Jay's Internet Log

Archive for January, 2012

Amazon River 2012 – Day 14 – At Sea

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Pacific Princess will continue to maintain north-westerly courses throughout today, before navigating the North East, and later North West Providence Channels through the northern end of the Bahamas chain of islands. Once through we will set westerly courses across the Straits of Florida and make our final approach to Port Everglades.

This is our last day on this trip. We woke up early and noticed that it’s now much colder outside. We had our last sit-down breakfast and started packing our bags. The last day of every cruise isn’t ever fun, but it was nice to have two “at sea” days here at the end. Princess has a program where you can check your bags in to the airlines from the ship, and they just show up at your final destination. We learned this morning that Heather and I were denied, but could not be told why. We tried reapplying for this and were stressed out all day waiting.

We had the buffet for lunch and then looked at all of our formal photos from the past two weeks. For dinner, I had Tom Turkey and a New York Strip steak, and for dessert, the always amazing Baked Alaska. After a great meal, we went back to the photo area because they were having a raffle. We ended up winning two prizes; a Boi Bamba DVD so I’ll actually learn what it is now, and 10 stock photos of various creatures and things that we’ve seen on this trip. We have won so many raffles that I think some of the ladies on board were getting a bit mad at us. When we got back to our room, our bag check-in tags were there and we were approved! WE finished up packing and went to bed for our last night on this voyage. It started out rough, but ended up really great. I really look forward to returning to parts of the Amazon River in the future. It is quite an amazing experience!

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 13 – At Sea

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Today, Pacific Princess will continue on north-westerly courses towards Port Everglades.

This morning, Heather woke me up at 6AM because I guess I told her last night that I wanted to swim at 6AM. When she woke me up, I didn’t really feel like swimming, but I agreed to go up to the pool. The stars and moon could be seen and the sky was completely dark. The pool was also very cold. Heather jumped right in as I stood on the ladder complaining about how cold it was. Eventually I got all the way in, but was pretty cold the whole time. We got into the hot tub and watched the sky lighten, which was really nice. I met up with Mom as she folded napkins, and then we tried to watch the culinary demonstration, but there were some audio problems and we couldn’t figure out what the Italian Head Chef and Portuguese Matre’D were trying to say. They are hard to understand in the first place, but this was ridiculous. We ended up leaving. At noon, Heather won a really nice set of earrings. She’s on fire this cruise with winning things. First she won spa credit, then some photographs, and now earrings! For lunch, I had rigatoni with meat sauce and it was spectacular. After lunch, I walked in the Breast Cancer 5K while Heather napped, as she had been up since about 4AM. The cruise staff were very unorganized and didn’t even have water available for the people walking. Mom had them get water and then she served it to everybody. The cruise staff there just stood around drinking their own water, in the shade. I’ve participated in about 4 of these walks, and every single time, the cruise staff had fruit kebabs and plenty of water available for everybody before the event even started. They also walk with us and cheer us on. We were given an excuse that each ship is different, but this was unbelievable. Mom wrote a letter to the Cruise Director. Other than that, the walk was nice and I got a lot of exercise. It feels good to help out a worthy cause too! Tonight is formal night, and for dinner I had Pheasant and Short Beef Rib. The ribs were amazing. We are now waiting to watch the final production show of the cruise, another one that we’ve seen before, but should be good. Tomorrow is another day at sea.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 12 – St. Maarten

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Throughout last night, we passed the islands of Martinique, Montserrat, and the island chain of St. Kitts and Nevis on our way to St. Maarten. This morning we will embark a pilot just outside the harbour area of Phillipsburg and head towards our designated berth. This evening, we will slip our mooring lines and manoeuvre clear of the pier. Once clear, we will swing onto a westerly heading, passing along the southern coast of St. Maarten, before turning north-westerly towards Anegada Gap.

