“St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point” 01-2014

Yet another beautiful view awaited us at St. Thomas. We woke up and took some nice pictures with our cell phones and cameras to Carnival Freedom in St Thomasshare with our family and friends on the social websites. The great thing is we had cell reception and not charged international fees since St. Thomas is U.S. territory. Not sure on what to do we decided to enjoy that wonderful view a bit more, we bought tickets to the “St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point” and sure did enjoy it. After a short ride on the well-aged equipment which seemed to be well maintained we strolled our way to the shacks as mentioned on many website reviews. I was expecting one shack with straw roof and bushwacker drinks sold along with Asian market goods as described on many reviews over and over. I really dislike when people do not tell the truth about the places they visit grabbing onto the bad and smearing an entire country or place for a single bad experience. There was no shack, what I did find was a well-organized minimarket of about 12 shops on the upper floor one of which had a small bar and the famous parrots next to it which by the way they do let you take pictures of after you have paid for the walking tour ($10), of which I did not take part of. I instead opted to go down one floor to the big bar/restaurant and enjoy a Bushwacker drink and my wife enjoyed another mix slushy drink. We sure did enjoy the view even more while sipping our refreshments watching a rainbow form right in front of our eyes as the rain passed through the mountain area and have pics to tell the story even further. The rain was over and $34.50 later we decided to go back down. I did get to taste a St. John Summer Lager, it was great and was told by the bar tender that there was a mango flavored lager that for some reason was not sold at most bars but I could find it at a gas station or stores outside the tourist area. I did not ask questions about why and proceeded to go to exit.

St Thomas Skyride to Paradise   St Thomas Skyride

St Thomas January 2014   Carnival Freedom in St Thomas

Carnival Freedom in St Thomas Feb 2014

Rainbow over St Thomas   Bushwacker in St Thomas

Lillian in St Thomas 2   Hans in St Thomas

Virgin Islands Beer   Lillian in St Thomas

We met a nice older couple that had been here before and told us we should go to the 99 steps historical place. As we went down the steps a taxi driver was waiting for passengers and offered to take us to downtown shops at $4 each so we took the offer. As soon as we got off the taxi and started to take some pics we were offered tickets for a free gift if we walked into the jewelry shop, I did not go in but my wife did. There really was no free gift as you had to purchase something to get the so called gift. Well as my wife was inside the shop I spoke with the gentleman that gave her the ticket and asked him about the local beer. He recommended Carib and Elephant beer, hmm? I asked him “where are you from?” he said, “well, I’m from Dominica” and he smiled and explained that those beers were brewed there. I told him I had tried Carib and Amstel Bright and did like the Carib much better so I congratulated his country for making a fine refreshing beer.

Lilly   Shops in St Thomas

As we walked the strip recommended in the map by the ship we saw and heard the same offers all over and over again, some offering a gem, a gift, a discount, originality, etc… We decided to venture out of the map and started to walk along the sea docks watching the beautiful waters and island that once housed the Blackbearded pirate. As we were walking we stopped for a few pics and walked some more while being scared by the honking and not so nice hand gestures of locals driving on the docks with their cars? Well, we passed by a fruit stand I smiled at them and instead of being offered with fruits just got stared at? No words from the vendors and so we realized we were to just head back to the tourist area. We carefully crossed the street just to get honked at some more and I understand we were in U.S. territory where they drove on the opposite side of the road, LOL. I sure was not expecting that one of course we were getting honked at we were looking at the wrong side of the road when we crossed and off course I got stared at the stand, where were my manners? I did not say hello or good morning and only looked and so they must have looked back at me. As we kept walking I saw a man feeding chickens and their chicks and so I joked about him fating them up, boy o boy was that the wrong joke. He cursed at me for as far as I could hear, I just did not say anything to him and kept on walking. We passed by the lottery places where people just sat outside hoping their numbers would be called? I don’t know that was a weird thing for me to see I guess they play an ongoing lottery or something, perhaps I should find out more about it. I might be one of those people sitting outside waiting for a number to be called to get rich quick.

