A Travellerspoint blog

Belize - Week 2

26th January

This morning we woke to low cloud over the town. It was quite picturesque.

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Before breakfast we had a wander around the hotel.

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After breakfast we headed off for a visit to the Belize Botanical Gardens.

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We had heard that we might get to see some toucans so that was why we went. They had an extensive botanical collection on 45 acres in the Cayo district. The garden is in a valley on the banks of the Macal River, surrounded by the Maya Mountain foothills. There was certainly a lot of plants that we hadn’t seen before.

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They had an enormous bamboo forest.

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We even got to see some bird life. Most was high up in the trees and impossible to get photos of. The keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize, it is very shy but we did get to see one. Our first sighting.

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We also got to see this magnificent bird. It was so colourful. It is a Collared Aracari. Most of the time I couldn’t see his tail.

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A Golden Fronted Woodpecker.

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After lunch Shane chose to canoe 3 hours back to San Ignacio. There was a vulture on the cliff.

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I wanted to go and visit Cahal Pech Mayan Archaeological site.

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I was glad I did as they were so different from anything we had seen so far. Even the door ways were totally different from any other Mayan ruins we had seen. Cahal Pech means “Place of Ticks”. The site was a palatial, hilltop home for an elite Maya family, and though the most major construction dates to the Classic period, evidence of continuous habitation has been dated to as far back as 1200 BC. Primary excavation of the site began in 1988.

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27th January

We were leaving Belize today so packed our luggage on the top of the bus.

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We farewelled the Cahal Pech Village Resort.

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This is the Belize and Guatemala border.

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There were lots of money changers there to provide us with Guatemalan Quetzales. They would take it in turns so that they all benefited from us.

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We then drove to Tikal, just over the border in Guatemala. We first booked into our hotel for the next two days, the Tikal Inn. We had lovely rooms by the pool.

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Arriving at Tikal we spent the day exploring this great Mayan metropolis, which can justly be compared with Egyptian and Greek masterpieces. Initially settled about 600 BC, Tikal was abandoned by its rulers around AD 890 and totally deserted a hundred years later. The city covered an area of 16 square kilometres. It was re-discovered in 1848 and opened to the public in 1955. It was recognised by UNESCO in 1979. Tikal in Mayan means “in the lagoon” but it’s still known as “the place of the spirit voices”.

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Only a few of its great temples and pyramids have yet been excavated. Here you can see a big mound. This has a temple under it.

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The next ruin we saw was part of the East complex.

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This temple is called The Two-Headed Snake Temple. It is the tallest temple in Tikal and in all Mesoamerica. It was built in 740 A.D. It is 70 metres tall.

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You can still climb it, so we did. The views of the temple top out over the jungle and the hidden city below are mesmerising.

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This is a pyramid not a temple, where again you could climb to the top.

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There were 360-degree views.

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This tree looked quite pretty with all the growth on it.

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This temple measures 57 metres in height and was built between the years of 550 and 650 A.D. It is the second temple in height.

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This is the Sloping Panel Temple.

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A couple of other ruins we saw along the way.

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Our last stop for the day was the Great Plaza. This is the most important part of the park because its buildings show the most impressive of Tikal’s architecture. These buildings took more than 1000 years to build.
In the plaza we saw:

The Big Jaguar Temple. It is 47 metres high and was built in 700 A.D. There was a tomb discovered in the temple.

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The Mascarones Temple. It is 38 metres high and was built in 700 A.D.

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Views of the plaza from the Mascarones Temple.

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The North Acropolis is where most of the engraved and smooth steles that describe part of the history of the governors. Its big platform holds eight funerary temples built in more than 300 years.

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This big mask was also found there.

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The Jaguar Temple and plaza from the North Acropolis.

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This is the Central Acropolis. It is a maze of buildings forming a series of seven internal patios.

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The Jaguar Temple and plaza from the Central Acropolis.

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The bird life was amazing.

