Cruisers of the Caribbean Pt. 1

Well friends, it has finally happened. I wrote a blog so dang long that WordPress’s editor couldn’t really load my photos, or upload new photos, or load that many words, and so I’ve been forced to split my blog into multiple posts in order to accommodate. So before you continue on this journey, just be aware that the combined length of these blog posts is around 20,000 words. I hope you have a good warm mug of hot chocolate, a fire in the hearth, and a long, lazy, rainy day ahead of you as you embark on the journey of reading about our adventures in the Caribbean.

Day 1

We landed in San Juan in the morning and were relieved to find ourselves immediately sweating from a combination of too many layers and a much higher temperature than we were used to. I was also relieved that my continual assurance to my friends and coworkers that I was “fleeing California for warmer weather” did turn out to be true.

The view from our hotel.

After a taxi ride into town we wandered up to street to a Puerto Rican restaurant that Aaron had found on Yelp that came highly recommended. Generally full to bursting, we were surprised to find it empty when we walked in just after 4pm, the waiters were equally surprised that someone would walk in just minutes after they opened the store. Based on our long wait time for food, the kitchen was also surprised that someone would attempt to have dinner there at 4pm. In our defense, it was 12pm in California, and definitely time for lunch. When the food did arrive it was excellent! I had a steak with a side of plátanos fritos, Aaron and my dad both had different types of mofongos (smashed plantains with meat mixed in), and my mom had salmon and a side salad. The mofongo looked and tasted excellent, that was the first and last time that I passed up having mofongo on the trip.

After leaving the restaurant we wandered back towards the hotel, pausing to take photos of some of the statues that lineB the street.

The first statue resides in Parque Fernando Botero and is called Madre e hijo. It was created by Fernando Botero in 1991 and is quite large. The San Juan newspaper states that the mother’s large proportions are meant to make the child seem even smaller; and, as often occurs in Botero’s art, the mother is disconnected from the outside world and is emotionally distant from the child. 

Behind the Madre e hijo statue is a different sculpture by the Puerto Rican Artist Carlos Gúzman. Named the “Cardúmen Onírico,” (School of Dreams, more or less) the shapes at the top of each pylon were meant to represent a school of dolphins jumping in and out of the surf. In photos on the internet of the sculpture, each pylon has a crescent moon shape at the top, it makes me wonder if the sculpture was damaged by hurricane Maria in 2017 which hit the island just 3 months after the Madre e hijo statue was installed, and the Cardúmen Onírica was renovated.

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Madre e Hijo statue with Cardúmen Onírico in the backgroun;

The second statue was in the Ventana al Mar “Window to the Sea” park and was named “La Ventana al Mar.” The whole park was an excellent place to hang out with a fountain (that was off; I assume it’s on in the summer), a green lawn, a small shopping area and beach access.

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La Ventana al Mar statue
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Just paces away from La Ventana al Mar statue was Lin Manuel Miranda’s star on San Juan’s “Hollywood Walk of Fame” equivalent. I low key fan girled.

 We paused to grab ice cream before heading onward, across the water, to see the fort by night time. The San Geronimo Fort was a half hour walk from the hotel, and closed at night, but it was too early to turn in at the hotel so we headed over. Aaron and I attempted to take some night photos at the fort, but the lack of a tripod made it rather difficult to get a good shot.

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San Geronimo Fort
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After returning to the hotel and then leaving once again to find snacks (as we were now hungry) we found ourselves caught in the Christmas parade sponsored by “Cementex,” the local cement construction company.

Day 2

In the morning mom spotted the extensive hurricane damage that had been done to our hotel last year and was yet to be fixed. That probably should have been telling as to what we would find throughout the day now that we were slightly more awake and would have a half to a full day in San Juan (depending on how late we decided to board the ship).

We began our day by once again attempting to visit Fort San Geronimo, this time around we walked all the way up the path to the front where we were able to clearly read all of the signs that were telling us that the fort was definitely not open. Perhaps due to previous hurricane damage?

