Upon arriving in San Juan for another beautiful, albeit cloudy, evening, my friends and I walked to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a large fort built to defend San Juan’s harbor. It was built by Spain over a span of … Continue reading
Category Archives: Puerto RIco
Exploring in the Evening
We have an evening port time in San Juan, meaning we don’t arrive until 4pm. The first time we stopped there, we were still in install. We didn’t have a lot of time, so I just got off with a few friends to find wifi, and then met up with our installers and some other cast members and for dinner. We went to Café Berlin, a nice restaurant near the main square in Old San Juan. I had a glass (or two) or sangria and a scallop risotto before returning to the ship.
Two weeks later, we returned to San Juan, anxious to do some exploring. The port is in Old San Juan, so we were able to walk straight off the ship into some excitement. We wove our way down some small streets with no real destination in mind. We stopped briefly at a Coach outlet so one of the girls could get a gift for her mom, and then continued walking.
Our next stop was outside a cathedral. There was a small park across the street, so we paused to take a few pictures. Looking down a slight hill, we saw that we were close to the water. We walked towards it, hoping to catch a good view of the sunset. We arrived at the old city walls, where we enjoyed the beautiful pinks and blues of the evening sky.
As much as I was enjoying myself, I was starting to get hungry. We had planned to meet a few other cast members at Barrachina, the birthplace of the pina colada, for dinner. Upon arriving there, we learned that there was an hour and a half wait time. We ordered pina coladas to go, and hit the street to find another restaurant. The pina colada was great, but I didn’t savor it much, as I was too focused on finding food!
We ended up at a pretty little restaurant that we had passed earlier. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name. I ordered seafood paella, and spent the meal laughing with my friends. We had a great night out!
San Juan is quickly climbing the ranks on my list of favorite cities. I am looking forward to more evenings there over the next few months!
Pampered in Paradise, Part 2
Although I was staying on for a second week, I had to get off the ship for at least an hour in Puerto Rico. I disembarked around 10:00, after seeing my man at breakfast, and went to Plaza Las Americas. Luckily, I was able to leave my luggage on board, so I was traveling light at the mall.
Crew wasn’t granted shore leave until about noon, so I had some time to kill before my guy arrived. I caught up on the emails I had ignored all week, and then got a manicure. My basic Spanish and the manicurist’s non-existent English made for an interesting experience. A big, burly man getting his nails done at the next table stepped in a few times to help translate.
I finished just after my boy showed up. We found a café, grabbed a nice cup of coffee, then wandered the mall for a few minutes. We saw a few friends from the ship, but enjoyed having time just the two of us. For lunch, we went to the Cheesecake Factory at his request. He had never been, but had heard a lot about it. Although we both ordered lunch portions, we were unable to finish our meals. We shared a delicious piece of caramel cheesecake, and then had to hurry back to the ship.
Our next port was St. Thomas. It was pouring rain when we stepped foot on land, but we decided to stick with our original plan and go to the beach anyways. Having heard good things about Magen’s Bay, we suffered through a rollercoaster-like cab ride to get there. The rain had stopped by the time we arrived, so we were able to comfortably stroll down the beach in search of a place to sit. We set down our things and waded into the water just as the sun was breaking through the clouds. I was amused to see pelicans swimming nearby, and spent much of our time on the beach watching the birds clumsily dive into the water. Despite their awkwardness, they were very successful fishermen! I was teased for my fascination with the pelicans, but we both spent the afternoon laughing at them (and each other).
The next day, we were both pretty worn out. Instead of walking to an infinity pool, we just went to a bar next to the port. We saw some friends, drank a few beers, and chatted about a variety of topics. In the two weeks I was cruising, we never ran out of things to say! Before we went back to the ship, we stopped to take pictures with some monkeys. They crawled all over us, and for every good photo, we have about 5 disheveled ones. In about 5 minutes, we got over 30 photos. It was silly and overpriced, but made us both smile.