docks in St Thomas   St Thomas dock 2014

St Thomas January 2014                                                Street in St Thomas

Back to the tourist area!!! Alright I was back on the hunt for the St. John’s “Virgin Islands Mango” Lager. In between the shops there were small alleys to go back and forth in between the streets as we were walking a man stops us in wonder and says to my wife “Oh my God, I cannot believe you are wearing those sneakers! Opra says that those sneakers have the perfect colors to wear with any jewelry! Please enter our shops and be wondered by our prices”. LOL, it is amazing what they would tell you just for you to get into their shops. We continued and just decided to get to the famous 99 steps. We got there,and saw a bar/rum museum but it was not on the Ships provided map or in the island Visitor’s Center provided map. So we figured it was some sort of a private place. We went up and asked for the local beers, “WHAT? Oh no, we do not sell local beers!” we were told. We were also told that if we took the self-tour to the top of the steps there might be local beers sold at the place. We found the steps and went up, we did it and found a man selling sodas and water; we kept going following the street signs to Black Beard’s castle. A couple was on the way down and just told us “not worth it, what you see from here is what it is” we got closer and realized they might be right and were too lazy to walk upwards again so we skipped the $10 per person entrance and proceeded to go down the steps.

St Thomas 99 Steps                                   99 steps St Thomas

This little fellow was climbing up along with us. Blackbeard’s castle is on the right.

lizard in St Thomas   Blackbeard Castle

This is the view on both ends of the street where the 99 steps end.

view from 99 steps St Thomas   view from 99 steps St Thomas 2

Once we went back down we decided to again go pass the map for a few blocks and found a nice little friendly restaurant. Bingo! They had both of the St. John local beers so I tried them and the Mango Lager was well worth it. The beer was very fruity and very refreshing, one was more than enough for me as I still had to find the Elephant and it happen right next door where a lady from the Middle east was the store attendant, we got the Elephant beer which felt more like a malt at 7.5% or so alcohol content, it was also refreshing. We also purchased a Mabi nonalcoholic refreshment drink which is brewed from a tree and has a taste of bitter sweet honey. It is said that it was brewed by the Taino Indians of the Caribbean. This particular bottle was brewed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and did taste almost as good as the hand brewed one we purchased in Puerto Rico but not quite as good as the hand made brew.

Virgin Islands Mango Beer  drinking a pain killer

The bar owner took a pic of us, the background was painted by a local artist whom just happen to be drinking her own concoction of natural juice and soda water right next to my wife

pretending at Jen's bar St thomas                      Jen's bar

To our surprise the walk after that store ended right by a Moravian church which is a church I have also seeing in the Caribbean side of Nicaragua and some of my family members are part of. We took some pics and as we started walking what do we see when we get to the sea wall? Well, we see our ship and the other ships within walking distance and so we walked to the docks in a maze of high end stores and not so high end stores and liquor shops. We stumbled into a Cruzan shop and purchased two of their delicious daiquiris. We continued to walk and decided to stop at a rug shop recommended by some guys selling beer on the side of the road; they had really nice handmade rugs and ceramic items. Right next to it was the good old Señor Frogs, where the balloons resemble private parts and most people can barely walk when they get out. We got some chicken nachos and saw the couples that eat dinner next to us on the ship, it was fun to see them there we wished we could have stayed but were very tired and decided to head back to ship for a nice shower and a well-deserved nap.

Moravian Church St thomas   Monuments honoring the armed forces of the USA

Carnival Freedom in St Thomas and Trucks   Lilly and Carnival Freedom

Iguanas are all over the island, you just have to look closely and you will find them

iguana in St Thomas

One last view on the way back

Carnival Freedom in St Thomas and sailboats

People walking back to the ships, $4 bucks for a Taxi is worth for one way. If you walk you might find the guys on the right selling refreshments along the way.

walking to the ship   chilling in St Thomas

We stopped for a fun pic moment

Hans in St Thomas 2     Lilly in St Thomas

At the Turkish Bazaar

Turkish Bazaar store in St Thomas                     Turkish Grand Bazaar St Thomas

At Señor Frogs

senor frogs St Thomas   Lilly at Senor Frogs St Thomas

Yes the balloons are private parts the lady is wearing a wiener and the man is wearing a hooha. On the right our fun dinner partners.

naughty ballon hats   the rest of our table

Here is a closer look at the pickup trucks converted to passenger trucks, this called my attention so much. I thought it was kewl.