Fort San Geronimo by day
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Peering through the closed front entrance of Fort San Geronimo

Either way, we decided it would be best if we walked the other direction. We began to explore the mall that surrounded the fort which appeared to mostly be a ghost town. The Hilton Caribe was located above and around the mall. It clearly would have supplied enough tourists to keep the mall filled with people looking to buy, but, post-hurricane, the mall was deserted. A few shops remained in place with their doors open; and a couple restaurants were eagerly waiting for someone to stumble in. The Hilton Caribe also showed signs of damage with many boarded up windows. The only thing left from the large letters on the outside of the building proclaiming that it was, in fact, the Hilton Caribe, was the outline the letters had left behind on the building.

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After thoroughly exploring the empty mall we began to walk back to our hotel, deciding that perhaps it was time to start making our way towards the ship. As we crossed the bridge that connected the two ends of the little bay, I started seeing a huge dark shape in the water. Four pairs of eyes were focused intently on the water and were well rewarded by two manatees alternately and simultaneously poking their noses out of the water. The cloudy day meant that their bodies were well obscured under the water so we only really saw what they deigned to poke above the water, and, sensing our presence (or perhaps hearing us exclaiming excitedly) they did not deign to put anything other than their noses and maybe an eye above the water. Jerk sea cows. Nonetheless we got some photos of the manatees noses.

It began sprinkling on us and we hurriedly stuffed cameras into bags and decided it was definitely time to make our way to the ship (not that the rain was a huge bother considering it was eighty degrees outside.

Back at the hotel, we learned from our previous mistakes and took a taxi to the cruise port. Driving over, we were full of expectations as to what the rest of the day would lead to, some were good expectations, some were bad expectations, but mostly just expectations. We were ushered through the check in process rapidly by Celebrity staff members intent on pleasing. We all smiled for the photos that would be attached to our room cards and then were sent onwards to board the boat itself. We were stopped every twenty feet on our walk to the boat to ensure that we still had our room cards with us, I’m not sure what the purpose of the constant checking was. We mostly felt harried by the insistent crew members and learned quickly not to even think about putting the cards away. Once on the boat we found our own way to the elevators and joined the crowds waiting for a lift. We eventually rode an elevator down a few floors before we were able to go upwards to the eighth deck. Upon our arrival we were disappointed to find that the carpets on both sides of the deck were exactly the same. A small detail perhaps, but it had been incredibly helpful on the Crown Princess to be able to differentiate which side of the ship you were on based on the color of the carpet. We quickly found our rooms, dropped off our bags, and admired the two twin beds that they had given my parents. 

As with before, our cabin steward appeared out of nowhere to introduce himself and ask if we needed anything during our stay. I forgot to ask for towel animals. Having settled in, we decided to tour the ship and visit guest services to get my parents room switched to a double bed rather than a pair of twins. Guest services was located at the base of the grand staircase. It had been turned into the grand “holiday decoration” staircase for the holidays and large gingerbread houses, snowmen, fake snow, and Christmas lights could be found on each step. 

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The un-usable holiday decorations staircase

We chatted with guest services and continued our walk, finding restaurants that we could eat at, restaurants that we couldn’t eat at, pools, spas, the jogging track, basketball court, sun decks, a solarium with “thalassotherapy,” and the other amenities that we had come to expect after our trip on Princess Cruises. The one piece that we found was missing, and was perhaps the biggest disappointment thus far, was some way to walk entirely around a deck on the ship. The Crown Princess had called this the “Promenade Deck,” the closest equivalent on the Celebrity Summit was the jogging track on deck ten, which, if you were willing to walk through sun bathing tourists, could be turned into a walk around the entire ship by cutting through the sun bathing areas on Deck 11. Certainly not ideal.

Eventually we headed to the Ocean View buffet for a late lunch/snack while we pondered our next moves. We were incredibly impressed with the number of options offered in the buffet. Every counter provided us with a different selection of food meaning that one had to walk around the entire buffet to have a good understanding of what the options were. I think it took me two circles to decide what to eat. Finally we all found ourselves a seat by the window, and by the glass hole in the floor showing the water 70 feet below. Aaron made sure to jump on it to check that it was well built. The food was much better than we had experienced on Princess, while the chairs were far worse. I guess that’s the bonus of riding a ship three months after it was refurbished rather than three months before it’s going to be refurbished.

