Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Samana, Dominica Republic

Samana, Dominica Republic
Samana is a relatively new port with cruise ships starting to dock there in 2006. As such, the port is trying to catch up in its construction--of tourist shops.

Christine and I had decided to take a walking tour of Samana to get a flavor of the town. It was mostly a promenade of sidewalk vendors.

The locals tried very hard to be unique and "attractive" to the tourists. Sadly, a lot of disabled residents were interspersed with the sidewalk vendors.

As I recall, this was a new Catholic church on the main road.

The older church was still well maintained and attractive.

A future hotel for tourists wishing to stay longer than the port dock time.

One of the few stores that was already established and doing business.

The row of new structures will be flourishing businesses some day. Right now they just have signs as what they will sell when opened.

The "older" section of town is still well maintained.

Did we venture into the countryside? No, this was "downtown" and close to the shoreline, prime real estate, so I am afraid the horse will have to find greener pastures.

Two common sights on the cruise. Rain, and rainbows. It rained at least a little just about everyday. Since they were short showers, the sun was never totally hidden. The showers were so quick that I think we used an umbrella on just one tour.

The rainbow dipped into the water right by the ship. Happened several times on the trip.

Leaving Dominica Republic, I was fascinated by the splashing waves on the coast line.

The last sighting of the island. Off to the next port.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Grand Turk

Grand Turk was colonized in 1681 by Bermudians. Grand Turk is known for a lot of things, but two major events captured our attention at first. Later on in this story, it will be noted that we will always remember Grand Turk for another notable event. 
Grand Turk started off as a source of salt and was know for its pure salt. Of interest to us was that during the American War of Independence from Great Britain, the islands supplied salt to General Washington's army. In defiance of a Royal Navy blockade in 1776, Bermudian sloops ignored the blockade in order to supply the "enemy".
The Grand Turk also gained a lot of attention when in 1962, John Glenn's Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft landed in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island off the southeast shoreline. A replica of the Friendship 7 is on display at the entrance to the Grand Turk Island airport. 

The water at Grand Turk was clear and beautiful. We had chosen to snorkel at Grand Turk, but the tour wasn't until the afternoon.

Which gave us time to attend the champagne brunch hosted by Holland America for "Mariners" or passengers who have sailed on HAL ships in the past. As can be guessed, the theme was Indonesian.  

Headed toward our snorkeling tour. Our ship, Noordam is docked on the left and the P&O Cruises on the right.  

Headed toward the tour meeting place, we had time to stop and smell the flowers.

The water was clear and the snorkeling was great. At first, the water is shallow, then there is a sharp drop-off of hundreds of feet. Colorful fish were everywhere. Some of the best snorkeling of the cruise. Just about the time that the snorkeling time was up, I heard the boat captain yell, "SHARK!" I think I could have beaten Michael Phelps back to the boat. 

And in an emergency what does one do? Grab his camera, of course. The nurse shark was real, but luckily it was part of the routine. He headed for one of the guides who had a water bottle with "shark food" in it...probably Purina Shark Chow.

As the shark was happy being fed, it was tame...if a shark can be "tame."

The look of "not only did I survive the shark, but I got to touch him. It felt like sandpaper." Hopefully, a once in a life-time experience.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Half Moon Cay

Not sure what was going on with "Blogger", it took a week of trying before any pictures would load. But finally:
Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay was bought by Holland America in 1996 and made it as a private island for cruise ships. It was our first stop out of Fort Lauderdale, and,  our last stop as we completed the cruise. The Aegean and Mediterranean Seas are beautiful, but the colors of the Caribbean are unsurpassed. 
There were a lot of activities on the little island, but we chose to swim in the pristine waters.
The structures were still new and glistening.
Note the chairs and little "tents" in the background. For a very reasonable price, one could rent the shades, called clam shells, and escape the sun when not swimming. I burned anyway. First day out and blistered. 
Another confession, I found that I didn't take very many pictures on the island so I went to the internet for some samples. I am not sure whom to credit, but I think the above and following are publicity shots by Holland America. 
 The pirate's ship is one of the main attractions as they serve free BBQ at lunch time.
Snacks and beverages are available at the little hut--not free. Again note the clam shells at the edge of the beach.
I was trying to get a shot of Christine as she "parked" and hung onto the buoy line in the background. Eventually I joined her and burned. She did not. No fair.
Some brought their own snorkels (left upper) but as the bottom was sandy, very few fish were in the area. Details, we all had fun and that was what it was all about.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Caribbean Cruise