St Thomas passenger truck

pickup for passengers

At dinner time the pair of couples next to us told us that they went to the beach on the other side of the island where they snorkeled and saw so many kinds of tropical fish they could not identify. They had the opposite experience with people as they found many joyful faces and received many nice greetings and also noticed that many people there where from other islands and not natives to Saint Thomas or Saint John. Well, I missed out on this one so if the next itinerary takes us back to Saint Thomas we will skip the local markets and will go straight to the beaches to enjoy the sun and the sea of this magnificent looking set of islands.

Carnival Freedom last dinner dinner help

Carnival Freedom Last Group dinner

I keep saying all good things must come to an end and so it was the same with our vacation. No more exotic destinations, we would now have two days at sea before we headed home. It is now time to just relax at the balcony, do some reading, and sit by the pool enjoying the sun. The night ended with a big bang of fun at the dining room as we saw our waiter Vijay danced off with many others to the beat of Gan Nam Style. We then went for some Karaoke where our dinner table acquaintance Steve took the stage and blew all the singers away with laughs and good music, after that we went to the Electric White Night 70’s club where we danced till we could no longer dance and we called it the night. We woke up the next day just to get ready for the end of our trip “PACKING and to see the damage our wallet took”. All in all Grand Turk “Ultimate Snorkeling Adventure”, Puerto Rico “Canopy Adventure” Ziplining, St. Maarten “Tiki Hut Relax & Snorkel”, and “St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point” were all great and amazing in their own form, which would I do again? Puerto Rico Canopy Adventure Ziplining would be the one. It was tons of fun! All of it was fun but the zip lining took the center stage for us.

I snorkeled in two places and was not able to fish because of the winds and the lack of people wanting to do so, but the trip was a total success and absolutely enjoyed it! I can’t wait for my next one.

Puerto Rico “Canopy Adventure” Ziplining 01-2014

The shipped arrived in Puerto Rico in the early a.m. giving us about one our to venture around on foot and then head back to line up for our excursion. We decided to see how close we could get to El Morro castle as we headed up the hill we stumbled across “Parque De Las Palomas” it’s a park dedicated to the hundreds of pigeons that like to rest in that area but it originally was a rampart for cannon placement and was constructed during the 18th Century. It was a very nice view but you must be careful as you know birds fly and can do their necessities in the air as well, LOL. After the park we walked the streets admiring the colonial homes, many of which are now modernized and still look awesome.

Kissing Birds Las Palomas Park, Puerto Rico

Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico   Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico 

Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico   Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico

Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico   Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Feb 2014   Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico

Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico   Las Palomas Park, San Juan Puerto Rico

One of the things my wife always wanted to do was to zip line on top of the tree canopies so we decided Puerto Rico’s rain forest was a great place to try so. We booked the excursion called “Puerto Rico Canopy Adventure” Zip lining and off we went. We were shuttled in a nice little minibus. The driver gave us a little history of the city and drove us through the old neighborhoods some with buildings in the process of being torn down and full of interesting graffiti works and some not so interesting ones plus many just plain chicken scratch make the neighborhood look shabby. If you have been to any major city and been to some neighborhoods is no different. After passing that area we passed by the upper neighborhoods where the 4 and 5 stars hotels were, very nice area to visit by the way, and on to the highway we went. The driver told us not to worry about the turns and speed we felt, he said “I got this, you’re in good hands”. In a short 15 to 20 minutes we were in the city of Guaynabo on our way to the Marquesas rain forest. After a few twist and turns in the very narrow streets where the cars have to hunk at the turns to signal that a vehicle is also making the narrow turn (very common in Puerto Rico hills) we were greeted by our tour guide whom was a happy and knowledgeable lady. She allowed for people to use the facilities before we headed in our little adventure. We did a short walk to get our very well used gear and I was happy to see that some helmets had a Gopro camera mount on them so we geared up they went through our equipment checklist to ensure we were not missing anything, they gave me time to place my small camera on the helmet.

