Friday, December 4, 2015

A Friend's 80th Birthday Celebration Aboard a Princess Cruise

Emerald Princess
The latest adventure was a Cruise aboard the Emerald Princess through the Western Caribbean. We used it as an excuse (as if we ever really need one) to celebrate the 80th birthday of a friend and neighbor - Stan. We were accompanied by Stan's wife and her sister and husband - overall a fun group. 

Sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, we covered the Western Caribbean ports of Grand Cayman, Roatán (an island off Honduras), Cozumel (just off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico) and a day at Princess Cay (a Princess owned retreat at the southern tip of Eleuthera in the Bahamas).

Dianne's Prime Rib
My Moist Salmon
We boarded mid-day, unpacked and settled in for what we hoped to be an enjoyable week. The first night's meals were a treat for both my wife Dianne and myself. She really likes rare prime rib and I thoroughly enjoy a moist piece of fish.  We were both satisfied with our dinners...however the choice of wine was made a bit more difficult with our divergent main course choices...I think we settled on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Glasses for the 6 Variety Wine Tasting
The first full day aboard the Emerald Princess was a leisurely "at sea" day. I signed up for a excellent wine tasting of 6 varieties from a French Champagne through some of the top-end wines in the Emerald's cellar.  We spent most of the rest of the day reading, relaxing and getting ready for the formal evening.

Together for Formal Night
Many people really don't enjoy the "formal" shipboard evenings...but (as usual) I am the exception to the rule!  (Maybe I have spent too much time in the UK where "formal" gatherings are much more common - especially around holidays.) I do like getting all "dressed-to-kill" with my white dinner jacket, plaid vest and matching tie...right down to the patent leather shoes. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the company.

Chance to go to Hell
The next day we had our chance to go to Hell and back. Yes, there is actually a little town on Grand Cayman named "Hell" - even has its own post office - that specializes in all things related to Satan. You can even get the t-shirt! 

Natural Blow Hole
However, Grand Cayman has a good deal more to offer than just Hell.  It's famous Cayman Turtle Farm is dedicated to preserving the green sea turtle. They have on display everything from hatchlings to 600+ pound behemoths. There is a place on the south-eastern end of the island with natural "blow holes" where, on a good day, they spew water far into the air - we were there on a moderate day so it was maybe 20-25 feet...but still impressive!

Dedication Plaque
Sadly, there are also a number of shipwrecks around the island, the most impressive being the Wreck of the Ten Sails. Ten vessels, in 1794, quickly became victims to the very dangerous East End Grand Cayman reef. However quick action by shore based rescuers saved all but 8 crew members. Queen Elizabeth (oh, did I mention that the Cayman Islands are still a British Crown Colony) dedicated a plaque to the rescuers and the fallen on the 200th anniversary of the wrecks when she visited the island in 1994.

Martini with Olives
Tonight was Stan's actual 80th birthday, so we celebrated in style and went to the Crown Grill that specializes in steaks (and other really good martinis!) Needless to say, everyone had a great least those of us who can remember the dinner.  I do remember we went to an entertainment after the dinner, put on by the excellent staff orchestra, singers and dancers
The Night's Entertainment
onboard. It was sort of a parody of an English Pub that included much audience participation.  Stan's wife was whisked up on stage to take part in a balloon balancing contest (never seen that in an English Pub!) and I got "recruited" to participate in a sing-along that, should you have a slip of the tongue, you readily embarrass yourself - I'm turning red just thinking about it!

The following morning we arrived at Isle Roatán which lies about
Our Arrival
30 miles off the Northeast coast of Honduras.  (On a bit of a side note: the difference in cleanliness, levels of obvious poverty, and overall culture were very different from what we observed in Grand Cayman.  This, I think has a great deal to do with the fact that the Caymans are a global trusted financial capital and that is their number one industry, while Roatán's primary industry is Tourism followed 
by fishing.)

That said, we tried something different for a change and, based on the recommendation of our travel agent, did not do a ship's tour but arranged for a private local one through a company that focuses on alternatives to cruise line arranged tours: ShoreTrips. This worked out very well as we were able to choose what we wanted to see and go where we wanted to go (we had been to Roatán on a previous cruise so we had some ideas as to where we wanted to spend our time).

Where we Docked
Hummingbirds at Lunch
Our guide met us promptly at the appointed time and was a charming, albeit young, college student - who did know the island and its history. Dianne and I were on our own and we had not only a good tour of the entire island - from Punta Gorda with its beaches and Garifuna Culture Center to French Harbour, the bustling Spanish speaking center of the Island to Coxen Hole - where we had an amazing lunch while watching humming birds feast at a nearby feeder right on the water.

The Local Brew
A local beer accompanied some of the best red snapper we have ever had.  Dianne's came with a garlic sauce and mine was a ginger sauce...fresh, moist, mouth is watering just thinking about it! Made our way back to the ship, with our tour hostess pointing out the sites along the way.

Drink Delivery
Had a quiet night aboard and prepared for Cozumel just off the Yucatan Peninsula the next morning.  Again, Dianne and I had been there many times (for six+ years we had a time-share in Cancun the first week in September...often journeying down the Yucatan and taking the ferry across to Cozumel). We probably had the best time when we signed up for a Mexican cooking class (I should probably do a blog on the two Mexican cooking classes we have taken...)! Did I mention that Dianne and I really like to cook and enjoy trying new cuisines whenever we have the chance! In any case, we didn't stray far from the ship and enjoyed watching some interesting methods of drink delivery - six margaritas on top of one waiter's head!

All of Us for a Crab Shack Dinner
That evening we tried the Emerald Princess' Crab Shack.  This was a feast of all you can eat seafood - primarily crustaceans - Alaskan King crab legs, clams, mussels - along with corn, sausage, potatoes and other goodies.  All of this is served with appropriate (almost full body) bibs!

Princess Cay in the Bahamas
Another day at sea and then, on the last full day aboard, we arrive at our final port of call on this cruise, Princess Cay, at the southern tip of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.  This is a beach-lovers paradise with great sand, surf, snorkeling, pretty good diving, and - of course - limited shopping! Having been there a few times and being a fair-skinned Irishman who can take only so much of the sun, I elected to stay aboard.  Dianne and the other ladies - as well as Stan - did go ashore to enjoy the sun and surf.

We arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale the next morning...Stan and his group departed the ship bright and early, anxious to get back home (and get their two dachshunds out of the kennel...they missed them terribly!) 

We said our goodbyes...but were staying on board for what is called a "back-to-back" continuation...same ship, same suite, same steward - different itinerary.  But more on that in my next post!

1 comment:

  1. Love reading about your adventures,and the descriptions of what you and Dianne experience😃😃