Last Update: 13-JAN-2018

December 2017 - Ft. Lauderdale, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, St. Thomas, USVI, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados and Grenada

All photos were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S7 or a Canon EOS-70D 20.2mp camera or a Go Pro Hero4 Silver

For a detailed description of the Canon EOS-70D 20.2mp camera setup I am using, visit my Camera Page

Part 1 -------------------------------------
DEC	07	T	Cruise - Fly to Ft. Lauderdale
DEC	08	F	Cruise - Ft. Lauderdale
DEC	09	S	Cruise - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
DEC	10	S	Cruise - At sea
DEC	11	M	Cruise - At sea
DEC	12	T	Cruise - St. Thomas, USVI
DEC	13	W	Cruise - St. Kitts
DEC	14	T	Cruise - St. Lucia
DEC	15	F	Cruise - Barbados
DEC	16	S	Cruise - Grenada

Part 2 -------------------------------------

DEC	17	S	Cruise - Guadeloupe
DEC	18	M	Cruise - Antigua
DEC	19	T	Cruise - San Juan Puerto Rico
DEC	20	W	Cruise - At sea
DEC	21	T	Cruise - At sea
DEC	22	F	Cruise - Ft. Lauderdale - FLY HOME

Thursday - DEC 07 2017 -- Baltimore, Maryland to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

As we always do, we get to the port area the day before. In December you never know what may happen weather-wise. As always, we fly Southwest Airlines. No issues at all as usual.

Departing Baltimore - Looking north at Baltimore City (Left) and the Key Bridge (center)

Arriving Ft. Lauderdale - The cruise port is upper center of photo where the sand ends. It's about 15 minutes by cab to go from the airport to where we like to stay at Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach. We arrived early and our room was on the bay side. It's a ok hotel but to get the best rate you have to pre-pay which I really don't like.

Fort Lauderdale beach Looking south & north. Water was ok and many were swimming.

On our last cruise in 2015 we ate at Coconuts which on google it says "Beachy hangout on the Intracoastal dishing seafood & Sunday brunch while yachts cruise by" which is accurate. Ken got stone crabs again and Mary got Jambalaya. Both were excellent !

Ken was drinking "Monk in the Trunk" which was very good

Stone crabs - the best $60 you will ever spend

Sunset from our table

Evening walk on the beach to get a couple bottles of wine for the cruise. The Snowman on the surfboard

Friday - DEC 08 2017 -- Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Friday - DEC 08 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Easy day. This is our third time with this routine in Ft. Lauderdale. We ate breakfast on the beach that we picked up from St. Bart's Coffee Company (expensive) then we killed time till 10 and took the hotel provided port shuttle which takes appx. 15 minutes. It was cheap $8 each. The process to get on the ship was easy, and took less than an hour or so.

    The Snowman on the surfboard

    First room (Our house for 2 weeks smaller than our master bath at home) views Vista Suite Cabin 151. I was disappointed as I figured it was bigger. We did get a free upgrade but it was to the middle of the ship where you feel less motion.

    Looking at the port facility from our balcony

    The parking garage where we have parked before when we drove down for the cruise

    Various port views. Lots of construction & expansion

    Departing Ft. Lauderdale - Looking north up the beach

    The idiot with the hopefully not loaded 50cal. that aims right up at the ship. We had two of these Coast Guard bozos, one of each side of the ship.

    Looking back at the East coast of Florida. Miami is to the left of the setting sun.

    Fighting the sunset crowds. Little did we realize that we were around 60% capacity and the ship would be empty for the cruise. This is a very good thing

    Sunset over the high-rises of SE Florida

    The first Towel Critter - Scorpion. We would get something new every night.

    This was new. A small towel that had "good night" on one side and "good morning" on the other side. Strange.

    Saturday - DEC 09 2017 -- Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Saturday - DEC 09 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - Half Moon Cay

    Little San Salvador Island, also known as Half Moon Cay, is one of about 700 islands that make up the archipelago of The Bahamas. It's known for the long, crescent-shaped Half Moon Beach. It is located roughly halfway between Eleuthera and Cat Island. It is a private island, owned by Holland America Line, which uses it as a port of call for the cruise ships it operates in the region. The white-sand beach is great to walk on, and water clarity is great. Water temps in 80's and waves are gentle.

    Our first stop was a Holland Americas corporate island called Half Moon Cay. The real name of the island is Little San Salvador Island located in the Bahamas. The LAT/LON is 24.577061N -75.949002W Its located appx. 280 miles SE of Ft. Lauderdale.

    The swim was a little chilly at first but then you got used to it and it was the nice temperature. There was another ship, Koningsdam, but the beach was not crowded

    Empty Breakfast in the lido market

    Holland Americas newest and largest ship the MS Koningsdam - Capacity: 2,650 passengers, twice what our ship could carry

    Taking supplies from the ship to the island for our lunch

    Unknown large yellow tailed fish. We researched this and nobody seems to know what it is. Length 6-8 feet and two of them were slowly swimming together.

    The tender as that's what we have to do here

    Looking across to the cliffs near Bannerman Town the Bahamas.