Puerto Rico Highway   La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico    La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico -Skyride

As we were getting ready to get on our way a gentleman was just coming back extremely excited screaming how awesome it was and it was his first time doing so and how this was the highlight of his trip. We all got excited about it and off to the sky lift we were. It was nice to see that the equipment was brand new and so we felt safer at this point. We boarded and took a few pics and spoke with a gentleman and his wife about his adventures in Waspam and Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua where his Baptist mission went to build a church and help the community. I told him about wanting to kayak from end to end on the Rio Coco (Coconut River) which is where a lot of my family is from. This is the river where I spent many months of my childhood and where I learned how to fish in the most unconventional ways imaginable for a child. There are looong stories to tell from there during those times. “Small world” we said. After getting off the Skyride we went to appreciate the view and took some pictures.

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

There I was amazed by the human spirit once again, a gentleman completed just another item in his bucket list while only having one leg and being taken on a wheelchair and then shouldered along the long descent to the zipline platforms he did, yes he did the whole thing.  I was told “try to complete your bucket list as long as you don’t kick the bucket while doing so” those were some wise words from the missionary man. I took a small time lapse of the descent to the first platform where we were instructed on the use of our equipment and as we were doing so a lady did not work the nerves to go through with the adventure and she headed back. Well, there were a few with second thoughts but all of them did go through with it.

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining          La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining          La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

To our surprise there were a series of about nine platforms three of which were simply short, basically to lever us through our positions on the rest of the platforms. There were some kind of long ones that went through the Rain Forest and as expected the last one was the longest one, some saying as long as two football fields but the decline was a steep angle making it a short timed descent, very very fast. On this last one we did go on top of the canopies and if you looked in the right direction you would have been able to see the great ocean view and the city in its shores. I tried to capture that scene in my camera but the suns glare got on the way. I hope you will enjoy the short video when it’s finished. The only thing I did not like about this excursion was that it finished. I loved it and so did my wife with all her fun screaming down the zip lines. I was surprised to hear her say “I want to do this again!”.

  

Puerto Rico 2014-39  Puerto Rico 2014-38

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining   La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining   La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

Below is sliding down the last platform and only line where we really were above the canopy.

La Marqueza Forest in Puerto Rico-ziplining

As all great things do come to an end we headed back to return our ear and must say that little incline going up the Snail trail was the most difficult walk I did on this little adventure. We returned our gear and got a bottle of nice really cold water, wow, I love water!!!   Off to the small shuttle bus we went and got ready for the speed, twist and turns, and to try and get some pics of the beautiful houses in the mountains as we went back to the ship.

La Marqueza Forest in Guaynabo Puerto Rico

Oh, Oh, traffic and lots of it. It was rush hour in Puerto Rico so the highway was at a standstill where an accident had happened. Our driver asked if it was ok for us to take a small detour  through old San Juan and the rest of the people said noooo, the he said “I will drop you off at San Cristobal Castle and the shops, it is only a five minute walk to the boat from there”. Then everyone said “YEEEEEESSSSSSS”. We were lucky as we basically had a free $10 tour like the buses charge the tourist as they just land from the cruise lines. The driver gave another short explanation of the streets and pointed towards the better tourist spots that were in the proximity of the Cruise Ships. We had been here before so we headed to our favorite spot at the Café Puerto Rico for some delicious Mini Cheese Alcapurrias a great and very tasty Puerto Rican dish but in a miniature size this time and we also shared a plate of Chicken Cassava Mofongo (Yuca Mofongo) another great Puerto Rican dish normally made with mashed cooked green plantains, garlic, and other fixings. It was delicious and well followed by a local Magna beer.

