Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Monday, March 28, 2011

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23 - Fort Lauderdale to Houston to HOME!

We are pink #3 so have plenty of time to have a last breakfast of Eggs Benedict before our tag is called right on schedule about 9:15AM. It takes 30 minutes from time we are called to get off, get the luggage, get through customs, meet our private car and get to the airport.....very smooth.

We wait the hour or so in the first class lounge and visit with another passenger and his wife, from Houston, who were on for the last segment. It was their first Regent cruise. They were in one of the high end suites and were not at all impressed. They have been on Crystal for all their other cruises and will be going back to them. They had many of the same complaints we have and then some. Interesting!

The flight is packed and they beg people to get settled so we won’t miss our taxi time and be held up. We finally pull away about 5 minutes late, but fortunately get in line for take off. The flight is rough, but lands on time. Our driver and friend is waiting in the baggage area for us. We get our luggage, in the first dozen pieces on the belt, and drive home. The azaleas are in full bloom and the yard is at its springtime best! It is.....Good to be home!



Today is packing day...all 8 pieces. After breakfast Carolyn works on getting things sorted and packed. At 11AM we go to a special gathering of the full circle group; only the third one in the whole 71 days. They are serving Bloody Marys and doing a showing a special DVD, narrated by Ray, of the full cruise. It is nicely done and we will each get a copy tonight in our cabin. The Captain gives a little farewell speech as do several others.

We head to lunch and then go back to the room to finish packing....what a pain! Dick goes to Dr. Hart's last lecture on Mysteries of the Universe at 3PM and then to trivia at 4:30PM, but no win this last time. We go to the award redemption afterwards and get a Regent visor and baseball cap with Dick’s 10 rewards.

Back in the room we change for dinner and go to the early Platters Show. It is good and one of the numbers has us dancing in the aisle. Then we go for one last round of cocktails in Horizon Lounge and watch the sunset somewhere off the southern Florida coast.
In the dinning room Alex, one of our two favorite waiters, serves us our last dinner.

Back in the room we put the finishing touches on the luggage to be shipped and set it out. Carolyn goes to the movie and Dick goes to bed. After the movie Carolyn finishes up packing the small suitcases we will carry off and dies.


Another Eggs Benedict morning!  By the way, we think this is morning 69 and finally one of the two or three waiters we have had every morning of this cruise is remembering that Dick likes coffee and Carolyn likes mint tea in the morning. This is a small thing, but if the waiters on HAL and Princess ships can pick up on this after a week, you would think luxury line waiters could do at least as well!

Terry does her last lecture this morning on the Mysteries of the Americas. It is very interesting and she tells us about what is known about how the first people arrived in the Americas and some of the mysteries of writing found on rocks in South America.  The writing is Celtic!

The rest of the morning slides by as the flower vases are put on the floor due to the movement of the ship. Dick plays on the computer and collects the leftover money from our on-board credit of about $700 from reception. The on-board credit was a good deal since we had already taken out $800 for miscellaneous cash needs and some earrings Carolyn bought in Lima. The credit also paid for all our extra cost tours and all the laundry and dry cleaning for the 71 days. (That was a very expensive charge on this ship!)

Carolyn goes to the head chef’s cooking class at 11AM.. He is preparing five dishes from around South America. Several of them sound good and we may try them when we get home.
During the demonstration the ship makes a very sharp turn and some of the oil slops out of the chefs frying pan and smokes up the area, but we hear nothing from the PA.

About 1PM, Carolyn goes to lunch for the cold fruit soup for lunch, then she spends some time reading on the veranda and watching the birds play.
By this time the turn and change in the ship’s course is showing on the TV map.
The Captain comes over the PA and tells us we are heading to Grand Turk to drop a sick passenger off. We will be there about 5:30PM.