Southern and Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Depart from Fort Lauderdale
Nov-Dec 2013
Recently, Christine and I went on a Southern/Eastern Caribbean cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We were booked on our favorite cruise line, Holland America, and as an added bonus, the same ship (Noordam) on which we cruised the Mediterranean in 2012. And would you believe, we had the same suite and dining table as the Mediterranean cruise. 
After a quick peek from our balcony to make sure all of our luggage was ready to board, it was time to take a stroll on the ship to reacquaint ourselves with the layout. (OK, not all of the luggage was ours but a lion's share was as we often joked that we brought everything but the kitchen sink, plus we didn't want to be bothered having to do much laundry.

 An original Holland America logo on old, hand-painted tiles.

Elegant statues throughout the ship.

Presided over by King Neptune.

 I think we published a shot of the atrium chandelier on the Jun-Jul 2012 cruise but, I am still impressed with the beauty.

Back up to the room after the boat drill to look around before departure. Note the clouds behind the other liner. I think it rained awhile almost every day on the cruise. The light rains never interfered with any of our tours, but carrying an umbrella was a must--except for snorkeling tours.
Threat of rain did not deter locals from enjoying the waterway.
The thrill of speed. 
Then, with the revving of the side thrusters, we left the dock to begin our adventure.
End of pictures as it was time to dine. NO ONE ever missed a meal the entire trip. More about dining as the trip unfolds. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Monday Evening Ride

Mary E Lee Group Ride
Every Monday during the season.
San Angelo, Texas

NOTE: This was prepared last year just before I hurt myself again and then went on a vacation. I was still experimenting with my new GoPro and hope to use it a lot this season.
We were scheduled to go to Wylie for an organized tour this past weekend. However, the weather did not cooperate for a ride. Rain, cold, sleet.
So I thought I would experiment and put together a compilation of our routine Monday evening group rides. As mentioned in a previous post, I am starting to take videos with a GoPro Hero 3. What a learning curve it has been...and is still.
Our routine ride starts at the Mary E. Lee Park (the beach) at Lake Nasworthy. We normally ride straight into Spring Creek Park. However, as we were beginning this particular ride, I spotted a herd of deer in an open area. I circled back to take a picture. After viewing the clip, I wish that the GoPro had a zoom capability. I was as close to the deer as I dared so as not to spook them, but you have to study hard or put the clip on full screen to really get a good look at the deer.
I moved a little more closely and got a slightly better shot.
A man from across the street revealed the reason for the deer's gathering. He feeds them. He said that the previous day, he had 25 wild turkeys show up in addition to the deer.
You can tell you are in Texas if you look at the man's right hip as he goes back to his house. Really, though, he is probably in law enforcement as we routine citizens are required to conceal our weapons.
And on with the ride through Spring Creek. Liz and Robbie are just enjoying the ride and talking girl talk.
After leaving Spring Creek Park, we travel on Spillway Road. It has the only "hills" of the ride.
Spillway Road as I recall crests at about 5%. Just enough for a workout.
Nearing Knickerbocker Road.
At Knickerbocker, we cross over into the Airport area. At the far end on the right side, we stop to regroup.
On the far left end, we turn to start back to Knickerbocker Road.
Featured in the below clip are Rick, Liz, and Robbie. (Liz and Robbie still talking)
After Spillway Road, we go back into Spring Creek Park.
Right after the entrance into Spring Creek Park, we stop for the last regroup before ending the ride.
Leaving Spring Creek, I spied some more deer. Again, it takes a full screen to actually see the deer.
And again some more deer are spotted at the curve. Zoom would be nice. (In all fairness, most people get a GoPro for exciting action shots, not for sightseeing).
The ride ends at the beginning--Mary E. Lee Park. Lake Nasworthy is mostly a recreational lake. The "beach" is the sandy expanse. The barrels mark the non-boating area and are used as markers for Triathlon events.    
So ends the routine Monday evening group ride. A nice relaxed 16 mile ride, or one can use it as a training ride. As for Christine and myself, it is a relaxed social event and we stop to smell the flowers as well as admire the wild life.