm on.

COZ-007 Island Tour and Folklore (5 hours)
Discover Cozumel's colorful past and charming present on this delightful half-day tour. Your guide will greet you on the pier and then you will board your coach for a scenic drive around the island of Cozumel, one of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations and its largest inhabited island. As you make your way around the island, your guide will provide you with an informative narration of the island's history and point out places of interest. Your first stop is the newly opened The Mayan Cacao Company. Discover the secrets of the Chocolate in a sensory experience where you’ll learn the origins of the Cacao, the manufacturing process, demonstration how the Chocolate is produced and finalize with a delicious tasting. During your visit to the Mayan Cacao Company you will see a traditional Mayan house with thatched-roof, botanical gardens, cooking techniques as well as learn about the myths, stories and beliefs of the Mayan World.

Your next stop is the oldest settlement on the island, El Cedral. During your stop you will learn about the ancient history of the Mayan culture that first inhibited this tiny village and how in later years, this was the site of the first Catholic service held in Mexico. Afterwards, head to “Kun-Che” where you will be treated to a sampling of traditional folkloric dances, performed by professional artists in full costume. Continuing on, you will make your way around the southern tip of the island to the eastside, enjoying picturesque views of pristine, untamed beaches while on your way to El Mirador. A stop at this popular natural limestone formation allows you an opportunity to stretch your legs and take some photos of the striking coastline and rock formations before you heading back to your ship.

TRANSLATION: The schedule got rearranged, and cut back due to timing and time of day. We were to have stopped at the oldest settlement on the island, El Cedral. During your stop we were to learn about the ancient history of the Mayan culture that first inhibited this tiny village and how in later years, this was the site of the first Catholic service held in Mexico. But this was skipped.

Instead, first we went to “Kun-Che” where we were to be treated to an exhibit of the ancient Mayan ball games, and a sampling of traditional folkloric dances, performed by professional artists in full costume. This was the primary reason I took this tour. However rain cut the outdoor part of the performance short, and the indoor part was very disappointing due to poor lighting.

Next we wasted almost an hour with a stop at a Tequila Company to learn “all about it – history – requirements - production. Bah, humbug.

Our last stop is the newly opened The Mayan Cacao Company. Discover the secrets of the Chocolate in a sensory experience where you’ll learn the origins of the Cacao, the manufacturing process, demonstration how the Chocolate is produced and finalize with a delicious tasting. During your visit to the Mayan Cacao Company you did not see a traditional Mayan house with thatched-roof, botanical gardens, cooking techniques as well as learn about the myths, stories and beliefs of the Mayan World. Another short-changed visit.

Continuing on, we did NOT make our way around the southern tip of the island to the eastside, enjoying any views of the beaches while on our way to El Mirador By this time, it had been totally dark for over an hour. A stop at this popular natural limestone formation would have allowed an opportunity to stretch your legs and take some photos of the striking coastline and rock formations before you heading back to your ship but that was totally impossible due to total darkness and rain. Instead we just drove through the rainy darkness back to the ship.

In effect, we got less than half the tour we were supposed to have gotten. BAD DEAL!


Day 4, Sunday, Nov 20 – Costa Maya, Mexico (8AM – 5PM)
Nice cruise overnight and the a/c actually worked the whole night. The cruise port of Costa Maya (Costa NAYa!) in Mexico's developing Costa Maya region is surrounded by dense jungle and turquoise waters and blessed with radiant sunshine. No wonder the ancient Maya lived nearby, building ceremonial centers like Chacchoben, where you can climb among the ruins, many of which are still being excavated. Look for raucous toucans in the trees.

ARRRGGGGHHH!! My camera’s SD card got damaged somehow. So I’ve lost all my pictures from Key West, Cozumel, and all but a couple of late pix from Costa Maya. At least it was a nice, very interesting, place to wander around. However that got cut short due to the usual afternoon rain = “mad dash’ back to the ship. By dinner time we are at sea and it is “difficult” to get my food from the buffet to the table. Should be a “rock and roll”” night.

