Thursday, December 06, 2007
LIVE from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas:
This morning i got an email from a friend of mine who cruises often and who contributes and reads the wonderful Cruise Critic Message boards. It took me a while to find what she described to me, but it was worth it. It was such a wonderful post that i thought i would share it with you. If you want to read more about "BuyREALLYLow"'s adventures live from Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas then you can goto http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=668621.
Anyway, i decided to reprint the Antigua part of his cruise report as here as many of our readers may not goto Cruise Critic. "BuyREALLYLow" writes in great detail all about his trip before he leaves his home and all the way down into St. Lucia aboard the cruise. Below, is his description of his Antigua day.
St. Johns, Antiqua – December 4, 2007
Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the journey take the whole long day?
For morn to night, my friend. - Christina Roseetti, 1867
In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred. We will travel halfway around the world and endure great sacrifice and pain to enter the sanctuary, whether it is a temple, shrine, cemetery, library or Sea.
This is the way that is no way, but a practice.
”It’s not so much what you do,” wrote Epictetus in his study of happiness, “it is how you do it.”
Your practice is your path.
If so, “The Way is uncontrived,” as Lao Tzu said.
It is simply the way of seeing, the way of hearing, the way of touching, the way of walking, the way of being, with humility.
Oh, did we hear, touch, walk, and be today! What a wonderful day! What a fantastic day! What a….. words are superfluous – they do not do justice to what we experienced today! But before the main course, one must have appetizers….. Mornings on cruise ships are glorious.
When should I get up? Whenever you want to.
What should I eat? What you want to. Feel sluggish? Work out. Sore? Soak. I have commented before on how much my wife and I love mornings. We like to take our breakfast in three stages. First, we like to be waked by the call alerting us that our room service breakfast of coffee, juice, cereal and rolls will be delivered. After dining leisurely, my wife begins to prepare for the day. While she does so, I trot over to the Concierge Lounge to grab a bit of fruit and a Latte or Cappuccino. I then do my work online, and then check back in with my wife. IF all is going well, we then will head to the windjammer or the main dining room for some eggs, (maybe an Omelet), a bit of turkey sausage, and sometimes a treat. THEN (and only then), we officially “start” our day. JDid I mention what a day? We signed up for Eli’s Eco Tour for a day of sun, snorkeling, hiking, and quite a bit fascinating knowledge. Eli’s tour gets great press on many a website and chat rooms. I am here to proclaim that is all deserved. Your day begins just a few feet from the boat at Adventure Antiqua, where you board Eli’s Catamaran. They own two of them, a 42 foot and a 52 foot. Today we were on the 52 footer. Departure time is 9:50 AM (Atlantic) The Cat is brought past the ships in port (great photo op) and out to the north side of the island. Along the way, they stop and point out the various hotels, buildings, history and animals of the area. Our team today consisted of Captain Tony and First Mates Wan Lovv and Ross. Wan Lovv looks like a Bob Marley disciple, and is always quick with a smile and a hand. Ross is from Antiqua, has lived in England for some time, and has now moved back to his home. All three were wonderful, helpful, and quick to the task. This first leg of the day takes you approximately 2 hours. At a bit before noon, Captain Tony pulls into a secluded bay on Bird Island. Here, Sea Turtles are plentiful – no less than 5 were viewed while we slowly pull into shore. Passengers are encouraged to disembark and are led on a nature walk by Wan Lovv. It is obvious that Wan Lovv loves his island and loves people and the environment – possibly not in that order. He points out countless plants and animals in our 15 minute climb to the top of Bird Island. Once there, we are able to look out over a large number of small islands just off shore from Antiqua. It makes for beautiful pictures. When ready, we clamber back down. Here we have 20 or so minutes to swim in the bay if one wishes to cool off. The bay is not a good snorkeling spot, as it is full of seaweed (good for the turtles), so it is more of a “get your feet wet” for the swimming/snorkeling that is to come. But if you are a beginner snorkeler, Captain Tony is happy to provide lessons.Now lunch is served. Lunch consists of a pasta salad, a lettuce salad, grilled BBQ chicken, grilled plantations, beverages (cola, soft drinks), and banana bread for desert. It was fantastic!! Fruit drinks and water are served throughout the day. Lunch is devoured by all – it was finger licking good! While the final banana bread is being served, Captain Tony fires up the cat to head towards our next stop – Hell’s Gate.Hell’s gate is a very small island that has two distinctive features. One is a natural bridge that spans a third of the island. Second is a sea cave that leads into the center of the remaining part of the island, exposing a natural blowhole that looks like a whirlpool. Water enters from the Atlantic Side, and then is pulled forcibly out into the Caribbean side. The process is reversed when the tide is going out. The Cat is pulled approximately 30 yards off the shore and then everyone interested proceeds to swim the 30 yards in approximately 20 feet of water to the Sea Arch. Once there, the swells are strong – make sure to keep your wide apart. The rocks are limestone and coral here and very sharp – so make sure you have good sandals or aqua socks with thicker soles. After examining the underside of the arch, you are told to climb the wall on one side to the top of the island. It is a bit of a strenuous climb if you are not athletic or not in good shape. It is not a long climb – maybe 35 feet – but