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Cruise Ports of Call

Often novice cruisers never give much thought to the details of ports they will be visiting. Even experienced cruisers are often so involved with the overall planning of a trip they overlook those important port details.

On our next cruise are there any tender ports? Are there ports that don’t allow walking out? Are there facilities on the pier? Is a port wheelchair accessible? Often cruise ships are not that free with information on upcoming ports of call and it would be helpful if you knew ahead of time if there are going to be challenges.

We’ve begun going thru our trip notes to build a section devoted just to port information and highlights. We hope you find it useful.

Also, If you would like to contribute please email us at TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com

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Our Caribbean

Discover the Caribbean

For over twenty-five years the heart of our business was servicing customers in the Caribbean. It would be easier to list the places we haven’t been than were we have. As a result we like to think we know the neighborhood pretty well.

Back in the beginning, Eastern Airlines was the primary carrier from the U.S. to most islands and they sold an island hopper ticket that allowed us to travel around the islands for a discount price. We would usually go out for a couple of weeks at a time spending a day at each island and staying at local or discount accommodations. Fast forward a decade or more and Eastern is gone (mostly replaced by American) and, because we now have to book each flight in and out with between islands mostly being LIAT and seaplanes, the trips take in fewer stops at much higher prices. Fortunately our business is more successful but travel has gotten more complicated because we are hauling children with us.

The restaurants, hotels and resorts are more upscale and we tended to spend more time in each location, partly because of the airfare, but also because we are spending time with more customers. We also took a number of busman’s holidays because we liked skin diving and beach combing but also because we could include business and offset some of the costs.

There are some places that we haven’t been back to in a while but we can still talk about the character of the islands. There is one place we can’t go back to because a volcano buried it (Montserrat). There are a number of places we return to often and can offer current tips and suggestions. Keep an eye out as we add articles about our little corner of the world including:

Barbados      St. Croix      Antigua      Curacao      Sint Maarten

St. Kitts       St. Lucia       Caymans      Jamaica       St. Thomas

Dominica      Grenada      St. Barts     Bahamas      and more

We have also taken more than a dozen Caribbean cruises and we will offer some comments on these as well. Cruising the Caribbean I offers an overview of cruising the Caribbean.  Cruising the Caribbean II talks about the short 3 and 4 day cruises out of South Florida and their destinations. Cruising the Caribbean III looks at the seven day and longer cruises.

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Cruising the South China Sea

cropped-southeast_asia_map.jpg

A First Visit to Southeast Asia

We spent all of February cruising with Celebrity’s Constellation in the South China Sea on back-to-back itineraries. We visited twelve ports with only one repeat (Ho Chi Min City). If you are going to fly twelve thousand miles you probably should make the most of the trip. We flew into Singapore and with the return for the second cruise and the extra day in port at the end we had five days to explore the city and all we could say was wow! The ship also spent two days in the port for Bangkok and we spent that night in a Bangkok hotel and booked a private tour (more about that at another time ;-).

Beyond the usual reasons for cruising there was an additional advantage on this trip. If you are not into a diet of noodles with dried fish flakes or hot curries, the ship gives you the opportunity to return to a Western style menu. The ship also takes care of visas and immigration ahead of each port.

Besides our time in Singapore our trip included four stops in Vietnam, Hong Kong, two stops in the Philippines which included Manila, two stops in Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Brunei and two stops in Thailand. We had an opportunity to see a lot as well as try a number of cuisines. Many of the destinations were studies in extreme contrasts but it was also obvious that things are greatly improving economically. It is also interesting to switch from Muslim to Buddhist to Western cultures as we went from one port to the next. On board there were a number of excellent in-depth lectures on the history and culture of the various countries which provided a good perspective on the ways the region developed.

Over the last number of years we have found cruising gives us an opportunity to sample a number of places and than we decide where we want to come back to for extended stays. Southeast Asia is no exception to this and we certainly have a few we will add to our return list.


Phone Service: We were traveling on this trip with an iPhone 5 on Verizon service ($80 for 250 international minutes)and with a Blu 5.5 phone with a prepaid international plan from One Sim Card service. Vietnam and Brunei were not part of the Verizon international service so we switched use to OneSimCard. Phone calls with Verizon worked well everywhere else but there were problems getting text messages out on a few days. The only reliable data that we found on the Verizon service was in Singapore (didn’t attempt in Hong Kong) most other places indicated “Data Service Failed”. The One Sim Card service worked as expected except in Vietnam. There we connected with the recommended service provider (Viettel) but instead of text messages costing the expected 25¢ they were charged at a couple of dollars. One Sim Card did send a text message warning of high costs on this service recommending we switch networks, even though Viettel was their recommended provider.