    Not much beach in the chair area

    Out enjoying the surf

    Looking down the beach

    A long swim

    You can rent the various beach houses. The cost of these are amazing as they range from $300 to $1400 for our short stay. (Also the gusest count is limited)

    The standard beach feet photo.. This was with the go-pro which was still wet so the photo is not that good.

    Interesting views on the beach - Seems to be the standard bottom bathing suit these days...

    Like all the times we come here, we walked as far as you can up the beach to the end where there's no one around, past the horse area.

    The horse loading ramps. Considering the age and condition of the HAL passengers... This is how you get on a horse.

    Looking back at the developed area

    Almost to the end of the beach

    The evening critter - A ray ?

    Some expensive booze - We passed and in fact our ship bar tab was $2.59 so they did not make much on us.

    Sunday - DEC 10 2017 -- At Sea

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Sunday - DEC 10 2017 - Ship Activities

    Our first of two at sea days. These are lazy days where all you have to do is eat / sleep, relax and walk for miles on the teak Promenade deck. And we did.

    Another busy breakfast

    A reminder on the day of the week in the elevator

    Oh the crowds - We are traveling along the North East coasts of the Bahamas Islands and occasionally you can see land off to the south & west.

    Front of ship

    Rear of ship

    Soot coming from the exhaust. Nobody was sitting out on the rear deck. We have seen this on other Holland ships.

    Not much of a sunset

    The evening critter - Perhaps a Ray ?

    Monday - DEC 11 2017 -- At Sea

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Monday - DEC 11 2017 - Ship Activities

    Our second at sea day. We started east of Turks and Caicos and later in the evening we could see the glow from Puerto Rico. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be in St. Thomas so that ill start eight days of ports. We continue to travel along the west side of the Sargasso Sea. All the currents deposit the marine plants and refuse they carry into this sea, yet the ocean water in the Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of up to 61 m (200 ft.). It is also a body of water that has captured the public imagination, and so is seen in a wide variety of literary and artistic works and in popular culture.

    Also, this is day 3 of sailing in the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a loosely-defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Most reputable sources dismiss the idea that there is any mystery.

    View from our cabin out into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle.

    Holland has a hamburger & hot dog place called Dive-in Grill. Not bad. Not too healthy either

    Cheese Cake & Ice Cream. Not bad

    In this part of the ocean (Sargasso Sea) you will see these long lines of vegetation called Sargassum. It named by the Portuguese sailors who first explored this area.

    Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) macroalgae (seaweed) in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs, and the genus is widely known for its planktonic (free-floating) species.

    Holland America ships are known for art. This strange painting was in the stairs near our cabin. It had a cat so I took a photo of it.

    Mary thinking about jumping and her view if she does it.

    Sunset time

    It's not even 5pm and its empty

    I knew that this area produces excellent sunsets. The Dominican Republic is 250-300 miles west of us and the sun went down over that area. The Cordillera Central is the highest mountain range in the Dominican Republic and in all of the Caribbean region, running through the heart of the island of Hispaniola. The highest peak Pico Duarte is 3,098M (10,164 ft.)

    The light passing thru the mountain rang passes creates the streaks that we are seeing in the sunset.

    This always amazes me. I never can understand why we are the only people that enjoy these evenings. Its low 80's, low humidity, some of the best sunsets you will ever see in your life. Most of the people on this ship are from cooler areas and they are not outside enjoying it. Oh well, its better for us this way.

    The evening critter - A swan ?

    Tuesday - DEC 12 2017 -- St. Thomas, USVI

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Tuesday - DEC 12 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands

    We have been to St. Thomas many times and usually either go to a beach or just walk around town and buy some booze to sneak on the ship. Today was a booze acquisition day.

    Views of the Charlotte Amalie harbor

    Some roof damage at the port

    Some damage but it could have been that way before the hurricanes

    The governors house - some window damage

    Communications facilities. Cell service (ATT) was fine here with no issues.

    Various views looking for claimed "MAJOR" damage

    The other port "Austin "Babe" Monsanto Marine Facility" had 1 ship in.

    We went for a walk and saw some shore damage

    Mary standing near the Army Corps sign. She had to fix it for the photo. She should get an award for this

    The Corps asked for volunteers and one of the duties was visiting houses and interviewing the homeowners for the "blue roof program". The blue tarps we saw as we entered the port and in disaster areas, Operation Blue Roof is a program for homeowners who have damage to their roofs. The program sends licensed contractors out to homes to cover the damage with fiber-reinforced plastic sheeting (tarp) until homeowners can arrange repairs.

    Operation Blue Roof allows residents to stay in their homes, instead of paying for temporary housing or hotels. The program also protects property while homeowners recover from the storm.

    This is a free service to homeowners with homes that are primary residences or permanently occupied rental properties that have less than 50 percent structural damage. Vacation rental properties are not eligible for the program. Not all roof types qualify for the program

    The Christmas tree sales lot. Not much to select from

    Good to see that the Ketchup supply is back after the storms

    Bad photo of the Post Office closed "written as close" with no power. We asked and they said that it's not that reliable in this area. We did hear a number of big generators running.

    Assuming this was storm related - Resolve Marine Group provides innovative and reliable maritime solutions across the globe through our dedicated salvage and emergency response resources.

