Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Monday, March 28, 2011

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!

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