St. Maarten is Heather’s and my favorite Caribbean island. We first came here on our honeymoon, and this will be our third trip back. They have built a new pier since we were last here, and there were five ships total, including the enormous Norwegian Epic. This is a huge ship and is incredibly unsightly if you ask me. It looks like they threw a shipping barge up on top of it and whoever designed the aerodynamics of this beast should have their head examined. We left our ship and got on a large bus with about 30 other people and took a driving tour around the island. We went over to the French side and the bus let us out for about an hour at Orient Bay Beach, which is a favorite stop of ours.

The waves are very big, and I love taking my underwater camera out in them as they crash into us, pushing us to the sandy floor. Dad even joined us in the fun, and fun we had! We then “rinsed off” in fresh water showers that stunk like a mixture of sulfur and sewage before taking the bus back to the ship for a real shower and a quick lunch. We then took a water taxi over to Front Street, which is where most of the shopping used to be. It seems that most of it is now right at the end of the pier, but Nick Malley’s museum of Star Wars memorabilia is over there, so it’s a must stop every time we visit. We spoke with Nick and purchased a small piece of his art, and then toured his ever-growing museum. He has plaster casts of famous people, including Michael Jackson, which was pretty cool to see. We then made our way back to the water taxi, which blasted party tunes on the way back to the pier. The captain said that they accept both money donations as well as complaints, provided that you write your complaint on the back of a dollar. We thought that was amusing. For dinner, I had lamb, chicken, and veal, and we then watched the comedy illusionist perform another show. We’ve definitely seen him before, but his sleight-of-hand is really spectacular. After that, we fell asleep from a long and really great day.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 11 – St. Lucia

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Last night, we passed between the islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia, navigating up the west coast of St. Lucia towards the port of Castries. This morning, under the guidance of a pilot, we will enter the sheltered port of Castries and manoeuvre alongside our berth. This evening, we will lift off the berth, and set courses to clear the narrow rocky harbour entrance, before altering to the north and heading towards the island of St. Maarten.

After having a difficult time with the seas last night, I awoke at 5:30AM to see a beautiful full moon out from our balcony. I also heard the pilot boat coming up alongside us, so I grabbed my video camera and got a few shots of it. I’ve seen more pilot boats this cruise than ever before. We docked in St. Lucia and I saw a Holland America ship (Maastam) out in the bay, which later docked across from us. Heather and I took a catamaran ride to see the island’s famous Pitons and go for a swim. As our catamaran was leaving, we could see a Carnival ship (Miracle) heading into the bay as well.

It was docked in front of us, dwarfing us, when we returned. Our catamaran stopped in a small bay and we walked down some stairs and into the water for a swim for about 30 minutes. We met a local named Titus who was selling coconuts and mangos. We later tried some coconut that another couple purchased from him. Once we were all back on the boat, the captain made us change boats. We were never told why, but they started giving us rum punch drinks, and before I knew it, we were drunk and enjoying being out in the sun on the deck of a fast-moving catamaran. We saw the Pitons, two rock formations that are over 2000 feet tall and rather impressive. We then started back and got a quick tour of Marigot Bay, which is another famous area of this island. When we got back to the ship, we had lunch and went out to do a little shopping, like usual. Afterwards, we slept for a while as we weren’t feeling all that great from the combination of rum punch and being in the direct sun for 4 hours. I got some good video of us leaving St. Lucia, and for dinner, I had chicken. Nothing special tonight! Later on, they are putting together the champagne waterfall, which we will attend if we’re still awake.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 10 – Tobago

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

This morning, we will embark a pilot to assist with our arrival into Scarborough. With the pilot on board and briefed, we will set a north-westerly course towards our berth and manoeuvre alongside. This evening, we will manoeuvre off the dock, and head out of the harbor. Once clear, we will alter onto a north-easterly, then northerly heading, rounding the eastern coast of Tobago, before settling on a north-westerly heading towards the Leeward Islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia.

