zaterdag 8 april 2017

The English story of our cruise, part 1

Grand Cuba, Mexico & Caribbean Experience - 35nights
During the cruise I did not have enough time to translate the whole story into English for my British friends. It was also not possible to write a consistent story, because of the bad internet connections. I was glad if I could publish small parts and some pictures now and then.
I hope I have produced a more consistent story now. At least it was a nice thing to do.

Bussum – Bristol Avonmouth (27th  -  28th  February)
Ready to leave
We left our home town Bussum on the 27th of February by car to Hoek van Holland, where we took the Stena Line ferry to Harwich.
Bussum - Bristol Avonmouth
Cabin on the ferry
We had a very nice cabin on the ferry with a mini-bar and enjoyed a lovely meal in the restaurant.
We arrived at 5 o'clock in the morning (local time) and drove with our car to Bristol.
After a long trip of 6.5 hours with a lot of queues and much delay we arrived in Avonmouth at last for the good old Marco Polo. We were supposed to embark  at 16.30 hrs, but we were allowed to go aboard at 13.30!

Bristol –Azores ( 28th February -  3rd  March)

We have had a very rough sea for several days. Our portholes were covered all those days.

Closed portholes on the Marco Polo
We started with our painting lessons, followed the lectures of Dr. Louse Bonner, presentations about the ports of call and enjoyed it to be on the Marco Polo again. 

We had  lovely table mates at our dinner table and after 5 weeks we may say that we have new friends with similar hobbies, experiences,  interests and of the same age! Roy and Dianne, you are wonderful.  Of course we have good memories of the others too, but we did not spent  so much time with them as with Dianne and Roy. 
Waldorf restaurant with our new friends Roy and Dianne

Beverly and John
John, Christine and Dough
Ponta Delgada, S. Michel, Azores (4th March) 

Exit cruise terminal
We did not do any excursions in Ponta Delgada, because  we have been there several  times and have already done all the excursions of the list. Instead of touring, we went shopping and internetting and the most important: drinking wine at a beer garden.
Beer garden and in the background the Marco Polo in front of the cruise terminal

In the background Ponta Delgada
Sea days (5th - 11th  March).

After 9 sea days with much storm and high waves, we  finally reached the Caribbean. A lot of people had become seasick and stayed in the cabin for 9 days, but we were ok.
We still enjoyed the festivities and activities  aboard, such as, the painting course, the lectures,  the nice dinners and the music and the dancing.

The painting course was a success, we learned basic techniques, but more important maybe, to develop our own creativity. 
March 7th From the Azores to Sint Maarten

March 10th:  Marco Polo had a course deviation because of a search action at sea
Rough sea

"Sheep' by Mieke

'Sea' by Jan
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (11th March).  Excursion: St. Maarten Sea & See

Sint Maarten was a little bit disappointing.
We intended to do a glass bottom boat trip, but that was cancelled because of the hard wind. We only did half the excursion and that was a tour round the Dutch and the French part of the island. We got  50% of our money back! We noticed that there is a new CMV policy (CMV = Cruise & Maritime Voyages, who runs the Marco Polo ship). 
The management listens much more to the (complaints of the) passengers. It is quite different from our disastrous ended  cruise in 2014 to the Amazon.
Excursion route 'Sint Maarten Sea and See'
Landscape Sint Maarten
We visited the market in Marigot on the French part and we bought a piece of art from a nice French speaking lady artist.
Market in Marigot
The artist signs her work for us

Dutch cheese in Sint Maarten
The island looked not very clean and we saw a lot of dirt along the road.
I was lucky, there was a Hard Rock café and Jan bought me a new little guitar for my collection.

Collectors item

Hard Rock café

Roadtown, Tortola, Virgin Islands (12th March). Excursion: Tortola by Land and Sea

The Virgin Islands (Tortola) were fine. We did a trip to Treasure Island with a catamaran and sipped a rum cocktail already at 9 o'clock in the morning.
Route excursion 'Tortola by Land and Sea'
After the boat trip we went with a wobbly safari bus and a lousy driver over the island. It was a little bit scary, but beautiful.
Wobbly safari bus
Caught you!
View from the safari bus
In the harbour we had a well known neighbour: the Costa Magica. With this ship we sailed the Mediterranean Sea in 2011. We do not intend to sail again with this large floating amusement park.
The Marco Polo next to the Costa Magica in the harbour

And now closer

La Romana, Dominican Republic (13th March). Excursion: Altos de Chavón  & River Boat Cruise

Excursion route 'Altos de Chavón & River Boat Cruise'
We drove with a coach with airco and Internet(!) to Altos de Chavón.
The village is a rebuilt village in medieval and Mediterranean style. It is very special, because of all the different kinds of stones which are used. The village has an amphitheatre, which is used for concerts with famous persons such as Frank Sinatra, Santana, Julio Iglesias, The Pet Shop Boys  and many others.  It is situated  in a picturesque surrounding.
 Altos de Chavón
 Altos de Chavón
 Altos de Chavón amphitheatre
After the visit to the village we went to the river and embarked on a huge raft. There was Caribbean music and the crew offered coconuts filled with coco milk and rum. We were invited to dance with the friendly female crew members .  
Near the beautiful river you could see all kinds of birds.

With our friends
Coconut with rum
Caribbean dancing
The beautiful river
When we were back at the Marco Polo, we walked to the city. (La Romana). There was a demonstration of village people against corruption. We didn’t dare to photograph them, because you saw  police officerse verywhere. Later on we discovered that we still have a picture of the protesting people in the background of a statue.
La Romana, statue
Protest against corruption
The republic should have a democratic government, but we got a different impression. The government leads the tourists to places where the security is guaranteed by barriers and a lot of policemen. If you want to leave this area individually, they send you back. Passengers of the ship told us, they were not free at all to walk where they wanted and they were forced to go back.
The ship and the cruise terminal were situated in an highly guarded  territory.
Other people drove with their guided coach to other parts of the island and saw more of the poor country through the windows of the coach, then we did.
We visited a supermarket and this was huge (about 20 checkouts). The prizes were, even for us, Europeans and Britons, very high. We suspect that only rich people could do their shopping here.
Our conclusion was that we were only showed what the government wanted us to see, and nothing else.

To  be continued . . .

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