The following day we went to Eagle Beach in Aruba. Although my guy is afraid of heights, I convinced him to go parasailing with me. We took a little boat over to Palm Beach, where we climbed into a different boat. 5 minutes later, we were harnessed up and floating towards the sky. We could see the entire island of Aruba, including our ship on the other side, and a wide expansive of sapphire blue sea. We were able to hold hands, and as long as he didn’t look straight down, he had a great time. As we were being pulled back in, we were dipped in the water. It was freezing, but we were both laughing as we were pulled the rest of the way in. When we returned to the beach, some of our friends from the Guest Services team joined us. We swam, sunbathed, and rode a city bus back to the ship. Despite multiple applications of sunscreen, we ended the day looking like a pair of lobsters.
Our last port was Curacao. We took a cab to Mambo Beach (also known as Seaquarium Beach) and shelled out a hefty sum for shaded lounge chairs at the quiet Lions Dive & Beach Resort. We had a beer and took a quick swim, but after excess amounts of sun the day before, we didn’t last long at the beach! We taxied back to the ship, and then walked into the town. None of the restaurants were speaking to me, so we returned to the ship. I grabbed a few sandwiches from Café Promenade while my boy got cleaned up for work, and we spent his last hour off relaxing and snacking in my cabin.
I had one final sea day before returning home. I grudgingly packed my suitcase, and spent the afternoon by the pool. We made the most of my last night on board. As soon as he finished work, we went to the Schooner Bar and Jesters, the nightclub, for a couple drinks. The next morning, I went to see him at work as usual, and he walked me down to my waiting point. I managed to keep it together while I was on the ship, but started crying when I reached the airport. It was a wonderful two weeks, full of sunshine and laughter, and as much as I love my family, I didn’t want to go home!
Relationships, I’ve decided, are the hardest part of working on ships. You make special connections with people, but maintaining those connections are difficult. Most of the friends I’ve made during my contracts, I will likely not see again in person. My beau and I are trying to beat the odds, and he’s attempting to transfer to my next ship. Cross you fingers and toes for us!
Stay tuned for details about my weekend in Portland!
Pampered in Paradise
About two months into my contract, I started talking to a Serbian waiter. Despite my insistence that I would not get into another relationship, we became an item. He helped me through a lot of the rough times I faced during my contract, and was also a part of the best. He left for vacation about a month before I did, and came back one week after my contract ended. Anxious to see one another again, we made plans for me to visit him on the ship.
We made a deal. He would book me a room for 2 weeks if I got myself to San Juan. I found flights arriving Saturday night, so I could be well rested by the time I saw my Serbian at the ship on Sunday. There was a snowstorm coming to Dallas, and since DFW more or less shuts down during winter weather, I flew out a day early. That left me with a whole day to play in San Juan!
I checked into my hotel around 9pm, and went to bed early. I woke up the next morning in time to take advantage of the breakfast buffet, and then asked the front desk for a beach recommendation. I followed the concierge’s suggestion and went to El Escambron, a beautiful beach near Old San Juan. It was quiet, considering it was Saturday, and the sun was shining. Palm trees allowed for shade when needed, and the cool water, although it was rocky, gave relief from the heat. I spent my time resting, people watching, and breaking in the new sun hat my sister gave me for Christmas!
After a workout at the hotel fitness center, I took a cab to Old San Juan for dinner. Going off the driver’s recommendation, I went to Mojito’s for mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish. When I showed up looking for a table for one, I was encouraged to take a seat at the bar. Awkwardly enough, I was the only person sitting there. My dinner was decent, but not remarkable, and as soon as I was done, I went back to the hotel to get some sleep.
The next morning, I went down to the breakfast buffet, and then spent an embarrassing amount of time fixing my hair so I looked my best when I saw my boy. I checked out of my room, and then sat in the lobby with a book. I was hoping reading would calm my nerves while I anxiously awaited his arrival. Shortly after noon, he came to the hotel, and together we went to the cruise port. We were “that couple” in line, completely oblivious to our surroundings because we were so happy to be together. It was perfect.
After boarding the ship and greeting the familiar security team, I went to the Schooner Bar to wait until my cabin was ready. Another Serbian friend was working at the bar. I filled my waiting time catching up with him and meeting the other bartenders. I ended up spending a lot of time with them during my two weeks on board.
