Yesterday, Mr. Muse and I returned from a weeks-long cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty, stopping in Half Moon Cay (also known as Little San Salvador Cay) in the Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI; San Juan, Puerto Rico and finally in Cockburn Town, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. We sailed with friends and some of our friends’ families; all told we reached nineteen people strong. Cruising with our friends allows us to enjoy the individual adventures that everyone had but not be compelled to spend every waking moment with each other.
This cruise was much like most of the others that we’ve taken in the past. The ports were much the same as they have been in the past with a few changes. Half Moon Cay has more beach bungalows available for renting for the day but in the end it’s a glorified beach day where I sat beneath the shade of the pine trees (yes, pine, not palm, trees) when I wasn’t out in the water snorkeling or just wading in the surf. Being allergic to sunscreen does have its disadvantages and one neighboring beach goer commented, “I don’t think I’d survive if I couldn’t wear sunscreen.” Folks, it’s not all bad – I just don’t fry myself for hours at a time. Caribbean sunshine is stronger than that I get up in Wisconsin (this is due to the angle of the sun at this latitude) and it also reflects off of the sand and the water. I saw far too many people who had been drinking way too much and were a lovely shade of “boiled lobster” who would be in pain for the rest of the cruise due to not realizing how burned they were getting the first day of their trip.
Our second day at sea found the ship rocking and rolling in seas that were about 12-16’. It wasn’t as noticeable on the lower decks of the ship, but our cabin was up on deck 11, and I ended up feeling queasy for a solid 36 hours. That was quite unusual for me, so I found that if I laid down on the bed and watch out the balcony window at the sea, I felt much better. There were a few people in our group who were “Apaches” for the cruise (a reference back to a joke I one read many years ago in Reader’s Digest), who said that they were doing okay with the movement, but would ultimately be glad to get into calmer seas.
Mr. Muse and I picked a snorkeling tour that took us to the island of St. John when we arrived in St. Thomas. Most of St. John is a National Park as is most of the water surrounding the island. Our tour aboard the Champagne Cat was fantastic and the area we snorkeled in just off of Honeymoon Beach (not to be confused with the Honeymoon Beach on Water Island I’ve written about previously) was like swimming in a fully-stocked saltwater aquarium. The only thing we didn’t get to see was at least one shark – that’s still on our checklist to see in the wild while we’re in the water. We also didn’t get to see Barry the Barracuda, a curious fish that the crew of the Champagne Cat calls a mascot as Barry likes to visit them when they arrive; we were told he had been hanging out at the back end of the catamaran for quite a while. However, we did see groupers, parrot fish, trunkfish, ballyhoos, yellowtails, jacks and even a group of cuttlefish with which we had a staring contest. The crew aboard the Champagne Cat was great and we have to give a big thank you to Captain Grady, Kenny and Mickey who took great care of us, refilled our glasses of rum punch and also did a great job of telling us about the islands and the sound we were traveling past and through. And yes, I bought the t-shirt.
Our third port was San Juan, PR, where Mr. Muse and I were the only two people out of 3000 who chose the horseback riding tour. Normally, we would have expected that the tour would have been cancelled due to lack of interest but there were a variety of more popular tours (ATVs and zip-lining) heading to the same ranch, so we ended up with a private tour of the ranch with our guide, Julio. I have to admit that I was quite nervous to ride a horse again since the last time I did I ended up in an ambulance on my way to the emergency room three and a half years ago. I kept telling myself that these horses were well-trained and had had a lot of inexperienced tourists on their backs. I also forgot to wear long pants. Don’t forget to wear long pants. One of my stirrup “leathers” had to be switched out and the nylon version I ended up with rubbed a raw spot on my calf; that said, my steed, Cinnamon, knew the trail and due to some heavy rains the ground was muddy and slick, that was a major benefit. Julio guided us through fields, up steep hills and back down them on the other side and Cinnamon picked her way along the rocks and slowly made her way down the mud-slicked backsides of the hills, not once slipping and falling. Mr. Muse rode Apollo, a palomino gelding who vied for “first in line” with Cinnamon, even though we were supposed to remain behind Julio and his horse. The horses we rode were Paso Finos and I’ve heard for years that they are extremely comfortable to ride and many people who have back problems say they love riding them. I have to say that I didn’t find them any more comfortable to ride than most other horses, and dare I say – probably less comfortable than many I’ve ridden. Our tour was fairly silent, with the majority of our time just riding along behind Julio, however, we did get in a long ride and got to experience something we hadn’t before.
Our final port was Grand Turk and it was interesting to see how the island had expanded their cruise terminal and beach areas, adding in a bronze of a humpback whale to commemorate the annual migration of the species to the area to give birth to their calves and breed before returning to krill-rich waters farther north. We were lucky and got to see a few whales break the surface of the water as we sat beneath a large umbrella at Jack’s Shack enjoying Jerk Chicken and a Rum Punch. Four of our friends, Mr. Muse and myself all took the Dune Buggy Island Tour with Chukka tours for our time in Grand Turk. The island is only seven miles long and a mile and a half wide. Our group was split up, two of our friends headed out with the main group on side-by-side ATVs while another couple of our friends and Mr. Muse and I got to ride out in actual dune buggies. The tour, guided by “General” Grant, took us through the main town, through a low spot where the original freshwater wells are located for the island and is now populated by feral donkeys and empty conch shells, through a quarry and then out to the still operational lighthouse. From there we switched drivers and headed back out onto a combination of on-and-off road fun, heading out into some sand dunes to a rocky point where Grant pointed out the other cays as well as the only other inhabited island in Grand Turk, Grass Island, with a population of about 60 people. It was then back to the buggies and through more sand dunes, past salt evaporation ponds and then back to the cruise terminal. Grand Turk has a large menagerie of feral dogs, cats, horses and donkeys and for most of our tour we were passing these animals, singly or in packs/herds. There are no laws preventing inhabitants from claiming a feral animal as their own and it also appears there isn’t much of a push to spay/neuter the animals, though we were told that there is an ASPCA officer on the island who can be contacted to do exactly that. After our tour, upon inquiry Grant directed us to eat lunch at Jack’s Shack, and we later learned from everyone we talked to that all of the guides they had on their tours suggested Jack’s Shack for food. The Jerk Chicken was fabulous so for now I choose to believe that the recommendation was based on the quality of the food and not that the guides were in cahoots with “Jack”.
The Carnival Liberty staff was fantastic as always and we must give a big thank you to our cabin steward, Rodney, who took great care of us as well as our wait staff in the dining room, Cirilo, Cosmin and I Make. These are the people who really make a cruise memorable and we can’t thank them enough. They are away from their family and friends for many months at a time, seldom have a day off during the length of their contract and do a tremendous job of making a passenger feel as if they are the most important person in the world. To them we are deeply grateful for all they do.
If you want to read more in-depth reviews of where we went and the tours we took, I will be posting them at Trip Advisor and Yelp as well as reviewing on Carnival.com. I’ll also post about where we stayed in South Beach Miami, our awesome driver, the fantastic food we ate as well as, drum roll please, The World Erotic Art Museum, located in South Beach.
And now, we’re embarking on cruise numero dos with the staff of Bare Necessities for their Big Nude Boat aboard Holland America’s nieuw Amsterdam. See you in a week… again!