    Christmas trees when its 85+ Nice

    Zika warnings. Strange they had a entire sign board repeating the two page warning

    We have these photos going way back. I guess the area survived the storm

    Nobody around

    Good score - The coke is easy as they don't care about soda but booze they look for (in fact that's all they look for more on that later) The 200mm Jim Bean bottles are under $5 and the shop checkout guy smiled when I asked him if he could see them in my pocket. We were building our rum & coke collection for the rest of the cruise.

    Departing St. Thomas - More port views of some damage


    Up on the deck messing with time elapse with the canon 70D. Very hard to take a good photo with the ship moving.

    I can see a glowing area on but over the horizon. Probably St. Kitts

    Tonight's towel critter - octopus ?

    Wednesday - DEC 13 2017 -- St. Kitts

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Wednesday - DEC 13 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - Basseterre, St. Kits

    Like all the other stops we have been to St. Kitts many times before. This time because of other ships we are at the Ro-Ro cargo terminal vs. downtown. They offer a free shuttle so you don't have to walk the mile or more each way back to the town. We decided to take a taxi to a local beach. We asked to go to Frigate Bay where we have been before but none of the taxi's wanted to go this close as the fare is not enough. So, we went with a number of other people for $8 each to Cockleshell Beach on Banana Bay. This is at the southern end of the island. We have been here before as this is the bar where the large pig lived that died a few years ago. It is not a particularly nice Beach however there is a beach bar there and I was able to snorkel. The clarity was not great but I saw some parrot fish and cuttlefish.

    I really like Saint Kitts and Nevis as it's the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas, in both area and population. I could see spending a winter down here if the selling of my house in the artic state of Pennsylvania gets delayed.

    Night photography and path to St. Kitts

    This is the path we took (in red) between St. Thomas & St. Kitts. Was surprised that we went NE of Saba.

  • MOVIE - 18 meg Go-Pro photos between St. Thomas & Sunrise near St. Kitts

    Description of movie - From start to 9:45 pm another cruise ship and St. Croix USVI to the south. Around 00:45 Saba shows up on the left and then Sint Eustatius with the oil storage facility brightly lit. Around 02:10 the ship makes a course change and Sint Eustatius goes out of view (as we are passing west of the island now) and Saba with 2 other ships off to the west are in view. You can see Orion in the sky over Saba. Around 4 am we make another course change and now are heading to the south east which allows the southern cross to come into view and we stay on this course till sunrise.

    The False Cross tends to grab the attention of new stargazers, possibly because it's a little larger than Crux. (Many are surprised at the small size of Crux when they first see it. the long axis of Crux is just 6 degrees long). The False Cross lies about 25 degrees west-northwest of the Southern Cross, and about 20 degrees north-northeast of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It's not a constellation, merely an asterism of four stars: delta Velorum, kappa Velorum, iota Carinae, and epsilon Carinae (Avior).

    Southern Cross "Crux" It's in red and the false crux in blue.

    The un-edited photo - Crux is easily visible from the southern hemisphere at practically any time of year. It is also visible near the horizon from tropical latitudes of the northern hemisphere for a few hours every night during the northern winter and spring. For instance, it is visible from Cancun or any other place at latitude 25N or less at around 10 pm at the end of April. There are 5 main stars. Due to precession, Crux will move closer to the South Pole in the next millennia, up to 67 degrees south declination for the middle of the constellation. But in AD 18000 or BC 8000 Crux will be/was less than 30 degrees south declination making it visible in Northern Europe. Even in AD 14000 it will be visible for most parts of Europe and the whole United States.

    Looking up at a Carnival Ship docked in town. It's good that we are far away from that.

    Perfect weather

    High end development at the southern (Atlantic side) of the island. We saw no storm damage here

    Looking south at the very expensive road that was built to provide access to this part of the island. You can see Nevis capped in clouds off in the distance

    The taxi driver stopped at a viewpoint where people were selling stuff. A guy had a donkey with two monkeys. Well, I snuck a photo and he caught me... These guys are good and should be employed by the CIA as surveillance detection officers as I am very good a covert photography.

    Since it cost me $2 I might as well take some real photos. The donkey did not look very happy.

    Cockleshell Beach on Banana Bay

    Got six beers for $20. Drank two at the beach (before lunch I might add) then smuggled the last four on the ship where we had two more. Dave & Monika enjoyed the rest when they came over for Christmas.

    Heat index of 107. NICE ! As I type this on 31-DEC its 12 out

    Beach Santa

    Various views looking back at the beach from the small pier. Beautiful weather.

    Across the gap between Kitts & Nevis. We went to Nevis in 2015. Interesting island which we would like to visit again

    St. Kitts prices. Not bad

    Salt Marshes

    Old Windmill from the sugar processing past

    They had considerable landslides in this area so they built a tunnel. I am sure that cost some serious $$$. Then again China probably paid for it like many things in this part of the world.

    Not a good place to break down

    Back at the ship. Various port views

    They were packing boxes on these small trucks. Very unsafe but it worked. Also, people would come and randomly park (in this case the black pickup and silver car) right in the middle of everything. Did not seem too safe but while we watched it all worked out.

    Looking down to the southern end of the island where we spent the day at the beach.

    Amazed at how the clouds are going away aver Nevis

    Port Zante Cruise Terminal in Basseterre. We were told that the GNV ship is an old car ferry converted to classrooms.

