2016 Eastern Caribbean
Heart of the Caribbean

Oceania


CARIBBEAN ISLAND RETREATS In the heart of the Caribbean, you will find a reprieve from the daily routines of life and a chance to relax in the lap of luxury. Old San Juan offers a glimpse of its colonial past in the beautifully restored Spanish-style architecture and blue cobblestone streets, and the artwork of some of St. Maarten’s most celebrated artists casts the Caribbean in a different light on an intimate gallery tour. Watch your winter blues melt into the indescribably blue waters of the Caribbean as you explore the tunnels, tidal pools and grottoes created by the enormous boulders that populate the beaches of The Baths National Park near Tortola.

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS: There is something besides watersports everywhere. I'll book "World Club" for 4 of the excursions, and take my chances on the other three using on-board (that $400 onboard credit) bookings (with alternatives).

To help "navigate" this fairly long file, here are some "shortcuts."

Day 3, Dec 7, Grand Turk
Day 4, Dec 8, San Juan
Day 5, Dec 9, St. Maarten & St. Martin
Day 6, Dec 10, St. Barts
Day 7, Dec 11, Tortola, BVI
Day 8, Dec 12, Dominican Rep.
Day 10, Dec 14, Nassau
The Barge, Riviera



Day 1, Monday, Dec 5 – Miami
ASSUMING THE WEATHER COOPERATES: Catch another VERY early StuporShuttle pickup about 5:00. Ticket: OS0JKH

FORTUNATELY THE WEATHER SORTA COOPERATED DESPITE THE FORECAST: Waiting on the porch for the shuttle, it was 48, breezy, with light rain. Catch another VERY early StuporShuttle pickup about 5:00. Assuming there is a flight problem: if there is a problem with your flight to Miami, Oceania will do everything that they can do to fly you to the next port (Turks). That is part of their insurance policy. Obviously nothing promised until they see if there is a problem. This helped cut down on some of my worries.

EMAIL RECEIVED SUNDAY FROM OCEANIA: The US Coast Guard conducts random standard full ship inspections on all cruise ships calling on US ports. Oceania Cruises has just been notified that the US Coast Guard will be conducting an inspection on Riviera during the Miami call on December 5, 2016 as soon as all departing guests are disembarked.

Regrettably, the US Coast Guard does not allow any guests to embark Riviera, nor will they permit our housekeeping staff to begin preparing staterooms, until all aspects of the inspection are completed. We anticipate that embarkation will not commence until approximately 3 pm. We apologize ahead of time for any inconveniences this Coast Guard inspection may impose, and strongly encourage all cruise-only and local guests to delay their arrival at the terminal until 3 pm.

Upon embarkation, you are invited to enjoy a late lunch in the Terrace Café on Deck 12 Aft. The Destination Services desk will also be open as soon as embarkation begins to take shore excursion reservations and answer any questions you may have.

It was still raining lightly at the airport and we ‘pushed back’ on time, but the weather was slowing takeoffs so we taxied and held for about 30 minutes; then re-routed well to the north to stay away from the storms along the Gulf Coast.

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

Fly to Miami arriving about an hour late, meet the Oceania representative and head towards the terminal where we had to sit around for a while before they let us on for limited activity: go to the feeding trough. We were supposed to embark on the Riviera at 1PM – oops, see below. Gee, I could have taken a later flight.

The Destination Services desk will also be open as soon as embarkation begins to take shore excursion reservations and answer any questions you may have.I did have the chance to sign up for the other three excursions that were planned as onboard booking. We didn’t get to our kennels until well after 3; had the mandatory fire drill at 5, and another visit to the feeding trough at 6:30. Eventually we will depart 6PM – or 7PM – only an hour late.

Comments on the barge: 1) I like the Regatta MUCH better; smaller, easier to find my way around, poor room furnishings on this barge, LOUSY ALMOST NON-EXISTENT INTERNET THAT KEEPS CRASHING and YAHOO MAIL also is mal-functioning – most likely due to the ****** ‘net connections onboard this barge, so I may or may not be able to send email messages or even update my trip notes. Unfortunately I've already signed up for another cruise on this **** barge in 2018. BAH HUMBUG.

