A Travellerspoint blog

Caribbean Cruise - Part Four

We are nearing the end of our cruising adventure with only a week to go. We have dropped off another load of passengers and picked up some new ones. We only have 3 ports of call remaining. Shane put this together so you can hear the ships horn.

21st March
Today we arrived at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic which is on the north coast.
large_P1040311.jpg
large_P1040310.jpg
large_IMG_1459.jpg
There is a resort at the port where you can just relax. We had a wander around.
large_P1040308.jpg
large_P1040307.jpg
large_P1040306.jpg
Puerto Plata was discovered by Christopher Columbus in the 1490s. Columbus designed the town and established it as La Isabela, the first settlement in the Americas. It was only 7 miles to Puerto Plata so we decided to take a short tour to look around. It was drizzly and overcast but still quite humid. Security was pretty high and guards and police followed us everywhere. Puerto Plata's city center displayed historic buildings. This is Independence Square.
large_IMG_1463.jpg
large_IMG_1465.jpg
This is City Hall.
large_P1040285.jpg
This is the San Felipe Cathedral.
large_P1040294.jpg
The Victorian homes around the square were really colourful.
large_IMG_1460.jpg
large_IMG_1461.jpg
We then went down to the beachfront.
large_IMG_1466.jpg
Just off shore there is a small island with a statue of Neptune.
large_IMG_1467.jpg
large_IMG_1470.jpg
In 1540, Fuerte de San Felipe, the first fort in the New World, was built, and today it anchors the city and stands as one of the oldest colonial period fortresses in the region.
large_P1040297.jpg
large_IMG_1473.jpg
large_IMG_1474.jpg
large_P1040300.jpg
large_P1040305.jpg

22nd March
We arrived back at St Thomas, US Virgin Islands today so we had the opportunity to see more of the place.
We took a boat ride to the island of St. John, known as the "Emerald of the Caribbean." Upon arriving in the charming town of Cruz Bay, we jumped on open-air safari transport for a scenic drive around the island. This is a view of Cruz Bay.
large_IMG_1489.jpg
Along the way, our guide provided insight into St. John's rich history and there was beautiful scenery everywhere.
large_IMG_1492.jpg
large_IMG_1496.jpg
large_IMG_1497.jpg
large_IMG_1498.jpg
We went to the scenic lookout at Trunk Bay( one of the most photographed beaches in the world).
large_IMG_1495.jpg
large_IMG_1494.jpg
We also saw panoramic views of the British Virgin Islands.
large_P1040320.jpg
We also visited the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill, an 18th-century sugar plantation with an abundance of greenery and flowers bursting among the stone ruins.
large_IMG_1501.jpg
large_IMG_1500.jpg
large_IMG_1502.jpg
large_P1040333.jpg
After a lovely afternoon at St John it was time to catch the boat back to St Thomas. We had been so lucky with the weather so were able to see some magnificent views.