Our drop off point, by the entrance of San Cristobal Fort.

Puerto Rico 2014-41

Puerto Rico 2014-24                                                                  Puerto Rico Jan 2014

We had a great time while enjoying the “Puerto Rico Canopy Adventure” Zip lining excursion, the food was the icing on the cake and after we made a quick stop to look at the buy 1for $10 and get two free bottles of 750ml rum, gin, tequila, vodka, or gin. All locally made liquor but at 3 for $10 it was a good deal and great for giving away to friends. These stores were in the Tax and Duty free area before boarding the ship.  The day ended for us so off to the ship we went to prepare for a stop in St. Maarten, the Dutch side.

Grand Turk Ultimate Snorkeling Adventure? 1-27-14

Getting ready to depart, exploring the ship

Another great vacation just had started for us, a nice 8 day cruise to the Caribbean islands celebrating our 28th anniversary. We started with Grand Turk and continued on to Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten (St. Martin), and St. Thomas. On this cruise we were prepared for the trip. We took our allowed 12 bottles of carbonated drinks and 2 bottles of wine plus we purchased a liter of JWBL which was to last us 8 days and to be enjoyed in our room. I also purchased a little surprise for my wife; room decorations to make her feel as special as she deserves to be. As we had gotten to the room and settled down we headed to the Lido deck (deck 9 where the pools and food were) and started exploring the ship, there is nothing better than to know where everything is at with your own eyes. The ship’s crew always does a great job at letting you know where the fun is at and what the schedule is for that day. As we went to the Lido deck we were surprised to find Indian cuisine being served from 12:30 to 3:30 (on the Carnival Fun Times Daily schedule). We love humus and naan! We checked out the pool at the bow (the front of the boat) and the hot tubs, the same mirror image pool and tubs were at mid ship and aft (the back of the boat), the only difference was that the pool at aft had a retractable roof, so in the colder weather we departed in was an indoor pool and as we got closer to Grand Turk it was an outdoor pool. It was great to see that as we have boarded smaller ships that only have a pool at mid ship. This time we were able to choose where we wanted to be, at the almost crowded bow pool, at the laud music mid ship pool, or at the a bit emptier aft pool. Nah! Later on we went to the serenity pool which is for 21 and older. It was enough about exploring the ship and so we started to unpack and settle down in our cabin. Next, it was to hit the lunch buffet, relax, get some excursions at the desk, relax, eat dinner and relax. At dinner we met a nice group of people some with a language barrier but the night went along nicely. As we came back to our cabin we were unpleasantly surprised to see a green paper at our cabin inbox, our bicycling tour in Sint Maarten had been canceled due to negotiations with the vendor. ARRRRGGGG!!!! Now we had to spend more time looking through the Shore Guide and shop for a replacement excursion. Here are some pics on the ship.