Day 2, Tuesday, Dec 6 – Cruising the Atlantic Ocean
Overnight some essentially constant rocking, occasionally very noticeable even on deck 7 where I have my kennel. But when going up 5 decks (to 12) this morning for the feeding trough, it was constant and very evident; not rough, but definitely rocking continuously. Be careful walking. Breakfast was good though as usual, Oceania doesn’t believe in cold, or even cool, fruit juice; it is never available. It’s almost enough to make me swear off orange juice. Then back down 5 decks to my rocking cradle. At least I don’t get seasick – just very bored.

It is now probable that the intermittent net access caused a failure in uploading the notes web page resulting in a totally fouled up empty file. Many growls and snarls. I'm even starting to think about cancelling out of the other cruise on this barge, whether or not I can find an alternative.

Today it is just mark time by watching the water go by, #1 of only 2. At least we don’t stop at “Fleece-the-Tourist Sandbar” either departing or returning via the BAH-hamas. But as last night, virtually no ‘net connection and when it does work, it doesn’t really. This is going to be a long, boring cruise. Grumble, grumble, growl and gritch. Darn barge!!!

Nice lunch but then back to being very boring. I think I’m going to rename this barge as “The Dry Creek Bed” rather than the RIViERa.

Day 3, Wednesday, Dec 7 – Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands (8AM – 4PM) Tender port
(NEW) Discover the serene beauty of this little island as you walk through the town, see the old salt pans and windmills and watch flamingos, pelicans and other birds preen, feed and socialize. Travel to Gibbs Cay National Park and just relax on the beach.

GRT-015 Coast to Coast Grand Turk Safari, 2 hrs
Travel by open, island-style off road vehicle while being taken on an adventure that covers Grand Turk from North to South and East to West. This off-road and on-road excursion allows seeing all the breathtaking views of Grand Turk and the Atlantic Ocean.

Board your open-air vehicle and commence your discovery of Grand Turk. First, explore the southern off-roads and view the old salt ponds, or Salinas. From here, head along the west coast and historic Duke Street and Front Street, famous for old Bermudian-style architecture, historic churches and old cannons. Your guide will point out the famous 7,000 foot drop-off that creates the Grand Turk "Wall", famous to divers from all over the world. Next, travel north to Little Bluff and North Creek for a stroll along the beach where you can hunt for shells and view up-close the mangroves which are an important part of Grand Turk's ecosystem. Another stop on the northern end of Grand Turk features the island's historic light house. Be sure to bring your camera on this stop because the elevated views of the Atlantic are simply spectacular.

Your island trek continues along the east coast to more dramatic views of the coastline and picture perfect Gibbs Cay. The final leg of the tour goes right through the center of Grand Turk and the town Salinas, which are a rich part of Grand Turk's history from the Salt trading years. Enroute back to the pier, view the Friendship Capsule, a replica of the original space capsule that splashed down off the coast of Grand Turk in 1962.

Please note: This tour involves travel over very bumpy and uneven (virtually never even) surfaces. Casual clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

TRANSLATION: Fortunately there were no deaths or serious injuries getting from the ship to the tender to the dock – just a bunch of bruises on some of the passengers and several who got wet from the spray. It was very risky and required a 10-12 minute corkscrew ride from the ship to the dock (and back).

Meet our local guide there who points us to our truck/bus/torture rack. It is basically a long bed truck with open sides, a cloth canopy, and seats for 24-28 people who are brave enough (I guess after the tender experience “anything” is acceptable) to climb onboard. I’m not sure it even had springs. We get a long drive around town with a brief pause to see the replica of the capsule in which John Glenn splashed down near the island. Then we have the first stop limited to 10 minutes in downtown which is conveniently exactly were 12-14 local souvenir/trinket sellers have their tents set up. There is not a lot of real interest but the drive overall has been interesting.

The next part is a drive out to a beach area over roads that reminded me of the so-called roads we had to travel on the Kenya-Tanzania Safari trip. At the beach we have another 10 minutes to walk along the beach to pick up shells or whatever, and to watch some of the very many burros which wander all over the place. Then it is a short bounce-slam-bang to the historic (only one) lighthouse. Not much there for our 10 minutes except to take a couple of pictures and see some more burros.