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The Golden Oriole

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Another Keel Billed Toucan.

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The Loro Parrot.

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This wild turkey was so colourful.

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We watched a Lineated Woodpecker for ages, at one stage it fed its young in the hollow. The knocking noise it made as it tapped the wood was surprisingly loud.

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There were lots of coati running around.

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We got to see some Howler Monkeys which we had seen before but there was a gorgeous baby so I couldn’t resist another photo.

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We also got to see Spider Monkeys swinging through the trees. They were lovely.
One even had a baby on its back.

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28th January

This morning we got up early and did a bird walk. There was so much bird activity it was incredible. Once again some of it was hard to capture but we did manage to get quite a few good shots. We saw lots of the Keel Billed Toucan’s.

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We also spent ages watching a Yucatan Woodpecker.

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We also got to see a Yucatan Squirrel.

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Just by our hotel we were also lucky enough to see an Agouti which is part of the rodent family.

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We then took a drive to visit Guatemala's second largest lake - Peten Itza and the colonial island town of Flores.

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Flores is a town in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. It’s on an island on Lake Petén Itzá, linked by a causeway to the town of Santa Elena. After having a coffee stop, we headed out on a boat circumnavigate this little island. From any direction you can see the twin-domed Nuestra Señora de los Remedios cathedral.

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This is the little town of Tayasol which is on the peninsula.

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We did a small hike from Tayasol to a look out point so we could see Flores and the lake.

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I found this pretty bug as we climbed the stairs.

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There is a small car ferry which we thought was amusing. The driver sits at the back of the ferry.

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As we returned by boat, we saw a lovely kingfisher.

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We had some lunch at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant. We decided to have tacos which came in 4 different flavours. They were steak, chicken, pork & pineapple and a sausage one. They were so tasty. We watched the lady cooking the tortillas.

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After lunch we had a walk around town and visited the cathedral.

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The streets were cobble-stoned and very colourful.

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It only took 20 minutes to walk around the waterfront of the whole island, that is how small it is.

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It had been a hot day so after an hours drive back to Tikal the swimming pool was waiting for us.

Tonight the Howler Monkeys were really close up in the trees. They carried on with their loud howling late into the night and then woke us early when they started again. It isn't often that you can wake up experiencing this, so we consider it a real treat.

29th January

This morning we headed back to Belize City. We had an easy border crossing back into Belize and once in Belize City we took a water taxi to Caye Caulker. This journey took most of the day.

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Once a pirate lair, this tiny but enchanting tropical island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The water taxi transfer takes about an hour and was a highlight, speeding through the turquoise waters.

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We then headed to our hotel called the Anchorage Resort, which is right on the beach.

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30th January

Today we decided to go out on a lovely catamaran called the Gypsy Queen to Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

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Caye Caulker from the catamaran.

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Our first stop was the Coral Gardens. It was a bit rough, so I didn’t go in, but Shane did. There were a few small fish but lots of coral.

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He found an eel.

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He also saw a turtle.

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Our next stop was an amazing experience snorkelling in Shark Alley. No sooner had we pulled up there were nurse sharks everywhere. They are used to fishermen throwing things into the water so as soon as a boat arrives, they swarm.

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I was a bit nervous getting in but really enjoyed it.

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Our final stop was at Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is close to Caye Caulker. It covers approximately 18 km² of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel". There was even a floating ranger’s station.

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This is the best snorkelling we have ever done. It was wonderful. The varieties of fish in big schools was incredible.

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We even got to see 3 graceful angel rays.

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We sailed back through the split. This was originally cut out to create a short cut but over the years with hurricanes it has got bigger and bigger. It is now a place to go and see the sunset.

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31st January

Today we had one last chance to see a manatee. So, we headed off by boat to Swallow Caye which is a manatee reserve. This is part of the reserve and rangers’ station.

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The first thing we saw were some dolphins.

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Nearby was an Osprey nest. There was even a chick in the nest.