In the near future look for posts covering each of these countries with pointers on must do things, food, transportation and hotels.

A Room With A Bath In London

A Short Story

Stow-On-The-Wald

Some time ago we were visiting England and had rented a car for a few days driving around the Cotswalds. The countryside and the villages were spectacular and we had a great time. Our two favorite locations were Broadway and Stow-On-The-Wald. Who wouldn’t want to stay in Stow-On-The-Wald just to be able to say the name. While The Lygon Arms in Broadway was recommended to us it was not to our budgets liking but we’ve been told it is extraordinary.

We spent our time in the Cotswalds staying in B&Bs and the people we met and the meals we shared were delightful. But after a number of days of stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the bathrooms we were looking forward to getting back to London

Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway

We had been staying in Kensington and when we returned we went searching for a hotel in the same area. At that point my wife was really looking to have a room with a private bath. I parked in one of those cul-de-sacs that was completely circled by small hotels and headed off in search of a room. The forth hotel said “yes” they did have a room with a bath. We dropped our bags off in the lobby and went off to return the rental car and get something to eat.

Hotel Row, Kensington

When we returned the hotel said the room was ready and we went upstairs. Opening the door we were confronted with a small room with a bed, a dresser and in one corner a clawfoot tub. That night my wife got her room with a bath but I wouldn’t refer to it as “private”.

 

TSA and the Little Sequined Top

My wife has a sequined top that she has worn while traveling a few times. I don’t believe there is anything seriously metallic in the sequins and it has made its way thru a number of metal detectors. On a recent trip all hell seemed to break out over this top.

While we have never paid for pre-clearance we usually get pre-cleared on our boarding passes (not really sure why). Last October while passing thru the TSA Pre check my wife was directed to go thru the scanner. Feet on the marks, hands above your head and wait, something has gone wrong. It seemed the agent scanned her several times and now she is pulled aside for a thorough search. What went wrong? She was wearing that top!

After a little research we have discovered that TSA screening devices have a lot of issues with some types of women’s clothes. That splash of gold print on a T-Shirt can contain enough metal to set off the metal detector. The same with attached beads. Sequins can literally blind a scanner. Since often these things are part of the fabric, passing a wand over you cannot determine if it is the top you’re wearing or something concealed under it. Time for the pat-down.

A comment Submitted by Cindy M found on the TSA blog from Jan 2018 – When the scanners were introduced I believed they were an improvement. Now however, I see that the machines don’t spot real problems. Instead they seem to be confused by a variety of normal things such as sequins, metal, or other sorts of embellishments on clothing.

Why is it I\we have to dress for the TSA?! Actually you don’t but you can expect to be delayed and/or inconvenienced.  Especially if you ignore some simple tips that help TSA do their job efficiently. They do post a lot of information online that can help avoid these sort of issues. Unfortunately as of now sequins aren’t one of those tips.

 

 

Cruise Port of Call Barbados

The Barbados Cruise Port is a popular cruise port of call on southern Caribbean itineraries.

General– Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles, the eastern most island in the Caribbean. It is an independent British Commonwealth nation, bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea.

Where You’re Docked– At Barbados cruise port cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal and free shuttles take passengers from the ships pier to the terminal building. There are lots of shops inside the terminal and WiFi is available but not free. A walkway into Bridgetown runs along the waterfront. The distance into town center is approximately two miles. Most stores are open during the week but close at noon on Saturday and are not open on Sunday.

Boardwalk heading into Bridgetown

Transportation– There are lots of taxies available from the Barbados cruise port  area. The fares are regulated by the government but it is still important to agree on a price before the trip. The Georgetown Bus Terminal is located two blocks outside the port area, behind Pelican Village. Exact fares must be paid for bus rides and tokens can be purchased at the bus terminal. Rental cars are available but the rates are fairly steep and you will have to pay for a Barbados tourist driving license. Driving is on the left side of the road and, once you leave the city areas, many roads do not have name signs

The coast at The Crane, Barbados

Money

The official currency is the Barbados dollar (BBD) but US dollars (not coins) are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = BBD $2.00.

