As I had been to this port before, it was no big hurry to get off the ship. When I did there was the typical Caribbean band and warm welcomes. It was sun and rain periods and humid, so even though it was not the greatest, it was not that bad either. When I made it to the main street, I considered trying to find a bus to the other side of the harbour and instead just kept walking.
The island looked familiar but very different from last time. Which due to two hurricanes, was not surprising. Many of the buildings had rooves that were replaced with blue tarps or red metal roofing. Then there were the chickens, no why in the world have I ever seen more chickens than I did in Charlotte Amalie, and the ear-piercing bellow of all the roosters.
Along Veterans Drive, there is a lot of construction work to improve and build a multi-million dollar project to build a veterans memorial causeway that will look incredible, especially to visitors. The sight of which is just following the Extreme Tsunami Risk Zone. It is a real shame given the number of hurricane destruction on the islands, and neighbouring Puerto Rico, that so much money is being spent on this project.
About two kilometres later I made it to Emancipation Garden where I grabbed some water to drink and rest before continuing on to my goal for the day Blackbeard’s Castle. I actually changed my mind As I looked up the steep hill and I was totally exhausted and it was too sunny and warm, so I just stayed in the square for an hour. Getting a taxi back turned out to an ordeal as most of the taxis only wanted to go to the beach or to the cruise terminal. I wanted to go to K-Mart, which I eventually found someone that would take me. I really didn’t want to walk back.
As I entered, the store was much more rundown than the last time I was there, there wasn’t what I was looking for there so I grabbed water and walked back to the ship.
I ended up going to the buffet and then various events that were going on. I ended up getting really drunk that night and had a really late night.
The next morning, I was really hungover and went to the buffet for breakfast and then my stomach felt really bad, like explosive bad. The washroom by the buffet was closed for cleaning and I really had to go, so I went to my room. And guess what happened, my keycard wasn’t working! I go to the stairwell and call customer service, and what do they say, come to customer service. Down the elevator, across the ship, I make it and they replace my card. I then go back across the ship and up the elevator, back to the room, swipe, swipe, swipe, Nothing!!!! I go back to the phone, call again and they send security. As I wait, I start doing the Prarie Dog Dance, in the worst pain ever! The guy finally arrives and opens the door with a key and replaced the dead battery, and reprogrammed the lock. Then I finally used the toilet, even though the prairie dog had partially freed itself by that point. I then showered again and grabbed my sunscreen and headed back up to deck 18 to escape and relax.
This morning, I was pumped and excited, I work up stupid early so that I could emerge for breakfast and grab some amazing, red sky in morning, photos of the island as the sun peaked over the horizon.
For this morning, I wanted to be ready to go early and quickly plate loaded from the buffet. I then returned to my cabin to shower and prepare the day bag with everything I needed, camera, phone, tripod, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and wallet. I really had no plans at all what to do and I had no US cash on me so the vague plan was to get off the ship, find wifi and catch-up, post some pictures to make those at home jealous, and find a bank. Today I arrived at the port of Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands.
I got off the ship and it was a nice close walk to the Tortola cruise village. It was actually quite obvious that the cruise village was a fake example of stereotypical island life and all the usual shopping. I sat on a bench in front of Diamonds International and got on the wifi there. It was pretty good wifi, all my Facebook feed was filled with people talking about a major blizzard. I felt bad of course so I posted this picture.
Then I left the cruise terminal area and came across the CIBC First Caribbean Bank and took out $40USD. I then went to a local shop and picked up a tiny ornament. One of the first things I noticed was that the island was filled with random chickens everywhere.
As I returned to the terminal, I negotiated to take a safari type truck tour of the Island. It was beautiful, although it was mainly a lot of what life was like on the island, and “This is where X used to be”. One of the memorable moments was when we were approaching the wall with the mural of the island’s history, one van going in the other direction got caught on our truck and we were wedged for a while as the only place for the other van to go was over the cliff.
One attraction that is still around on the island is on the far end of the island where there were an amazing rum distillery and a huge and popular beach.
After the tour, I was exhausted and went back to the ship and found a sun chair on Deck 18.
Okay, the Epic titles and making reference to epic things may be getting old at this point but trust me there will be more and they will be epically cliche. Upon boarding the ship, it was luck time so I headed to the buffet as usual and sampled a bit of everything. Apparently, the buffet on the first two days of a trip makes up about half of all food waste for the entire week-long voyage.
The food was pretty good. Nothing outstanding from most buffets in most ships and restaurants. I was also disappointed that Washie-Washie was not as happy-happy as my last trip. This may seem like complaining, but it is not. The Norwegian Epic is very good, and far superior to not travelling in the first place.
After lunch, I grabbed a drink and explored around the ship until it was time to meet up with the Solo Coordinator at the meetup in the solo lounge. The solo lounge on the Epic was really good and better than the Getaway. It had an espresso machine and was amazing coffee. From this meeting, I went to dinner and then called it a night.
The next day I did a lot of relaxing, and whiskey and rum sampling. After dinner, I went to the whiskey bar for a Jack Daniels tasting but was convinced by the bartender that an hour later the Scottish Macallan tasting was more worth the money and had a better quality pairing. So I decided to stay at the bar and socialize for the hour.