We then bounce-shake-rattle-and-bruise our way back to town with a brief pause to see some flamingos – followed by another terrifying experience getting from dock to tender to ship but again, nobody died. Despite this description, it was an interesting excursion, just bruising.

TRIPS SCHEDULE UPDATE: This afternoon I cancelled out of the January, 2018, “Captivating Caribbean” trip to one called “Mayan Mosaics” in November. I had four reasons:
a) That trip was on this miserable cattle barge; the new one is on a twin to the nice Regatta;
b) The new trip has many, but not all, of the ports on the “Caribbean Charisma” trip that was messed up by Hurricane Otto – I’ll get a second chance;
c) The new trip is late in the year breaking the schedule of 4 straight cruises;
d) No charge for the trips change.


Day 4, Thursday, Dec 8 – San Juan, Puerto Rico (1PM – 9PM)
After another real rock-n-roll night, head UP 5 DECKS to the real rocking deck for a nice breakfast – at least it was nice until we were invaded by a squalling young child. HOWL!! With basically no internet it is going to be a long wait until this afternoon’s excursion. But at least we dock rather than tender in to the port.

(Scheduled: a longer Road Scholar visit in Jan, 2017) Begin in Old San Juan, a walled enclave of hundreds of restored 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial buildings. Notice the blue-tinged cobblestone streets; they were once ballast on Spanish ships. Elsewhere, tour the medieval Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, the Museum of Art, and Casa del Libro, a repository of priceless documents.

SJU-007 San Juan & Bacardi Rum Distillery, 4.5 hrs, $149
Explore Puerto Rico's rich legacy and rum-making process during this tour of Old San Juan and the Bacardi Rum Distillery. Depart the pier for the drive to the south side of San Juan Harbor for a visit to the Bacardí Rum Distillery, the world's largest distiller of natural spirits. Upon arrival, you and your guide will board an open-air tram for the ride to the Visitor's Building. During your tour, you will see audio and video displays about the history of Bacardí and the rum-making process, visit a gallery displaying old documents, family portraits, rum bottles and other items.

At the Bacardí cocktail lounge, which resembles a 1920s Cuban bar, you will watch a bartender prepare cocktails using Bacardí rum, see some of Bacardi's greatest commercial ads in a room filled with lights and music, and send video e-mails to your friends. Your tour will conclude at the open-air pavilion for a complimentary rum drink, and a take home Bacardi Souvenir glass. Bacardí Rum and products may be purchased in the Brand Store located in the Visitor’s Center.

Next, your drive will continue through portions of New San Juan en route to Old San Juan, an island connected by bridges to mainland Puerto Rico. Upon arrival, you will drive past Fort San Geronimo to charming Old San Juan, then on to Fort San Cristobal to explore this centuries old fort. Your driver/guide will give you an introduction and then you are free to self explore the many displays available such as the old dungeon.BR>
After approximately 30-40 minutes, you will re-board your vehicle for a city overview seeing many historic sites, including El Morro Fort, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and San Jose Church. Along the way, you will also see beautiful 17th-century Spanish ironwork on the restored old homes, and blue-black glazed cobblestones lining the narrow streets of the Old City. You will be dropped off at Plaza Colon, receive a shopper's map of Old San Juan, and have some free time to browse the interesting shops, boutiques and art galleries or you can also walk to some of the many interesting historical spots inaccessible by vehicle such La Fortaleza, San Juan Cathedral, the door of San Juan or La Rogativa. Following your visit to Old San Juan, you may opt to re-board the coach and return to the ship, or stay a little longer and return to the ship at your own expense.

Please note: Guests will not enter Bacardi's distillery or production area; the tour will be of the Visitor's Building. The walking portion of the tour in Old San Juan involves travel over some uneven pavement and steep inclines, especially within the fortress.

TRANSLATION: This could have been a really nice trip but: after a 30-minute drive, arrive at the huge Bacardi facility where we are treated to a rum-punch drink then have to waste an hour for our trolley tour. We do get a couple of stops then the mandatory gift shop stop. More wasted time before we get back on the coach for another 30-minute ride back towards town and the fortress. Nice visit here but we are now running overtime and have to rush back to the pier to get onboard before the ship goes off to leave us (no they wouldn’t do that because we are on an official tour).