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There were cormorants and frigates in the trees.

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We then moved on to an area where manatees are known to feed on the sea grass.

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We were lucky enough to see 5 or 6 manatees. Well parts of them anyway. They didn’t pop up for long before taking a breath and heading back down.

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On our way back we stopped at another spot where there were stingrays and nurse sharks.

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Near Caye Caulker is a Tarpon Hole. These are the same fish we saw on our visit to Florida Keys. They can grow to 8 feet long; these were 3 or 4 foot.

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Shane put his hand out and pretended to feed them and they jumped out of the water. They told us to hold our hand out flat as if you put your hand into a fist their mouths are that big that they can try and swallow your hand.

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Tarpon from underwater.

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We then saw some sea horses. Part of their habitat has been destroyed so some clever business owner set up an area near shore where they were hoping they might come to and they did.

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Just before docking we saw the most unusual thing. There was a barge loading sand. But when we looked closer there were divers with buckets getting the sand, bringing it to the surface and passing the buckets up to the barge. No machinery here, all done manually.

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For our last evening in Caye Caulker we headed to The Split.

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We sat and had a drink at the Lazy Lizard.

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We stayed and watched the sunset.

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1st February

We returned mid-morning by boat to Belize City. We have had a fantastic time here in Belize. This sign says it all.

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We headed off to Belize City International airport for our return flight to Miami. We booked into a hotel for the night before our flight tomorrow. We are once again going via Doha. So we will sign off for this holiday. We hope you enjoyed our travels.

Posted by shaneandnicola 09:26 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Belize - Week 1

19th January 2020

This morning we were back Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. We had an early start as we had to make our way to Miami International airport for our flight to Belize City.

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Belize City was the capital of Belize until 1970 and is a typical Caribbean town. Parts of the town are still largely built of wood and galvanised iron, with many of the original colonial style houses in an elegant state of disrepair. There is also a canal system through the old part of town and Creole English is widely spoken. They moved the capital away from the coast due to the continuous damage from hurricanes as Belize City is at sea level. We stayed overnight at the Ramada Princess Hotel; it was right on the waterfront. This is the view from our window. We had a relaxing afternoon and just had a walk along the waterfront.

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Some of the houses in town.

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20th January

This morning we made a few stops before heading out of town. The Sugar Fix Bakery had amazing fresh baked banana bread. The best we have ever eaten.

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We then stopped at a fruit stand, where the fruit was so fresh.

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We then headed to the Maya Ruins of Altun Ha. They are located 31 miles north of Belize City on the Old Northern Highway. The site was first recognised in 1957. The earliest evidence of settlement dates to 200 BC but the first major construction took place around 100 A.D.
Altun Ha was a wealthy ceremonial centre boasting two main plazas, thirteen structures (including the Temple of Sun God or the Temple of the Masonry Altars).
Here you can see the mounds that have still not been uncovered but would have temples beneath them.

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This is the Temple of the Sun God.

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Other ruins around the plazas.

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One of the birds we saw.

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Later, we arrived at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary on the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon.

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The Crooked Tree Lagoon is up to a mile wide and more than 20 miles long. Along its banks lies the village of Crooked Tree, settled in the 1750s during the early days of the logwood era. This island, surrounded by fresh water, was once accessible only by boats traveling up the Belize River and Black Creek; the waterways were used to float the logs out to the sea. It wasn’t until 1981 that the three-mile-long causeway leading into the village was built, bringing cars, buses, and other modern conveniences to the village. It was dark when we arrived so we will get to take a look around tomorrow.

21st January

We are staying at the Bird’s Eye View Lodge.

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This morning we were up at 5.30 to explore the lagoon by boat. It was a lovely morning.

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In this birdwatcher’s paradise we spotted quite a few different birds and some we were told were quite rare.

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This bird had a really long tail.

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Another iguana.

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The water looked really inviting but you cannot swim there.