Finishing our snack we finished our tour of the ship, finding that Effie’s Jewelry had been replaced by Raymond Neil’s jewelry, and that the art auction was much smaller than on Princess but still held the same paintings that Princess had touted as one-of-a-kind, and exclusive to Princess. Eventually we ended up back in our rooms, relaxing and taking advantage of our final few hours of internet access before the ship headed into international waters and we’d all be forced onto Airplane Mode.

Heading down to dinner we had to sit through about a fifteen minute wait before they had a table ready for us and then were lead to our table by a slightly befuddled waiter who got us a little lost before seating us. Our assistant waiter came by and introduced himself and provided us with menus in Spanish. Slightly bemused, we explained to the somewhat horrified waiter that we all understood Spanish perfectly well and there was no need for him to get us different menus. It took us telling him this three times, including a confirmation in Spanish, before he believed us and left. Our head waiter then arrived to explain that we would have three people helping us, himself, the assistant waiter, and the wine person. Why one table needs three people I may never understand. A few minutes into dinner dad managed to drop his glass and break it on the table, sending water and glass shards flying all over Aaron and the floor. We apologized profusely to the waiters as they rushed to clean it up, assured us it was no problem, spun the table (it was circular and too large for just four people) so that the side with water was in front of a pillar we were seated next to. The food was top notch, but the dining room left a bit to be desired. unlike with Princess where the dining room was about 50/50 window seats and middle-of-the-room seats, the Summit was more like 25% window, 75% middle-of-the-room. There was an angry statue in the center of the room watching over everyone eating and some guests were seated on the second level, looking down on all those who were eating below. We managed to enjoy our dinner despite not having a window seat (to be fair, it was already super dark so we wouldn’t have been able to see anything) and when they brought the dessert menu I ate Aaron’s dessert as well as my own (he did share some of my dulce de Leche crime brûlée). After dinner the ship finally began to leave the port so we knew we would be able to run our errands in the shops down stairs (tooth paste, model cruise ships, lanyards, etc). The stores don’t open until we reach international waters so we waited patiently for that and then headed into the stores. 

Well apparently once you get far enough from the shore the waves get rough and on a boat that has about 10 fewer decks than the Crown Princess and weighs much less, the waves are far more noticeable. The ship began rocking quite a bit while we stood in line in the store and even my mom and I began to feel a little sea sick. Aaron took a quick run to the gym and then took Dramamine while my parents and I finished our shopping, grabbed more desserts at Cafe Bacio (they were SO good) and then went back to the rooms ourselves to lie down and hopefully not get seasick from the rocking. While I did run into two walls on the way back to the room, I did manage to find my sea legs shortly after that and the rocking stopped bothering me. Now I kind of enjoy the gentle rocking.

This cruise is obviously aimed at both Spanish and English speaking tourists and, because of this, a large percentage of the crew speaks both Spanish and English and they often have to guess which language we speak. My parents and I have all been tagged as English speakers but Aaron generally gets a mix of both. We had one waiter ask Aaron if we were all set at our table in Spanish, and out of habit, he and I both responded in Spanish and the waiter got a surprise look on his face and confirmed that I had understood him before he smiled and went on his way. This was in line with the treatment we received over the Spanish language menus we received at dinner which was a similar experience that we had in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans and the ship’s staff switched fluidly from one language to the other and often seem to want to meet us where we’re at in terms of language. In Puerto Rico they might start in Spanish with us, but once they heard us speaking English amongst ourselves, they would always switch to English. The ship’s staff tend to default to English more often but it’s still a mix. It does make it hard for me to practice my Spanish, but the ship’s library was well equipped with fiction in both Spanish and English and I was able to find a novel in Spanish that was at about my reading level and looked reasonably interesting. Not that I actually had time over the week to make any sort of progress on it but the fifteen pages I read, I liked.

