Saturday, March 4, 2023

Holiday Cruise - Norwegian Encore

WOW it has been a long time since I have posted. In November we decided we would take an eleven day holiday cruise of the Southern and Eastern Caribbean. The trip was out of Miami aboard the Norwegian Encore. Yes, the same ship we sailed on twice this year. This cruise only repeated one port we had been to previously. Adding up the days, we spent over five weeks on this one ship in 2022.    
On our February cruise there were only 1400 passengers. The Panama Canal trip started with 2600 but ended with only 900 after most people disembarked in California. This trip was at capacity with nearly 6000 passengers and crew. On the first trip everyone was tested for Covid, the second trip required a negative test, and this one had NO restriction. It was a good feeling being back to "normal." Although we both ended up with either a cold or sinus issues but no Covid on our return home.
It always amazes me how they maneuver these giant ships into tiny island ports. The ships are taken in and out by a pilot who literally jumps from the pilot boat to the ship while both are moving.
The first big difference we noticed was that the little pool was packed tight all day. This was the sail away party as we left Miami.
What I HATE most about sailing is the terrible internet service. We each got 150 "free" minutes, but considering what we paid for the trip they have a lot of nerve calling anything free. This line of people stretched into the next room and the lady on the left was the ONLY person there to help. The system is crazy and was somewhat different on each of our trips this year. End of rant. 
One thing we love about cruising is the crew. They are there to serve and do a fantastic job. Alvin was on all three of our trips on the Encore and recognized us. He was the Maitre d' in the Garden Cafe in the morning and in Taste dining room in the evening, He did a wonderful job assuring we had great service.
Our first two days were at sea giving us a chance to check out all the Christmas decorations.
The bakery's holiday decor.
On Christmas Eve we went caroling in the Atrium. A joyous time was had by all.  
Meeting new people and making new friends is another great thing about cruising. We met Jeremy and Dustin the first day and had a fun time with them. Here we are going to see the play Kinky Boots that we had seen on the other cruises. It was as much fun the third time as the first.
On day four we visited our first port, Oranjestad, Aruba the first of the three Dutch Antilles. We opted to just walk into town to check things out. This is the Royal Palace mall. 
The Big Flamingos overlooking the port.
I'm guessing this guy is buying, not selling.
What is it about big chairs that make people so happy. We enjoyed our short stay in Aruba and would like to go back for a longer visit.
Day 5, port two, Willemstad, Curacao. Here we took an excursion, Discover Curacao Island Tour. This is the view from the high bridge over the entrance to the main harbor.
Our first stop was this distillery. The liqueur is made from laraha, an orange like fruit brought to the island from Portugal. Because of the difference in soil, it was too bitter and fibrous to eat, but when turned into liqueur tasted very good.   
The main port has an oil refinery that has been closed because of a dispute between Petroleos de Venezuela and Conoco Phillips.
A neat, colorful house.
The next stop was Het Curacaos Museum. It had a collection of interesting antiques and this special exhibit that our tour guide clearly was not wild about.
More of the special exhibit. Remember, art is in the eye of the beholder.
Part of an old seaplane used for island hopping.
Here we are waiting to enter Hato Cave.
No pictures were allowed except where the roof of the cave had collapsed letting the sun shine in.
A tortoise checking us out while we checked him out.
A garden of island native plants. The Dutch Antilles are very close to South America causing the wind to carry most rain to the north giving the islands a desert landscape.
Native flamingos.
After the tour we walked through the old fort into the city. 
The pontoon bridge to cross the harbor entrance. It swings open to allow ship to pass.
The Dutch influence really shows. These could be buildings in Amsterdam.
Looking from the pontoon bridge to the high bridge we crossed on the tour. The cruise ship is docked between the two bridges.
Love lock hearts are located on the plaza so people don't weigh down the floating bridge.
The old fort that protected the harbor. Unlike other old forts we have visited, the walls have been left as they were and the modern building now fills the inside of the old fort. Curacao was will worth a visit.
Day six, port number three, Kralendijk, Bonaire. Once again the Dutch influence was prominent . There is a market set up for those visiting from the ships. We just walked a bit of the town and market.