The tasting was an incredible experience to learn more about the whiskey notes. (Despite being a certified Jameson Irish Whisky taster) Most people at the tasting and the head bartender seemed to be making flavours up. Anyway, after the tasting, we were told of a Martini tasting. This seemed like a great idea.
At the tasting, there were 3 gin-based and 3 vodka-based martinis to taste. The younger woman sitting across from me with her mother was not enjoying at all the non-fruity and classic martinis. From the collection, the one that stood out was the Cucumber Martini. It became my friend many times that voyage. The only downside was it was hard to walk around the ship with a martini glass. The glass is just not the best at countering let’s blame it on the ocean swells.
Then it was time for dinner. It was good even if it wasn’t memorable. After dinner was spent between the martini and whiskey bar. Followed by the highlight of the night. The dancing king and queen competition at the Bliss night club. To be honest, with my bad ankle dancing is not the best idea, but there were so few people dancing that I started off the dancing and then sat for a drink. Then come competition time I was dancing back up to the bar and was spotted and selected as the dancing king! From this, I won a bottle of wine. Since I had the drink package, I spotted a couple in the back corner on a date night and gave away the bottle.
I then called it a night and went to bed.
The next morning was not the greatest as it was about 11 am before I emerged and it was a window that finding food on the ship was hard. I went to the mini-buffet and found a quiet place on deck 18 to catch some sun. Which left me burnt for the week. The rest of that day was a blur of activity and fun. I knew I didn’t want it to be a “big night”, as the next day I was off to check the only new county off my list, the British Virgin Islands.
Following the subway ride, I ended up on good old St. Andrew Station in Downtown Toronto on a Just above freezing evening. I was a bit hungry so as I wandered Downtown I was looking for somewhere no but ended up going to Hooters on John St.. The meal was good I had the Steak Spice Quesadilla and it was really good. There was a hockey game on so, I enjoyed the meal and a beer, game, and people watching until about 1 am. After that, I left and continued to wander down John to Queen West and then stopped at the McDonald’s at Spadina.
Since I had time to kill, I stayed at the McDonald’s for just over an hour to charge my phone and people watch with a coffee and a muffin. This area in the daytime is high class, in the evening it is just high. I sat up on the second floor and there was a guy at the end of the booths that kept being woken up by security, it looked like he was very impaired. Then going in and out of the washroom was an uncomfortable assortment of people. Prior to leaving I needed the washroom and there was a guy on the toilet shooting needles. I went to get out of the place but at the top of the stairs, there was another gentleman smoking his meth pipe indoors.
I was so relieved to get out of that place and catch the streetcar to connect with the airport night bus. However, that would not be the end. As I was waiting for the streetcar, wouldn’t you know what happened next? There were paramedics called to pull someone out of the McDonald’s and I highly doubt it was an allergy or choking.
Upon reaching the airport, I picked up my bag from storage and checked in for my flight and quite easily cleared security and the US Border clearance went very quickly, although there were a lot of people panicked for catching a much earlier flight than mine. There is something that, tends to consider Toronto Pearson as the baseline of good airports. Terminal 1 is an excellent and totally makes sense layout, and the D-E-F layout of the gates just works for me.
Due to my medical situation, over the past two years, I have gained a lot of weight and now need to ask for the extender belt when on a plane. I find it hilarious that in an effort to be “respectful” the Air Canada staff try to secretly hand off the belt. Everyone on the plane knows the belt doesn’t fit me, it is not a secret.
I found it surprising how short the flight was from Toronto (YYZ) to Orlando (MCO), it was just a tad longer than Saint John (YSJ) to Toronto (YYZ).
Many airports focus a lot more on the departure passengers over the arrivals. Orlando International is by far a huge exception. The airport consists of 4 terminals linked by automated light rail to the hub. The first thing that happens as you leave the plane is the announcements to where to go and what belt the luggage will be on. Usually, you are left to following signs and screens.
Once at the main terminal it has everything you possibly would need and is not as unreasonable as other airports. From the luggage area, it is filled with handlers to get people started on their vacation experience so that it starts as soon as you arrive. Disney parks, Disney Cruise, and other cruise lines have the logistics down to a science and make it perfectly effortless,
It is a really beautiful drive to Port Canaveral, there is something about Florida that makes it very unique like you are on safari, and the approaching winter light gives a different world experience.
When we arrived at the cruise port we received the “tip the driver and port people” speech and alighted the bus to wait in a 15-minute long line to get inside to check into the ship. The process was pretty effortless and was much like any other cruise.
The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. I woke up at 7 and went downstairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. I returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.
I had booked the early embarking at 10 AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.
Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully then San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.
I walked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4-minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)
Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.
As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.
After the safety drill, I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9 pm.
After the dinner, I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.
After the show, I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.
For those of you that love my travel stories, this is the beginning of a new series of them.
Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria were the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.
Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.
On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had meant to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason, that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.
I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.
Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.
The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.
Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about an hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.
I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an announcement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.
They were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist travelling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA, my bag arrived with me. I was thrilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.
Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go by and then you flag down your hotel’s vehicle. After an hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with a card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.
When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.
I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.