And so it began: sand, sea and a lot of pampering. Happy folks were all around me. I was a person in great need of rest and relaxation! Follow along with me as I set sail into the Caribbean waters for seven days of bliss, making a new and lasting memory that will be with me for years to come. Three pounds of memory, to be exact.
Departing from the Port of Miami we stood by the outer rail of the upper deck watching the land retreat farther and farther away and anticipating our first port of call: Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Our first beach day was at hand. Approaching the clear, turquoise waters and white sand of the island I realized I was a long way from home.
Day 1 moved forward at a snail’s pace as we lazed around the beach getting our first sunburn in years. At the end of the day we headed back to the ship for dinner. Our thoughts turned to day 2, which was to be spent at sea. The itinerary permitted both time to investigate the ports and time to enjoy the ship at sea. This proved to be just the right balance. I used the day to work on my tan at the pool, topside, and to eat, of course. I realized I was already learning the lingo: forward, aft, topside, below deck, starboard, port…life boats!
Day 3 arrived and we came ashore at St. Thomas, V.I., the mountain island where cars are driven on the left side of the road, yet the vehicles are American, having the steering wheels also on the left side! I was very confused and disoriented by this as our driver shuttled us across the island, uphill and down, to the famous Magen’s Bay. More white sandy beach. More turquoise water. More long, lazy hours staring out at the ocean. More sunburn.
Suddenly, the sun left and the sky was dark. A loud cloudburst broke the tranquility and a rainstorm began. We dashed for the nearest cover. Isn’t that just the silliest thing? I thought. We were at the beach and in our bathing suits. Why did we need to escape the rain? I laughed at our ridiculous land habits!
Up the mountain and down again (on the wrong side of the road I kept thinking), our driver delivered us safely to a shopping area near the St. Thomas port. Soon it was time to return to the ship and look ahead to Day 4: San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I had heard many good things about San Juan from friends who had visited. I was not disappointed! From the Old City to the New City and the massive forts jutting out into the sea guarding the shore from invading ships, the history surrounded us everywhere. The island terrain rose in gentle slopes in all directions adding to the beauty and charm. Sparkling blue waters surrounded us. On one side is the open sea of the Atlantic Ocean. On the other, the protected waters of the Caribbean Sea. Inspiring.
We were reminded by a tour operator that if we wanted to move to San Juan, all we would need as U.S. citizens is our passport. How easy it is to forget that this beautiful Caribbean island is a U.S. territory!
Lest the day be without fault, a drenching deluge of rain suddenly came upon us while we were walking the shops. Ah, the daily coastal storms that feed the rain forests.
Since the streets are uphill from the coastline, the rain easily runs down the hill and into the sea. Unfortunately, we had to walk in the same direction to get back to the ship! The water was 1 foot deep in places and swirling. I thought about those caught in topical storms and hurricanes. Fortunately for us, the rain lasted about a half hour and drained into the sea in about the same amount of time. No particular hardship. Although my friend’s tennis shoes were utterly soaked! What a fascinating city! And I admit, I considered moving to San Juan.
I suppose any place is better than home sometimes, especially when it is an exotic location. Whenever I travel I find myself considering what it would be like to live there. When I lived in Alaska I often encountered visitors asking about just such a thing. I was always honest. I would tell them, “it is very cold and the winters are long and dark. But the money is very good!”
Day 5 was fast approaching now. It was to be our final port of call, at Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Interestingly, it would be the finest beach of them all!
Like Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk owes its financial well-being to the cruise ships. The cruise lines have a financial investment in the port offerings, as well. The shopping reflected this affiliation as shop after shop lay before us filled with every imaginable souvenir. Even so, I was impressed with the fact that John Glenn and the Friendship 7 Capsule landed just off the island’s coast in 1962. A wonderful exhibition is at Grand Turk in honor of the Mercury space program. We really enjoyed this and were tempted to purchase the famous souvenir T-shirt!
The slope of the beach into the water was quite precarious and rocky. We had heard that the snorkeling here was of superior quality. Clearly, there were rock formations under the water to investigate. I am not a snorkeler, though. To simply walk in and cool off, however, was slippery and even a bit dangerous. Swimming was manageable, but only using great caution. There was a deep drop-off after only a short way into the water, too.
The sandy beach, on the other hand, stretched on for a mile or so and was thickly lined with coconut palm trees. Lawn chairs were placed under the trees and beckoned us to relax. The shade of the trees offered protection from the sun and a bit of tanning, too, as the sun moved in and around the leaves. A sparsely populated island, quiet surroundings, clear waters and another lazy day—all in the same place. Perhaps I could get a job in the shops and live here, too! The mysteries of the rocky shoreline and the lush accommodation of palms and chairs led me to the decision that Grand Turk is the finest beach I have encountered so far.
By the time I got home I had a beautiful dark tan. After the white glow of my Alaskan skin, the week’s tan ranks as a testimony to the quality of the beaches and effectiveness of sunscreen lotions! The tan came surprisingly fast!
Day 6 gave us time at sea to prepare for our return to “normal” life…or stow-away, as I considered. Of all the places I had visited I couldn’t decide which one I would rather live at, so I ceased pondering it and began packing! For the first time in a very long time I had actually relaxed. I did not have to hurry to be anywhere. I did not have to cook or clean or even bathe if I didn’t want to! I was being pampered in every way.
Every day, and all day long, our cabin steward prepared our rooms, insuring everything was always clean and spotless. At the end of the day he would leave us a creative towel animal. They were so cute I had to save them all week. Now I have this photo to remember the “team” of crew that made my sailing so special. Thank you, team!
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I purposely emboldened the various highlights of my cruise in the paragraphs above. Perhaps you would like to reread this a bit and take note of these. It is most peculiar the things that we remember.