Nearby trips:

Bathsheba, Barbados on the Atlantic coast

There are many beautiful beaches in Barbados but the easiest one to get to is Boatyard Beach on Carlisle Bay. It is about a 20 minute walk from the terminal or an inexpensive taxi ride. A fee of $20.00 is charged to use the facilities which includes a beach chair, shared umbrella, one cocktail, WIFI and free transport back to the ship.

 

Mount Gay Rum Distillery (web site) in Brandons, St. Michaels offers tours Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday. The current fee is $20.00 which includes a presentation on the rum’s history and a tasting. Tickets can be booked online.

Harrison’s Cave

Harrison’s Cave (web site) in St. Thomas is a network of caves, waterfalls, lakes and streams approximately 170 feet below ground. Tours are offered daily for a fee. The area above ground is a good place to spot green monkeys.

Earthworks Pottery (web site) is located mid island in St. Thomas Parish. It is an opportunity to view local potters at work and purchase some hand made souvenirs. Closed Sunday.

Bridgetown Harbour

George Washington House in Bush Hill welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday. It is the only place outside the United States that George Washington ever visited.

Bathsheba on the rugged Atlantic coast (eastern shore) is a great place to see surfers and enjoy a lunch at one of the local restaurants.

Black Pearl Party Cruises (web site) provides a 4 hour trip on the Jolly Roger which includes a buffet lunch, swimming, snorkeling, dancing and unlimited house drinks. The price is just under $90.00 with discounts for online booking and groups.

IMPORTANT – Do not wear camouflage clothing as it is illegal in Barbados; Only smoke in designated areas; Avoid touching or standing under the big shady Manshineel Trees as they are poisonous. Most of these trees are marked in red or banded in red.

Port of Call Roatan Honduras

The Caribbean Island of Roatan, Honduras

The main cruise dock and visitors village
Sailing into Mahogany Bay

Roatan is the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands in the Caribbean and is becoming a popular cruise itinerary destination. Like many Caribbean destinations it is recognized for its beautiful beaches, water sports, including premier scuba and skin diving, and modern resorts. It also has a growing number of American and Canadian ex-patriots and seasonal residents. To accommodate the cruise ships the Honduras government helped develop Mahogany Bay with modern docks, a well equiped duty free village and a beautiful beach recreation area.

Where You Dock

Most Cruise ships now dock at the Mahogany Bay facility on the southwest coast. The beautifully laid out area includes piers, a duty free shopping area and a beach area. In addition there is also the Port of Roatan located a bit farther west past Barrio Loma Linda and occasionally cruise ships may still dock there. It is about five miles between the two port facilities.

Transportation

The best way to get around Roatan is by hired taxi or a rental car. Taxi’s are inexpensive and you can usually negotiate an island tour at a good price (share with other passengers).

Money

The local currency is the Honduras Lempira with one being worth about US 5¢. US Dollars are usually welcome and most major credit cards are accepted.

Mahogany Bay beach area

Attractions

Outdoor recreation is the focus on this Caribbean island with sandy beaches and clear, warm water being the central attraction. There are also several zip line facilities on the island and a dolphin encounter at Anthony’s Key Resort that’s very popular.

If your ship docks at Mahogany Bay you can spend the day right at the ports beautiful beach. It’s equipped with water sports equipment, beach loungers and umbrellas with a number of excursions leaving right from the cruise port.

A little over a mile from Mahogany Bay is the town of Barrio Loma Linda. It is not a resort area but a typical small Honduran town with stores and restaurants along with a couple of crafts facilities working in leather and wood.

 

An Unusual Blarney Castle Adventure

A Short Story

Blarney Castle Caution

If you are not up the the challenge of climbing six stories of steep stairs – don’t start the tour…

I think that one of those requirements for first-time visitors to Ireland is visit Blarney Castle. It was way up on our list of must see.

When you tour Blarney Castle the first thing you are confronted with is a six story, narrow spiral staircase. Everything is rough stone and there isn’t enough room on the stairs for more than a single file line. Someone getting past another in line would be a serious challenge. In touring the castle and getting up to the rock of eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) you must ascend on one staircase and descend on another equally narrow staircase. While on the ascent there are a couple of side rooms attached to the stairwell there is no way out until you climb the full six stories. At the top you walk over to the Blarney Stone and afterwords cross over to the other corner and start down the second staircase.

