dinsdag 25 april 2017

The English story of our cruise, part 5

Freeport, Bahamas  (23rd March). Excursion:  Beach and Cave

When we arrived in the Bahamas, I expected, that we would visit a very rich and beautiful Caribbean island. I think I was a little prejudiced and my knowledge about the island was not really up to date. On 6 October 2016 the island was hit by the terrible hurricane Matthew. http://www.thebahamasweekly.com

We saw a lot of broken palm trees and also houses without roofs, because the people did not yet have the opportunity or money to repair them.
Recovering nature after the hurricane
Our port of call was in an industrial area, with oil storage tanks, ship-repair yards (Damen from the Netherlands!) and a small shopping centre for tourists.

Cruise terminal Freeport (Bahamas)
The coach, that would bring us to our destination, has had its day. On the outside were iron plates, which covered corrosion spots and the inside was even worse. Some chairs were broken and not suitable to carry people any more and the electric wires of the lighting were visible everywhere and you could touch them.
When we all had found suitable chairs we left and our driver-guide told us about the island and the terrible hurricane.

The name of our excursion was Beach & Cave and it brought us to a mangrove area in the Lucayan National Park. We would visit this area and some caves. After this part we could spend some time on the beach or in the nature reserve area. 
Excursion route Bahamas 'Beach & Cave'
We visited the caves, but our guide skipped the route on the mangrove path, because the day before it was high tide there. We and some others took the path illegally and we fortunately did not get wet feet. The beach was beautiful, but there was only sand and sea.
Entrance Lucayan National Park
Mangrove path in Lucayan National Park 
Mangrove area Lucayan National Park
Beach Lucayan National park
The guide told us that we should stay an hour extra, because he had arranged a restaurant, but this was not part of the plan. Our excursion guide Lina of the Marco Polo arranged a taxi for the people who wanted to go back. When we walked through the mangrove area we saw a racoon, that was very photogenic.
Racoon Lucayan National Park
Back in the port, I found an internet connection and after that it was shopping time.
Later I read in a Bahamian journal on internet, that the Marco Polo, registered in the Bahamas (Nassau), visited Freeport for the first time in her 52 years and that our Captain Morais received people of the Ministry of Tourism. http://www.tourismtoday.com

Antonio Morais, Captain of the Marco Polo & Nuvolari Chotoosingh, Ministry of Tourism GBI
Refuelling before the journey to the Bermuda Triangle

That night we left for Bermuda. Our portholes were covered again, because we expected bad weather. We hoped that it would not be too bad and that we did not disappear in the Bermuda Triangle.

Sea days (24th -25th March).

On the 24th March Dr. Louise Bonner gave a lecture about the scientific  facts of the Bermuda disappearances and it was really interesting.  She argued that scientists claimed there was no prove, that more vessels were lost then elsewhere in the world. She did her own research and concluded, in comparison with other places with heavy traffic, there were more disappearances. This was not a reassuring thought,  because we were sailing in this area. 

Lecture about the Bermuda Triangle
King’s Wharf Bermuda (26th March) Excursion: Best of Bermuda Island drive