    Sunset time

    Mary looking at the snacks in her leisure pajamas

    Pre-dinner snack

    Tonight's towel critter - Cow ?

    Thursday - DEC 14 2017 -- St. Lucia

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Thursday - DEC 14 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - Castries, St. Lucia

    Like all the other ports on this cruise we have been here many times. The last few cruises we have seen this port Castries become more run down and the people becoming more aggressive. We were here in 2015 and we were harassed because we were white.. I just ignored the woman and headed back to our safe cruise ship. So, this time we took a ship run shore excursion so we would not be out around the general public.

    We signed up for the "Catamaran Cruise to Morne Coubaril Estate" - 6.5 hours $99.95 each

    The description is: Its a relaxing sail down the west coast to one of the coves. The boat anchors to allow you an opportunity to swim. Transfer to Morne Coubaril Estate and step back in time as you tour this historic plantation. A cruise back up the west coast, with snacks served on board the catamaran en route brings you back.

    The description was true but not in the right order which did not matter to us. Also, we were served lunch and had unlimited rum as well as rum punch. I tipped them well as it was a very good way to spend the day.

    They picked us up on the docks by our ship. No need to even leave the secure area. Going by our ship

    Heading down the west coast. Like everything else on this cruise it was not crowded on the Catamaran

    Mary enjoying the sun and surf

    The Piton's coming into view


    Although often mispronounced, Soo-fray, is one of the oldest French ports on Saint Lucia. Accessible by boat and car alike, this town is picturesquely located near the grand Pitons. If you visit Saint Lucia you must visit Soufriere, and all the wonderful Creole influences that go with it. You might even find some remains of the past Empress of France, Josephine Bonaparte. After all, she was born there.

    We got of the Catamaran walked the pier and got onto a bus. The town is run down so that was a good thing

    Loading fish into a wheelbarrow

    Always good to have your valuable town waterfront being used as a gas station

    Morne Coubaril Estate & Historic Plantation

    Description from the estates website: You are guided through a small village of replica stick huts similar to those used two centuries ago by local villagers. The gardens around offer close-up views of the more popular local flora.

    You pass the Monplaisir family's grand estate house next and this offers great photo opportunities before you enjoy another live demonstration. You are explained the process of de-husking a coconut and drying the copra in our oven before having a taste of coconut water and jelly.

    After enjoying the bay view from the point (do not forget to bring spare batteries for your camera), you have the opportunity to taste a ripe cocoa bean at the cocoa house before witnessing the process of fermentation, bean drying and the cocoa dance used to polish the dried beans. The tour climaxes with our mule-driven sugar cane mill and the taste of fresh cane juice.

    We had fun but we did feel a bit rushed.

    Various views

    Tiger orchid

    Cocoa pod

    Various views

    Tropical poison ivy. I bet it packs a punch

    Old house

    Guide going over all the stuff that grows here

    Lots of coconuts

    Very precise stonework

    View back down towards Soufriere

    Looking at the inside of a cocoa pod at the beans. You can eat these and they taste like dark chocolate.

    A cocoa pod (fruit) has a rough, leathery rind about 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.18 in) thick (this varies with the origin and variety of pod) filled with sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called baba de cacao in South America) with a lemonade-like taste enclosing 30 to 50 large seeds that are fairly soft and a pale lavender to dark brownish purple color.

    During harvest, the pods are opened, the seeds are kept, and the empty pods are discarded. The seeds are placed where they can ferment. Due to heat buildup in the fermentation process, cacao beans lose most of the purplish hue and become mostly brown in color, with an adhered skin which includes the dried remains of the fruity pulp. This skin is released easily after roasting by winnowing. White seeds are found in some rare varieties, usually mixed with purples, and are considered of higher value

    Bean drying trays under the building and a dried bean. You can eat these and they taste like dark chocolate.

    Crushing sugar cane the old way. Also the donkey gets to eat the crushed cane.

    Bougainvillea and bananas - bouganvillea are evergreen where rainfall occurs all year, or deciduous if there is a dry season. The leaves are alternate, simple ovate-acuminate, 4-13 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The actual flower of the plant is small and generally white, but each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colors associated with the plant, including pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow. Bougainvillea glabra is sometimes referred to as "paper flower" because the bracts are thin and papery.

    Mary looking at the bananas

    Petit Piton from a viewpoint along the road back to Soufriere

    Looking at the old church in Soufriere "Church of the Assumption"

    So we are back on the Catamaran heading to our snorkel spot then back to Castries


    Ken with the go-pro underwater camera. We had people from the local village trying to sell us stuff. They were very aggressive and would follow me around as I was swimming. I had to swim under the Catamaran a couple of times to get away from them. At this point being at 13 north the water is probably in the mid to upper 80's so it's very easy to jump in.

    Mary messing with her new snorkel mask

    Mary snorkel photos. The snorkeling was okay with parrotfish, blue tang, trunkfish, and trumpetfish, but many of bleached corals. The Atlantic trumpetfish is a shy reef fish that lives on the coral reefs and seagrass beds of the Caribbean Sea and surrounding waters. It is long, skinny, and somewhat compressed from side to side (rather than cylindrical-shaped, like some eels) and is known to reach lengths of over three feet (one meter). The Atlantic trumpetfish (like all trumpetfishes) is closely related to pipefishes and seahorses, and has a similarly shaped head that it uses for suction feeding. While it may look like it has a large mouth, its mouth is actually fairly small and only opens slightly at the tip of its long snout.

