|14/11/2012||Caldera, Costa Rica||14 hour Monarch flight via Puerto Plata|
|15/11/2012||Puntarenas, Costa Rica||Pacific Railway & Country Life||Esparza & El Jardin|
|16/11/2012||San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua||Colourful Granada||Pretty colonial town|
|18/11/2012||Balboa, Panama||Ocean to Ocean by Train||Wooden period carriages|
|19/11/2012||Panama Canal||(No tours)||Al fresco BBQ lunch|
|20/11/2012||Providencia Island, Colombia||(No tours)||Too windy to land!|
|22/11/2012||Port Antonio, Jamaica||Glimpse of Port Antonio||Jamaica Palace Hotel & Somerset Falls|
|24/11/2012||Willemstad, Curacao||Hot, pretty town|
|25/11/2012||La Guaira, Venezuela||Mt Avila & El Hatillo||Hot & humid Caracas!|
|26/11/2012||El Guamache, Margarita Island||Zodiac ride & beach swim|
|27/11/2012||Port of Spain, Trinidad||Asa Wright Nature Centre||Hummingbirds and lunch ashore|
|28/11/2012||Scarborough, Tobago||Tobago Highlights||Two forts and a folklore show|
|29/11/2012||St. George's, Grenada||Island Highlights||Cocoa, nutmeg, rum and lunch ashore|
|30/11/2012||Castries, St. Lucia||Morne Coubaril & La Soufriere||Smelly sulphur hot springs|
|01/12/2012||Bridgetown, Barbados||8 hour BA flight home|
This was another five star cruise on one of my favourite ships. I drove up to Gatwick and stayed over at the Melville Lodge guest house who do car parking for only £2 per night. I got up at 5:30 am and took the local service bus into the south terminal. The 9 hour flight on Monarch to the Dominican Republic was OK but the two hour stop-over with limited air con was pretty stifling. Fortunately I had three seats to myself so I could sit by the window for take-off and landing but still get out into the aisle when I needed to! At San José the capital of Costa Rica we had an hour's drive to the ship berthed at Caldera on the Pacific coast. After lifeboat drill I finally got to bed at 3:15 am by my body clock after over 21 hours awake. Luckily I was given an outside twin cabin with picture window all to myself!
For the next two mornings I was already detailed to escort tours. I awoke very early in Puntarenas and walked around town before breakfast. I went in again after breakfast to do some photography before my tour left. We went to Esparza to see some local children folk dancing before taking a narrow gauge diesel train ride. At El Jardin souvenir shop I was able to use the free wi-fi to update my FaceBook status.
At the next port of call, San Juan del Sur on my first visit to Nicaragua, I escorted the tour to Colourful Granada an old colonial Spanish city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. We tendered into the little port next to a gently curving beach. At the Hotel Alhambra comfort stop in Granada I was again able to partake of the free wi-fi. The archaeological museum and San Francisco's monastery both had beautiful courtyards filled with palms and other exotic tropical plants. The city reminded me somewhat of Cartagena in Colombia, but on a much smaller scale. The string of volcanoes on islands in the enormous Lake Nicaragua were majestic. The port of San Juan del Sur itself was a fairly attractive beach resort again with free wi-fi outside one of the beach side cafés.
On the first sea day I led my first line dance class, attended a singles meeting and an impromptu singles lunch followed by a ballroom class in the afternoon. As usual I taught California frieze, Texas waltz and the Electric slide in the line dance class and the Social foxtrot in the ballroom class.
At Balboa near Panama City we tendered into Flamenco Island connected to the mainland by a series of causeways between a chain of little islands. I escorted the Ocean to Ocean by Train tour. We travelled in a wooden period carriage from Balboa on the Pacific Ocean to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean and then back by coach. I managed to find free wi-fi at Buffalo's Steak House on Flamenco Island.
The next day saw us transit the Panama Canal. I got up early to see the passage under the Bridge of the Americas which carries the Pan-American highway. I photographed the Miraflores locks but the Pedro (not San) Miguel locks passed by during my line dance class. Notwithstanding the big distraction outside, I had a dozen attendees. My class finished just in time for me to see the Centennial bridge and the Gaillard Cut. After a lovely al fresco BBQ lunch my Waltz class took place during our passage through the Gatun locks cutting my attendance down to just three couples! In the evening it was too wet for the deck party which had to be moved into Shackleton's lounge.
It was too rough to land by tender at Providencia Island so a new programme had to be drawn up at short notice. So I led another line dance class in the morning and a capacity Social rumba class in the afternoon. That evening my colleague Michael and I ate with Janet & Helen from Australia in the Verandah restaurant.