CMA-006 Mini-Jeep Adventure 5 hrs $149 / 111.75
Not offered on this cruise - and I'm not interested in seeing more Mayan ruins after the Globus "Treasures of the Yucatan" and OAT "Route of the Maya" excellent trips. Just go ashore and wander around for a fairly long while, then back on the ship for the rest of a long, boring day.


Day 5, Monday, Nov 21 – Santo Tomas, Guatemala and RAIN (8AM – 6PM)
Visit fascinating Quiriguá and its stunning Mayan stele. Take a boat ride along the Rio Dulce to Lake Izabal past riverside Mayan villages, lush tropical vegetation and Fort San Felipe. Or take a short flight to Flores for an unforgettable visit to incredible, mysterious Tikal (been there), its soaring ancient temples rising from the jungle floor.

Oops, 6:30AM and light rain; 7:45AM much heavier rain. Forecast for the day 80% intermittent rain. Between that and a re-injured right knee, I cancelled out of today’s excursion so I’m now “batting” 0 for 4. Long term forecast “Invest 90L” is now upgraded to a tropical depression and forecast to be a Cat-1 Hurricane soon – moving west. This doesn’t look good for the next few days of the trip. Just my luck. So much for the latest “down”date on the trip. Maybe tomorrow in Roatan will be better but not with potential Hurricane Otto.

STC-004 Countryside and Rio Dulce by Land (5 hours) (skipped due to the weather)
Explore Guatemala's scenic beauty and storied past during this tour through the Motagua Valley, and a visit to the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe. Depart the pier for the drive through the scenic Motagua Valley. Along the way, you will see an abundance of lush tropical vegetation in the countryside. Upon arrival at the bridge over the Rio Dulce, a stop will be made for spectacular views and photo opportunities of Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce National Park, a protected area and one of the most important ecological reserves in the country. From this vantage-point, you will also see Guatemalan weekend homes, marinas and small hotels dotting both sides of the river and lake. On Lake Izabal, you will find the tiny Castle of San Felipe, or Castillo de San Felipe, the Spanish fort built to protect the Rio Dulce from invading pirates. You will then take a brief boat ride to the castle for an inside visit. Located just minutes from the bridge, the Castle of San Felipe was built during the 17th century in honor of the Spanish King Felipe II. The fort, with its powerful battery of cannons strategically positioned at the entrance to Lake Izabal, offered protection to Spanish ships crossing its waters, and transporting products and supplies to and from Spain and Havana. Its walls offered protection from pirates that used to navigate the river and attack the boats they encountered along the way.

In 1686, a pirate assault burned most of the fort, and the attacks continued until a series of treaties were signed between Spain and England. As a result, the Castillo lost its importance as a defensive fort, and was converted into a prison. It was later abandoned, and fell into a state of disrepair until its renovation in 1955. Rebuilt based upon its original plans, the Castle of San Felipe still retains two cannons dating back to the 1790s, and a pair of 400-year-old towers. Following your tour, you will proceed to the Catamaran Hotel for refreshments before returning to the ship.

Please note: Guides will assist guests embarking the boats, but guests must be able to step into and out of the boat on their own; a challenging feat during low tide. The weather looked that it was going to be so bad that I skipped this booked excursion.


HURRICANE UPDATE: Now a category 1 Hurricane, Otto is forcing schedule changes. The next two days (Roatan and Cruising) stay the same but then add another day of cruising before getting to a delayed visit to Colon. The scheduled stop in Puerto Limon is cancelled.

Day 6, Tuesday, Nov 22 – Roatan, Honduras (8AM – 2PM)
Luxuriate on the magnificent beaches, snorkel or dive and explore the superb shallow reefs, or discover the island's other natural wonders on a horseback ride on the beach and through a tropical forest past spectacular volcanic rocks.