Room decorations
Room Decorations

Our allowed drinks for the voyage

Soft Drinks and allowed wine   Part of the allowed 12 soft drinks per person

The lobby

Carnival Freedom 2014-22   Carnival Freedom 2014-11

Part of the casino and Havana bar

Carnival Freedom 2014-2   Carnival Freedom 2014-9

Aft pool with retractable roof

Carnival Freedom 2014-17   Carnival Freedom 2014-10

Mid ship pool

Carnival Freedom 2014-14   Carnival Freedom 2014-13

Kiddie pool on the sides of the ship and us getting ready to depart

Carnival Freedom 2014-3   Carnival Freedom 2014-7

First formal nigh dinner party

Carnival Freedom 2014-5 Carnival Freedom 2014-6

Grand Turk!
We booked an early a.m. 2 snorkel trip to the 7,000’ drop Wall and to the Oasis Reef it was called “Ultimate Snorkeling Adventure”. Like everyone online says you cannot see anything but darkness after you get past the 30’ depth. The drop is immense and snorkeling may not be the best way to enjoy that drop. If you are a certified diver it would probably be better for you to enjoy it that way. I must say that I did enjoy it. I cannot take credit away from such a marvel. I did go down to about 25’ free diving and the snorkeling crew showed off by passing me and disappearing into the darkness of the depths. I took a few pics while down there and immediately went up for some air. The crew had some chum inside water bottles making the yellow tail snapper and Bermuda chubs come up to the surface near the bottom at the 30’depth I only saw tangs and parrot fish there but the drop was something to witness and worth it in the end. After 20 minutes or so of snorkeling I saw a few fish dash towards what seemed like chum on the water, the fish went crazy and there were plenty of them so I went to take a few snap shots of them. To my dismay it was not a crew member with a chum bottle, it was a tourist chumming the water as she snorkeled, CRAAAAPP!!!  I was swimming around PUKE!!! And so was my wife! Watching this made her a bit sick but she endured it until we got back on the boat. She is such a trooper; she even free dived down to see the wall up close.

DCIM100GOPRO

Grand Turk Wall diver   yellow tail snappers in Grand Turk

yellow tail snappers in puke-Grand Turk 2014    Grand Turk Wall Yellow Tail Snappers
At the Oasis Reef there were a few baby nurse sharks, lots of yellow tail snappers, a few groupers, tangs, parrot fish, and other reef fish. It was nice swimming and petting the nurse sharks and the crew held them for everyone to pet, as the cats of the sea are so used to tourist they came close by me many times allowing me to pet them on my own.  I had tons of fun at this stop, but the reef seemed to be in need of nourishment? Perhaps they should leave it alone for a few months at a time and choose a different spot for a while and allow it to restore a bit.

nurse sharks in Grand Turk

oasis diver boat Grand Turk   Oasis Reef Grand Turk

Oasis Reef Grand Turk    Oasis Reef Grand Turk

After the snorkel trips was over the captain of the boat passed closed by the beach and recommended a restaurant to go and eat some local food. We got back to the dock and off we went to have a few refreshments and food at Margaritaville it was a fun stop and off to the ship we went.

Grand Turk Wreck   Grand Turk 2014-48

Margaritaville drink   DCIM100GOPRO

We were about to get changed when I noticed some people snorkeling on the beach and realized that there may have been some reef there and also the was an area that was cut to make the channel for the ships to dock. So back down we went and I dipped into the water off to explore the area. The whole place was filled with Brown and Blue tangs, also many parrot fish and a few snappers. The channel area seemed empty but some small reef fish like blue damsels and parrot fish were present. As I went on a ballyhoo followed me and as went to it it took me to a sunken cannon and then I saw a few anchors that had been set there as part of the ocean decorations (artificial reefs). That was a nice surprise for me and so I took a few snap shots.

Governor's Beach Grand Turk

Grand Turk Governors Beach

ballyhoo   tangs in Grand Turk

Governors Beach    anchor at governors beach

DCIM100GOPRO    sea urching at Grand Turk

On our way back to the ship we stopped for a photo

Grand Turk Feb 2014   Grand Turk Feb 2014

Once back to the ship, the cold mint towels and cold refreshments awaiting us were great!

Grand Turk 2014-53    Grand Turk 2014-54

I got a bit tired so I went on to the beach and then it was time to get back on the ship where we were surprised by a Gold, Platinum, and Diamond guess party. On this voyage we just made it to Gold so they gave us our bragging pins and off to the party we were. It was a thank you party where we had free alcoholics as well as nonalcoholic drinks and hors d’oeuvres. This night we had a nice dinner and watched a nice show and we then hopped to the comedy club where we laughed our pants off with new and old jokes we heard before but modified a bit. On this same night we received a $5 voucher to play roulette at the casino; we had to match the voucher and ended spending $10 playing roulette. After spending the $10 for our free $5 off to gamble, we decided to end the night and to the cabin we went to prepare for a day in Puerto Rico.

Grand Turk 2014-58 Grand Turk 2014-57 Grand Turk 2014-55

Grand Turk 2014-56 Grand Turk 2014-60 Grand Turk 2014-59

I will be updating this post with pic corrections and hopefully some video.