Saturday, January 31, 2009

A wonderful gift, travel/travel

We have always had the most wonderful Christmas’s, but this year, we were caught by surprise. We were treated to a 3 week vacation in the sun. One of the weeks was a Caribbean cruise. What a joy to get out of one of the most dreadful Canadian winters in a few years. I had mostly resigned myself to the fact, that travel was out of the picture, given the health problems my wife, Carole, has been going through; But she has been doing well lately, and the doctors gave their blessing for her to go and have a wonderful time, which we did.

I will never forget the look on her face when she opened her presents from the kids and found airline tickets to Fort Myers, Florida, and then another present; for a weeks cruising in the Caribbean, complete with new outfits to wear. Dusty old me was also moved, with a lump in my throat.

Our three daughters and their guys. I shouldn't brag, but I did a hell of a job. My specialty, great kids. Maybe I should hang out a shingle,guaranteeing the best.

Here are the nuts of the trip.
We would fly into Fort Myers, Fla. where we were picked up by our son-in-law's parents. They have a home in Port Charlotte (they had also been given a gift of a cruise from their kids, so we were travelling together) , we would stay at their house for four days and then head for Miami and our cruise ship (The Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Dawn). Then on our return to port, we would spend another week in Port Charlotte.

Another highlight was having best friends that just happened to choose that last week to be in Port Charlotte. It was ironic, their kids arranged their trip,also. They are from Alberta and we only get to see them every few years. We were kept extremely busy running the roads and dining out. Just what was needed, after a week of cruiseing.

We flew out of Buffalo and on our return and a valiant search effort found the car buried under two feet of snow. It took some effort to get into the car, snow was up to the windows. Our winter jackets were in the trunk, who needs them in the sunny south? Welcome back to the real world of winter.

Our cruise ship was the Norwegian Dawn. 14 decks, 965 feet long by 105 feet wide, thirteen restaurants and 9 bars and lounges. No small vessel, by any means.
One of 13 restaurants.
It was called freestyle, meaning you could dress up or not, and choose to dine at any time. Food was available 24 hours a day. There was a cover charge from ten to twenty dollars in the upscale restaurants and it was well worth it. The buffets, were just too massive and over indulgence was easy. Besides if you never got enough to eat in the upscale, head for the buffet.

The Norwegian Dawn.

Leaving Miami day 1

Day 1 at sea a great time to find ones way around the ship.
A few pictures of the ships interior.
The lobby and elevators.

Note the glass tube elevators. What a view from the top floor coming down into the lobby.

The theater where nightly live entertainment was preformed. Shows were excellent, no cameras allowed.

Day 2 Samana on the Dominca Republic, a cool 84 degrees & overcast.
Had to be tendered to shore.

We found this island to be very poor and filthy, cluttered, but friendly. The government could certainly do a better job of employing the poor to clean up. In one stop while sitting and having a drink, a little fellow of about 6 yrs approached me with shoe shine box and asked if I needed a shine. I was wearing sandals, but I had a pocketful of change and I asked him to hold out his hands. The look on his face was priceless, never have I seen anyone so appreciative. It was heart breaking, I wish I had given him more. Seemingly, the kids are sent out by their parents to make some money.

Day 3 St Thomas, US Virgin Islands a cooler 82 & cloudy.
Docked and it was a short walk to town.

A shopper’s mecca for gold, us guys left the women to shop and found a quiet alley to have a couple of cold pints. We ran into a local tour huckster who took us on a magnificent tour of the island for twenty bucks. Less than half the cruise line organized tours. Great guy, by the name of Moses, wish I had taken his picture. Beautiful island and very clean.

Day 5 Tortola, British Virgin Islands a miserable 82 degrees again and sunny.

We took a ship arrange tour and had a wonderful young driver who was extremely knowledgeable about the island history. Quite a beautiful island, of serene harbors, rugged mountains, and curved roads that twist and whined their way around the coast line. It is known as Natures little secret.

Day 4 at sea. Weather is getting nasty, it is down to 78 degrees and rain in the forecast but there were only a few sprinkles during the night.
It was time, to kick back and relax.
More ship pictures.
Sushi Bar

Pool area.

Couple of bar flies.

One of many lounges.

Day 6 Great Stirrup Cay, the Bahamas. A cooler 73 degrees, but sunny on the island. I got my first sunburn of the trip, just enough to add some color to my cheeks. Heck! I can get that much of a tan in our beloved Mexico from the sun glancing off my beer as I sit under a palapa.
Tendering from ship to shore.

Stirrup Caye, Bahamas was not what I expected. It was a private island owned by the cruise line. It was no more than a day at the beach. Drinks you purchased but food was free.2500 passengers not counting crew made for a busy beach.
Beach chairs before the rush.

Another boatload from the main ship headed for shore.
The tenders held 400 people and ran back and forth to the ship every 1/2 hour.
I counted 6 full ones before anyone returned.

Day 7 back to Miami and exit the ship approximately 9am after one more excellent breakfast.

Back to Port Charlotte and to all the frosted plants from a two night freeze.
No wonder the cooler days in the Caribbean.

Island of Dominica

Welcoming committee.I think they heard, the infamous Bikini Inspector was arriving.

Cigar production.

We were tender'd to shore aboard one of these.

Welcome to Tortola, Holetown.

A short stop at a bar in the country.

My kind of bar. A place your not likely to run into friends.

Carole and I on deck.

Carole and Annie on deck.

Here I am with one of my many old friends.

Of course, I had to convert the trip into a working vacation and do a little bikini inspection.

Back in Florida a trip to Venice Beach and the pier.
Carole and Mary.

Boco Grande street.

Carole and friend Mary at Boco Grande Fla. beach.

Eating out with friends.

Carole and I at Boco Grande.

One of our last nights, supper with good friends at the Olive Garden.

It was certainly a vacation to remember, thanks to our children, whom we love very much.