Winter Travelers - Our bikes left at home
Contrary to most GWRRA members that live in the frigid northern states, us Floridians like to escape the cold that winter brings to Florida. So, eight of our chapter members took a nine day eastern Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Dawn. We drove to Miami from our homes in west central Florida. The only delay we encountered was on alligator alley (I-75) between Naples, Florida and Fort Lauderdale. A private aircraft attempted to make an emergency landing on the highway just a short distance ahead of us. Fortunately the occupants were only shaken up, but the aircraft sustained quite a bit of damage.
Just before lunch we boarded the ship at the dock in Miami and while waiting for our luggage to be delivered to our state rooms proceeded to the open dining area for lunch - just like a chapter rally right ? Following that we were directed to participate in a Coast Guard required emergency life boat drill. Imagine seeing 2000 plus landlovers standing on deck with their bright orange life preserves tired around their neck. Kidding aside the drill went well and really was important - after all we hoped that we wouldn't need to use either the life preservers or the air-conditioned life boats.
Casting off we slowly made our way out of the port channel to the open water of the Atlantic.Tonight and tomorrow would we would be at sea. Our 1000 foot by 105 foot vessel seemed large at the dock but out at sea we really got a true prospective of how large the ocean is. Each morning around 10 AM the captain would keep us up to date on our progress and upcoming weather conditions. Did he say off our stern we were at 16,000 feet ? Fortunately most of the entire cruise the seas were 5-7 feet which made for nice cruising conditions.
Early Sunday morning we dropped anchor off of Samana, Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the east side of same island that is also Haiti. This was the only port that we had to use shuttle craft to make it to land. Fortunately the waters were relatively smooth and the distance we had to travel was short. Samana was very colorful with an abundance of coconut and fruit trees. The town itself was still very much undeveloped, with only a very few shops that looked like they were recently built. Most of the vendors had their merchandise on tables under canopies. The old buildings reminded us of Mexico and barter was the word that we used while in Samana.
Our next port of call was Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The harbor had a long pier which enabled our ship to tie up to it. Waters were azure blue and about 78 degrees. It was only a short walk along the pier to the local shops which offered all sorts of delights for us tourists. The little wooden shops were brightly colored and scattered throughout a park like setting. The tropical breeze off of the ocean kept the temperature at about 80 degrees and relatively enjoyable for shopping. When we returned to the ship we were able to view a very large sailboat that captivated our imaginations.
Our next port of call was St. John's, Antigua. This is one of the more populated islands and offered lots of shopping for those able or willing to spend their money. In that there were three cruise ships docked that day the town was bustling with activities. Many folks took local tours or went swimming on the beautiful beaches. It took us Americans a while to get use to watching for oncoming traffic from the right rather than the left. The British influence was quite apparent here. As we boarded our ship we could hear the steel drums being played back on the island. As the sun set we headed for the formal dinning area where we once again enjoyed the catering of the ships dinning staff.
The next morning we awakened to the islands that make up Barbados. Bridgetown, Barbados would be the southern most port of our cruise and relatively close to Venezuela, South America. This island town is one of the oldest colonized towns in the Caribbean. It was one of the larger ports of call and offered lots of shopping opportunities. It appeared that many cruising guests purchased their allotted duty-free rum. Prior to our ship disembarking we watched as another large cruise ship backed away from the pier and then backed it's way beside us in order to turn around before leaving the harbor.
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Nevis greeted us as we awakened the next morning. These islands are volcanic in origin and tower up over 3000 feet above the sea.and was ruled by both the Spanish and English. It was one of the largest sugar cane producing islands in the new world and was also know for its Rum. However, tourism is this islands main means of income. This island has lush vegetation and beautiful flowers. It has contrasting sugar white beaches and volcanic shorelines. At one point on the island you can see the distinct merging of the Caribbean and Atlantic oceans. Multi million dollar homes, owned by world wide celebrities abound on this island. It was hard to believe that this would be our final port of call before returning to Miami.
As we headed back to Miami on our final two days at sea we looked back and were grateful that we had near perfect weather and reasonably good sea conditions. Other than the final day at sea we had nice breezes with temperatures in the lower 80's and plenty of sunshine. There as plenty of food to be eaten and we were entertained each evening with onboard shows. In all we had covered over 3000 nautical miles in our nine days. Some of the ports that we visited helped us appreciate the life style that we as Americans enjoy. We saw all sorts of vehicles (lots with the steering wheel on the wrong side) but we didn't see one goldwing ! Based on the road conditions on most of the islands a wing probably wouldn't be a good choice.