    On our way back we went up thru Marigot Bay

    Commonly known as the filming of the original Dr. Doolittle, this beautiful Caribbean port is one of the most affluent areas of Saint Lucia.

    An arch along the coast with local kids jumping off of it.

    Other cruise ships in port. We lucked out as it started raining but only lasted a couple of minutes

    Back on the ship - Various port views

    I don't think its the same as our Home Depot

    The llama is following us

    A helicopter and old buildings at the end of the runway

    The path to the port passes off the runway of the George F. L. Charles (Vigie) Airport. I am sure they coordinate with the passing of the large cruise ships. A plane was waiting to take off

    Lighthouse and communications facility

    Scenic cruising of Soufriere and the Piton's

    Well, we are going right back where we just were on our Catamaran excursion. The cruise ships like to do this but this was the first time the ship did a 360 so that people in their rooms could see it.

    On the left, Petit Piton - is one of two mountains overlooking Soufriere Bay in the southwest of Saint Lucia. Petit Piton lies towards the middle of the bay, south of the town of Soufriere and north of the larger mountain, Gros Piton, to which it is linked by the Piton Mitan Ridge. Petit Piton rises to a height of 2,461ft. (739m).Gros Piton is taller than it by about 150 ft. On the right is the Gros Piton is 2,578ft. (786m) high.

    Its very humid so the photos were a bit hazy

    Soufriere and the hills above the town that the increase in co2 (Carbon Dioxide) is killing the large vegetation. This is where the Sulphur Springs "walk-in" volcano is.

    The ship's bell

    They opened up the bow during the scenic cruising of the Piton's. This was the most people we saw on the ship at one time

    Getting close

    Very strange.. We did two complete 360's while some Asian woman with poor English read off the entire history of the island. The captain was out on the bow talking and when the ship did the second 360, the rear of the ship was probably closer to the Petit Piton than he wanted. He ran off to the bridge.

    We did not have far to go so I guess they were in no hurry to head to Barbados

    Boring sunset

    We have not even left the Piton's and everyone is back to bed I guess

    Amazing the lack of people in the main dining room. Its 7:30pm Not late at all

    Tonight's towel critter - Elephant ?

    Friday - DEC 15 2017 -- Barbados

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Friday - DEC 15 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - Bridgetown, Barbados

    We have been to Barbados many times. Last time we were here in 2015 we took an island 4x4 adventure so this time we were going to just walk through Bridgetown to a nice beach a few miles from here.

    Sad that this shore bird was in a polluted puddle along the main road sidewalk.

    Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown - The Barbados Parliament was established in 1639 and is the third oldest Parliament in the entire Commonwealth. In 2006 the West Wing of Parliament underwent refurbishment. The refurbished building will house the National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament.

    Interesting use of an old cannon. Used to keep vehicles off of the curb

    Lots of Christmas trees

    Brownes beach - Barbados - We paid $15 for 2 chairs and an umbrella for a couple of hours. The umbrella kept our packs dry during the short downpours, in between sun. We watched people swim out to where the boats were for sea turtle snorkeling. We didn't have our snorkel gear but thought maybe next time...

    Arch on the old bridge / city views

    Got to have American Fast food

    The Mutual Life Assurance Society, better known to Barbadians as "The Mutual," was a Caribbean insurance company that supplied a significant number of loans to local plantations after being formed in 1840. Their Victorian-style headquarters with its ornate, cast-iron grillwork was built in 1895 and has become a downtown landmark on Broad Street. It has been the home of three different banks since The Mutual became the Sagicor Life Company.

    Golden Apple Tree The Golden Apple tree (Spondias cytherea) has its origins in the Society Islands and is a true resident of the island of Barbados. The fruit of the golden apple tree have a golden-orange appearance skin and a spiny seed that is surrounded by firm, yellow flesh. In Barbados, it is a norm to eat the golden apple fruit with a bit of salt. Golden apple trees growing throughout Barbados can reach heights of 30ft.

    Golden apples are oval-shaped and are produced in bunches of twelve (12) or more at a time. They are crunchy and have a sharp and somewhat sour taste. In Barbados, once the fruits drop to the ground while still green, they are wrapped in old newspaper and placed in a box in order to advance the ripening process. Once ripened, golden apples are used to make a delicious and refreshing juice, are eaten raw or can be used in cooking.

    Strange we grow these but we don't eat them.

    Ensure in the soda section ?

    Back on the ship - We discovered that the pizza on the ship is very thin and good

    Ice cream and cheesecake

    Various photos of the port. Amazing as it never seems busy here even with all these large cruise ships

    The beach we walked too (in front of the hotel)

    Something we would have never seen before on Holland America. My plate from YESTERDAY still lying next to the chair. Quality is not what it was.

    Sunset time

    Packed with sunset watchers...

    This was very strange.. These underwater lights were moving around. At first we figured it was Bioluminescence as it was hard to see with your eyes. But, it must have been some underwater activity near the marker.