The first week, I was lucky enough to have a balcony cabin, so I was able to enjoy sunsets (and a sunrise) outside. I felt like a princess! I was able to eat in the dining room at any time, and could wear whatever I wanted. It was a completely different experience in a totally familiar place. My boy had to work dinner and breakfast shifts, but we had afternoons and after-work hours together. I would visit him at breakfast, and at dinner he would stop by my table to chat and make sure I was enjoying myself.
The first two port days we stayed on the ship, but in Antigua, we decided it was time to get out! We took a cab out to Turner’s Beach. It was a long drive, but the beach, with white sand, gorgeous blue water, and cows at a nearby farm, was worth the trek. While we were searching for a place to sit, and woman I had dined with the night before called my name. She and her husband were leaving, but had bought an umbrella for the day. They graciously let us take it over! My white skin was grateful for the shade! The boy and I drank a few beers, went swimming, and chatted the day away.
The next day we were in St. Maarten. As soon the breakfast shift was over, we walked downtown. Along the way, we ran into some of my ice skater and his engineer friends. When we got too hot, we stopped in a little restaurant for a quick, cold drink, then found some lounge chairs and an umbrella on the beach. I entertained the idea of renting jet skis, but was so content relaxing and talking with my guy, that we ran out of time! We got back to the ship with just enough time for him to shower and get to work.
The following day, we took a short cab ride to Rainbow Beach in St. Croix. There were lush trees separating the beach from the road, and while the beach wasn’t large, it was pleasant. We befriended a dog, shared a crazy rum cocktail, and enjoyed a cool swim in the ocean. Water sports were available, but we opted to just lounge on the sand. There was a restaurant, Rhythms at Rainbow Beach, with live music and a diverse menu. After splitting a curry chicken sandwich and crab cake sandwich, we started walking back to the ship. We walked primarily on the beach, carefully navigating our way over a few rocky patches, and moved to the road to go around a couple private beaches. Although it wasn’t the leisurely stroll in the sand that I was hoping for, it was a fun walk. My boy had to hurry to work, but I sat on my balcony, called home, and reflected on what a wonderful week it had been.
Details about week 2 coming soon!
Stranded in San Juan
The night before signing off the ship, I went to see the cast singers in Jazz Set for the last time. There were fewer guests in attendance than normal, but around 20 cast and crew-members showed up to support the singers. After hearing a fantastic set and enjoying my last cocktail in guest areas (a Washington Apple Martini), I changed clothes and went to the crew bar.
The cast and may of our other friends convened in the Staff and Officers Bar to watch the blooper reel… 5 minutes of mistakes on the stage, expertly but together by one of the guys in the cast. We then migrated downstairs to the main crew bar, and said our farewells, danced around, and sang at the top of our lungs. It was a great night, but considering we had cabin inspection at 5:45am, the party lasted a little too long!
I woke up at 5:00am to put myself together and do some last minute cleaning. By 6:00, I was waiting to go through immigration in Puerto Rico. We were loaded onto buses, one going to a hotel, the other going straight to the airport, and left the ship behind.
We arrived at the airport at about 8:00. I checked in my luggage, paying an obscene fee for a second, overweight bag. No one else was able to check in yet, so I waited outside security with my roommate and her boyfriend. When they were able to check in, we went through security and had one last drink together before I went to my gate. I was rushed onto the plane, and promptly fell asleep.
When I awoke, I was shocked to hear an announcement about landing. “Wow!” I thought, “I must have really been tired! I slept the whole flight!” Next, there was a video thanking us for flying American Airlines, and asking us to choose them again. The other passengers started laughing, but I was too disoriented to understand why. The next announcement cleared up the confusion. The head flight attendant came on the speaker, apologizing for returning to San Juan. The captain had noticed an “electrical smell”, so they decided to turn around and have the plane inspected, rather than risk flying for another 5 hours. As it turns out, I was only asleep for 30 minutes.
