Sunday, June 20, 2010


On the third day of our cruise, we hit the island paradise of Barbados. Of all the islands on our itinerary, Barbados was the one I had actually heard of. I've always pictured it as an island oasis for the wealthy and envisioned smooth white beaches and blue water. And guess what? I was right! But there's also a whole lot more going on there, as we discovered on our little tour.

Barbados was the one day where we didn't have anything planned. We didn't book any excursions, just figured we would wander off the boat, find our way to the beach, and have some fun. As exited the port, we saw a sign for a tour of the island that cost $20 and would end at the beach and we figured, why not? We piled in a 10 seater van with some fellow cruisers and set off.

The tour ended up not being as exciting as I had hoped, although I did pick up a few tidbits. For example, Barbados, unlike our previous stop of Dominica, is not a volcanic island but instead made up coral. So all the rocks? Little bits of coral. Also, for $25,000 a night you can get a suite at the ritzy hotel on the island. Yeah, $25, 000. YIKES.

We also saw St. James Church, which was the first church on the island. It was built by the English and stunning inside. The whole things looked to be made out of coral and wood and just seemed to glow.

We also drove through the first village founded by freed slaves on the island and got a gander at the Freedom Memorial. Very moving. Not that long ago, the entire island was covered with sugarcane and men and women performed the most backbreaking, difficult, dangerous work you can imagine: harvesting the sugarcane and turning it into rum.

Then we drove around the island up to a scenic overlook where you could see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and then turn around and see all the way to Caribbean Sea. I was surprised by how much the landscape actually reminded my of England; green rolling hills, lots of trees, and of yeah, the occasional group of King Palms. They don't really have those in England, I suppose. At the scenic overlook there was also a monkey, but it made me sad how gross all the tourists were around it. Throwing things at it and basically taunting it. People really suck sometimes, you know?
People who don't suck? Us. We respect the monkey.

But things got better. After a quick and pointless stop at a mahogany craftsman (???), we hit the beach at Carlyle Bay. This was probably the most gorgeous beach I have ever been had the softest smoothest white sand and the water was so blue. I swam further out in the ocean than I ever have before (almost to the buoys) since you could see the bottom and it was just a smooth sandy ocean floor. Also, the water was unbelievably warm. I've never actually "swum" in the ocean before, it's always cold, and pebbly, and gross, and I am kind of scared of jellyfish--so I usually just go in up to my knees or so. But here it was just so easy and relaxing.

And I didn't get sunburned. Reapplication every 45 minutes, people!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Our second day of the cruise, we set off for the volcanic island of Dominica. Our excursion this day was a two-fer. We would start off by traveling to a rainforest and seeing the Emerald Pool, a waterfall and natural pool. Then we were heading over to a volcanic (black sand) beach, which has definitely been on my list of things to do for a long time.

We met up with our tour right outside the the port and rolled our eyes at some very obnoxious very southern people speaking very loudly and yelling at each other. Chris said, "thank goodness they're not on our tour," and of course two seconds later they climbed aboard our van and were on our tour. Swell. So despite their clearly right-wing belief system ("oh, you went to school in Virginia? My son applied to Liberty!") they were very nice people once we got to know them. Also, we ended up spending the rest of the trip making fun of they way they talked by saying things like, "oh my word!" at every opportunity, but it was all in good fun.

Chris, me, and Patrick at a photo spot above the capital city of Dominica, Roseau. That's our ship, the Carnival Victory, in the background.

The rainforest on the island was very cool. It was very primordial and spawned lots of Jurassic Park quotes from me and Patrick since it had that kind of feel to it. Huge trees, ferns, and other deep green plants everywhere. We first spied the waterfall from above and then hiked down to the actual pool. Chris and Patrick went into the water, but I didn't want to sit around in my wet bathing suit while we drove to the beach, so I declined. But I did clamber over the rocks and climb around the back of the waterfall to get some neat pics.

After we hiked back out of the rainforest (in a rain shower, no less) we loaded back into the van and headed to the beach. Driving through the island was interesting. It's beautiful and colorful, but there is a lot of poverty. It's actually not as bad as I was expecting, no shanty towns or the like, but it is definitely striking. And the juxtaposition of being on this fabulous vacation against the poverty was not lost on me. But I assuage my guilt by knowing that I am there putting money into the economy and maybe helping that way? Anyway, these are the kind of things that you can't help but think about.

We got to the volcanic beach and trust me, it was very cool. There was a little snack bar where you could get drinks (such as rum punch!) and we got beach chairs and umbrellas. There was also this guitar playing/singing guy who serenaded us with reggae versions of classic songs while we relaxed. The only downsides of the volcanic beach were 1) the sand got REALLY hot, and 2) there was a strip of rocks that you had to get past to get the nice sandy ocean-bottom. But nothing's ever easy right and once you got to the nice warm water, it was all worth it.

White foot, black sand.

After several hours, it was back on the van for the trip back. Patrick and I started singing (as is our way) and we caught the ears of the Southerners in the van. Eventually we got everyone singing along to some Motown favorites, and the Southerners promised to stop by the karaoke lounge to catch our act (more on that later). It was just kind of cool how we started out not really knowing or wanting to know the people on the tour, but by the end we are all buddies.

Coming up next time: Barbados!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ahoy, Matey!

I know what you're thinking. "Where has Maggie been? I miss her witty comments regarding the every day minutiae of her life!"

Well, the answer, gentle readers, is that I have been on vacation. Yes, once again I have set sail for lands unknown (at least to me) and went on another cruise. This time I hit the Eastern Caribbean, and I thought I could take you through the trip bit by bit, sharing all the delightful tales of my adventures.

The cruise (aboard the Carnival Victory) left out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was my first time in PR, but we really didn't get a chance to do a lot of sight-seeing for a couple reasons. 1) It was really hot there. And it is NOT a dry heat. It's even more humid than it is here in DC, believe it or not. 2) We were all pretty exhausted. First from having traveled down to PR, and after our arrival back in San Juan, from all the fun we had on the ship. So unfortunately my impressions of San Juan are limited to a bit of walking around Old Town San Juan (kind of like Old Town Alexandria but Spanish influenced rather than English) and what I could see out of the hotel window.

Our cruise was a 7 day trip through the "exotic Eastern Caribbean" and included a new island every day, which got to be a bit overwhelming. We didn't actually push off from San Juan until 10pm the first night, so we treated it as a day at sea, running around and getting acquainted with the ship, which not surprisingly, had an identical layout to the ship from my last cruise. Thanks, Carnival, for preventing me from getting hopelessly lost at sea. Get it?

And guess what the very first thing we did on the ship was?

Mai Tais!

Our first stop the very next day was at St. Thomas. We didn't actually spend time on the island though, since we had all signed up for a snorkeling excursion. It was my first time snorkeling and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I've never been before, and I was convinced I would somehow screw it up. I mean, I can barely walk across my living room without crashing into something. How was I going to fare in the ocean? Luckily for me, turns out snorkeling is basically idiot-proof. I didn't even have a problem with my mask fogging. And it was fascinating being able to actually see all the life that teems right below the surface of the sea. You can see it in pictures and on television all you want, but actually seeing it, right there only a few feet away, is actually really amazing.

Me and Kent post-snorkel. You can see the mask marks on our faces if you look close.

Up next: the volcanic island of Dominica (pronounced like a girl's name ("Dominique-a")).