Carolyn begins packing while Dick goes to trivia and comes back with a win. By 5PM we can see islands on the horizon so we go up to the Observation lounge for a drink and to watch the action. We round the north end of Grand Turk and head back down the west side of the island toward a small dock. We watch as a small dive boat comes out and the ship’s crew sets up the the tender platform. A couple is taken off to the dive boat where a nurse/doctor greets the man who has a large bandage on his arm but is walking on his own.
The dive boat takes off toward shore

and in 10 minutes we are heading back to the top of the island and out to sea.

It is 6PM now and people are heading to the Captain’s Farewell Party and the Krew Kapers. We have reservations at Prime 7 at 6:30PM. We have not found the Captain’s parties all that is hard to get a drink or a bite to eat due to the crowd and the seating in the lounges is so much nicer. We skip this one, like we have several others, and go on to dinner at Prime 7. As usual the food is great, but the servings are huge and we leave a lot of food on our plate

SUNDAY, MARCH 20 - Charlotte Amalia, St Thomas and Cruz Bay, St John, USVI

Dick is up at 6:30AM as the ship is beginning its entrance into the harbor at Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas. It is pouring rain! By a little after 7AM we are docked along the pier at Haven Sight Mall. The wind is blowing and the rain is coming down sideways! We will have to play today by ear since we were toying with a beach day!

US Immigration officials are on board and everyone on the ship is required to appear before them, passport in hand. They are calling the people on tours first so we go to breakfast. Immigration is running very quickly and they call for all guests who have not been through to come just as we are finishing up. We go, pick up our passports, walk by an officer who compares us with our photos and we are done.

We gather some minimal stuff and head off the ship. The shops at Haven Sight Mall are just beginning to open as it is not quite 10AM. The rain has stopped and the sun is peeking out. The morning is fresh and pleasantly cool. Dick finds a Sunglass Hut and buys two glasses holders like he bought in Ft. Lauderdale at the beginning of the trip.

We now catch a taxi, one of the van type that they use on this island, and head downtown. The Taxi Association has the USVI under lock down as to fares. It costs us $4 each for the two mile ride downtown and the driver keeps us waiting while he tries to fill up his truck before leaving. Dick finally tells him that if he does not leave now we are getting out and he very reluctantly begins the trip with the four passengers he has in his rig. To top it off, he acts insulted when Dick only pays him the $8 fare with no tip. What did he do to earn a tip? We will see more of this attitude as the day wears on.

We are dropped off on the main shopping street,
 one street up from the harbor.
We make a stop a Cardow’s Jewelry. This used to be a fabulous store with great buys. Dick bought his Corum $20 gold piece watch here in 1982. Carolyn does find some neat amethyst earrings for a reasonable price.

Dick walks the block or so down the street to Boolchand’s where we have purchased many cameras over the years. His initial goal is to find a replacement for Carolyn’s little Lumix which we bought here in 2007. It has had a hard life with many 1000's of pictures and the display is dying. Carolyn joins him and we do find the new version of her camera. Carolyn has been very pleased with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50. She buys a Lumix Z57 for $269 including a carrying case and a 4GB chip.

Dick now asks about an upgrade for his Nikon D200 which has served him so well these last four years. After some discussion, he buys a, body only, Nikon D300S. The lenses for his D200 will fit it and it uses the same recording media and batteries. His D200 is getting a little tired and it has been to the Nikon service center two or three times for repairs and maintenance. There goes another $1,195!

OK, enough spending! The sun is out and it is almost lunch time so we go back to the ship. We decide that we will skip the beach and go over to St. John’s to take Dick’s treasure chain bracelet to R&I Patton Goldsmiths for repair instead. The lobster claw clasp broke early in the trip. Fortunately, it fell into his lap on a tour bus when it broke! We have been buying Patton’s beautiful and unique, gold jewelry since we first came to these islands back in 1982.

We catch a cab back to the pier for another $8 with the usual delay to try and fill the truck and with the same attitude by the driver when he only gets the $8 fare! No service, no tip. Despite what they seem to think, they are not entitled!