Day 3

Waking up bright and early we all woke up with varying amounts of sleep from the night before. We headed down to the dining room as soon as it opened (6:30am) and found the largest array of food we’d all probably ever seen in one buffet.The counters stretched the length of the entire dining room with only two sections of it repeating (the pastries and the fruits). Other sections included the “American Breakfast,” “English Breakfast,” “Egg’s Benedict Station,” “Omelette Station,” and more. Naturally we all took two laps around the breakfast room (pretty sure that on its own was ten thousand steps!), loaded up our plates, and sat down right next to the glass hole in the floor that we had sat next to the previous evening.

The hole in the floor of the buffet

After breakfast we made our way down to Deck 1 to disembark at our first stop on the trip: St. Croix. St. Croix is part of the US Virgin Islands and so we were happy to find that our cell plans all still worked and that we could get away with using USD to buy things. 

After leaving the ship we were greeted by overly excited “Greeters” from the tourism bureau who handed us maps of the area and guided us to the taxi port. We requested a taxi to take us to the airport and found all of the taxi drivers were very unwilling. They were all hoping for a larger group than ours to take to Christiansted, a far more profitable trip. One of the cabbies did finally take pity on us and drove us to the airport, depositing us at the Hertz Rental agency 20 minutes later. 

Car in hand, we began the long drive across the entire island (as the cruise ship had dropped us on the most western edge of the island) to visit the farthest east point in the US named Point Udall. The drive was punctuated by some amazing views of the gorgeous ocean, which was so many shades of blue that I’m sure my camera wasn’t able to capture it.

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The road leading to Point Udall with Buck Island Reef National Monument in the background

Point Udall itself is up on the hill with a recently added “Millenium” statue of two crossed M’s installed in the year 2000 to celebrate the new millennium. We enjoyed the view and then kept driving to our next destination.

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Point Udall, the furthest east point of the United States

Our next stop was a beach. I didn’t care which beach, I had a few picked out, I was just hoping for somewhere to snorkel–minus the snorkel part because I only had goggles, which my mom informed me was just called swimming. The first two beaches we attempted to visit were clearly not accessible for people who weren’t paying to stay at the resort so we tried a third option that trip advisor swore was open. The path down to the beach was underneath a thick canopy of trees that formed an arch at about shoulder height.

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The pathway to Shoy Beach

 We all ducked down and walked along the path, as it turned to sand we noticed that the number of hermit crabs under our feet was growing exponentially. It became very difficult to not step on hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs varied in size at Shoy Beach, this one was about the length of my little finger.

When we finally emerged onto the beach our jaws dropped. We had practically stepped into a Windows background image. The palm trees hugged the shoreline, the sand was so light it looked white, and the water was a clear light blue. We put down our towels and I ran into the water which was colder than I wanted (I was hoping for the warm-bath-tub temperatures that I’d experienced in Cuba), but still far warmer than anything we get in California (except for that one year in So Cal when there was a weird current coming from the south and the water was extra warm). All of this to say that the water was a little cold, but in the sunlight, and after five minutes, it felt absolutely perfect. I coaxed my mom in after me and then I ducked under to search for a reef of some sorts, anything, and came up with a nose-full of salt water. I don’t know that the oceans in NorCal are that salty. It was SO salty. We didn’t last long in the water, eventually choosing to hop out and walk along the beach, searching for pretty rocks and taking pictures of the coast.

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Shoy Beach

Back in the car we continued driving on to Christiansted, we were surprised to find that most of Christiansted was incredibly run-down. The streets were full of potholes, the buildings were falling down, it wasn’t in good condition. I knew that there must be a nice downtown area somewhere because they do bring tourists here but it took scouring the whole city to finally discover it along one street next to a small strip of ocean on the eastern side of the city. Our driving tour of Christiansted also took us past the building where the internet claimed Alexander Hamilton had lived.

We decided to skip Christiansted, not needing the tourist strip and continued to attempt to find a national park area. When we arrived at that point on my map we continually ran into dead ends and private driveways. Eventually deciding we weren’t going to find it, we drove on to the stop Aaron had found lunch. A little shack on the edge of the ocean with a beautiful view of the beach. After a filling lunch, we continued onward, our next destination being a self-guided tour of an old sugar plantation that was very highly rated on the internet, but very hard to get to.