23rd March
Today was our final stop before heading back to Fort Lauderdale for the last time. These were the views as we sailed into St Maarten.
large_IMG_1506.jpg
large_IMG_1507.jpg
St. Maarten offered a delightful case of split personality. Legend has it that a Frenchman and a Dutchman divided ownership of the island through a walk-off: Standing back to back, the two headed in opposite directions, walking around the island until they met. Perhaps the Dutchman paused for a refreshing brew. At any rate, the French ended up claiming 21 square miles of the island to 16 square miles for the Dutch. This lively tale says much about St. Maarten's easygoing ways. No formal boundary exists between the Dutch and French sides of the island; a simple welcome sign tells you when you cross from one country to the other. But the differences are as noticeable as the spelling of the island's name. The French spell it St. Martin the Dutch St Maarten.
large_P1040500.jpg
We had two activities planned for the day. What better way to get to know St. Maarten and its amazing surroundings than by exploring its beauty in, on and under the water?
The first part of our thrilling morning began at the pier where we boarded the canopy topped power raft. After boarding our vessel, our friendly onboard guide shared his knowledge of the island and its history as we zoomed down the scenic coast and into beautiful Simpson Bay Lagoon. This is the Simpson Bay Lagoon causeway bridge.
large_P1040338.jpg
En route to our snorkeling spot, we travelled from one side of the island to the other, and passed the French capital of Marigot before crossing under the French-side drawbridge and finally venturing out to sea.
large_P1040343.jpg
We then got to have a final snorkel in the Caribbean's clean, calm waters. The visibility off St. Maarten ranges between 75 and 125 feet, all the better to observe the fringing coral reefs, submerged rocks and schools of small colorful fish.
large_P1040354.jpg
large_P1040362.jpg
large_P1040366.jpg
large_P1040391.jpg
large_P1040436.jpg
large_P1040440.jpg
large_P1040443.jpg
We then cruised around the north coast of the island where we entered the shallow water of one of St. Maarten's world famous white sand beaches, often called the "French Riviera of the Caribbean." We passed famous homes that were pointed out to us. The home on the hill belongs to Chuck Norris.
large_P1040462.jpg
The white house on the hill belongs to Janet Jackson.
large_P1040463.jpg
And of course President Donald Trump owns one of the biggest here on the beach.
large_P1040464.jpg
We had time for a swim and enjoyed refreshments as we soaked up our last swim in the Caribbean.
large_P1040478.jpg
large_P1040481.jpg
On our return to the ship we passed the famous St Maarten airport. It has appeared on many shows as the runway is right by the beach. We watched a plane land.
large_P1040466.jpg
large_P1040467.jpg
large_P1040468.jpg
This link to You Tube shows you the beach perspective. Its amazing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCIJ0F62og4
After lunch we went to see some of the island on shore. We went to the Dutch capital. Philipsburg may only be four streets deep and one mile long, but it contains everything that anyone, especially a traveler, could need. The capital of Dutch St. Maarten, it was founded in 1763 by John Phillips, a Scottish captain in the Dutch navy. Philipsburg soon became a busy port for international trade and today it's a bustling town with historical buildings, lovely street activity, and an abundance of shops and cafés.
large_P1040499.jpg
Along the way to Marigot and the French side of the island, we passed the Great Salt Pond. The Amerindians named the island "Land of Salt" centuries ago. It was a Dutchman who discovered that salt could preserve food, which was of great use on long sea voyages. Salt was scarce, but when the Dutch set foot on St. Maarten they were delighted to find an abundant supply in the salt ponds, which are connected to the sea. We enjoyed a stop at Cole Bay Hill with a panoramic overview of Simpson Bay Lagoon, Simpson Bay Village, Queen Juliana International Airport and the lowland areas of French and Dutch St. Maarten.
large_IMG_1529.jpg
large_IMG_1528.jpg
As we entered the French side there was a simple sign.
large_IMG_1508.jpg
We were then on the French side.
large_IMG_1510.jpg
We passed an old French fort.
large_IMG_1524.jpg
At one of our stops there were a number of different iguanas.
large_IMG_1516.jpg
large_IMG_1520.jpg
large_IMG_1518.jpg
We visited the French capital of Marigot. Colonial houses, sidewalk cafés, bistros, pastry shops and quaint stores are reminiscent of a French market town.
large_P1040494.jpg
On our return to the Dutch side we passed the border monument.
large_IMG_1526.jpg
We had a great last day on shore and St Maarten was a nice way to finish off the Caribbean.

26th March
Our cruising time had now ended so it was time to head off for the final part of our adventure before heading home. So, we made our way to the Fort Lauderdale airport. As our flight was announced they informed us that it was going to be delayed. So, 3 hours late we took off in a small 2 propellered plane for a short 45 minute flight to Orlando. We only flew at 3000 feet and it was really bumpy. We were glad to finally land.
Orlando is located in central Florida. It is also known as the theme part capital of the world. However, we did not come to Orlando to go the theme parks. (well so we thought – more on that later).
We are staying at Universals Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We chose this hotel as it had lots of options for relaxing. It even had a food court and coffee shop which seemed appealing for when we get home after some long days. The resort is really retro with a 60’s, 70s theme. They have been playing clips of The Munsters, Gumby (Shane didn’t know about Gumby).
large_P1040692.jpg
large_P1040690.jpg
large_IMG_1620.jpg