    Nighttime port shots

    Tonight's towel critter -dinosaur according the the room steward. They can make over 50 animals

    Saturday - DEC 16 2017 -- Grenada

  • HAL Guide to When & Where - Saturday - DEC 16 2017 - Ship Activities
  • Port Guide - St. George's, Grenada

    We were last here in 2004 and wow what a difference. The last time we saw a number of Cuban flags and the people did not seem too friendly. After this visit I am ready to come down here for a couple of weeks. This was my favorite stop of the entire cruise.

    We took the Best of Grenada - 7 hours (it was a good bit longer) ship sponsored sightseeing tour.

    Description" Start with Fort Fredrick, for a panoramic view of the harbor. Continue through local villages to Grand Etang. Enjoy a drink at the visitor center. At River Antoine Estate, see the oldest water wheel in the western hemisphere and see the rum-making process. Enjoy your lunch at Belmont Estate, one of the oldest functioning plantations in Grenada. Visit the Dougaldston Spice Estate.

    We figured the length of this trip would scare some of the older cruisers but it was full. Still, the busses were not packed and we had a great time.

    Fort Frederick

    Fort Frederick can be considered the baby brother of Fort Matthew and a child of the French Revolution. Completed in 1791 and a stone's throw from Fort Matthew, Fort Frederick is the biggest battery on the island but is now more well known for its beautifully strategic, panoramic views. Drive up Richmond Hill to take in Fort Frederick, an impressive fort begun in 1779 by the French and finished in 1791 by the English. The present restoration is the result of the Canadian government's ambitious program in the 1990s. The fort holds many superb surprises for visitors, including outstanding views of the harbor, a quaint yacht marina and many battlements to explore.

    Various views of Saint George's from the fort

    About 85 miles to Paria Peninsula, northern Venezuela

    Our cruise ship on the right

    Fort George - Built between 1705-1710, Fort George stands 175 feet above the harbor and is one of the finest examples of Vauban-style masonry fortresses in the world.

    We explored the underground parts of the fort. Had to use the cell phone flashlight as I forgot the two bright flashlights on the ship that I had carried 2,200 miles

    Probably the coolest critter we saw on the trip - Tailless whip scorpion

    The scariest animal that will never hurt you - Of all the animals that you may encounter in a tropical rainforest, none evoke a more visceral, negative reaction in even the most ardent nature lovers than the tailless whipscorpions. They are members of the order Amblypygi, and among all arachnids they are probably the most undeserving of fear or repulsion.

    To begin, they are completely harmless to us. Tailless whipscorpions do not produce venom or toxins, nor are they capable of biting, stinging, or injuring a person in any way. They do not transmit diseases and they are not pests. But they do have the misfortune of having a beautifully symmetrical, armored body that for some reason our primitive, stone-age psyche automatically associates with something bad or scary. This really is unfortunate because these animals are fascinating. They belong to a lineage that goes back in time to at least the Carboniferous (358.9 million years ago), and has remained relatively unchanged in their morphology.

    We took a bunch of photos and left it alone

    This is gives you an idea of the size. Harmless but very scary looking

    We also encountered a couple of bats in the room. Type unknown. You can see two bats in the photo flying towards the back of the room. The bats lived in the vent towards the back.

    Fort Frederick was a cool place

    We were surprised at all the various trees that were imported from other places here in Grenada as well as Guadeloupe. Here was a stand of "Rainbow Eucalyptus" From Indonesia, Philippines & Papua New Guinea. They said they had to do it after Hurricane Janet in 1955

    Up to 1,910 feet

    Grand Etang National Park & Forest Reserve

    The most popular areas in Grenada for hiking and trekking is undoubtedly the rainforest around the Grand Etang Forest Reserve, high up in the mountains of the island's interior. Grand Etang's varied elevations and terrains maintain several different ecological subsystems, culminating in the elfin woodlands high up the slopes of the reserve's central mountains. Grand Etang's flora includes towering mahogany and giant gommier trees as well as a multitude of ferns, tropical flowers, and other indigenous plants. The lush vegetation provides shelter for a wide variety of animals, particularly for the island's many species of birds. The broad winged hawk (known here as the gree-gree), Lesser Antillean swift, Antillean euphonia, purple throated carib, Antillean crested hummingbird (known as the Doctor Bird) and the Lesser Antillean tanager (known as the soursop) are all common sights. In addition, Grand Etang is populated by plenty of frogs and lizards, as well as playing host to opossums, armadillos, mongoose, and the Mona monkey.

    Grand Etang Lake is a crater lake in an extinct volcano. It was not as blue as I expected and we had no time to hike, but it would have been nice to see more of the park.

    We did not see any

    Tickets... We had to use them here

    The visitor center

    The only wild critter we saw here

    Grand Etang Lake - Interesting but not that impressive. Its located at 12.096175N -61.694573W

    Grand Etang Lake is a crater lake in an extinct volcano. It is located on the island of Grenada, in Saint Andrew Parish. Evidence suggests that the Grand Etang Lake is connected to Kick 'em Jenny, an active submarine volcano to the north. This is because when Kick Em Jenny was observed bubbling, so too were the waters in Grand Etang Lake. The Grand Etang Lake is 1,800 feet (550 m) above sea level and it is one of the two crater lakes on the island (the other being Lake Antoine). The lake is approximately 20 feet deep and 36 acres in area and is also rumored to be home to a mermaid living in the depths that lure men to their watery grave

    Various info in the visitor center

    She wanted $5 for a photo

    Impressed with the Galileo maps app on my Android phone. Offline maps were excellent.