ROA-008 Island Highlights (3.5 hours)
Enjoy tropical Roatan by observing iguanas in a protected zoo-like habitat and then visiting an eco-pard to interact with butterflies and tropical birds. Depart from the pier and enjoy a leisurely narrated drive through Roatan's lush countryside, which supports a diversity of wildlife. Few tropical animals are as iconic as the iguana, which you will see in abundance at the Iguana Hideaway. It's an excellent venue to observe these prehistoric-looking reptiles, as iguanas are threatened on Roatan from loss of habitat and being captured for the pet trade. Watch them basking in the sun, lounging in trees and munching on vegetables. Some of the iguanas are over three feet long, and while they may look imposing they're really quite passive.

Continuing on, you'll make your way to the Mayan-Eden Eco-Park for a visit to the butterfly and tropical bird section there. Take a magical walk through an enclosed area that contains a wide variety of local butterflies. Learn about some of Honduras' most vibrant varieties of butterflies and about this delicate creature and its intricate lifecycle. The garden is also home to tropical trees, plants and exotic rescued birds and animals. Hummingbirds dart happily from blossom to blossom and you'll no doubt see colorful parrots flying free. You can even have a photo taken with one of these birds sitting right on your arm! On your way back to the pier you will pass through the small capital city of Coxen Hole, once home to the pirate John Cox.

TRANSLATION: The official notes say depart at 8:30 but we don’t get away until making our long walk all the way through the usual tourist-trap souvenirs building a bit after 9. First we have to board a Micro-Minivan built and spaced for Miniature people. I guess that’s why they call it a “mini”van. There is NO leg/knee room and it’s even very difficult to go up or down the mini-aisle. Then in all that discomfort, try to sorta enjoy the disorganized tour. We drive for about 25 minutes past rows of slum-level “houses” and almost-shack shops lining the road (probably actually a middle-class area). We do see a few nicer (almost estate) homes. Finally we get to the promised scenic overlook which is a road pull-off lined with a long row of booths of souvenir sellers – essentially hiding whatever there was that we were supposed to see. Next head a long way back towards town and visit the Iguana farm where we see some “tame” iguanas being hand fed some cocoa leaves. The next stop is the butterfly exhibit (maybe a dozen butterflies to been seen) and no hummingbirds, but where they also have some monkeys and other critters. Local (Houston / Galveston) exhibits are much better. Heading back to the ship we pass through the capital, Coxen Hole, which IS a couple of “steps” above the first town we saw. The 3-hour trip turns out about 2:45 so that’s close. At least there was NO RAIN but it is forecast for this afternoon.

Now all we have to look forward to for the rest of the day and the next 2 days is watching the water go by. But fortunately that got changed.

Day 7, Wednesday, Nov 23 – Cruising the Caribbean Sea #1 of 3
Not just the hurricane, but maintenance problems continue. This cattle barge needs to spend some time in the repairs shop.

First it was a broken toilet that wouldn’t flush (call the plumber at midnight) after which the banged up connections flooded the toilet area (had to use public facilities); then the next evening decks 6, 7, and 8 had no toilets working while they spent 3 hours replacing some of the lines; then a couple of nights where the a/c wasn’t working right (ventilation but no cooling), then a day when the toilet/bathroom door wouldn’t latch (had to call repair but that was during the day) and it just kept swinging back and forth; then as we started into the hurricane area there was some kind of steam line problems and we slowed to near 0 for 3 hours while they replaced steam lines, followed by another “warm” night. And we aren’t even all that near the hurricane. So what else can happen?

At least the rock-n-roll isn’t too bad but I’m glad they have waiter service to carry our food to our tables or I wouldn’t get anything to eat – it would probably all be on the floor. This afternoon winds forecast 30-50 knots; 20-25’ waves. Bouncy! At least the hurricane center forecasts Otto to go inland and across Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It will be the first hurricane to make landfall in Costa Rica in well over 100 years. But that is hopefully far enough north of Panama / Colon that we MIGHT be safe (false hope).

HURRICANE & MAJOR SCHEDULE UPDATE:: The high winds here continue - and are getting worse. Now a category 2 Hurricane, but currently a stalled out storm, we are forced to make major changes. NO PUERTO LIMON and NO COLON – two of the primary ports I wanted to visit. Then more changes announced - no stop in Montego Bay, Jamaica, tomorrow; we have to wait until Friday.

Day 8, Thursday, Nov 24 – Montego Bay, Jamaica / Cruising the Caribbean Sea #2 of 3
We were supposed to go to Falmouth today but the Harbormaster there closed the port due to 45+ knot winds. So we go to Montego Bay today and tomorrow is the “Wind Gods’ Surprise.” They finally came up with a turkey dinner, but IMO, it was the poorest meal of the trip.

Our stop in Falmouth, Jamaica Bay, is now postponed until tomorrow. Today we just putt-putt around in circles in the Caribbean Bathtub.


Day 9, Friday, Nov 25 - Montego Bay, Jamaica (8PM - overnight)
Since I’ve been here before being onboard a rock-n-roll ship would be more interesting – at least something would be happening. Ho Hum. And another Ho Hum. And another. And another. And another. Plan A er B er C er F-minus. Finally we get to dock and YEAA! They did come up with a couple of excursions.

Jamaica’s second largest city lies on the island’s northwest shore wrapped around a bay that has sheltered Spanish galleons and English pirate ships, royal yachts, and cruise ships. “Mo Bay” became a playground of the rich and famous in the 1950s. Nowadays, Montego Bay’s allure is manifold: outdoor sports and alfresco party spots. The “Hip Strip” on the bay’s eastern edge is renowned for its rowdy dance clubs. In the lush mountains behind Montego Bay is wild Cockpit Country, a corner of the Caribbean that’s little changed since pirate days.

OCH-005 Konoko Gardens & Dunn’s River Falls, 4 hours 8:30
After driving from the pier, you will enjoy a picturesque drive inland to Coyaba Gardens, a natural wonderland. Tour the Gardens (~1 hour). Enjoy a visit to the Dunn’s River Falls and enjoy free time (~1:30). Dunn’s River Falls is known around the world but the locals in Ocho Rios know Coyaba Gardens is the place to go when it’s time to get back to nature, and maybe climb a waterfall too. Coyaba means paradise in the language of Jamaica’s first people, and this is a s close to the Garden of Eden as you can get. After this marvelous site, drive to Taj Mahal Plaza in Ocho Rios to enjoy some time for shopping (~30 minutes). Transfer back to the pier.

TRANSLATION: We are scheduled to leave at 8:20 but as usual, it is delayed. Finally we get out to another of those micro-minivans (only slightly better than the previous one.) The trip is listed as 4 hours (watch the times mount up) but it takes 2:15 of rough highway driving, through frequent showers, to get to our first stop: Coyaba Gardens (once the lead driver finally found the correct place). We do get a nice 1:15 hour tour of the gardens (and more showers) and see a couple more pretty birds.

Then there is some more driving (:15-:20) to get to the falls. Our guide tells us to leave cameras and anything valuable on the micro-coach or they will get soaked. There, considering the weather, the walking “paths”, slippery rocks, the frequent rain showers, etc. I chicken out and decide that I’m NOT going to do the long climb down to the foot of the falls and then have to come back up the same miserable way. Anyway, we are here about 1:15 or so.

We are supposed to have a brief stop at a road-side dump for something to eat (:30) stop at the Taj Mahal shopping Plaza (another :30) but after a bit over 5 hours, considering the long drive back to MoBay, the vote is unanimous: skip the stops and go straight back (in more rain). This takes another 2:30 so now the 4-hour trip is up to 7:30. When we get back to the pier, we have to go through a security check, and just as we are ready to start the long walk back to the ship, we are stuck (at least still inside the building) with a 20 minute HEAVY rain. Even those with some rain gear didn’t brave the rain. By the time we actually get back onboard, it is just after 4PM and we can’t even get anything to eat at the Waves Grill. We have to wait for a 7PM dinner.

