Monday, February 6, 2017

Cruising the Caribbean!

3 February 2017  -  posted from Curaçao on 6 Feb.

Well, we’re off on a new and different adventure!

We’re on a CRUISE!

Richard and I normally don’t cruise.  We’ve tried a few, and while it’s certainly nice to unpack and not worry about where we’ll sleep or eat, we both tend to feel rushed with only six or eight hours per location.  We prefer to travel slowly and absorb the feel of each place we visit.

And then we found this cruise.

It’s on Holland America, and this is a 48 day cruise.  Yes, just short of seven weeks.  And it goes to all the places we want to visit in Brazil.  And then some.

We wanted to visit both Belem and Recife, up in northern Brazil, because these are two cities where the Jews escaping from Spain and Portugal first settled.  We want to visit a friend in Rio de Janeiro.  We’ve always talked about being in Rio for Carnival (or Carnaval, in Portuguese).  And we want to cruise a little on the Amazon, because how can we miss that?

Since this cruise does all of that, well, that’s what we’re doing!

So we left Lima, after saying good-bye to all of our friends (including my buddies Natali and Beka at my friendly café, who gave me a very cute woolly llama or alpaca keychain!), and flew to Ft Lauderdale for a few days.  Exciting things like buying shampoo and aloe for the cruise.  We met up with Richard’s brother for barely twenty-four hours, which was wonderful.  And then we boarded our ship, the Veendam.
We have a nice ocean view stateroom – it isn’t big, but it definitely makes good use of the space.  We’re on the Promenade Deck; it’s a quick turn out our door to exit and walk around, or just lounge on the two chaises right outside our window. 

There are all the usual things to do – various workshops and seminars on things like photography, arts and crafts, shopping at each port, how to find good gemstones, etc.  Plus musical events at the different lounges or bars, movies a couple of times a day (complete with popcorn), shows in the evening.  All that.  (We tend to not do many of those things.)  There’s also a library with big cushy chairs and couches, games, books for people who run out of reading material. 

We wander around, and people watch.  (We’re youngsters in this crowd.  And no, that's not us on the aqua bench, it's a cute couple from Canada.)  We checked out the casino (not too exciting).  We listened to a couple of the musical things, some being better than others.
And of course there are pools, hot tubs, deck chairs in and out of the sun, and promenade decks to walk on, or just relax and watch the ocean.

The thing I’m ecstatic about?  This ship has an incredible collection of art!  I’m not talking the modern art of other ships we’ve seen.  This one has art that should be in museums.  Late Northern Renaissance art, paintings and ceramics from the Golden Age of Dutch art (late 16th and early 17th centuries), Flemish and Italian sculpture from the 17th to 20th centuries. 

I’m absolutely elated!

We have two days at sea over the weekend, so I plan to do an art photo safari, and just wander the ship taking pictures of all this amazing artwork!  Probably do another blog about that as well.

5 February 2017

Regarding the blog – the ship has wifi, but it’s expensive.  And slow.  At the moment, we’re on our second sea day.  We’re crossing the Caribbean, heading southeast to Curaçao and Aruba.  We’re hoping to do some exploring, and maybe post a blog when in port.  Most cafés have free wifi, as do some of the cruise buildings where mariners are processed before boarding the ships.  So we’re hoping we can catch up there.

Our quick recap – on the second day of the cruise, we anchored off San Sebastien Island in the Bahamas.  The cruise line has a private beach, Half Moon Cay, and they ferry people to the island in little tenders.  (Actually, they use the lifeboats, since they already have those attached to the ship.) 

This might have been the most touristy and faux-Caribbean sight we’re ever seen.  Little colorful beach cabanas to rent.  Little shops selling jewelry, tee shirts, or you could even have your hair braided.  A thatch hut bar.  A beach barbeque (included in the cruise).  A lobster barbeque at an extra charge.  And a friendly steel pan player, named Junior, from Trinidad.  We spent an hour chatting with him after he finished his set, and that probably was more authentic and fun than, well, everything else we saw on the beach.

But this definitely had the powdery white sand, the aqua water (though a bit chilly!), and the palm trees on the beach.  It was beautiful, the very tropical colors and the setting, part of what we really loved about living in the Caribbean for so many years.  Plus warm sea breezes wafting through.

What can I say, we know real Caribbean from faux.  It was sort of sad, being at this place that obviously was built to give a tropical vibe that is sort of sanitized, in a very touristy way. All just commercialization.  It didn’t have the crazy mix of people and activity that we both enjoyed in the VI, the busy everyday life.  This was definitely sort of the stripmall island, for lack of a better description.

Really, Junior the steel pan guy was our favorite experience on the island.  And no one else was chatting with him, just us.  Maybe that’s what makes me sad, that the cruise line set up this place and left out the people – and to me, the people always seem to make a place.  So then all the cruise passengers don’t really get to experience the true Caribbean, since they miss out on the wonderful friendly people.

Ah well.

We’ve been to both Curaçao and Aruba, so we’re looking forward to another day on each island.  And I’ll write the blogs, and try to post later at another port.

We seem to have hit a patch of rather rough seas today, and especially tonight.  Many people visited the ship’s medical office for sea sick supplies.  We seem to be doing okay, though I can’t seem to walk in a straight line!  I try to walk, but I tack to port and starboard with the rolling of the ship!  The doors to the outer decks have been closed for the evening due to the pitching, the wind, and the spray – a rather iffy proposition for anyone who wants fresh air.  (My trick for stomach upsets due to the rolling seas: light food and mint tea.  Works great!)

But I promise to try to post this blog when we’re in port during the next two days.

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