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We returned to the lodge for breakfast. There were lots of hummingbirds buzzing about. We saw two different varieties. Keep in mind they are only 3 or 4 inches tall.

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We then set off by bus to the New River for the 27-mile boat ride upstream to the 2000-year-old jungle ruins of Lamanai. The banks of the river changed constantly, but there were palms, and lots of bromeliads and resting iguanas.

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It was a lovely trip and we saw more bird life.

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This was the most unusual bird we found. It had an amazing beak.

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We even saw some little bats.

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The boat trip ended in the lagoon which runs in to the New River. Once we got off the boat, we had lunch and then our first stop was at the failed Sugar Cane Refinery. It was incredible how the plants have just grown through the remains.

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Lamanai, the original name of these Maya ruins, means Submerged Crocodile. The ruins are located some distance off the beaten track, and most are still not reconstructed or cleared. We approached on foot following rough trails. The surrounding rainforest with its thick canopy of huge trees, and humid atmosphere added an aura of mystery to the scattered and overgrown relics.

This is the Jaguar Temple.

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It is said that the decorative figures look like Jaguars.

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A cache of children's bones has been unearthed from beneath one of the stelae, suggesting that the Maya practiced human sacrifice here. This is the Stelae Temple. The stelae is the big stone tablet.

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This is the ball court. It is said to be the smallest one that has been found to date.

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This is the High Temple. It is 33 metres in height and the tallest structure in Lamanai, it is also one of the largest Preclassical structures in the Mayan area.

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You can see that it used to have rows of faces on it.

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There were views of the lagoon from the top.

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Our last ruin was the Mask Temple. When this was uncovered, they discovered these amazing masks. So that they were not destroyed they used some type of adhesive over the top of them so that you can still see the details as they are underneath.

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Throughout our walk you could hear the Howler Monkeys. They were so loud, and we were lucky enough to see them. There was even a baby.

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We also saw a coati.

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After a full day we sped back the 27 miles we had travelled. This took just under an hour.

22nd January

This morning we got up early again to do a bird walk. It was surprising how much bird life was around that time of the morning. We got to see some different varieties.

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Once again, we saw some hummingbirds. They were resting on some Christmas lights which shows you how small they are.

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We then farewelled Crooked Tree.

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We then headed off to the Community Baboon Sanctuary in search of howler monkeys. It is called a Baboon Sanctuary but there are no baboons there. Here we had a chance to watch a troop of black howler monkeys swinging from the trees in their natural habitat.

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The cutter ants were everywhere, and all their activity had created actual highways.

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Our next stop was the capital of Belize which is Belmopan. We only had a short stop for lunch. There wasn’t much to see.
This is their parliament building.

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This is an independence monument.

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We then began our journey south along the scenic Hummingbird Highway, where orange and grapefruit groves are surrounded by a backdrop of lush jungle clad limestone hills - The Maya Mountains. Our day ended in the beach resort of Placencia, a town located at the end of a narrow peninsula between mangrove lagoons and the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea. What a lovely spot. We are staying at the Sea Spray Hotel right on the beach.

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They have the Guinness Book of Records narrowest street.

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23rd January

Placencia is southern Belize's premier beach spot. We had the choice of going snorkelling or doing another river trip. This time to Monkey River. As we had already done some snorkelling and finish this trip off at a beach, we thought we would enjoy another river trip. So we got up early for breakfast. This is the outlook we had for breakfast.

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We both ordered a traditional Belizean breakfast of Stuffed Jack. It had scrambled egg, bacon, ham and refried beans in it, and it was deep fried in a pastry. It was yummy.

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Just outside our hotel we saw this squirrel.

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We then headed to the dock to get a boat to Monkey River which is a coastal watercourse in southern Belize that rises in the Maya Mountains and discharges to the Caribbean Sea near Monkey River. To get there we went through some mangroves.

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The scenery along the river was like a jungle.

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There was this amazing big red flower along the river and it had big seed pods hanging off too.