Before you enter the actual castle itself there is an attendant that clearly explains the issues with the spiral staircase and that if you don’t think you are up to the climb you shouldn’t continue.

On our visit last year as we entered the grounds we became aware of a couple in the group that stood out. He was, it turned out, in his 90’s and walked with a Hurrycane. It’s that foldable walking cane with the hand grip at the top and the four footed base as seen on TV. As we entered the castle the elderly gentleman was ahead of us with about six people between us and him in line. Just ten feet inside we were at the foot of that spiral staircase. At that point we commented to ourselves that we were impressed with his courage if not his judgement.

To his credit he made it up almost three stories before he couldn’t take another step. At that point the people below on the stairs couldn’t do anything to help because we were stuck in a single file. There was a lot of discussion up and down the line and eventually the line above him managed to get into an alcove and one gentlemen came back to him. With his wife behind him and help from the man above they managed to help him crawl up a number of steps to that alcove. After that the line started moving up again – there was no other choice. There was no way we were going to get a line three stories up into the castle to back up. When we got to the top of the castle several people explained to the attendants helping people kiss the stone* about the gentleman’s problem.

Maybe Blarney Castle has experienced this problem before but the logistics of stopping the line, getting help to him and than getting him down three flights of steep, narrow, spiral stairs does seem like a daunting task. That doesn’t even take into consideration the tour buses that are on a schedule and have significant distances to travel.

I’m sure there are a number of morals in this adventure but I’ll leave them to the readers imagination.

*You lay on your back while the attendants hold you as you stick your head through an opening at the top of the castle, six stories above the ground while you kiss the stone protruding from the wall above you – try that on a wet and rainy day. Also there doesn’t seem to be any Purell in use and you start speculating about all those people ahead of you that day?

Abandoned, Derelict and Thrown Away Boats

A SHORT STORY

Throw Away Boats

Derelict Montevideo

Derelicts Montevideo Harbor

 

If you travel a lot, especially if you are a cruise enthusiast, you will on occasion come across ship and boat wrecks either grounded or in shallow water. They seem to garner more attention than wrecked and abandoned cars on land. Maybe there is something more intriguing or romantic about ship wrecks because they seem to recall huge tragedies or great seafaring legends. It’s unlikely you’ll find a story titled The Wreck Of A 66 Oldsmobile, but there are accounts that live on about the Andrea Doria, Rubin James, Titanic, Edmond Fitzgerald and a lot more.

Derelicts Montevideo
Derelicts Montevideo

On a recent stop in Montevideo, Uruguay we came across what looked like a ship graveyard, right in the middle of the harbor. Derelict fishing boats, tugs and even larger ships were left in the harbor, making for a very strange sight. Seeing this surprising, large collection of half sunk, rusting, and abandoned boats and ships in the center of this cities working harbor raised a number of questions. Who abandoned them and why? How long have they been here? What is anybody doing about them?

Abandoned boats are not a problem unique to Uruguay and we often encounter ships wrecked along a coast, unable to be moved or salvaged. Even in the U.S. you’ll find abandoned boats usually left on remote and rarely used channels or in out of the way bays. But I don’t think we have every come across such a large number anywhere else before.

Fishing boats abandoned in Puerto Quetzal Guatemala

After getting home a little research turned up an article dated 17 June 2015 (HERE) estimating the number of derelicts at fifty that were abandoned by their owners because of debts or liens. It indicated that a plan has been developed that will re-float the boats and have them taken away. The Uruguayan National Port Administration will be in charge of the program.

Cruise port Roatan Island

When we were there in January of 2019 and I counted thirty boats so maybe they have made some progress in the last three years but Montevideo still has a long way to go.

Hurricane wrecks St. John’s harbor, Antigua

 

 

 

Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is a popular resort area for New Zealanders being less than fifty miles from Christ Church and is also seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. The current population is only about 650 permanent residents with a significant increase in season.

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two ancient volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters that feature spectacular volcanic cliffs which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. 

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money

New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting as US Dollars are not usually accepted.

Attractions

Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous scenic boat tours available including dolphin watching. The protected waters are also perfect for sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, there is a penguin colony that is rare for this region. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.