This is being written up on Day 11 because, well, we’ll just say that the sea was a bit rough by the end of Day 10. We awoke arriving into Tobago to cloudy and rainy skies. The entire day proved to be mostly cloudy with spotty showers here and there, and I was glad that I had a large plastic bag with me to put my camera in when it did start to rain. The four of us took a bus tour here. When we boarded the bus, the driver asked us all to close our windows so he could crank the air conditioning. This was a problem for Dad, Heather, and I who wanted to take pictures and video out the windows, which were all soaked with rain. I kept opening mine and the driver kept giving me weird looks through the mirror. Our tour guide was a young man who loved soccer, and when we stopped at our first scenic view, I mentioned wanting to open the bus windows briefly from time to time. He talked to the bus driver who agreed to my request. We drove some more to a few other scenic lookouts and a small fort made out of coral. Mom and Heather bought some vases made out of bamboo for $5 each. They are really nicely made and we watched the dreadlock-haired men carve them. Our bus took us to the Arnos Vale Waterwheel, which is a very old waterwheel that was used back in the sugar cane days when slavery was still present on the island. Some time ago it must have been made into a restaurant, and today, it’s a dilapidated set of wooden planks and walkways.

atop Heather and I were the first to enter, and upon doing so, Heather looked into one of the small rooms and exclaimed that she saw birds. They were actually bats, and this place had thousands of them. The bats flew all around while we were there, and the wood flooring was so rotted out that it was as slippery as ice and even broke once. There were some people on our tour with canes, and I tried my best to keep them from falling. It was a dangerous place, especially for the older folks having balance issues. We stayed here for about 20 minutes and Dad and I tried to figure out how this waterwheel worked. It was rather complex. Our tour concluded at Fort King George at the top of a big hill overlooking the bay. We could see Pacific Princess at the pier and a Rastafarian man sang a song to Heather up here. It was really nice. We got back to the ship and then back out to do some shopping for a half hour. We then watched a movie called The Conspirator, which was pretty good. When the ship finally left Tobago, we got into the roughest seas I’ve ever witnessed on board a ship. At dinner, I was having a rough time and Heather got me some sea sickness bands to put on. They helped a bit, but I had to excuse myself and lay down in the room. Luckily, everything stayed down!! I slept about 9 hours through the night. A rocking ship is the best way to sleep!

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 9 – At Sea

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Today, we will continue to parallel the coast s of Surinam and Guyana on our way towards Tobago.

Not much happened today. Well, at 9:00AM I had a full body massage and, wait for it….a facial. This was an experience I’ve never had before, and don’t really care to again really. The massage was phenomenal, but I don’t understand the appeal of facials. I shaved this morning, and whatever this woman put on my face stung horribly for 15 minutes. On the first day of each cruise now, Princess has a Treasure Hunt, where they make you walk around the ship and get stamps from the shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s a good way to learn the layouts of the ships, and we can do the whole thing in a matter of minutes now. You turn in your stamped card and they do a raffle for different prizes from each area you got a stamp.

Since they started doing this, Heather has won a prize each time. She’s got some crazy sort of luck with it. When we took a week long Caribbean cruise a few years back, she won casino credits. When we went to Alaska last year, she won a really nice piece of Alaskan artwork that we had framed and hung in our home. This time, she won $79 of spa credit and decided to get me the aforementioned treatment. The credit covered about half of the price of it. So I got to get oiled up and rubbed down, which was quite nice. Afterwards, I tried weighing myself to see if I’ve lost or gained weight, but the ship was rocking around so much that the scale didn’t work. It’s probably for the best! I spent a few hours on the Internet today trying to make plans for the next few days and uploading a few day’s worth of logs to my site. We then took a nap and watched a bit of Papillon that was playing on our tiny in-room television. We are going to have to watch it again when we get home. It’s cool because we were at Devil’s Island yesterday, where the movie takes place. Tonight we dressed up in our formal wear and had a nice dinner. I had French Onion Soup and duckling. For dessert, I had Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. We’re now waiting to see a production show called Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and afterwards might watch some more of Papillon. We have a port a day for the next 3 days, so we’ll be busy as we head north through the Caribbean Sea.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 8 – Devil’s Island, French Guiana

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

This morning, under the advice of a local pilot, we will drop our anchor in a safe position off the coast of Devil’s Island. Once safely ‘brought up’ to one of Pacific Princess’ 5.8 tonne stockless anchors, we will commence our tender service. Shortly after lunchtime, we will recover our tenders and haul up the anchor. When the anchor is safely home, Pacific Princess will retrace her steps away from Devil’s Island to the open ocean, and set course for Scarborough, Tobago.