Deciding to take the scenic route across the island we took the rainforest road and found ourselves on a road full of potholes and only half paved in portions that ran directly through the rainforest. Huge trees bordered both sides of the road with vines hanging down. In some places the brush was so thick that we couldn’t see through it, in others a small river ran along the side of the road.

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One of the nicer paved areas of rainforest road

We arrived at Estate Mount Washington after traversing an incredibly bumpy dirt road to get to the parking lot of the restored plantation. A self-guided tour through the property was available with information about each of the buildings and the history of the plantation itself. The brochure was written at some point in 1992 and uses painfully polite terms to refer to the slaves calling them the “unfree laborers” on the plantation. The brochure had some helpful information about the overall uses of the buildings, and the census data on its inhabitants, but it was the knowledge gained on my trip to Cuba when I visited a renovated Sugar Plantation that truly informed my walk through the estate. The giant vats that were once used by slaves to boil the cane sugar juice were now spread sporadically around the estate, housing ponds full of tadpoles. The mechanism to crush the sugar canes and extract the juice were incredibly familiar and I didn’t need the brochure to explain how those worked. I was shocked at how similar both plantations were despite the large distance between them. More recently installed on the property was a labyrinth that my mom and I both walked, weaving and circling the path until we made it to the center.

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Sugar cane juice vat next to a sitting area by the labyrinth.
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Re-creations of tools used to crush sugar cane to retrieve the juice
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Ruins of Estate Mt. Washington

I tried to walk down the path to see the slave village where the slaves would have lived, but unfortunately it was too overgrown for the path to be traversed.

On the taxi ride back, our driver decided to take it upon himself to give us the historical background of the island. After spouting off the basic census data about the population, size of St. Croix, and number and locations of large cities, he gave us a short history lesson of the island. 

He explained that originally it had been a Dutch island (which we had discovered at Estate Mt. Washington which was a Dutch plantation) and then there was talk of putting it up for sale and Germany and Russia were both eyeing it for potential naval bases. This scared the US which immediately went to the Netherlands and requested to buy the land for themselves at a much higher price. The deal went through and the Virgin Islands became American. They do not retain much of their Dutch heritage, leaving behind only the architecture and even some street names. Frederiksted and Christiansted both retained their names, and were named after Dutch Kings.

With this bit of history done, he moved onto the history of slavery on the island. The Virgin Islands were the first in the US to ban slavery and were followed closely by Puerto Rico. The slaves on both islands were empowered by the Haitian Revolution which was the first country in the Caribbean to free its slaves (or to have the slaves free themselves). The story told by our taxi drivers goes something like this: The slaves realized that there were far more of them than there were slave owners on the islands so they protested and stormed into the government building and demanded their freedom. The governor said no, and so they told him that if he did not grant them freedom they would burn the city down. He still said no. That evening, the slaves snuck into the storage houses where all of the gunpowder was kept and they dumped all the barrels of gunpowder into the water. They then filled the barrels with sand. 

The next morning the slaves returned to the government building and once again demanded freedom and the governor again said no. The slaves then began to set the city on fire. A few were killed during the rioting, but when the soldiers went to reload their weapons, they found the barrels were filled with sand. This was reported to the governor who demanded to see it with his own eyes. Realizing they couldn’t win the fight, he acquiesced and freed the slaves. He then went back to the Netherlands and explained to the king what happened and the king promptly threw him in jail for freeing the slaves when he had no right to do that. When the governor explained that the slaves outnumbered the Dutch 27,000 to 2,000, and that he was trying to save Dutch lives, the king saw his reasoning and let him out of jail. 

That was the tale told by our taxi driver and I expect it’s somewhat true, but I didn’t have internet to verify it. I’m also sure I’ve missed some important details. It was an excellent ending to our day in St. Croix and we quite wearily took ourselves back onto the ship.

As the ship left port, as part of the onboard entertainment, there was a “port of call” lecture on Antigua and Dominica, our next two stops. And while the title of the activity mentioned shopping, I couldn’t imagine that they would do an entire port of call lecture on shopping. That would be ridiculous. So I convinced my parents to go with me, Aaron went to the onboard gym, and we settled down with some sodas in the Rendezvous Lounge, ready to hear about all the things we should do in Antigua. They provided us with some brochures before everything started that I flipped through excitedly. The entire thing was a map of about twelve blocks of St. John’s Antigua, with every single store that we could potentially shop in labeled. We were in for big trouble. On the other hand, the outside of the brochure had a zoomed out map of Antigua with four places marked that were worth visiting. Three of the four were already on our list, but I figured I’d take what I could get.

