FREDERIKSTED, ST CROIX
January 5, 2009
This morning I had hoped to sleep in and begin my quiet day of rest. The daily bulletin announced that passengers must go the main lounge and show their passports to US immigration before departing the ship. As I was not planning to leave the ship that day I assumed I would not have to present myself. But I was rudely awakened at 7:30 AM with a message from the Bridge that ALL passengers MUST present themselves to US authorities. In all other ports, immigration has been routine—immigration personnel viewed all the passports (without seeing each passenger) and then cleared the ship. Since 9/11, US security has been much more rigid, and all 800 of us were required to queue in a never ending line. There went my quiet morning in bed.
But the rest of the day I rested in my room with my legs elevated—only going topside for light meals. I finished reading a book about a young black woman coming of age in Rhodesia, worked on my blog and pictures, wrote some e-mails, and according to instructions drank a lot of water.
It must have worked because by evening the swelling had subsided, my temperature was normal and I was walking with less of an effort. I joined Mark and Marissa for dinner (her mother is still battling the virus) as I wanted to give Marissa a check and have her send me a copy of the book she has written about her experiences as an ADA in Los Angeles. I even felt spry enough to watch the passenger’s costume parade in the main lounge. But I passed on the ten PM chocolate extravaganza in the main dining room. The line wound down two flights of stairs. I stopped by the library to pick up two more books to read during the next two days aboard and retired for the evening.
LA ROMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Monday, January 6, 2009
At 7:30 AM my phone rang shrilly, waking me from a deep sleep. A fellow passenger was on the line offering to purchase my Altos de Chavon Village ticket. I was delighted, as I had decided last night not to go on the trip. On my way to breakfast, after the ship had been cleared for shore, I realized that our exit ramp was on deck two with just a short trip down the ramp to the dock. I checked to see how long a walk it would be to the taxi stands and to my amazement saw six wheelchairs lined up to take passengers from the dock up the hill to the terminal, taxi and bus stands. This was the first port where wheel chairs were readily available, but there had been no announcement during last evening’s briefing and none this morning. The weather was pleasant, not as hot and humid. I was informed that tourist information and transportation was available to various destinations for sight seeing and shopping.
I took a wheel chair to the terminal to find out what would be comfortable for me to handle as I really need to limit my walking. To my surprise there was an air conditioned bus leaving for Altos de Chavon Village every twenty minutes. I really had my heart set on bringing back more ceramic dolls, I knew the challenge would be walking in the village on uneven cobble stoned roads, but at least I would have been off the ship and on a scenic ride through the country side. At $7.00 (US) round trip it was a bargain. I had paid $37.00 for the trip offered by the ship. But since I was familiar with the area I did not need a tour guide.
The twenty minute ride to the Village was more impressive than I had remembered. Friends have confirmed that in La Romana and Santo Domingo squalor is prevalent, but on the well paved road to Casa de Campo, the playground of the wealthy, everything is beautifully manicured. The flowering trees and stately palms are neatly trimmed, there are masses of brilliant floral plantings, and hidden behind the foliage are the magnificent villas and condos of the rich and famous. Here are some of the most famous golf courses in the world as well as polo fields, stables, and exquisite private gardens. It is truly reminiscent of the beautifully maintained stretches along A1A and the ocean drive in Palm Beach.
The stone village itself is a magnificent oddity. Built in 1976 by Dominican artisans and craftsmen, it is modeled after a Mediterranean village of the 16th century. It was commissioned by a wealthy industrialist as a birthday gift to his daughter, and as a cultural center for the arts. More than 200 artists have lived and worked here in the Artist in Residence Program. Potters, ceramic doll makers, weavers, painters, silversmiths who embody the island’s finest traditions of crafts and arts.
I found walking on the uneven cobblestones exhausting and realized that the doll factory was too far within the community for me to reach.
There were three local gift shops close by, with a few dolls on display—but none as well made or as handsome as the ones I had purchased several years ago. One shop had a series of colorful paintings of native scenes. The young man who waited on me was helpful and pleasant. His prices seemed fair, but he adjusted them for me without my having to bargain. I selected one for my granddaughter Amy, who had asked me to bring back a small painting for her, and an even smaller one for myself which had caught my eye. He removed the larger one from the frame so that it would fit neatly in my suitcase, rolled the canvas carefully and then offered to walk me back to the bus with my purchases since he saw that I was tiring rapidly.
Even thought I never made it to the doll factory, it was a delightful and unexpected experience. I even managed to get some decent pictures of the grounds and buildings as there were not many tourists there. Ours was the only cruise ship in port and by the time I arrived, most passengers had returned to the ship. When Lionel and I were there last the place was milling with sigh-seers and shoppers, who kept getting in the way of my camera.
Just as I returned to my room I received a call from Florence asking me about my health and telling me that she was mostly recuperated. After lunch Marissa brought her the seventh floor lounge where the two of us spent a quiet time chatting about politics, our children, how we have coped with widowhood. When Marissa arrived to bring her back to the room at five, she was well into the story of how she had met and married her husband, and the traveling they had done over the years with their children.
By the end of the day I was all talked out—in the morning at breakfast I had a long conversation with a male passenger who had traveled with the University at Sea college level program 37 years ago, I met Mark and Marissa in the dining room for lunch—then the afternoon with Florence. When dinner time arrive I went to the buffet dining room, made my selection, went outside to deck and bar and sat all by myself—peacefully and quietly. I really had nothing to say to anyone. This evening I meant to go back to the main lounge for the talent show, but I got so involved in writing the blog I lost track of time.
Tomorrow is a busy day—settling accounts, packing, getting organized to go home. Luggage has to be outside the door by midnight, the breakfast service on January 8 is over by 7:30 am, which means another early rising. Passengers will start going through customs by 9:30 in the morning—and we will probably be asked to leave our rooms by 8 am, with all our carry on personal belongs, if this trip follows the typical last day of a cruise. Since my computer is heavy, I will try to get everything into the suitcases so I will have little to carry through customs. I need to check with the activities desk to find out when I will actually be cleared through customs as I need to notify my driver when to come for me. I hope that once we are in Fort Lauderdale I can use my cell phone. I have a post-it by my computer to remind me to charge my phone—I am sure that after 21 days it is dead.
Tonight we “retard the clock” one hour, which means another hours sleep, and we should be back to Eastern Standard Time.
This evening the captain sent us a log of all the miles we have traveled—a total of 6959
Nautical miles or approximately 8008 linear miles—
This is my last blog entry, Looking forward to seeing many of you soon.