True Caribbean scene, don't worry be happy. We liked all three Dutch ABC islands even if it was just a quick visit we can add them to our been there list..
The other show we saw for the third time was Choir of Man. A fun show set in a British pub. Unlike the two previous shows that were under Covid restrictions, at the start of the play we were invited to the pub for a beer. Here is cast member Ryan with Jim, Dustin and Jeremy enjoying a cold one.
Day seven, port four, Castries, St. Lucia. We took the Historical Island Tour of the city and countryside. The first stop overlooked the harbor and the Encore.
This sculpture celebrates how the people first arrived on the island via a row boat.
This cove is where the movie Blue Lagoon was filmed.
Another stop was to a artisans gallery where they showed how the items that were for sale are made. This man is creating a batik cloth that were made into wraps and other clothing.
This woman is demonstrating how chocolate is made from seeds to candy bars. 
We drove through a banana plantation. 
The last stop was a fishing village were they were selling fresh caught fish and homemade crafts. One of the bartenders from the Encore was from St. Lucia. He got time off and went home to celebrate the holidays with his family. Something that does not happen often for cruise ship crew members. 
Day eight, port five, St. John's Antigua. Here as you can see the ship was dock right near the city. 
Here we took a walking tour of the city. Nanc loved the bottle tree.
A bread fruit tree.
Nanc, phone home.
We walked to the fish market where various kinds of fish caught that morning were iced down for sale. 
Across the street from the fish market was the produce market. Very neat that all this fresh food is available.
Then, on the street was  a big variety of sugar laden food like you would find in American grocery stores.
This memorial honors the men of Antigua who fought with the British in The Great War 1914-1918. 
St John's Cathedral was originally built in 1687 then rebuilt in 1746 after an earthquake. The present  "newly" rebuilt building was constructed following another earthquake in 1845. It is known for its beautiful wood interior.
This building was constructed with fossilized coral reef.
Our last stop was the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. They had an extensive exhibit covering the sugar cane industry and the slaves that were imported to work the fields. We would recommend the walking tour which was with a local tour guide who gave  us a very informative look at the life and culture of the island.
The only port on this trip that we had been to previously was St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands. We decided to stay on board, get massages and go to the spa.
A decision that was rewarded with us having the spa to ourselves most of the day. Life is good.
Ringing in 2023.
Our last stop was Amber Cove near Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic. Backing a 1094 foot ship into the dock is a real feat,
It's amazing how easily these huge ships can be maneuvered. That being said, this is a port that would be skipped if it was windy.
We took the Discover Puerto Plata excursion, the first stop being the Macorix House of Rum distillery. We watched a video on the process from growing sugar cane to making the rum. Several samples were available for tasting.    
The next stop was Casa Museo the home of General Gregorio Luperon, a Dominican president, military general, businessman, and politician.  
The clothes of the era were interesting as the climate is tropical.
The mural tells the story of Luperon's life.
Next stop was an amber and larimar shop where they were making jewelry.
Umbrella Street is a colorful must see. The street is lined with shops selling coffee, chocolate, tobacco and other goodies.
Another must see, the Paseo de Dona Blanca or Pink Street. 
All pink all the time. 
The City Center and Cathedral of Saint Philip the Apostle.
The Amber Museum's logo is the 30 to 40 million year old lizard that was found preserved in amber. 
They have a huge exhibit of many things in amber.
Another exhibit explains the tobacco industry; from seeds to harvest to making cigars.
The Fortaleza de San Felipe was built by the Spanish in the late 1500's to protect the city from pirates. 

We had a great time on the cruise. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year. We have been very busy (my excuse for not posting this sooner) here in Stuart with friends and family visiting and doing a project in the condo. Hopefully, writing about the last two months will not take as long.

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

An Amber Museum oh, and I taught batik joining with an Art Teacher. What a fun cruise!