27th March
Today we had a long drive out to Kennedy Space Centre. This is something we were really looking forward to. To make the most of the day we hired a driver to take us out there and pick us up as it was an hour away from where we were staying. Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex is where NASA made history and where it’s still being made today. This is where humankind first left Earth to explore the heavens. This is where the future of space exploration launches, and where you can experience the wonders of space like nowhere else in the universe. The basic Visitor Complex admission gave us lots of things to do. This is the entrance.
large_IMG_1531.jpg
This is just inside the gate.
large_IMG_1530.jpg
There was a lovely fountain there. JFK was the one with the vision for space travel.
large_P1040566.jpg
This is the original countdown clock that has been moved to the Space Centre.
large_P1040569.jpg
We even found an astronaut walking around.
large_P1040501.jpg
Our first stop was the Heroes and Legends Hall featuring the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
large_P1040563.jpg
large_IMG_1617.jpg
Nicola with a projection of John Glenn.
large_John_Glenn.jpg
We watched a mission unfold in the Mercury Mission Control Centre.
large_IMG_1616.jpg
We then visited the Rocket Garden. We walked amongst the towering rockets that tell the story of human kinds quest for the stars.
large_IMG_1614.jpg
large_IMG_1533.jpg
large_IMG_1540.jpg
large_P1040507.jpg
large_P1040512.jpg
large_P1040513.jpg
In the rocket garden was the Gemini Spacecraft. Frank Borman and Jim Lovell made 206 orbits – 14 days in this cramped spacecraft. They were unable to even stretch their legs.
large_IMG_1536.jpg
Shane then tried out the Apollo Spacecraft. Although it was spacious in comparison to the Gemini, there wasn’t much room. Gene Cernan wormed in through the small hatch, then moved over to his position on the right side of the compartment. Tom Stafford squeezed through the hatch and scooted into his place on the left side. Finally, John Young settled into the empty seat in the middle and hauled the hatch over his head into place.
large_IMG_1539.jpg
This is an F1 engine. It is the most powerful liquid fuelled rocket engine ever produced. It was a critical component in sending the astronauts to the moon during the Apollo program. Within 3 minutes the rocket would be travelling at a speed of 9,656 kph. Just one F1 engine provided as much thrust as all three space shuttle main engines combined.
large_IMG_1542.jpg
Here is Shane with Orion spacecraft.
large_IMG_1535.jpg
This is one of NASA’s supersonic jets. They were used for astronaut training and proficiency flights.
large_IMG_1543.jpg
Our next stop had us really excited. After 126 million miles of space travel, an American icon landed at KSC. The Space Shuttle Atlantis
large_IMG_1551.jpg
We stood nose to nose with the real Space Shuttle Atlantis.
large_IMG_1561.jpg
large_IMG_1562.jpg
large_P1040523.jpg
large_P1040526.jpg
All the tiles under the shuttle
large_P1040530.jpg
Shane at the control panel.
large_IMG_1557.jpg
Nicola at the control panel.
large_P1040524.jpg
A 1/15 scale replica
large_IMG_1564.jpg
Actual tyres used on one of the missions.
large_IMG_1565.jpg
This is the astronaut van that takes them to the launch pad for the shuttle missions.
large_IMG_1566.jpg
Space exploration.
large_IMG_1558.jpg
We then strapped ourselves in for the sights, sounds and excitement of a space shuttle launch. Apparently, it is the closest thing to the real thing. We were shook around but it was really exhilarating.
large_IMG_1567.jpg
We went on the Kennedy Space Centre Bus Tour.
large_IMG_1612.jpg
We got a glimpse of the entire working spaceflight centre. We saw real launch pads. This one is being updated. The poles are lightning rods so that the rockets don’t get hit by lightning.
large_IMG_1580.jpg
This is a tower being built for the new rockets being built.
large_IMG_1585.jpg
This is the Launchpad used for shuttle launches. We couldn’t get close to that one today as there is a Spacex rocket being launched in a couple of days from that pad.
large_IMG_1608.jpg
This is one of the tractors that brings the rockets to the launch pads. They use lots of rocks to stop any sparks.
large_IMG_1582.jpg
large_IMG_1583.jpg
large_IMG_1584.jpg
This is the vehicle assembly building. It was massive. You can drive a bus between the stripes of the flag on the building to give you some perspective on how big it is.
large_IMG_1571.jpg
large_P1040540.jpg
On the bus tour, they dropped us at the Apollo/Saturn V Centre.
large_IMG_1590.jpg
This is part of the original Apollo mission launch control.
large_IMG_1591.jpg
large_P1040543.jpg
We saw an actual Saturn V rocket up close. We were able to stand beneath the largest rocket ever flown. Look at the size of the engines.
large_IMG_1592.jpg
The top of the fuel tank.
large_IMG_1599.jpg
We got to touch a moon rock and watch a re-enactment of Apollo 11’s moon landing.
large_IMG_1603.jpg
large_IMG_1607.jpg
This was the Apollo astronauts van that took them to the launch pad.
large_IMG_1593.jpg
This is the moon rover.
large_IMG_1596.jpg
This is the Apollo 11 command module that returned to earth.
large_IMG_1606.jpg
We visited the Astronaut Memorial.
large_IMG_1545.jpg
large_IMG_1547.jpg
large_P1040517.jpg
There was a Hubble Space Telescope display.
large_IMG_1559.jpg
large_P1040532.jpg
We attended a Mission Status Briefing where we received a briefing from a space expert on Kennedy Space Centre and the recent and upcoming NASA activities. That was really interesting. Since 2011 when the Space Shuttle Program ceased they have to send the astronauts to Russia for training and they then go up with the Russians to the International Space Station. They do however have plans underway for the next generation of astronauts to go into space from Cape Canaveral.
After a long day, we headed back to Orlando.