Somebody in “Destination Services” needs to learn how to count time and revise their description of the tour. People who are scheduled to take this tour tomorrow can be in trouble since we are supposed to depart at 5.


Day 10, Saturday, Nov 26 – Montego Bay (-5PM)
Another new excursion:

OCH-006 Rose Hall Great House & Crafts Market 4 hours 9AM
From the pier, a scenic drive takes you to Rose Hall Great House, an outstanding relic of colonial times with a fascinating history of dark rumor and intrigue. The scenic drive continues through the Ironshore area where you will see residential homes of varied architecture. Pause for a while at the craft market to browse for a souvenir that will remind you of your visit to Jamaica before returning to the cruise port.

TRANSLATION: Again we are condemned to another of those Toyota mini-mini-minivans (just about the only brand/make that you see here) but at least there is not a lot of driving today. At least it’s not raining – just that the sun is so bright that it really hurts what with my lingering light sensitivity. Groan! It’s further out of town than I remember but very imposing from the outside as we get there. The inside is a bit less impressively “fancy” than the Virginia, etc. plantations but we are talking a bit earlier in history and not as much trade to get better furnishings After our visit (~ 1 hour), we drive back to town a crafts/fleas/market – about 100 booths with almost any bit of wasted “junk” you want to buy. We were condemned to 30 minutes there which was AT LEAST 1860 SECONDS TOO LONG! Side notes: gasoline is a bit over $6 per gallon, and cow’s milk is about $10 PER QUART.

All aboard at 4:30PM and we get to escape Ho-Hum Bay as we depart at 5 for the Cayman Islands (assuming that the people who took the Gardens/Falls 7 ½ hour excursion are back). It is supposedly a short cruise – it better be since we are due in the Caymans in 15 hours.


Day 11, Sunday, Nov 27 – Georgetown, Cayman Islands (8AM – 4PM) (anchor port)
Swim and snorkel with shy and gentle stingrays, see the underwater world from a semi-submersible sub, send a postcard from "Hell," visit a turtle farm where green sea turtles are raised, or just relax in boredom.

GCM-003 Cultural Express (3.5 hours)
Enjoy the cultural sights and sounds of two of Cayman's top heritage attractions in one customized excursion. Departing directly from the pier, you will first travel along the south coast of the island with your experienced tour guide and driver providing an interesting narration as to the history of the Cayman Islands and its people. Following the coast road, you will soon arrive at the Pedro St. James National Historic Site and the famous Pedro's Castle - the birth place of democracy in the Cayman Islands. You'll be amazed at the grandeur of this spectacularly restored site which transports you back in time. A tour of the castle, the lush grounds and an animated show completes your visit.

Next, travel through the original capital of the Cayman Islands - Bodden Town, with its quaint and colorful cottages and traditional Caymanian homesteads while on your way to the Botanical Gardens.

Here you can stroll about and enjoy viewing some of Grand Cayman's most exotic plants and indigenous species of wild life, such as the endangered blue iguana. After a leisurely visit to the Botanical Gardens, you will re-board your coach and travel back to Georgetown. Participants have the option of continuing on to the pier, or being dropped in town to do some shopping.

TRANSLATION: This is the first time (and only time on this trip) that we have to take a tender into the port. Then first we are shoe-horned into another of those Toyota mobile prison cells for a 30 minute ride to the Botanical Gardens passing through just another town, supposedly the one called Bodden Town.

When we finally got to the gardens, it looked like it would be interesting but instead of the 3 guides supposedly allocated to our large (3 mobile prison cells) group, we only had one guide which meant that unless we were right up close, we heard NOTHING. Result: very boring totally wasted time visit. Hooray when we are allowed to escape – and we are definitely running over time.