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We were so lucky and saw a lot of birds.

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Even some more small bats.

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There were lots of iguanas sunning their selves.

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This lizard was so well camouflaged, and its head looks like a leaf.

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We got off the boat and had a walk through the jungle.

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This was a pretty fungus.

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We got to see another troop of Howler Monkeys and got a good look at the male this time.

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There were quite a few turtles sunning their selves.

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We were even lucky enough to find a crocodile.

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We stopped at the Monkey River Community for lunch at Alice’s Restaurant.

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We had rice, chicken, plantain, coleslaw and some sort of sauce which was really tasty.

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This is the river entrance.

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On the way back we went searching for manatees. We were lucky enough to see one, although it was only quick glimpse when it came to the surface for a breath.
This is how you can see where they are. They create a bubble.

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The quick glimpse we got.

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We got back mid-afternoon so went straight to the beach. Shane had a swim.

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Nicola relaxed in her chair.

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In the evening we went for a walk down to the waterfront. Some of the fishing boats had just come in. They had a big fish.

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The birds were hanging around.

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We couldn’t help but laugh at this rum sign.

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We had a walk around and found this big chair on the beach.

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Next door was this crocodile sign.

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In case we didn’t know where we were, we found this sign.

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We had a beautiful sunset.

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24th January

We had a full day to pack in today, so we were on the road at 6am. The hotel restaurant was not open for breakfast at that time so about an hour out of Palencia we stopped for breakfast as this little family restaurant called the Southern Highway Snack and Café.

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We enjoyed tamales for breakfast. This is a traditional Mayan food. They boil them in plantain leaves. The photo doesn’t look very appetising but boy they were tasty.

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After breakfast we visited the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.

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This is the world's first and only jaguar reserve, in the heart of an important large tract of undisturbed tropical forest that is thought to have the densest population of jaguars in all the America's; the magnificent cats are a protected species here in their natural habitat and are no longer hunted as big game: however, we would have to be extremely fortunate to spot one. They can grow up to six feet in length and weigh some 159 kilograms.
The reserve is home to five species of wild cats, wild pigs, dwarf brocket and white-tailed deer’s as well as Belize's national mammal - the Tapir. The park is also home to more than 300 species of birds that can be found on an extensive network of maintained trails. We only got to see a couple of birds.

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We did an energetic hike through the rainforest.

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We hiked to the clearing of "Ben's Bluff" that offers incredible views of the forest and towards Belize's most iconic mountain - Victoria Peak at 1120m.

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This is Victoria Peak. It is the second highest peak in Belize.

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This is Out Lier.

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There was some unusual fungus.

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On the way back down, we headed to a small waterfall. The water was freezing so I didn’t go in but Shane did. He said it was very refreshing.

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This was the closest we got to seeing a jaguar.

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Just outside the park is a Mayan Chocolate shop where they make their own chocolate. The chocolate brand is Che’il which means wild Mayan. Mayans were the first known humans to cultivate Cacao.

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Leaving the Chocolate shop, we drove on towards San Ignacio on the hummingbird highway, and we stopped at an organic farm and had a wander around.

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We enjoyed a coconut.

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This is the cannon ball tree.

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We saw a couple of birds.

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This tree had an amazing massive flower.

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Our last stop for the day was at the St Herman’s Blue Hole - a collapsed limestone cavern where you could have a swim. Yet again I chickened out. Shane went in, he said the water wasn’t as cold as the waterfall.

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We finally arrived in San Ignacio where we are staying at the Cahal Pech Resort. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. The meal was massive, tasty and very well priced. Shane decided to have an entrée of Shrimp Ceviche which came out in a shell with tortilla chips.

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He then had the hotel speciality of Pineapple chicken. It was served in an actual pineapple. It was so delicious.

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25th January

San Ignacio, a traditional Belizean town, is an ideal place to base ourselves for the next couple of days.