28th March
Today we were due to swim with the manatees. However last night we were informed that the tour had been cancelled as there were mechanical issues with the boat. We were devastated as we had been really looking forward to it. So, as we had the day free we decided to go to Universal Studios Island of Adventure. As we were staying at a Universal Hotel we got in an hour before being open to the public. We walked Universal Walk. There was a massive Hard Rock.
large_3B39DE60D0BC6561D4781E2617305E3C.jpg
Of course, they had the Universal Globe.
large_P1040686.jpg
Entrance to Island of Adventure.
large_P1040574.jpg
We go to go to Hogwarts before it was open to the public but it was still pretty busy. So, we walked to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We entered the gates to Hogsmeade.
large_P1040585.jpg
We walked around the town.
large_P1040587.jpg
large_P1040588.jpg
large_P1040611.jpg
large_P1040617.jpg
Here is the Hogwarts Express.
large_P1040619.jpg
Our first ride was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We arrived at Hogwarts.
large_P1040592.jpg
large_P1040593.jpg
large_P1040608.jpg
There were warnings about this ride if you were prone to motion sickness, but oh my god. It was the worst ride I have ever been on. I had my eyes closed for most of it and even Shane said towards the end he had his eyes closed. We were flying around the sky on our brooms, it was horrific, sometimes we were almost upside down. Before you hop on the ride you walk through Hogwarts.
large_P1040595.jpg
large_P1040596.jpg
large_P1040600.jpg
Shane then went on the Flight of the Hippogriff but I still wasn’t up to it. It took me a while to recover.
large_P1040602.jpg
large_P1040605.jpg
To get to the ride he walked past Hagrid’s House.
large_P1040606.jpg
large_P1040607.jpg
We also visited Marvel Super Hero Island. Shane went on the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride. I chickened out of that one too. Neither of us were brave enough to go on the Incredible Hulk Rollercoaster ride. Take a look at it.
large_RollerCoasterBIG1.jpg
Shane met Captain America.
large_P1040683.jpg
We then went to Toon Lagoon. Another really colourful part of the experience.
large_P1040675.jpg
large_P1040677.jpg
We went on the Popeye and Blutos Bilge-Rat Barges.
large_P1040661.jpg
large_P1040665.jpg
large_P1040670.jpg
We got totally wet. Drenched right though.
large_P1040663.jpg
Remember Wimpy.
large_P1040660.jpg
This is Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls and this too gets you wet as you can see.
large_P1040655.jpg
large_P1040659.jpg
We adventured to Skull Island – Reign of Kong. We really enjoyed this attraction.
large_P1040652.jpg
large_P1040653.jpg
Next stop was Jurassic Park.
large_P1040643.jpg
We went on the Jurassic Park River Adventure.
large_P1040644.jpg
large_P1040646.jpg
large_P1040647.jpg
large_P1040648.jpg
At the end you do this big steep drop and get really wet.
large_P1040651.jpg
We visited The Lost Continent.
large_P1040578.jpg
large_P1040579.jpg
We went through Poseidon’s Fury.
large_P1040581.jpg
large_P1040583.jpg
large_P1040621.jpg
And saw the stunt show called The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad.
large_P1040641.jpg
We then went back to childhood visiting Seuss Landing. It was really colourful.
large_P1040625.jpg
large_P1040627.jpg
large_P1040629.jpg
We went on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train. This was more my style.
large_P1040630.jpg
large_P1040634.jpg
large_P1040640.jpg
Then on the Cat in the Hat ride.
large_P1040679.jpg

29th March
Today we were leaving the USA. So we headed back to the airport for a short flight to Miami. From Miami we had to fly to Dallas-Fortworth in Texas to get our flight back to Sydney. We decided to upgrade as it was a 3 hour flight. Well worth it. We arrived in Dallas at 8pm and caught the skytrain to the terminal where our flight was leaving. When we arrived we were informed that the flight had been cancelled. Great, twice in a year. It was really disorganised and we all lined up to get our letters to go to a hotel. That took an hour and a half. Then we had to queue for a shuttle to the hotel. It was taking so long that a few of us got together and paid $6 each to get to the hotel. Then there was another line for check in. We finally got to bed before midnight.

30th March
When we got up this morning there was a note stating our flight would be leaving at 13.30 and to be at the airport by 8.30. So off we headed to the airport. The flight is supposedly due to get in to Sydney at 21.45 so I doubt we will be heading to Adelaide until the following day. Anyway I am sitting at the airport and am going to close the blog off for this trip. Hope you all enjoyed it. Nicola and Shane signing off.

Posted by shaneandnicola 06:48

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint