Caribbean Cruise Thanksgiving 2016

By TheBarretts

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We found a Starbucks to hunker down to wait out the thunderstorm. 80% chance of rain all day. We'll head to the cruise line in a few hours. Debating on walking around Old San Juan but the rain is making us second guess that.

Ratticus stayed back in the room to sleep. We walked on the beach before the rain hit.

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We decided to head down to Old San Juan on the advice of the hotel clerk. She turned us on to Cafe Manolin which is a local favorite. It was packed! We were going to take the bus but met a nice Indian family from Pennsylvania and split a cab (which made it super cheap).

The food looks amazing and plentiful for not a lot. We split a Tortilla de Camarones (Shrimp omelette).

While inside it started pouring! Where do you go when it's pouring? Across the street to the shoe store, of course.

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We are enjoying ourselves so far. The food is ship food prepped for thousands of people. If you are coming on a cruise and expect great food, then spring for upgrading to the specialty restaurants.

Dinner was escargot, beet salad, apple soup, baked sea bass and polenta with mixed veggies. It was as good as any good restaurant. Maybe 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I give them credit for a variety and trying to please a broad pallet. Every meal has at least 1 vegetarian option.

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We have an early start today for an excursion. Breakfast on the balcony was a treat. As we docked we ate (eggs, bacon, granola and coffee). Carolyn counted 56 boats in the harbor. Then announcement said the US purchased the US Virgin Islands for $25 million in gold. What a deal!

We are in stateroom 6376 on the Adventure of the Seas. The ship came out of dry dock early after a refit. The cabin is dated. The carpet is coming up, stains on the ceiling, broken closet door, fridge that doesn't stay very cold and missing light fixtures. I hope they fix it before to long.

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Make him miss sunset. On our excursion they served pain killers... for free. What more can I say? What's in a pain killer you might ask? Coconut milk, pineapple juice, orange juice and a LOT of rum. Enough so you don't feel it. Especially when it's served while you are lounging in the water not even touching shore. Needless to say, I over did it and Carolyn did not. She sent me to the boat to sleep it off while she went shopping and saw / photographed an nice sunset. It's why you get a balcony.

I will write about our excursion in the next post.

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We rarely take excursions that are arranged by the cruise lines. We find them to be a tad over priced and heavily booked. Hey get in close with your new 100 best friends on a boat/car/train that is only supposed to hold 80 people is not my idea of a good time. We chanced it and boy did we luck out. The 100 person catamaran only had 20 passengers on it. Yay us! Plenty of water, sodas and pain killers to be had.

We arrived at Turtle Cove and jumped off the boat. The "mermaid" Meghan took us around pointing out different things before letting us loose. We saw and swam with at least 15 turtles. Those we only the ones we spotted. What a greta feeling to see these magnificent creatures up close. No touchie allowed, which I like! Downside was that there we about 5 boats anchored there.

One tiny problem. I thought I was getting some great shots with my sports camera (GoPro knock off). I was filming the turtles coming up for air. Filming them swimming around. Taking all sort of good pictures. But... you knew this was coming... alas I only have a few images to show for it and one video. Moral of the story, really know your camera before you think you are getting shots of a lifetime. We had a great time and saw some great stuff. I will post the video at a later time.

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Not all ports are going to be sunshine and roses. This was the case today. We arranged for a taxi tour with Rose & Jim's taxi. We have done this before at other locations and have good luck with them. Today was no different. We were the only ones on the tour with Rose our guide / driver. She was great "the only white taxi driver on the island" so everyone knows her. She's been on the island with her husband for 33 years. She drove through the independence of St Akita from England. She is an English lady and highly recommended on TripAdvisor.

The day, however, stunk. It was pouring rain all day long. We couldn't see most of the stuff she pointed out. But we still had fun. We went to the batik factory and dodged raindrops. We also did manage to see the point where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea. We saw where the volcano should be (obscured by clouds).

As we sailed away, the rain stopped and we had a great sunset.

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Today the weather was gorgeous. We spent the day at sea. I got up early and found a nice quiet place to have a cup of coffee and read my book. Carolyn got to sleep until 9 o'clock. I did break my rule of no work on vacation and took three phone calls for work at sea. The Internet here is been fantastic a little pricey, but really good. We sat in on seminars about Aruba & Curacao. Caroline was able to enjoy the hot tub and met some ladies from Germany. We also had fun at trivia. The two questions that would have tied the game was what is a group of baboons called it's called a troop. And what are the two longest rivers in the world one is the Nile and the other is the Amazon.

Every night and hasn't come back to our room we find towel animals.

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In Curacao we took 2 excursions. The first was a day time brief history of Curacao then on to the beach for a couple of hours. The second was a night time walking tour of the main city (Willemstad). The main money making venture on the island is tourism followed by the exportation of Curacao liquor. On the first tour we went to the Curacao factory where they make the curacao. The alcohol was discovered by a Jewish man on the island. The Spaniards brought oranges to the island in hope of creating a crop. The oranges, as it turned out, didn't like the climate and lack of rain fall, so they turned bitter. Spain gave up on that venture, but the new bitter oranges (laraha) stayed around. The Jewish Senior family claims (I say claims because it's disputed) that the family elder found that if you took the rinds of the laraha fruit and distill it, it becomes a flavorful alcohol. The second place we stopped was the Mambo beach resort area. A very nice beach where we rented snorkel gear and spent most of the time in the water. Just as we prepared to leave it rained, hard. The second excursion took us through downtown to the maritime museum at sunset. It was a neat little tour. This is definitely a country with some affluence. We saw very little poverty. Until Hurricane Matthew, they never had a hurricane hit the island.

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We docked in Aruba for a long stay (8 am - 10:30 pm) so we had plenty of time to take a look around. First things first, a tip about cruising to the Caribbean, cash is king! If you are thinking about taking a cruise, estimate your expenses and bring at least $300 in cash extra. There is an ATM aboard out boat, which makes it helpful. We had very little opportunity to use our credit card. Tips are all $5 or $1. Everyplace takes US dollars.

Back to the adventure. We caught the bus from the port terminal down to Palm beach area. Like Curacao crime is very small in Aruba. We asked an were told that they have a 2% crime rate and 4% unemployment rate. Tourism is key. Diving, beaches and things to do are everyplace. We headed to the butterfly house. It's a neat little trip, but pretty pricey to get in on a cruise. If you were staying on the island it would be worth is, because you can come back multiple times for free. We have a nicer butterfly house in Durham, so we are spoiled. No touching the butterfly unless one lands on you. The bus costs us $5 one way. A local cabbie picked us up on the way back for just $5. Usually more, but he gave us a special deal because it got him in to the cruise security gate and another fare for more expensive. It normally runs $15 one way for a cab. We both made out and he was up front about it.

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We got this tour through the cruise with De Palm Tours. It was an on-road/off-road adventure. Aruba is very dune like and made up of volcanic limestone. This makes it feel like a different world in various parts of the island. We started out in town and drove to the off-road area. It was very cool. If I were to do it again, I would bring a pair of goggles. They supplied us with bandanas to wrap around our face (I brought my own). It kicked up a lot of dust. We stopped at a few places along the way (a lighthouse, beach, church). We had a lot of fun and would do it again. We had one person roll over, but they were wild child guys from Puerto Rico. I think they were trying to push the limits.

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