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Straddling the Macal River which was once a critical transportation artery for the Maya and later the European settlers the town is now a centre for many adventurous activities. Today we had a couple of things planned. First, we made a visit to the great classical Maya site of Xunantunich, Mayan for 'Stone Lady’, perhaps for phallic or fertility reasons. We had to cross the River Mopan by traditional hand-winched ferry to arrive at the site, which was fun to watch.

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Sitting on the edge of the ferry was a little Tree Swallow.

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Xunantunich is one of the largest Maya sites in the Belize River Valley.

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Some of the ruins as you enter.

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Occupied until about AD 850, the main plaza is dominated by an awesome structure called El Castillo - a massive pyramid which rises to 42 metres.

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They think that this was a throne for the high priest.

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On the top is a partially restored stucco frieze representing the Sun God and astronomical signs of the Moon and Venus. The stucco is on both sides of the El Castillo. Once again to save them, they have put an adhesive layer over the top so you can see what was found.

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These are 2 of the phallic symbols.

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As you climbed higher you went through a tunnel which had bats living in it.

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There were superb views from the summit. You can see out over the forest with the Maya mountains to the south and the lowlands of Guatemala to the west. You also get a great view of the ruins.

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As we were as high as the trees it was easier to see the White-Crowned Parrot.

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From the summit you also look over what they think was a residence. It is unusual to see round columns like this one has.

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As we climbed down there was a Black Spiny Tailed Iguana.

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This is a tomb.

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Some other birds we saw. Not sure what this one is called.

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The Great Tailed Grackle

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There was another ball court. In the interpretation centre there was a display so you could see how the ball court was set up and what the goals looked like. The game was played by two or more players who were expected to keep a hard rubber ball in play by hitting it with their arms, legs or thighs. Points were scored when the ball went through the vertical hoop. The ball wasn’t much smaller than the hoop.

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This was the Royal Palace and grounds. They suggest that sometime around 744 A.D. the palace was destroyed due to all the broken remains on the floors of the rooms.

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A view from the top looking back at El Castillo.

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After visiting Xunantunich, we returned to San Ignacio and visited a market, full of Belize's colourful cross section of diverse people and the local produce they bring to town from the surrounding hills on a Saturday.

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We then had some lunch. Shane ordered chicken fajitas which I shared with him.

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In the afternoon we went cave canoeing into the Mayan underworld at the stunning Barton Creek cave system. Barton Creek Cave is a primarily single passage resurging stream cave. Extensive looting of artefacts occurred soon after the cave was first reported, but it remains an important site for archaeologists. Evidence of cave use by the Maya exists on ten ledges within the first kilometre of cave passage. Pottery shards indicate use between the Early Classic (200 to 600 CE) to the Late Classic (600 to 900 CE) periods. The remains of at least 28 humans have been found within the cave. This was a wonderful experience and lots of fun.
First, we received our safety briefing, hard hat and life jacket. You then had someone with an oar and a person sitting in the front with a waterproof battery and a torch.
The entrance.

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Once inside there were lots of rock formation and some artefacts.

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They believe this to be a bridge the Mayans used inside the caves. There are even signs that foot holds have been carved out.

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The view as we came out of the cave.

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Posted by shaneandnicola 15:16 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Royal Caribbean - Cruise 2

12th January

Today we awoke back in the port in Miami. As we are on another Royal Caribbean cruise, we were transferred back to Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades where we boarded the Allure of the Seas. It is almost as big our previous ship. It is older and is due to go into dry dock soon for some upgrades. There were a few things that were different from what we had shown you on the last ship.

Central Park was slightly different.

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This was the kids pool area. Still colourful.

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The wipe out café had a good use for old surf boards.

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This is the Royal Promenade, once again with a Starbucks.

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Sorrento’s Pizza

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This ship has an English Pub called the Bow and Stern.

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There was also another fancy car on the Royal Promenade.

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The boardwalk had a few different shops than the Oasis.