La Veranda is just opening as we walk in at noon and we eat a light lunch. We want to catch the 1PM ferry from Redhook to St.John’s. We walk to the taxi stand near the mall and are put in another open truck along with a couple from the other ship docked here, Royal Caribbean’s "Serenade of the Seas." The driver knows we want to catch the 1PM ferry and he assures us we have plenty of time. He pulls out about 12:35PM and we hope he has allowed enough time. Having driven all over St. Thomas, we know the traffic can be awful but this is Sunday so maybe we are OK.

We visit with the other couple in the truck.They are from Pennsylvania and are on a spring break cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. They are going to Trunk Bay to snorkel. Sure enough, we pull up to the new, to us, ferry terminal at Red Hook at 12:50PM. This ride costs $10 a head and the driver just gets his $20. They have jacked the taxi prices to the point that any tipping is going to have to be earned by some extraordinary deed!

The ferry is just starting to load as we buy our $6 per person, one-way tickets. Despite the reputation for things happening on "Island Time," the ferry pulls away on time for the beautiful crossing between St. Thomas and St. John’s.
The crossing only takes about 15 minutes. Dick moved to the open, upper deck at the last minute to take some photos and the crew would not let him stand up or return below while the ferry was moving. Give me a break!

Anyway, we meet on the pier as the ferry unloads
and begin our walk to Mongoose Junction, location of R&I Patton’s store. It is several hundred yards and we comment on the extent of the growth of this area since we first came here. At the shop we are helped by Brenda. She takes the bracelet and says the technician is out to lunch but that he should be able to do the repair while we wait. He is due back in thirty minutes.

So, with time to kill, Carolyn begins shopping. They have such nice things. First to catch her eye is a strand of Tanzanite beads, 137 carats worth, interspersed with tiny gold beads. Tanzanite is becoming quite rare and expensive but these are very special. They are laid down beside the bracelet in the jeweler’s velvet tray. Don’t ask what they cost!!

Next, Carolyn announces that she has wanted Dick to have a necklace of the same link style as his treasure chain bracelet. They do not have an 18k one made up but Carolyn and Brenda, using Dick as a mannequin, determine the right length chain. They will make it up and ship it to us in about five weeks. Don’t ask what that costs either!!

As a final item, Carolyn finds a watermelon tourmaline mounted in a heavy 14k gold bezel. It is a beautiful piece and it goes in the tray along with the Tanzanite beads. Surprisingly, the credit card is approved with no fuss. Gosh our credit is good! Oh, by the way, Devin, the tech, replaces the lobster claw clasp on Dick’s bracelet and he wears it from the shop; happy to have it back on after two months without it.

We walk back to the ferry dock and have a few minutes before the 4PM ferry back to Red Hook. We sit down at an open-air bar and share of bottle of excellent, ice cold Root Beer.
The brand is Virgin Island Root Beer and we will try to find some at home. It is quite good.

The ferry ride and return trip are uneventful

except for more "Island Attitude" from cab drivers and port guards. Several people at tivia agree with Dick as to the "Tude" shown by many of the people toward the tourists. The last time we were here in 2007, we rented a car at the terminal and didn’t have to deal with taxi drivers, most of whom still drive the miserable open air 10 to 20 passenger trucks with hard benches and impossible steps...the same type being used in the early 80's when we first came here. Despite the taxi situation we have had a fun day and still love the islands and are eager to come stay awhile...the water is so beautiful!
At 6:30PM, we head to the Observation Lounge where we meet Marleen and Don Driscoll of Calgary, Alberta to watch sail away,

enjoy some talk and cocktails and a sing-along with Ray. He did this sing along when we were in Antarctica and it was fun. Marleen has played on the same trivia team with Dick from the first of the cruise. We discuss several interesting subjects including Canadian and American health care, politicians in general, salmon fishing, Calgary weather and Alaska. It is a pleasant evening, a good way to wind down to the end of this odyssey!