We disembarked the plane and were instructed to stay near the gate, in case there were any updates. Two hours later, they announced that the plane was being taken away from the gate for more tests, so I decided I had time to go find my friends. As I figured, they were still at Margaritaville. I walked up as my roommate and her boyfriend were saying goodbye. They were both shocked and confused at the sight of me! They told me where other cast members were eating, so I was able to go find some more friends. After communicating only with my phone for hours, it was nice to have some face-to-face contact.
I was getting antsy being far away from my gate, so I soon returned to see if there were any updates. I had missed nothing but a hand out of meal vouchers, but I still decided to stick around. I spent most of the next two hours talking with my Serbian beau. He was more disturbed by the situation than I was! After 4 hours at the airport and a series of inconclusive tests, we were loaded back onto the plane for a second attempt.
Once again, I fell asleep before takeoff, and once again, I awoke to an announcement about landing. This time, however, I was coherent enough to check my watch and saw that, again, we’d only been gone for 30 minutes. The head flight attendant came on the speaker and announced that we were returning to San Juan again, because the captain and some passengers had noticed the unusual electrical smell again. Once we were off the plane, other passengers said that they had actually noticed smoke coming from the cockpit. Whether or not this is true, I can’t say.
Passengers immediately started queuing at the ticket counter. Many of them had connecting flights, and had already been rescheduled 3 or 4 times throughout the day. I got in line, assuming we wouldn’t take off again that night. I called my parents, and learned that the computers were already showing that the flight would leave the following morning. 15 minutes later, that announcement was finally made, and we were instructed to see the ticket agents for hotel vouchers for the night. I got on Facebook while I was waiting and learned that my roommate and another friend from the ship were also delayed. I sent them a message with my gate number, and they waited in line with me for another 45 minutes.
All 3 of us were stressed and tired, so as soon as I got my hotel voucher, we went back to Margaritaville for a glass of wine. I waited with them until their plane boarded (7 hours late), and then went to the airport hotel. I was thinking the rest of the night would be easy, since the hotel was across from the American check in counter, but I was mistaken.
Upon arrival at the front desk, I was told that only 63 rooms had been booked, and they were already full. That was the last straw. After a long, stressful day, I finally lost my composure and started tearing up. The man working at the desk very kindly told me that the woman at the American counter could send me to a better hotel, so not to worry. I went to speak with her, was sent back to the hotel with a few more questions, and then was given alternate arrangements.
While she was making phone calls, I was told to sit and make myself comfortable. The only place for me to sit, however, was on one of the luggage scales! Probably because I was past the point of exhaustion, the scale was quite comfortable. About 10 minutes later, the woman handed me a voucher for the Marriott Courtyard 5 minutes away, a voucher for dinner and breakfast at the hotel, and 2 cab vouchers, one to take me to the hotel, and one to bring me back in the morning.
I went to the taxi stand, and again was forced to wait. Apparently, taxi drivers don’t like accepting vouchers because they don’t get paid right away. 3 cabs were filled before I finally was allowed in one. I had to wait for other guests going to the same hotel, so the driver would take me without complaint.
Once I got to the hotel, things got much better! I was given more coupons, two for the cocktail of the day, and one for the casino. Since I was so tired, I didn’t use any of them! I scheduled two wake up calls and inquired about the availability of cabs in the morning before I went upstairs to my room. The hotel was under renovation, and I could tell my room had recently been worked on. It was immaculate! I had two double beds, a large television and desk, a stark white bathtub, and a large bathroom. After speaking with my parents and my beau, I took a shower and crawled into bed.
At 5:00 the next morning, I woke, certain that the worst was over. There was a cab waiting for me when I went downstairs, and there was no line at the airport. I had left my luggage checked in the night before, since my flight number was still the same, so I breezed through check in and security. I was the second person to arrive at the gate for the 7:30am flight. Around 8:00, there was an announcement. The new plane that they’d flown in for us last night had mechanical issues, and they were waiting on a replacement part to arrive. There was no estimated departure time yet.