    Bananas along the road

    The other two busses following us

    The bus driver would stop and talk about who lived in these houses. I guess here everyone knows everything

    Star Fruit, or Carambola. Found in our grocery stores, high in Vitamin C

    Pearls Airport

    Pearls Airport (ICAO: TGPG) was an airport in Grenada, located at the North Eastern Corner of the island, 19 miles (31 km) north-east of the main town and capital St. George's (12 degrees 09 minutes North, 61 degrees 37 minutes West) with a runway set at a direction 082 degrees/262 degrees and 5,200 feet (1,600 m) long.

    It was the country's first airport, opened in 1943 and was under the management of the Grenada Airports Authority. Pan American Airways did not operate in the Windward Islands, because of an excluding agreement made by the British Government to protect British West Indian Airways, this meant the airport was not in daily operation. In 25 October 1983, Marines from the 8th Marine Regiment landed nearby by helicopter and "captured" Pearls Airport during the invasion of Grenada, meeting only light resistance.

    In 1984, the airport was replaced as Grenada's main airport by the Point Salines International Airport, now called Maurice Bishop International Airport. It is now a construction site and go-kart track. There is a derelict Cubana airliner still in position by the runway.

    Cubana Airlines An-2 and An-26 aircraft captured by US Marines during Operation Urgent Fury in October 1983.

    Tivoli Roman Catholic Church along the way between Pearls Airport & River Antione Rum

    River Antione Rum of Grenada

    Our next stop to visit as well as for lunch was River Antione Rum of Grenada

    Visiting the distillery in the north of the island is almost like taking a step 250 years back in time. Rickety wooden carts are pushed along ancient tracks to transport the cane and the stone structure containing the distillery has long graduated from the stage of being antique and now lies somewhere between decrepit and disintegrating. Rum was being produced within these walls while Mozart was writing operas!

    In the case of Grenada's River Antoine Rum Distillery, which has been in operation since 1785, they don't even produce enough to meet local demand. This lends a mystique to their rum, which inspires travelers to seek out their high-demand, low-availability spirits.

    Various views of the production area

    I think they need some new brickwork around the boilers

    I bet it been this way for a long time or since the last earthquake

    Have no idea what type of wood they were burning

    New or old parts ?

    Lots of water

    Another still up in the woods

    My guide pointed out the water wheel dating back to 1840, which supplies all mechanical energy at the distillery. On arrival at River Antoine Rum Distillery it's easy to imagine you've been transported back to the colonial era, since traditional methods still hold sway at the facility. Unlike most period attractions in the Caribbean, this one hasn't been prettied up for visitors; this is a functioning distillery employing 80 people, however it was closed today since it was a weekend.

    Overflow from the sluice box of the waterwheel

    Walking through the various facilities, I got a glimpse of everything from ancient-looking distillation vats to ramps transporting stalks of sugarcane into the crusher. "We use sugarcane and only use molasses during certain times of the year, explained Lyons". "During rainy season, the cane is not very sweet, but during the dry season, the sweetness increases 75 to 85 percent. We harvest during the dry season and during the rainy season we add molasses that we import from Trinidad."

    The sugarcane processing area

    Where the crushed cane goes

    Yes, that drive chain looks very safe to me

    Mary looking for birds

    Looks good to me

    robust electrical connections in the work area. 220vac from the design. Always good in a wet area.

    Close-up of the grinder

    I would think that places in Cuba look like this. Will find out as we are going to Cuba the fall after I am retired

    Boiling vats before fermentation. I like the pot on a long stick. I guess it works !

    Cool place

    Rivers Rum on the wall

    Fermentation area

    Tasted like molasses - Lots of flys were falling into the mix as I guess that adds to the taste.

    Interesting plumbing. From large to small with some sort of paste on it ?

    This is on the floor where the processed rum is stored. The lock is probably the newest thing we saw in the place

    Processing / bottling area. Everything is done by hand.

    Like most rum tours, the one at River Antoine culminates in a tasting. I was offered four varieties, and suggest ending with the fieriest - the 150 over-proof River Antoine Royal Grenadian Rum. The same with River Antoine's over-proof libation. It will knock you back on your heels, a fitting end to the tasting. They had a chocolate rum that was delicious.

    River Antoine Royal Grenadian Rum is so powerful it's not allowed on airplanes since it's considered a combustible liquid. So enjoy it at your leisure while on Grenada - chances are you'll have no trouble remembering the experience, even if you can't bring a bottle home.

    Interesting use of the boil vats

    The tank is for the restrooms

    Lunch - Mary had the chicken and fish

    Ken had the mac-cheese pie, rice and sweet potatoes of some sort. A carb loaded lunch

    River Antione Rum of Grenada was a cool place. Would have loved to spend more time exploring the grounds looking for birds and insects

    Driving north along the NE side of Grenada. You could see Bird, Sandy and Green Islands

    Not sure what this all means. Do they like tourists ?