SATURDAY, MARCH 19 - St John, Antigua

We are up at the normal time and head to breakfast, but it is rally slow this morning. They are having trivia at 10:30AM since we have a port this afternoon. Dick’s team wins!

At 11AM we go to the Town Hall Meeting hosted by Mark Conway, who got on in Barbados. He first talks about what he sees as the future for Regent and how the company is now structured.  He then takes some question from the floor. From what we hear from Mark and then the passengers, there is a big disconnect in what the management sees for the future and what the past passengers like and want. Regent, like all companies must make money and grow and they must do what is necessary to do that...they have a lot of beds to fill. Guess we will see how it all plays out in the next few years.

We go for an early lunch in La Veranda and back to the room to get the back pack ready to go ashore. We  dock in Antigua at about 12:30AM. It is a pretty entry with a nice little harbor and colorful buildings...lots of tropical color!
Most all the tours are leaving at the same time or with in 15 minutes of each other. They are all meeting on shore and it is a mad house trying to get off! We are to meet our tour at bus #6 on shore and with the crowd and long walk on the pier it takes 15 minutes to get there! It turns out to be a small, 20-passenger bus. When we finally get to our bus, the guide has to expel a couple who are in our assigned seats. The man is one of those who has thought he was "entitled" the whole trip and he gets rather upset because he wanted seats in the front.  Actually, the guide offers him her single seat and the single in front of it, but he and his wife want to sit together so they storm off in a huff with the guide running after them. One of the supervisors comes over and takes the couple to another bus that hasn’t loaded yet. As we have said before there are several really rude people on the ship.

They have crammed our bus full. We did not count, but the bus must hold 20 people if not more with some on little fold down seats that fill the aisle. Our guide, a heavy set, black lady with a voice that would peel paint does not need a microphone! As with most tour guides, she feels obligated to tell us all the details about the island; some of which are not too interesting or memorable. She starts off with a question and answer deal giving out three travel books on the island to people who answer the question right. Carolyn answers the one about the the original economic mainstay, sugar cane, and gets one ot the books.

Basically, we get a windshield, drive-by tour of the island. The main highlights of the tour are the stops at the National Park Museum for an audio-visual historic recap of the island and a nice view,
Shirley Heights and
the Block House Fort.
These stop are at three of the 40 forts built by the English to protect the island. Our last stop is at Nelson’s Dockyard.
The three  historical, English fortifications date to the 1700's, as does Nelson’s Dockyard. This is where the English had their major dockyard in the Caribbean. At one time, we are told, it was commanded by Lord Admiral Horacio Nelson. Dick knows he served in the area but does not remember him commanding a dockyard. That would have been lowly duty and reserved for an officer incapable of going to sea.

We find the views from the hilltop fortification very nice and the cool trade winds are pleasant and most welcome. The water is that beautiful Caribbean blue.
We see several high-end resorts along beautiful beaches. This, combined with our positive impression of the island makes us think that it is worth a return, extended visit. At the Dockyard we have some free time to explore the restored buildings, some of which have nice shops.
We are also given a ticket for a free drink at the hotel. The hotel has been nicely restored and might be worth a return stay.
The Rum Punch is certainly a winner. It is very good and strong! Carolyn spies a bag of local chips, something that looks like Nacho Cheese Doritos, and consumes them. She doesn’t even offer to share with Dick...her junk food level is really LOW! We both find neat T-shirts for ourselves and some really cute ones for the youngest grandsons.

The island people are highly dependent on tourism and know it. There is no graffiti and we do not run across an "entitled" attitude.  Our guide stresses the fact that "you have to work to eat on the island" and we are made to feel most welcome. Antigua may well be included in our next Caribbean vacation; not on a ship!! We head back to the pier and enjoy our peek at life on this island paradise.
Back in town, we spend a little time walking around the small port

before getting on board and getting cleaned up for sail-away and dinner.