Day 5, Friday, Dec 9 – Philipsburg, St. Maarten (9AM – 11PM)
The roughest seas yet overnight. Getting up to go to the toilet is an adventure. The ship frequently shudders and staggers as it slams into another big wave. If this were a tender port,, I wouldn’t even think about going ashore. It is fortunate that I don’t get seasick, Otherwise the 5-deck higher feeding trough could make me sick. Walking is treacherous. HOLD ON TO THAT HANDRAIL is a mandatory precaution as we go about the ship.

(NEW) Snorkel amidst the exotic fish and majestic coral reefs in the undersea world of Shipwreck Cove. Egrets, plovers, pelicans and herons are among the wildlife found via kayak tours of the beautiful saltwater lagoons. Discover the dazzling colors of hundreds of butterflies on the ever-popular Butterfly Farm. With a little training from local sailing professionals, you can even navigate a race on an America's Cup course onboard the world-renowned sailboat, Stars and Stripes. This is a MAJOR cruise/tourist destination. At least this morning there are SIX cruise ships in port and our “little” 1250 cattle boat is definitely the runt of the litter.

SXM-018 Semi-Sub, Marigot, Scenic Drive, 3.5h
(This is the only excursion of any interest here.) Cruise a semi-submersible vessel through Grand Case Bay, observing the extraordinary marine life and then enjoy shopping in the French capital of Marigot. After departing from the pier, you will soon drive across the border from Dutch-governed St. Maarten into French-governed St. Martin, the less developed part of the island. The countryside along the way is wonderfully scenic with dense forests and the occasional lake.

Before long, you will arrive in the former fishing village of Grand Case, where you will board the Seaworld Explorer. Developed to explore the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, this semi-submarine presents the natural wonders below the surface but without actually submerging. Instead, the hull has been outfitted with large viewing windows, allowing you to observe the abundant marine life in air-conditioned comfort. A marine expert will be on hand to point out the different species thriving in Grand Case Bay and elaborate on their unique features.

After disembarking, you will drive to the Creole-inspired capital of Marigot. This attractive port city features sidewalk cafes, local restaurants, and an open-air market to explore in your free time. Many of the stores are in colonial-style buildings. Later, on the return to the pier in St. Maarten, you will pause for photos at the lookout at either Orient Bay on the island’s east coast or Cole Bay on the west

Please note: Walking on this tour is mainly at the guests’ discretion during free time in Marigot. There will be a ladder to negotiate to enter and exit the submerged lower level of the semi-submarine. Weather appropriate clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. The tour sequence may vary.

TRANSLATION: On an overcast morning start out with a long drive through endless connected villages through St. Maarten into Dutch governed St. Martin. Our first stop is in Marigot where we park in the usual shopping/flea market area for about 45 wasted minutes.

Then it is a relatively short drive to Grand Case where the semi-sub (the above water boarding/seating area never submerges) is parked. It is definitely getting overcast. Then we cruise about 20 minutes before we are herded below deck to a very cramped seating area. Because of the overcast it is much darker than usual from the very dirty viewing windows. For a while it is even raining up above. Decent pictures are impossible. After a while we are herded back up on deck and it is back to the sub dock.

At least it is now clear with a VERY hot sun. Because we are, as usual, running late, there is no extended shopping time (thank you) and a half-dozen shop-aholics are dropped off to make their own way back to the boat later. The rest go straight back to the pier where we have to go through a local security check to get back onboard.


Day 6, Sunday, Dec 10 - Gustavia, St. Barts (8AM – 6PM) (tender port)
(NEW) Tour this beautiful island and marvel at the rugged coastline and its unspoiled, upscale atmosphere, unique in the Caribbean for its Swedish and French heritage. Enjoy the spectacular beaches and resorts, snorkel or dive in the crystalline waters, or see underwater wonders from a semi-submersible marine vessel.

Overnight we sailed a very long distance: all of 2.3 miles from St, Maarten; and it is a really huge distance, all of 13.3 miles to Tortola, BVI, for tomorrow’s adventure. The waves are as choppy as I expected, so I’ll just stay onboard. After all, I did an almost identical semi-sub excursion yesterday and the one today is even much shorter and is an onboard booking so is “free.” The only thing “new” would be the shipwreck – really nothing new to see. Again this is the only excursion of any interest whatsoever.

