Thursday, January 8, 2015

They Made the Boat!

For anyone wondering if my parents managed to catch up with the cruise in San Juan, they did!  Much happiness.

San Juan itself was ... well, I don't know what I was expecting, so can't really say whether it met expectations.  The ship docked in Old San Juan, and there were SIX other ships in port, too.  A nice man in a shop (a nice man who tried to sell me earrings for $65 which others were selling for $25...) said that they usually have about 2 in port, so having 6 would make the city crowded.  He wasn't kidding.  I did most of my wandering when we first docked and a couple of the other ships hadn't yet arrived (or discharged passengers) and the city was fairly pleasant crowd-wise.  But, by noon, it was just tourists everywhere.  They had police out directing traffic at intersections, and the cars were pretty much gridlocked.  (I would have said it was chaotic, but the police did a good job of keeping people moving, albeit at a slow crawl.) 

There is history in Old San Juan -- a few old forts and such.  Other than that, it's shops and restaurants and bands playing music in various open squares throughout the town.  Three kinds of shops:  1,  Tourist Crap (the bulk of which was made in China or India ... with the occasional clothing item made in Honduras).  2.  Higher end American retailers who have outlet stores here.  3.  Jewelry stores.  (Two kinds of the latter, too -- both catering to tourists.  The pricey ones which are the same stores you find in ports on any cruise; and the totally cheapo ones selling semi-precious or not-really-all-that-precious-at-all stones.  Several of this latter type have a pirate theme.  Because Caribbean.  Yarrr.)

I confess I parted with about $20 here, but it was the Old San Juan Walgreen's, just stocking up on stuff I'd forgotten to pack.  Curiously, the Walgreen's was right across the street from a somewhat more local operation -- also selling necessaries as well as Tourist Crap -- but prices for everything in the local operation were higher than the prices in the Walgreen's.  I can't imagine how the local one stays in business, unless it's purely from tourists who happen to walk in that one before they notice the Walgreen's.

Today was rather more fun, although I don't have the technology to post the photos (OK, I don't have the bandwidth either, but I also lack the necessary tech at present).  We are anchored off the coast of Tortola (British Virgin Islands).  My mom and I went into town and went swimming with dolphins!

Actually, I called our adventure, "Photos with Dolphins."  I'd read some reviews of the operation, and several of the negative reviews complained that the playing with dolphins is all about "turn to the camera and smile" while the dolphin does each trick, and then a high-pressure sales pitch to make you buy the totally overpriced photos.  However, the folks who run the dolphinarium (yes, that's what they call it) added a new package which includes all your photos on CD (if booked in advance) -- and it didn't cost all that much money at all.  Result:  no high pressure sales pitch (indeed, no pressure to turn and face the camera either -- they don't care if they get the shot or not, since you've already bought it), and I've got a disk full of pictures of me and my mom kissing dolphins, hugging dolphins, doing the ol' belly swim, and being foot-pushed by dolphins.  Our dolphin (named something that sounded like Gracia) was a sweet thing -- about 15 years old -- who had only been training in "interactions" for about a year, and she was very good at responding to the trainer's hand signals.  (Although, I admit, my favorite part was when he had my mom and this other dude swim out into the pool.  The dude had a boogie board, and he was waiting for the dolphin to push him by his feet.  My mom was just getting into position for the belly swim.  So the trainer gives the command for the dolphin to foot push the guy.  Gracia swims out there, checks out the guy, and decides she'd rather belly swim with my mom.  Somewhere on the disk, I've got a picture of my mom doing her Surprise Belly Swim.)

Came back to the ship; did some laundry.  Met some folks hanging out in the Guest Laundry Room, and it just emphasizes the wide range of people we have on the cruise.  There was one person standing there ironing -- when I commented that that's devotion, the reply was that they iron every day; it's required of the uniform.  (I took another look at that passenger's posture -- straight up; I guessed we're talking military uniform and not wait staff uniform.)  There was another woman who came in and didn't quite get how the washing machine worked.  Another woman and I walked her through it -- all the while I was thinking, "I guess some people on this ship have never actually operated their own washing machine."  But the champ was this totally humorless woman sitting there waiting for her laundry (obviously concerned some other passenger would steal her delicates or something).  My folks had given me a few items to throw in with my laundry, so I'm standing there loading the machine, and I joked that my parents were making me do the washing.  Humorless Broad digs out her testiest schoolmarm voice and asks, "Well, who paid for the cruise?"  I told her we each paid for ourselves and she had no damn answer for that, so just went back to reading her kindle and watching her clothes slosh around.

I promised my parents I'd meet them at trivia (STILL missed finishing in the top 3 when someone on our team had the right answers; we just couldn't make the call on what to put down on our paper), which required taking the laundry out of the dryer a bit early.  It felt warm and dry, but, upon further investigation, a few of the pieces are more warm than dry.  So my cabin has jeans and other clothes draped upon every available surface, and I'm hoping stuff will manage to dry here, despite the humidity.

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