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There wasn’t a donut shop on the last ship.

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The lolly shop.

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A carousel.

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Johnny Rockets was slightly different.

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A colourful tequila bar.

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This time we had a gorilla waiting for us on the bed.

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In the evening we went and saw the stage show of Mama Mia. It was just like the original stage show and was excellent. No photography allowed.

13th January

Our first destination was CocoCay in the Bahamas. Little Stirrup Cay or CocoCay is one of the Berry Islands, a collection of cays and small islands, and is located approximately 55 miles north of Nassau. It is used for tourism by Royal Caribbean.

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They certainly know how to design their exclusive islands. This was another destination full of things to do.
For the thrill seekers there was a water park that you could pay to go in to.

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Chill Island was beaches and cabanas.

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This is Harbour Beach. It was a nice sheltered area for kids to swim at the beach.

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They had a big games area.

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This was the Up, Up and Away, which is a helium balloon experience that takes you 450 feet into the sky. Unfortunately, it was a bit windy so that wasn’t working.

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The Wacky Seagull was a bar.

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We liked the Oasis Lagoon. It has the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool with various coves, three swim up islands with in-water seating and a swim up bar.

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This was one of the eateries. There was certainly a variety of food to enjoy.

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Everything was well sign posted.

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After a few hours of swimming and relaxing we headed back to the ship.

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This evening we went to the Aqua Theatre to see another show. We really enjoyed the one on the last ship. This one had more acrobatics in it but was just as good.

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14th January

Today we spent the day in Nassau. The town that would be called Nassau was founded in 1670 by British noblemen who brought British settlers with them to New Providence. Today Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas.

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This is Prince George Wharf where the cruise ships dock.

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We only had 5 hours here so decided to take a bus that would show us as much of the town as possible.

We went over the Sidney Poitier bridge. The newest constructed bridge is named after him as he was born here. This is the bridge from the ship.

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It took us over to Paradise Island where the Bahamian Atlantis Hotel has been built. This is resort from the ship.

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We had time to have a wander around The Royal Tower which is the icon of Atlantis featuring the awe-inspiring mythology of the Lost City of Atlantis risen from the sea. It is spectacular.

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Inside they even have a big aquarium.

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This is Government House.

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They have a museum on slavery.

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We went to Fort Charlotte which is a British-colonial era fort built on a hill over-looking the harbour of Nassau.

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There were 4 ships docked today, you could see them from the fort.

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This is the St Agnes Cemetery.

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It is famous as the former prime minister who led the Bahamas to independence from Britain - Lynden Pindling is buried here. He has a standout grave with the flag flying.

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Our last stop was of course a rum stop. Located on the famed and hallowed grounds of the 1789 Buena Vista Estate is John Watling’s Distillery which is the home to John Watling’s Rum, the “Spirit of The Bahamas”. They use local materials and employ traditional English rum-making methods.

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We had a 2pm departure as we had a day and half sailing to get to Mexico for our next stop.

One thing I forgot to tell you was that the ship even has an ice-skating rink. So, this evening we went and saw a show called Ice Games. It was based around the game of Monopoly. It was really colourful, and the calibre of skating was excellent. No photography allowed though.

15th January

Today we enjoyed our relaxing day at sea as we cruised towards Mexico. We decided to head to the Solarium today and relaxed there.

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In the evening we went and saw the headliner show. It was Jeff Tracta. He is a singer, comedian and impersonator. He was very good. He played Thorn Forrester on Bold and the Beautiful from 1989 to 1996.

We had a stranger on the bed when we got back to the room. He was guarding the remote.

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As we have been wandering around the ship, we have noticed fun little pieces of art.
This little boy has the car that is on display behind his back.

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How about the dog?

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Between the lifts is this art of dresses made with beads. They are really effective.

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16th January

Today we arrived in Cozumel.

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View from the ship.