We woke up this morning at 5:30AM to calm seas. This is a good thing because it is only possible to get to Devil’s Island about 60% of the time we’ve been told. The waters here are usually rough, and last week the swells were 8 feet high.

I turned on the television in our room to view the camera in the front of the ship. I saw a small boat racing towards us from the triple island group, and a few seconds later, it was alongside us, disembarking a pilot onboard. I planned on being on the first tender out, and we picked up tender tickets 1 through 4 and got on the first tender. Once we got on shore, we started our self-guided tour around the old prison island. We immediately came across a large colony of large ants, moving leaves down a path that they had created over time. This path looked as if it were created by humans or large game animals, but it was ants that made it. We walked out on some rocks near the edge of the island and Heather picked up some rocks and a piece of wampum. Mom and Dad headed up towards the barracks on the top of the hill, and a few minutes later, we followed. This island is inhabited by many wild chickens and pigs. There are small animals that resemble large rats, but hop around like rabbits. They are very cute. We also saw a lone lizard at this time. When we reached the top, we walked through some jail cells, and I found the room that was used as a bathroom. We walked past a lighthouse and medical building, and then into the “Children’s Cemetery”. I am not sure why the only cemetery on the island is for children, but I am guessing that the majority of inmates who died here were not given proper burials. We walked along a road up to the hotel and chapel, and saw an area that was used as a swimming pool. It was overgrown with lily pads, and there was a large Iguana hanging out on a rock. It was here that we saw a large blue Macaw, and we stopped to photograph it. While here, two smaller, red Macaws flapped down next to Heather and started kissing. We saw some more chickens and a few Peacocks. We went into the hotel and bought an $8 magnet and two $4 beers. The way things are priced here is a bit strange, but I am guessing that they don’t have many visitors to this island. We then walked back down the road we came up to see a family of monkeys about 10 large. They were jumping around, swinging from trees, and people were feeding them. Heather got some really good photos of them. By the time we got back to the tender, we were dripping with sweat, and the cool towels that the deck hand gave us felt really good on our faces. We got back on board the ship, had a quick lunch up in the buffet, and took a 3 hour nap, missing wine tasting and “buy $5 get $5 free” in the casino. Oh well. For dinner I had Chicken Noodle Soup, French Onion Soup, and leg of lamb. We are now waiting for the comedian to start; his second show this cruise. Tomorrow we have a relaxing day at sea before three days at different Caribbean islands.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 7 – At Sea

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Early this morning we crossed a sretch of shallow water called the Barra Norte. This marked our exit of the Amazon River, and shortly afterwards we altered onto a northerly, and then north-westerly heading along the South American coastline towards Devil’s Island.

This morning we woke up to a rocking ship. We were now out of the Amazon River and in the Atlantic Ocean, heading north along the coast of Brazil. We don’t have very far to go until our next port, so the ship is moving slow and the ocean seems to be controlling the ways that the ship rocks all around. We love it when the ship moves so much, but we noticed throughout the day that many passengers were getting seasick. Heather and I went up to the pool at 6:00AM to find a wave pool, which we also love. I took the underwater camera into the pool and we had fun with it. We noticed as we were getting out that there was a film of beetles all over the top of the pool, and many were clinging on to my camera strap.