Lunch note: one of the hot buffet choices was spaghetti and meatballS. The display dish had a pile of spaghetti and 5 meatballS. The guest in front of me, and I, were served a pile of spaghetti and ONE, count it, ONE meatball. I guess they are running short of dead dogs for the meat for the meatballs.

The waves have moderated so I braved the tender ride and made the very bouncy way ashore for about an hour. Then bounced the way back to the ship.

SBH-009 Yellow-Semi-Sub, 1 hour
Tendering in the rough water from the ship, you will board your semi-submersible craft at the tender pier. Descend into the hull of the vessel, find seating in front of the large underwater windows that provide a colorful vista of the undersea attractions found around St. Bart's harbor area.

On your way to the harbor entrance, you may encounter such delightful creatures as the green sea turtles that have made this area their home and will pass over the wreck of the island freighter Marignan, which sank during the height of Hurricane Luis in 1995. As the sub makes its way to the southeastern edge of the St. Bart Marine Park, a delightful parade of colorful tropical fish will make their way past your viewing portal and vibrant coral reefs dot the ocean floor below. Traveling on, a stop will be made at The Saints, a group of 3 small islands. The crew sets about feeding the surrounding fish. Don't be surprised to see hundreds of hungry fish clamoring right outside for their share of food. You may even see a local shark or two!

Following the stop at The Saints, the semi-submersible retraces its path back to the tender pier. You may wish to go topside to get wet from the spray on the return trip where you can enjoy an “excellent” view, in the rain, of the not-at-all-breathtaking shoreline of St. Bart’s and the luxury yachts moored in the harbor.


Day 7, Saturday, Dec 11 – Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (8AM – 4PM) (tender port)
(NEW) Spend a glorious day hiking in the rainforest or enjoying a scenic drive around this lush island.

** EIS-014 Coast-to-Coast Scenic Drive, 3 hours
This mostly panoramic tour presents Tortola's picturesque southern shoreline and a fine island resort before returning via an elevated ridge road. Boarding an open-air safari bus at the pier, you'll commence your tour with a leisurely drive through Road Town, the lovely capital of the British Virgin Islands. As you leave the city limits, you'll notice that Road Town surrounds the crescent-shaped bay like an amphitheater, gently rising into the lush hillsides. As you continue west along the scenic roadway hugging the Sir Francis Drake Channel, you'll see several islands on the horizon. Among them is Norman Island, an uninhabited paradise often referred to as Treasure Island because its rugged terrain is thought to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island."

Just before reaching Tortola's westernmost tip, you'll cross the bridge leading to palm-dotted Frenchman's Cay, an area where the fabled pirated Blackbeard plundered ships in the late 1700s. This part of Tortola is particularly historic, and your guide will happily go into detail describing the island's watershed events and most notorious characters. You'll enjoy more than an hour on the cay at Pusser's Landing, a collection of colorful houses, boutiques and bars clustered around the bay. The drive back to Road Town follows an entirely different route, partially along the northern shore and then inland, ascending the ridge road through the middle of the island. After a few stops for photos of the panoramic views, you'll return to the pier.

Please note: Walking on this tour is mainly at the guests' discretion during the stops. Casual light-weight clothing, sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.


Day 8, Monday, Dec 12 – Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic (tender port) / Scratch: DAY AT SEA
Due to a storm, this is now a DAY AT SEA, #2 0f 3

This is the Dominican Republic – a large country/nation. Why can’t they have a usable (docking facilities) port?? Apparently we aren’t even allowed to use our larger tenders (is the landing dock here too small?) and have to utilize much smaller, open seating, bounce-abouts (see photo). The seas are rough and it is decided that the combination of tiny tender-shuttles and rough seas just isn’t safe so all excursions are cancelled at the last minute and the little toy boats are sent away.