We did not vanish in the triangle and we arrived  in King's Wharf Bermuda safe.
We liked Bermuda, but it is a country of large contrasts. The island knows wealth as well as poverty and corruption.
Route excursion 'Best of Bermuda Island drive'
We did a tour round the island and our driver-guide was a brave, sturdy Afro American woman of 37 years old.
She was very honest about the political situation in her country. She had joined  the ‘Bras for a cause demonstration’ against restricted clinical guidelines for the mammogram breast cancer detection procedure. The women protested by hanging bras outside of the Cabinet building and did not remove them before the law change was off.
'Bras for a cause'
Her mother was the first HIV-victim of the island and she did not rest, before her mother and other poor people got their medicine paid for. HIV still makes a lot of victims in the Caribbean and she gives aids prevention lessons in the schools.
There is also a lot of drugs crime on the island and there are many youth gangs.
The costs of basic food are very high. The guide had  three jobs to be able to take good care for her children.
It is set out in the law, that ones house is clean and neat on the outside. The roofs have to be white  and well painted. If not, there is a heavy fine for this offence.
The island looks really beautiful and rich, but that is only for the few. The mother of movie star Michel Douglas has been born on this island and they both have had houses here. They gave much money to charity.
What struck us in the presentation of our guide was the number of churches.  After each sentence she spoke following: 'and now you can see the church at your right (left) side'. I did research on Internet and counted 91 churches on a surface of 53,2 km² (20.5 sq mi).
My pictures of the island create the image of a paradise, but this paradise is a bridge too far for many inhabitants.
The weather was beautiful, the guide very entertaining  and  despite the real stories, we have had a lovely day.
Coach with the brave driver-guide
Front street, Hamilton
Town hall Georgetown
Bermuda beach
Bermuda beach
Big Bermuda house
Small Bermuda house
One of the 51 churches
Jan in Kings Wharf Bermuda
Sea days (27th - 30th March)

The Bahamas were already on our way back. Instead of setting the clock backward, we had to set it forward now. That meant that we had shorter nights.
We had reached the point, that the passengers who did workshops, had to show their results.
On the 30th of March  the ukulele students gave a very nice concert. They even played a song with 6 different chords. Not bad for people who had never played this instrument before.
Ukulele concert in the Marco Polo Lounge
In the afternoon the Pastry Chef Neil Fernandes showed his capability. There was a chocolate buffet in the Waldorf restaurant. The products were astonishing beautiful. But it was not a nice sight to see some grabbing people with their overfull plates with chocolate and cakes.
Chocolate buffet
Chocolate buffet

Horta, Faial,Azores (31st  March)

Horta was our last port of call before Bristol. We came nearer to Britain and Europe and had left the Caribbean. We were treated with strong rain showers. 
Faial is a beautiful, volcanic island. We were there before and did not choose for an excursion this time. Finding Internet and not getting wet was the priority. 
Route walk in Horta
Horta, Faial, (Azores)
Dianne and Mieke, yacht club Horta
Sea days (1st  3rd April)

We had the opportunity to book the Chefs Dinner. The dinner was a real success.

Executive Chef Gopinathan Janaganathan and our table companions in the Columbus Lounge.
The galley
Dinner is ready
On the last day Celia, our art teacher, organised an exhibition on the ship of our best work. We were proud of what she taught us.
Mountain view by Jan

Altun Ha by Jan
Sunset by Mieke
Flowers by Mieke
Bristol-Avonmouth to Bussum, Netherlands (4th - 5th April)

We arrived at 14.30 hrs at Bristol Avonmouth. We have travelled 10023 nautical miles with the Marco Polo, 11534 miles or 18563 km. From and to our home town Bussum we count 12338 miles or 19858 kilometres.
The disembarking did not completely run as we hoped it would. Jan and I had to leave the ship in time, because we booked the ferry in Harwich for the same day. However, Roy, Dianne, Jan and I were planned for leaving the ship at 16.00 hrs because our cabins were situated on a lower deck. With a possible delay on the M25 near London, we would never be in time for the ferry.
So we proved to be a real team. We choose to disembark with the express disembarkation. That meant that we had to carry all our luggage, more than a dozen pieces, by ourselves. Once off the ship, you are not allowed to go back. So we worked with two teams. The first team checked out and took the luggage, which the second team handed over. The second team was not checked out yet. The security officer person at the checkout desk was a bit surprised, but he saw that there was no other option and allowed us to cross the line now and then.
When we had gathered all our stuff and had passed customs and the sniffer dogs, Jan went for our car at the long stay parking place. 
Next came the hardest moment of the cruise. We had to say goodbye.
After a sad parting, Dianne and Roy went to Wales and we drove to Harwich and took the ferry home (402 miles, 647 km)
We had a good ride and there were hardly queues. We were in time for our ferry and on the 5th of April we were back in the Netherlands again after 37 days.
Bristol Avonmouth - Bussum
We look back on one of our best cruises and we have made lovely new friends. 

The end.

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