They must have gotten in there while we were still in the river. There were so many bugs in the Amazon River that they turned off all public lights on the decks as well as closed down the eating area on the back of the ship. It is now open again, so I hope to get some good video footage off the back in the next few days. After breakfast, we sat through a few lectures; one on some upcoming ports, and another on a tale of survival in the Arctic Circle. This afternoon, I fought with the Internet for about an hour to post the first day’s log. I’m only behind by about a week! For dinner, I had Prime Rib, Pulled Pork, and Lamb. Now that I’m really full, we’re waiting for a production dancing show to start. Tomorrow will be a very early day, so this will be about it for tonight. The last cruise, the ship was not able to stop at Devil’s Island due to rough seas, but everyone is hoping that we’ll be able to stop this time. The four of us plan on being the first to tender over there, if we make it.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 6 – At Sea

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

Today we will continue on our passage along the Amazon River, towards the city of Macapa in the early afternoon. Here, we will finally disembark our Amazon Pilots, and continue towards the mouth of the Amazon and the open ocean.

We woke up this morning to take a swim in a salt water pool as we navigated through a fresh body of water. The pool onboard is small, but if you get there early in the morning, it is usually empty. Since we were still on the Amazon River, the ship was not moving around very much, so the pool was calm. In the early afternoon, the ship’s dancers put on a “Crossing of the Equator” ceremony that we’ve seen before when we navigated through the Panama Canal a few years back. They choose a few passengers who have never done it before and proceed to put whipped cream all over their heads, dump lemonade on them, and throw cooked spaghetti at them. They surprised a crew member this time as well and it was quite fun. When we actually crossed the Equator, I filled up the sink with water and watched as it went straight down the drain, with no whirlpool created. If you know me at all, you can only guess how many times I did this before getting it perfect right at the Equator. Heather and I walked through the casino to hear meowing.  We found two electronic penny slot machines called “Kitty Glitter”, and we are going to have to try them out. Instead of cherries and gold bars, you have to line up different breeds of cats. It’s very cute, but at the same time, it made us miss Kit Kat and Lit’l Chunks. After dinner, which was my least favorite (All four of us had chicken, but it was not advertised to contain a lot of mushrooms, which I’m not too fond of), we watched a comedy illusionist who we’ve seen before on a previous cruise, but I am still amazed at most of his tricks. After the show, we went back to the room and watched Lincoln Lawyer on TV and went to sleep.

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Amazon River 2012 – Day 5 – Boca da Valeria, Brazil

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Amazon River 2012, General, Vacation

This morning, Pacific Princess will drop her anchor outside the small Amazon Indian village of Boca da Valeria. Once ‘brought up’ to the anchor, we will commence our morning’s tender service. This afternoon, we will once again weight anchor, navigate past the island of Ilhas do Calderao, and set our first courses towards the open ocean.

This little village has definitely been the highlight of this trip so far. I could describe it as similar to the island of San Blas, but the people were a lot nicer. The community at Boca da Valeria is one of about 150, mostly made up of small children. They don’t have many outside influences, and thusly were extremely kind people. It was nice to see a community where corruption wasn’t present in the slightest, but it was difficult at times to see how they were living, with next to nothing but their huts and clothes on their backs. We could see the village from the ship as the tenders were taking passengers over to walk around. There are no tours here as there isn’t much to see, but this area had a huge impact on us. We took some candies for the children and some dollars for the adults, as we were told that if we took photos of the people, they expected money. As we boarded our tender, canoes with the natives paddled up along it, and they held out sloths for picture taking.

I went through almost half of my candies right then. The trip ashore took about 3 minutes, and when we got close, I told Heather that we didn’t have nearly enough candy. We were greeted by about 50 children, and two of them immediately took each of Heather’s hands and started walking her around. Two also grabbed ahold of Mom, but we were not able to all stay together. Since I had a large video camera, I didn’t have an escort, so I followed Heather around as we were walked through the small school and up the bank of the river. A group of three boys started following us as well, and when I put the video camera down on its tripod, the children had a lot of fun watching themselves being recorded on the small screen. We hiked up a steep, muddy hill and into the jungle, but then quickly came back down as there wasn’t much to see up there, and we weren’t prepared for a long walk on this terrain. The ship had set up water stations and we needed water badly as the temperature and humidity were unlike anything I’d ever experienced. We were dripping with sweat after an hour or so out in this environment. We made it back on board and watched as we left this little village behind us, wanting to return someday to bring supplies and gifts to these people.

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