Then after more driving, we get to “Pedro’s Castle” which isn’t a castle or fort or anything like that. It’s just another one of the Caribbean Islands 1800’s planter’s houses. As little as it was, it was better than the totally worthless gardens tour but at least they did have a nice video (movie) documentary at the end of the tour. Instead of getting back to the cattle barge at noon, (8:30 + 3:30 = 12 noon), it is almost 1PM before we return. The one advantage of being late is that we didn’t get the hard sell to stop and spend all our money in whatever that town was.

Day 12, Monday, Nov 28 Cruising the Caribbean Sea #3 of 3
I’m always one of the early ones up to deck 9 for breakfast, but today, not only was I early but they had been open for almost 15 minutes before anyone else showed up except for coffee. It turns out to be a nice day today except for the usual rolling – which this barge does more than I had expected. Otherwise, today is dedicated to trying to gather everything up from all the multitude of tiny storages spaces and getting them arranged (hopefully) back into the luggage. This will definitely take ALL DAY! I will get a cash refund today for those two excursions cancelled out by Otto.

Day 13, Tuesday, Nov 29 Miami (8AM)
Early breakfast (they want to get us fed and off the ship as quickly as possible}.Arrive back in Miami and transfer (included) to the airport arriving about 8; I’m to be kicked off at 8:30AM. The early 3 PM flight that I’m taking on the next trip is not available today so I’m stuck with an extremely long wait for my flight but was able to change to an earlier flight. The disembarkation process was well done – but the bus driver dropped us off at one end of the extremely long Miami airport so we had to “walk half way back to the pier” to check in. Head home for a SHORT time: Nov 30 – Dec 4 giving just 5 days at home to get ready for the next trip. At least it is a short flight and we gain an hour heading west.

United 0010Miami – IAH5:05P – 7:00P2:55

Long wait for luggage but short wait for the shuttle. Arrive back home about 8:30.

OVERALL EVALUATION:
Ship – excellent, but rolled a bit more than I expected, but not at all bad. There were some maintenance problems and the a/c temperature varied a lot – warm to “freezing” with the thermostat set at the same level.
Crew – friendly and helpful (kudos to the Oceania “Ambassador” and cabin attendant)
Meals – a bit too fancy for my taste, but I could always find something appealing.
Breakfasts – why don’t they have waffles or pancakes?
Kennel – not as large as it seemed in pictures but quite nice; seldom used the veranda; won't book any more cabins with the veranda option.
Excursions – usually descriptions were overstated
Overall – EXCELLENT: one more cruise booked before taking this one; three more booked onboard.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge


I didn't take many pictures this time due to weather. The Falls picture is stolen from the web.



EXCURSIONS:

Key West EYW-006 Discover Key West2.5 hours
Cozumel COZ-007 Island Tour and Folklore5 hours
Costa Maya (NOT OFFERED) CMA-006 Mini Jeep AdventureN/A
Santo Tomas STC-004 Countryside & Rio Dulce by LandRAIN
Roatan ROA-008 Island Highlights (Lowlights)3.5 hours
Colon Cancelled due to Otto-
Puerto Limon Cancelled due to Otto-
Montego BayKonoko Gardens & Dunn's River Falls4 hours
Rose Hall Great House & Crafts4 hours
Caymans GCM-003 Cultural Express3.5 hours

REGATTA


The ship is the REGATTA. Our acclaimed Regatta has undergone a multimillion-dollar transformation to create a virtually new ship. Sleek and elegantly charming, Regatta is the flagship of the Oceania Cruises fleet. She features four unique, open-seating restaurants and 342 lavish suites and luxurious staterooms, nearly 70% of which feature private verandas. With just 684 guests, our 400 professionally trained European staff ensure you will wait for nothing.

B2-VERANDA STATEROOM – My “Cell/stable stall/stateroom” is #6076, deck 6, far aft, portside. The 216-square-foot Veranda Staterooms are not as large as on the Riviera (the Regatta is a smaller ship), but still nice. Featuring a comfortably furnished private veranda, our most requested luxury, each stateroom includes a refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a marble and granite-clad bathroom with a shower. See the 2nd cruise for more information about Oceania cruises.