    Jouvay Chocolate, Grenada

    National Geographic: Top 10: World's Best Chocolate Shops

    This brand of Grenadian chocolate is handcrafted at the Diamond Chocolate Factory located in the St. Mark Parish of northern Grenada. I loved making the journey from St. George's up to St. Mark, and upon arrival, seeing the cocoa beans drying out in the sun and being made into chocolate right there on the same property. Jouvay Chocolate is the result of a partnership between approximately 3,000 cocoa farmers who are members of the Grenada Cocoa Farmers' Cooperative and the LA Burdick Grenada Company. Parent company LA Burdick Chocolate is a Swiss-trained, US-based company that makes chocolate at four different east-coast locations. It was spotless and efficient. Jouvay Chocolate is about as fresh as you can get, and the fact that Jouvay Chocolate is made on quality machinery gives it the edge of being slightly more sophisticated in its texture and flavour. I especially loved the Ginger bar made with 60% cocoa and fresh locally grown ginger.

    Chocolate doesn't get any fresher than Jouvay, perfected by the Grenada Cocoa Farmers' Cooperative based at the rural Diamond Chocolate Factory. The idea was to partner with local farmers working right in the ecosystem to grow the best quality beans. While visiting the 18th-century factory inside a converted rum distillery built by French monks, see the cocoa beans drying on trays under the Caribbean sun. Growers employ a centuries-old French tradition of "walking" the beans-turning them gently by walking over the shells, which are later roasted and removed. Inside the small tasting room, sample each chocolate bar flavor, such as ginger and cocoa nibs. Factory and farm in Victoria, Grenada.

    Another old Cuban looking facility

    Chocolate processing machines

    Old stone walls

    A cocoa pod (fruit) at the Chocolate factory

    The ground was covered with nutmeg shells

    Torch Ginger

    Cherry tree. Tried it and it was not as sweet as ours

    Bottle Shed made from Bottles

    nutmeg tree and unripe fruit

    They wash the rugs in the creek and dry them on the bridges

    The various leaders of Grenada. Mr. Bishop (green cap) was executed in OCT 1983.

    He had an exciting last day - A four-man Peoples Revolutionary Army firing squad executed by machine-gunning him with three members of his Cabinet plus four others. After he was dead, a gunman slit his throat and cut off his finger to steal his ring. The bodies were then transported to a military camp and partially burned in a pit. The location of the remains is still unknown.

    Dougaldston Spice Estate

    One of Grenada's oldest and largest nutmeg plantations, Dougaldston Spice Estate is a rustic operation where local workers demonstrate how the island's spices are grown and processed. Visitors can also buy bags of nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Near the Dougaldston Spice Estate is the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, the largest facility on the island, where workers sort and pack nutmeg and share interesting facts about Grenada's famous spice. Tours are open to the public.

    The estate is run down; Rumored the estate was mis-managed after the old generation died and current owners are not interested in this venture. Pity.. It is not a working place. They have some displays of how nutmeg processing occured. In addition they have some displays about cocoa beans and a stand to purchase the spices. If you do want to buy, buy it there. It is half the price compared to the processing site in the town. We didn't go to the processing station but Ken bought 6 nutmeg seeds in a sealed bag for a dollar.

    Still, it was an interesting historic place

    Cocoa drying under the building

    Very old looking

    They had it all. Sponges, Nutmeg, Cocoa, all spice, cinnamon tree leaves

    Nutmeg tree and unripe fruit

    Various building views

    Ken messing with the chocolate beans (filling up his pockets too)

    chocolate is everywhere here

    Noni, A few years ago, Noni was all the rage. Everyone was buying and drinking the juice for its health benefits. Locally, it's known as "Duppy Soursop."

    Road goat

    Egg's stuck on the yucca. Strange Christmas decorations

    The stadium that China built for votes against Taiwan

    Tunnel under Fort George

    Back home (on the right)

    Port views

    Looking up to where we were this morning - Fort Frederick

    China built sports complex

    The damaged church from a hurricane. Also, the prison is on the hill left of the church

    Looks like this ship has seen better days - Old general cargo ship "Anina" (built 1970)

    My favorite bird in these parts - Magnificent Frigate bird

    Various views of Fort George and the communication antennas

    Dancing at the port

    Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises) is a British cruise line, operated by TUI UK, offering cruise holidays around Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia. Thomson Cruises uses ships once used by Louis Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line.

    On 9 October 2017, TUI announced that Thomson Cruises would be rebranded in late October 2017 as Marella Cruises, with all of the existing Thomson fleet adopting the name change either from Thomson or TUI to Marella (except Thomson Spirit which will be renamed Spirit and Thomson Majesty which will be transferred to Celestyal Cruises). The line also announced that it would base TUI Discovery in Asia for the Winter season of 2018, with the ship being based out of Malaysia, the first in the lines history.

    The llamas are their mascot...

    Well, its all north from here. Nice seeing the dot down by South America. The temp in the upper left is what it is in Hanover, PA. 36 degrees


    Fox news - no signal

    Christmas decorations

    The snacks available at 8:30 pm. Not good

    Where we are going tomorrow

    Tonight's critter - koala bear (we had to ask)

  • On to - PART 2 - Guadeloupe, Antigua, San Juan Puerto Rico back to Ft. Lauderdale

  • 14 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise with Holland America - December 2017