And then the activity started.

And it was all about shopping.

She had an entire PowerPoint presentation divided into things we could buy based on the types of accessory we were looking for (swim suits, jewelry, watches, formal clothing) and then subdivided by brand (for the jewelry and watches).  I’ll glaze over giving you a play by play and instead just focus on the most ludicrous parts of her presentation. 

To begin with, she prefaced everything she said by impressing upon us these very important pieces of information: Antigua and Barbuda have tax and duty free shopping so you are saving money already JUST buy shopping there! [Never mind that ever tax/duty free store in the airport is twice as expensive because they can raise to the price because they don’t have to pay taxes and they recover that as profit for themselves]. Then, she added, the cruise ship has deals with all of these stores to get you even deeper discounts! If we tell her what we’re looking for, she’ll give us a VIP ticket to get us deep discounts on our items. So whatever we did, we definitely needed to stay after, get our VIP tickets, and get the best price when shopping. She even told us that she would be in the port tomorrow and if we wanted, she would be happy to do the bargaining for us to get us the best prices.

She then informed all of us how beautiful the stone “Tanzanite” is. Recently discovered in Tanzania, this stone is a “one generation stone,” meaning that it was discovered this generation, it was mined this generation, and, according to her, it will run out this generation. And, because she went to the tanzanite mine in Tanzania to learn more about tanzanite she can tell us that they’re going to run out of tanzanite in about five years. And what happens when they run out of the stone? [My answer to this was “Synthetics!” Which my dad appreciated, but I didn’t say it loudly enough for anyone else to appreciate my comment.] The correct answer [according to her] is that the stone gets more expensive! Suddenly supply can’t meet the demand, and the stone gets more expensive so there’s two pieces to this: 1. Buy now while it’s CHEAP 2. After you’ve bought it, it will become more valuable :)! She then went on to inform us that buying 1 karat of Tanzanite in the United States would cost around $1300-$1600. Now they have a GREAT deal going on right now where you can buy a bracelet with five little tanzanite stones in it for only $99, all of those stones add up to .87 karats or something like that (it was just under 1 karat). Wow! You’re thinking to yourself, almost a full karat for ninety nine dollars and in the US it would be $1300? What a deal! And to top it all off, they’d add on another choker thing with a .25/.35 karat [Don’t remember the exact number] tanzanite stone for FREE. So now you’re getting 1.3ish karats of Tanzanite for only $99. 

At this point I called bullshit and leaned over to my dad whose iPad still had AT&T connectivity (bless the Virgin Islands being considered domestic) and asked him to google the price of Tanzanite. A minute later he returned the answer I’d been expecting: 1-2 karats of tanzanite would cost $100 – $250, 3 karats or larger would go for $600-$900. A far cry from the $1300 she was telling us. And this of course is assuming that it is one whole stone of that many karats. With the stones broken up into little .18 karat chunks, they’re certainly not worth anywhere near $99 meaning that the nice little tanzanite bracelet they’re selling for $99 is probably exactly what it’s worth or slightly over priced but it’s certainly not a great deal in terms of savings.

She then moved on to watches. She, apparently, is a great lover of watches and has her eye on a $10,000 Breitling watch. [Ridiculous.] BUT if she were to buy that in the US it would cost her EVEN MORE because of the exchange rate, she’d be paying something like 11,500 Canadian Dollars! Now if she took a cruise to the Caribbean and used her sweet discounts through Celebrity she might be able to get that watch for only $8,500, now she’s saving $3,000! [This is not how exchange rates work, but that’s not even where I’m going with this paragraph.] So then she tells us that she has lots of cruisers who come onto these cruises specifically so they can go shopping and save a ton of money. And with the deep discount on that Breitling watch? FREE CRUISE! [Because the $3,000 should would have spent on the watch, she spent on the cruise, but either way she was going to spend the 11,500? This is terrible advice on how to save money!]