Rumors began circulating that it was actually the same plane that we’d already been on twice. I was not convinced by the conspiracy theories, but was not feeling comfortable with the prospect of another damaged plane. I called the crew travel hotline, and asked if they could put me on a different flight. The woman I spoke with was very nice, but she said since I was already checked in, they were unable to change my flights. I went to get some breakfast, and tried to be patient. I knew that I had no reason to get too worked up, since unlike most of the other passengers, I had nothing that I needed to get home for. There were many passengers missing school and work, so although I was frustrated, I comforted myself with the idea that it could be worse.
At 10:00, we finally boarded the plane. It was, in fact, a new plane, and this time, the flight was successful! At about 1:30pm, we landed in Dallas. Since I had gotten used to everything going wrong, I was surprised when my luggage showed up! My mom met me at the airport, and we stopped at one of my favorite restaurants on the way home. After the flight from hell, it felt great to be home!
Over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to get a letter from the airline apologizing for the whole ordeal. They also awarded me bonus points to go towards a future flight. While this gift doesn’t change the past, it was a nice gesture, and does restore some of my confidence in them. I’m looking forward to using those points later on my vacation! For now, however, I’m happy to be home.
Fun in the Sun
After 6 days at sea, I was dying to get off the ship! Our first port after the crossing was St. Maarten. My dance captain and her boyfriend had been there many times on previous contracts, so I went off with them, happy to have experienced tour guides. We stopped just outside the port for coconut smoothies (with rum) to enjoy while we walked into town.
We went to Honky Tonk, the “crew bar” of St. Maarten. After enjoying some massive burgers and a bit of wifi, we took buckets of Desperados to the beach. It was hot and sunny, and the water was nice and warm. There were two other ships in port with us, so we met a lot of crew members from the other ships. One of the guys I met was also from Texas. It turns out that he spent the past couple years teaching at one of the dance studios I trained at! It really is a small world. I also ran into one of my production managers from my first contract. It was great to catch up with him.
Once I got tired of sunbathing, I rented jet skis with a few friends. I haven’t been on a jet ski, so riding one alone was a little scary. After a few minutes, however, it was exhilarating! I loved feeling the wind as I rushed over the waves. It was a great way to kick of my three weeks in the Caribbean!
Our turnaround port during Caribbean season is San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our first day there, I went with my roommate to Old San Juan. We spent the day wandering through shops and bar hopping. I ate some delicious mahi tacos on a beautiful patio, and drank some fantastic white sangria.
In Barbados a couple days later, I went to another “crew bar” called Boatyard. They gave crew members a discounted cover price that included drinks, food, and a shuttle back to the ship. The beach on site offered plenty of diversions. There was a volleyball net, so I played a few games. I loved letting out my competitive spirit! There was also a water trampoline and a rope swing and diving platform at the end of the dock. It was such a fun day! I felt like a kid again.
Next we hit St. Lucia. I joined a dancer and a guy from the Casino to go the the beach at Pigeon Island. I was pleasantly surprised to find working wifi on the beach! We had lunch at a shack in the sand, then rented lounge chairs and an umbrella (this redhead needs her shade!). The boys also rented snorkeling masks. The views from the beach were stunning, with lush green mountains across the way. The beach was small, but the day was nice and relaxing.
In Antigua, my roommate, her boyfriend, and I went to Valley Church Beach. This beach had white sand and crystal blue waters. It was hands down the most beautiful beach I’ve seen so far! We had a few drinks and a bite to eat at a restaurant on the beach, then just relaxed in the sunshine. The water was cold but refreshing. I spent a good amount of time attempting to float, though I didn’t have much luck.
I got off alone in St. Croix, hoping to find wifi and enjoy a bit of rare alone time. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. As I was walking in the sand, it started to rain. I sought cover at a nearby restaurant, and ran into a couple friends. I ended up wandering over to another bar with them during a break in the rain. The owner of the bar was from Texas as well, and decorated the place with funny Texas bumper stickers. I chatted a bit with her about our home state, and met other guests that were visiting from San Antonio. Texas reunion in St. Croix… Why not?!
So far, my time in the Caribbean has been full of fun and sun. I have just 5 days until I go home. This had been a great place to end my Adventure!