As of 10AM – it’s done deal. The excursion/activities staff come up with an expanded collection of onboard activities to fill up the day. At noon we get the “final word”: Scratch, Punt, Delete, “Go Away and Don’t Come Back”. So instead we get 46 hours of watching the water go by (with whitecaps even) until we dock in the BAH-hamas at 7AM on Wednesday. BAH, Humbug. And of course, no internet. This is going to be a LONG, BORING, 46 hours.

SMN-007 Jeep Safari Adventure, ALL ACTIVITIES HERE CANCELLED BY THE CAPTAIN
I had a very brief cruise stop here a few years ago – only a couple of hours ashore. Spend a day exploring this unspoiled peninsula, from its superb white sand beaches and wonderful coral reefs to its coconut-covered mountains and rainforest with clear, rushing streams. Samaná Bay is one of the great wintering locations for the humpback whale with thousands of whales migrating from the Arctic.

Day 9, Tuesday, Dec 13 – Cruising the Atlantic Ocean
Only the 2nd day we have to do this.


Day 10, Wednesday, Dec 14 – Nassau, BAH-Hamas (8AM – 5PM)
(NEW) Nassau is the capital of the BAH-Hamas and has been the centerpiece of this island nation since the days of Blackbeard. The history has been wonderfully preserved in stately cathedrals and in Victorian mansions displaying elegant, noble architecture. Apparent results from Hurricane Matthew – most of the small shops, both tourist and local, are all closed up.

NAS-014 Charm & Beauty of the BAH-Hamas, 3h
Admire landmark after landmark on an all-encompassing driving tour of Nassau and Paradise Island with stops at historical Fort Charlotte and the John Watlings Distillery. After departing from the pier, you will settle in for a relaxing and informative driving tour past Nassau’s marquee attractions. The highlights include palm-dotted Rawson Square, lovely government buildings such as the Supreme Court and the pink-hued House of Assembly, and the mega-resort and theme park Atlantis on aptly named Paradise Island.

Nassau is exceptionally photogenic, so it’s no wonder that portions of three James Bond films have been shot here, as well as the Beatles’ movie “Help.” Other iconic sights include the Prime Minister’s residence, historical Graycliff Inn and Fort Charlotte, where you will pause for photos. Built in 1788, the fort features a waterless moat, dungeons, underground passageways and dozens of cannons that have never been fired in an act of aggression. Continuing on, you will also visit a beautiful 18th-century estate downtown that is now home to a distillery named for buccaneer John Watling. The small-batch rum produced here is said to capture Watling’s bold spirit of adventure. You can determine that firsthand by sampling the different rums, which range from pale blonde with a crisp dry finish to reddish-gold with a soft warming finish. Following the rum tasting, you will return to the pier.

Please note: This tour is primarily panoramic in nature with limited, optional walking at the stops.. Light-weight clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

TRANSLATION: After a very disorganized (ship staff giving confusing instructions as to where to meet our tour) departure, we finally got away on what turns out to be the most worthless excursion that I’ve been on. At least I didn’t pay actual (more) money for it; I used the onboard booking system. We mostly just drove around town (those closed shops and other uninteresting sights), saw some better residential areas, made the mandatory flea-market stop for trinkets, etc. It was supposed to be 15 minutes but turned into 35 since the driver couldn’t count and we waited and waited over 10 minutes for two missing passengers who weren’t missing – they were already on the usual by now, very cramped mini-coach.

The driver had many interesting (mis-)comments:
1) Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the Bahamas; there were lots of residents here already. He was merely the first international tourist on a long luxury vacation cruise.
2) The main religion here is Baptist, but there are also lots of other demoninations here also.
3) The national bird is the Filimingo.
4) An interesting street name: Dog Free Alley (free of dogs or are they admitted free?)

Otherwise BAH as in BAH-hamas.

Day 11, Thursday, Dec 15 – Miami / Departures (8AM)
Up at 5:30 (4:30 Houston time) to dress and walk the 270’ aft to take the elevator up 5 decks for the 6AM visit to the feeding trough. Arrive back in Miami and are called to disembark about 8:30 and transfer (included) to the airport about 10. Again we are dropped off at the far end of the airport terminal and have to make that very long walk to where we check in for United flights. At least I don’t have to walk past all 170 individual “gates” to get there. Since I have an earlier flight this time, maybe I can go ahead and get signed in and dump my luggage (no still not until noon). “Only” about 5 hours until flight time.

United 631Miami – IAH3:00P - 4:55P2:55

Arrive back home about 5 but due to evening traffic I don’t get home at 6:30; it is after 7. It’s only 10 days until Christmas.

TRIP SUMMARY: Some interesting ports to visit – sad we didn’t get ashore in the Dominican Republic. The semi-sub excursion was a waste, and the last port, Nassau, the BAHamas, was a total waste. Personnel service onboard was, as expected, great and the food was good. It was the **** internet service failure that virtually ruined the trip. I definitely won’t cruise on the Riviera again. After 2 cruises, ports to skip if possible: Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, St. Barts.

OPTIONAL EXCURSION SUMMARY

Day 3: GRAND TURKGRT-015 Coast to Coast Grand Turk Safari2 hoursPRE-BOOKED
Day 4 SAN JUANSJU-007 San Juan Distillery and City Tour4.5 hours
Day 5 ST MAARTENSXM-018 Semi-Sub, Marigot, Scenic Drive3.5 hoursPRE-BOOKED
Day 6 ST BARTSSBH-009 Yellow Semi-Sub1 hour
Day 7 TORTOLA BVIEIS-014 Coast to Coast Scenic Drive3 hoursPRE-BOOKED
Day 8 DOMINICAN REPUBLICSMN-007 Jeep Safari Adventure4 hoursPRE-BOOKED
Day 10 NASSAUNAS-014 Charm and Beauty of the Bahamas3 hours


Selected pictures
Click to enlarge

Turks and Caicos
San Juan, Puerto Rico
St Maarten & St. Martin
Gustavia, St Bart's
Tortola, BVI
Dominican Republic
BAH-Hamas




RIVIERA



Stunning (??) Riviera was designed to be distinctive and special in so many ways. Ideally proportioned, Riviera still embraces the same warmth and charm of renowned Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena. While the level of personalized service remains the same, Riviera offers even more choices. Riviera offers guests multiple dining venues, of which six are open-seating gourmet restaurants with no surcharge. Supposedly spacious accommodations in every category. However, for the “Queen of the Fleet” the internet service is exceptionally lousy / virtually non-existent. I won’t take this cattle barge again!!!

DINING
Terrace Café (Deck 12) -- Informal and carefree, the Terrace Café Buffet is wonderfully inviting any time of day to enjoy sumptuous breakfast selections. Come lunch, the expansive menu of international-inspired dishes changes entirely, complemented by flavorful roasted and rotisserie meats and the magic of the pizzeria’s oven. Evenings, the impeccably clad wait staff shines, and the cuisine takes on a more sophisticated flair. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Waves Grill (Deck 12) -- Sometimes, the ultimate luxury is casual dining on all-American favorites, a style laid-back Waves Grill epitomizes. Located in a spacious, shaded area steps from the swimming pool, Waves Grill offers an extensive and mouthwatering luncheon menu. Watch the chefs grill gourmet burgers, tangy barbecue to order in the open galley, accompanying them with side dishes like garden-fresh salads and crispy, hand-cut truffle fries dusted with grated aged parmesan. Open briefly for breakfast 6:30 – 8, then pen for lunch and afternoon dining only ~11AM – 4PM.

B3-VERANDA STATEROOM: Mine is #7051, deck 7, starboard, approx. mid-ships. Our 282-square-foot Veranda Staterooms are the largest at sea. Featuring a comfortably furnished private veranda, our most requested luxury, each stateroom also includes a plush seating area, refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a very cramped marble and granite-clad bathroom with a bathtub/shower (which takes up way too much room) and separate tiny shower.

Veranda Stateroom Amenities
* Refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water replenished daily
* Private teak veranda
* Full-size bathtub
* Flat-screen television with live satellite news and programming
* Wireless extremely poor internet, seldom accessible

THE SHIP
* Length: 784.95 feet
* Beam: 105.646 feet
* Stabilizers: Yes
* Cruising Speed: 20 knots
* Guest Decks: 11
* Total Decks: 16
* Electric Power or Voltage: 110, 220 AC
* Guest Capacity: 1,250 (Double Occupancy)
* Staff Size: 800