[Okay, okay, one more story.] So then we move onto to my dad’s least favorite part of the presentation. She opens up a slide with a bunch of stones on it and introduces to us the concept of “loose stones.” These are stones that have not been cut and hold their value well, e.g. If you buy a loose stone for ten thousand dollars, you’ll be able to sell it back again for ten thousand dollars. What a great way to save your money AND invest it! Because, as she told us, the value of these stones will only go UP! [At this point, my lawyer dad softly exclaimed “That’s illegal!” And later explained that offering investment advice in this manner and conveying that something’s value will only go up, is quite illegal and a different cruise line was sued a few years ago for pulling this exact trick and they lost badly. I told my dad it sounded like he needed to invest in loose stones and he’d have a court case on his hands in a few years.] She continued explaining the value of storing your cash in loose stones by reminding all of us that when you move to a new country, or heck, even visit it, you can’t bring more than ten thousand dollars cash with you. There’s a strict limit imposed upon you. But is there a limit on loose stones? Nope! So imagine that! Now you can circumvent international law while traveling AND invest in a product whose value will only go up. [/sarcasm]

Mixed in with these terrible pieces of advice that were clearly meant for folks who intended to visit only the shopping mall located off the pier at St. John’s were things like “Oh and by the way, there’s a great beach twelve minutes outside of town with full resort amenities. So after you’re done shopping, you can go up there and relax on the beach” [I noted the beach on my map and added “cruisers all get sent here” as a reminder to avoid that beach.] or “Cricket may be the national sport of Antigua but it’s basketball that they really love! You’ll find them selling plenty of basketball jerseys and outfits all over the mall.” Having spent the day in Antigua, and driving around the place I can assure you that the obsession with basketball doesn’t leave the shopping mall. We saw the national Cricket stadium (which was huge) and many soccer fields, but no obsession with basketball. She even let us know that the national dish was called Fungi (but it’s not actually mushrooms!) and we should all try it, it won’t hurt our palettes, there’s not a lot to it, but it’s definitely worth trying [aka it’s bland]. 

We left the presentation and I told my parents that I was worried that they were enjoying Celebrity too much so I wanted to make sure we were reminded of all the scams that are abound on a cruise ship. Princess had them at every turn, and apparently Celebrity does too.

And all I wanted was a thirty minute educational talk on the history and highlights of Antigua. Suddenly we all missed the port of call lecture on the Crown Princess that had had my dad falling asleep in his seat.

Finally released from the presentation, we met back up with Aaron and headed to dinner where he asked us how the port of call lecture was. And when we told him it was worse than Princess he paled a little, unable to imagine what might have been worse than Princess, and then we re-lived the entire spectacle for him with more detail and with even more horror stories than I have related thus far. The food at dinner was once again excellent.

We were all exhausted and after dinner my mom and Aaron headed back to the rooms to try to fall asleep early while Dad and I braved the onboard entertainment musical spectacular named “Life.” I had heard horror stories about these shows from the Crown Princess so I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Life,” but I was a little optimistic. We grabbed seats in the theater and watched as the singers and dancers made their way through musical number after number singing and dancing all the best hits from 2009-2014. I knew every song but one, my dad only knew one song. The singing and dancing, to me, was generally pretty good, but I was most impressed by the cheerleader and her base who was throwing her up in the air while she did flips, and balanced handstands on the palm of his hands. They completed feats of strength that I could only imagine. From there the show graduated to one of the male dancers grabbing a rope and doing aerial acrobatics, flying around stage, spinning around in midair, and doing a plank off of just the rope. I couldn’t even imagine the amount of strength needed to do such tricks. The final aerial spectacle was our cheerleader returning but this time in aerial silks, flying around the sky with just two pieces of fabric twisted around her. I had my breath held for a good majority of each of the songs that accompanied those acts. 

At the end of it all I wanted to turn around and watch it again just to see all of those cool aerial moves again, but unfortunately that was the last showing of “Life” so I wouldn’t even be able to drag Aaron or my mom back to see it with me.

Back in the room, I fell asleep, hoping to get a few more hours of rest before another early morning.

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