Sun Trip 2018
Travels in December 2018 on the Norwegian Epic from Port Canaveral, FL to Tortola BVI and St Thomas USVI.
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.
An evening on a subway train can be a very interesting experience. Tonight my transit adventure began at Pearson Terminal 1 where I picked up the 192 Airport Rocket to Kipling Subway station. The bus ride was really nostalgic as I haven’t taken the bus in quite some time.
The bus was packed and well filled with travellers, airport and airline staff calling it quits for the night. Once at Kipling station I got on the first eastbound train to transfer a St. George station. Watching people is one thing that I absolutely love to do. I noticed that although Toronto is very unique that it still has a Canadianism about it.
At St. George station, I switched to a northbound train to try and visit the new stations I have never been to. There was a kind of new couple that was sitting next to me. She was teaching him things about the subway because he is new to Canada. Although it was cute that he missed his stop to go one more stop because he didn’t want to leave her.
After they left the train around Downsview Park station was there was a larger but still average woman I would say in her twenties pull a needle out of her bag and stick herself with it and then placed the needle back in her bag.
On the return trip, there was a group of university students get on the train near York University and they had 3 bottles of Nestea. Except one was clear and colourless and as they gulped it the familiar look of that unique facial expression was very evident from when you gulp a 40% or more liquid and it burns.
The normal coloured bottle must have also been spiked as their attractive female friend asked then to top up her Starbucks cold drink cup.
After I lost interest in them there was another group of very mixed race and the black skinny guy was looking very exhausted. Apparently, he works a security gig and goes to school and just worked 20 hours straight. I only learned of this because they were joking about him as a mall cop. The group then started rapping on the train and it was really good.
A little later on in the journey a bagged tried hitting up everyone on the train because he was hungry.
Shortly after I ended up at St Andrew station and successfully ended the subway journey. Except that the station attendant was evil eying me. I just smiled said hello and continued on my way.