one must use handholds on the coral, which are sharp. So use care here. One is rewarded with more wonderful views, including the ability to walk across the arch for wonderful pictures from below. An important point – if you want your Camera on this island, it will need to be waterproof. There is no way to keep your camera dry on the swim to the island. Once on top, you take a very short walk to climb back down into a cave. The walk in the cave is maybe 40 yards – at a couple of points you will need to duck down to have your rear almost touching the ground (at least this 6 ft 4 in guy did). You are rewarded by coming to the whirlpool. Algae of different colors has grown in this sheltered area making for a beautiful scene. Another quick mountain climb follows to leave the cave. Tough handgrips and footholds again for the less athletic. The group had a few who were very helpful here and helped those less athletic. Only one lady scraped her knee. Once on top, you walk a short way back to the arch, where you clamber down the side wall about 40 feet back into the surf beneath the arch. This was probably the most difficult part for most – but I found it wonderful!! My wife is not much of a swimmer, so she decided to stay on the Cat and was camera lady – she took numerous pictures with others cameras while they were on top of the arch. We then swam back to the boat and got situated to head to our next stop – snorkeling. A side note. It is amazing some times at how certain situations can bring out different things in different people. I believe that 99% of people are good, kind, and caring. People can not be fully aware of how their actions can affect others around them, but for the most part these types of groups take on a family picnic feel – everyone joining together for the journey. There was a group of four (2 couples)on this trip that were bound and determined to snorkel at every opportunity. This was not a problem. Opportunities for snorkeling presented themselves constantly. The husband of one of the couples has prescription sunglasses. When he jumped into the 15-20 foot water near the arch, he somehow forgot to take his glasses off. They of course fell off and went to the bottom. He was embarrassed that he was so “stupid” (his words) and said no big deal. His wife, however, was less pleasant. She began to yell at the staff, saying how important those glasses are and he could not see without them. The husband kept saying no big deal – the wife did not see it that way. Ross and Won Lovv began to attempt to dive to the bottom to see if they could locate the glasses. The wife kept railing on the the staff. Won Lovv did a fantastic job of talking to her to settle her down – finally in a friendly way telling her to go the island and “chill out – your on vacation beautiful lady”. J. Which she did. Amazingly enough, Ross was able to find the glasses after about 20 minutes of very strenuous work. It is just another example of what an excellent job the staff did on this day.Captain Tony fired the boat up again and moved us off shore about 400 yards to an area of active coral for snorkeling. The bottom was a bit churned up and the water a bit cloudy, but for most it was a fantastic experience. The area was filled with small quarter sized Jelly Fish. No stinging – at worst they tickled or itched. But in places they were thick, and it felt like you were swimming through clear mucus. It added an “interesting” experience for some. But nothing too startling for most. We did this for the better part of 45 minutes. It was now bit after 3 PM, and the crew got the cat headed back to port. We were able to see the same scenery on the way back, but the sun was lower in the sky, providing better light for picture taking. We were back in port by 4 PM, allowing one last hour of shopping in port before making it back to the ship before the 5 PM departure. All the shops in Antiqua were right by the ship, so this was no problem.All of this for $90 per person. A fantastic value in my book. It was a glorious day, well deserving of all the accolades it has received. It comes with our highest recommendation!
Once back on board, we were exhausted from our days journies and had enough sun that we simply relaxed in our cabin until meeting in the Concierge Lounge for drinks at 7 PM. We only had an hour to discuss our day – it was TV Tune Trivia in the Schooner Bar at 8 PM. It was a tough crowd tonight – One group got all the answers correct – we got one wrong (a three way tie for 2nd). The prize were small picture books – a nice gift. Then it was off to dinner. BTW, the 2nd place team from Toronto on night one was named Ennio & Christine.Tonight is Caribbean Night, highlighted by the breaded Tilapia. My wife had a Shrimp and Crab Salad, Grilled Chicken off the alternative menu, and then the BBB for Desert (Bailey’s Banana Brule’). I had the Chicken Soup, a salad, the Shoulder Beef and the Tilapia. For desert I had the BBB and the TriCocolate Medley. Ummmm. Yummy!! The waiter staff did a special dance for everyone tonight, finished by making all rise and do the Macrena. Yikes!! JOur after dinner consisted of losing our daily allotment in the Casino, then consoling ourselves in the Champaign Bar before turning in around midnight. We were tired from our day in the air and water. As we fell into slumber, we could hear the sounds of the dance under the stars dance around the pool. The Latino beat did not disturb – it soothed.Some daily details:- Showtime Spotlight was the Comedy of Rick Starr- Win-a-Cruise Bingo – One game only (9:45 p.m.)- The Love and Marriage Game Show was tonight at 10:30. It’s always funny – but we’ve been there-done that.- The already mentioned Dancing Under the Stars Party was tonight at 11:30- The Drink of the Day was “Green Tea”- The Wine Tasting Seminar was at 3 PM.- The Belly Flop Competition was at 4:30 PMOff to bed – tomorrow promises to be another busy day – a tour with Cosol in St. Lucia.
Explorer of the Seas - 03/02Serenade of the Seas - 03/05Radiance of the Seas - 01/06Adventure of the Seas - 12/06Freedom of the Seas - 02/07 Serenade of the Seas - 12/07