We arrived early evening in Port Antonio in Jamaica so I was able to slip ashore and get my FaceBook fix. The next morning I escorted the Glimpse of Port Antonio tour to see the Folly on the Point and the Jamaica Palace hotel for my first Caribbean rum punch. At the Somerset falls we donned lifejackets in order to be rowed right up to the falls. Sitting on the prow of the boat I got a little wet! After lunch and siesta back on the ship I did some photography in downtown Port Antonio ready for a future port presentation. With so much going on it took me the rest of the cruise to finish just this one PowerPoint presentation!
During the next sea day Shackleton's lounge was occupied by a market stall so no line dancing that morning. In the afteroon I led a Samba dance class. That evening saw me on duty in the Britannia/Free-Spirited loyalty club cocktail party.
In Willemstad on Curacao the Dutch island I didn't get a tour so I went into the pretty town in both the morning and afternoon. In the evening we celebrated Helen from Australia's birthday with six of us sat at the Captain's table in the Verandah restaurant. Luckily passenger retired colonel Frances had already given me a bottle of champagne with which to celebrate! I was able to print off the photos that I took of the birthday cake that very same evening which pleased Helen greatly.
My first visit to Venezuela saw me escort the tour into the enormous capital of Caracas. We explored a colonial suburb (El Hatillo) before ascending over 7000 feet in a cable car. Unfortuantely near the top we entered the clouds and we only glimpsed the sea on one side and the city on the other. I didn't bother going back into the grubby port of La Guaira/Maiquetia after a late lunch.
No tour at El Guamache on Margarita Island so I walked along the causeway past the pink flamingoes to the local beach but it suffered from seaweed. At 11:30 am I bagged a place on one of the Zodiac Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB). We traversed the edge of the mangrove swamps past pelicans, herons and egrets. In the afternoon I took my first swim of the season in the Caribbean on the lovely little beach at the port. Steve Terry the swing singer later congratulated me for leading off the dancing during his cabaret act in Shackleton's lounge.
I was allocated my first choice tour to the Asa Wright Nature Centre high up in the tropical rain forest on my first visit to Trinidad. We saw lots of birds, some lizards and one agouti. The highlights were the multi-coloured hummingbirds feeding on the balcony. The lunch of meat, lentils, rice and coleslaw was adequate. It was followed by sponge cake and custard with lemon squash to drink. I was impressed with the skyscrapers of oil-rich Port of Spain which I explored in the late afternoon. We ate al fresco to the excellent sounds of a steel pan drum band to which I then initiated the on-deck dancing. They were followed by a deck party disco as we made a late evening sailaway. I bagged one jive with the newly married hotel manager Dawn Cartwright.
On the sister island of Tobago I escorted the Highlights tour visiting Fort King George on the south coast and Fort James on the north. We watched an interesting folklore show with native, bamboo and limbo dancing; singing and drumming with both steel and bongo drums. In the afternoon I popped back into town to do some more photography.
I was the escort on my first choice all day Highlights Tour of Grenada. We visited one cocoa and one nutmeg processing station before an authentic lunch at the beautiful Belmont Estate. The Antoine River Rum Distillery was filthy but the end product was crystal clear fire water! I took the precaution of taking two bananas with me to feed the Mona Monkeys at the Grand Etang National Park. In the evening I was on duty at the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, before partaking of a bottle of Moet et Chandon champagne kindly given me by Barbara.
On St. Lucia I got my first choice tour of Morne Coubaril and La Soufriere. We stopped at the small fishing town of Anse la Raye before reaching the Morne Coubaril plantation. The donkey driven sugar mill was interesting and I sampled Heart of Coconut for the first time. At La Soufriere we went to the smelly sulphur hot springs at the foot of the Pitons (the Spikes).
I declined the £49 island tour and lunch on Barbados, so was taken to the airport for noon. Check-in opened at 12:30 so I was through to the departure lounge by 1 pm. I was able to use the free wi-fi for one hour and then use my laptop at a mobile charging station. This enabled me to author an entire PowerPoint presentation on Willemstad whilst I was waiting for boarding. After an 8 hour BA red-eye flight I got home at 9:30 am.
10 Line dances taught 9 Tours escorted 8 Hour flight home 7 New ports 6 Regular dancing partners 5 Ballroom dance classes 4 Line dance classes 3 Cocktail parties attended 2 New countries 1 Outside twin cabin with picture window all to myself!