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It is a mostly undeveloped Mexican island that docks a lot of cruise ships. We had a long day planned today as we wanted to see some more Mayan ruins. We have been to Cozumel before but last time we went and visited the famous ruins at Chichen Itza. Today we headed to the Tulum Ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula, they were at their height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. We first took a 45-minute ferry across to the mainland. It was rough and they handed out a lot of sick bags and you could hear lots of heaving. We were smart and took sea-sick tablets before we left.

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It took around an hour to get to Tulum.

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The walk to the ruins is about 500 metres. We saw this pretty bird.

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Perched high atop cliffs above the Caribbean Sea, this Pre-Columbian walled city stands as one of the last settlements built and inhabited by the Mayan Indians. This shows it was a walled city, this is where we entered.

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Looking back at part of the wall and a Watch Tower Temple.

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Some of the ruins.

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Among the more spectacular buildings here is the Temple of the Frescoes that included a lower gallery and a smaller second story gallery. The Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. Niched figurines of the Maya “diving god” or Venus deity decorate the facade of the temple. Above the entrance in the western wall a stucco figure of the “diving god” is still preserved, giving the temple its name. You are no longer permitted to go inside.

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The Temple of the Descending God consists of a single room with a door to the west and a narrow staircase that was built on top of another temple that served as its base. In the niche located at the top of the door stands a sculpture that’s found throughout Tulum. He has wings, a headdress and holds an object in his hands.

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The House of the Cenote. An important characteristic of the Mayan villages of the East Coast was the construction of temples near water sources such as wells and cisterns. This building was built on limestone with a room placed directly over the hole that forms the cenote (freshwater hole).

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The most prominent building, El Castillo (The Castle) offers panoramic views of the sea below. It was used as an ancient lighthouse. Two small windows at the top allowed sailors to navigate the bay at dusk. If they could see daylight through both windows as they sailed in, they wouldn’t crash into the reef.

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This temple is right on the cliff overlooking the sea.

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I made a promise to myself to not photograph any more iguanas. However, this one was quite different with its spiny tail.

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Before heading back to the ship, we spent some time in Playa del Carmen. The famous street is called 5th Avenue. It had a lot of up market shops that we weren’t interested in, so we went to Starbucks and sat and had a coffee.

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17th January

Today we had another day in Mexico. Our next stop was Puerto Costa Maya. This is another famous cruise ship destination. The view from the ship.

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The peninsula is so flat.

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It was really windy, and the ship had trouble docking, however we eventually made it off the ship and had a long walk down the jetty. The entrance was nice and colourful.

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We once again decided to visit more Mayan ruins. This time we were heading for Kohunlich and Dzibanche Ruins. To show you how keen we were to see these ruins we are having to travel 2 and a half hours each way on a bus. We had to travel deep into the jungle to visit these two most heralded archaeological finds of the Mayan empire and there was hardly anyone there seeing they are so remote. Along the way we saw lots of sugar cane and corn fields. These farmers were picking and packing their corn.

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Dzibanche is so remote, that until recently, its pyramids, grand temples and ancient relics were left solely to those willing to brave the rugged trek. The name Dzibanche means "writing on wood" in the Mayan language; taking its name from the sculpted wooden lintels of the Temple of the Lintels.

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This is one of the only places where tourists are still allowed to climb to the top of the pyramids, so we felt quite privileged to be able to do this. This is the Temple of the Lintels.

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This is the Temple of the Captives. This is where they held prisoners and used them for sacrifices.

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They have been able to establish this from the carvings that are still there. They now put straw hatches over them to protect them.

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This is the altar where they were sacrificed.

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Some of the other ruins.

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This is the Temple of the Owl.

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This is the Temple of the Cormorant.

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On the side of the temple they have located some of the original carvings and coloured stucco.

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At Kohunlich, the site covers about 21 acres, surrounded by dense sub-tropical rainforest, and it contains almost 200 mounds, that remain largely unexcavated. The city was elaborately planned and engineered, with raised platforms and pyramids, citadels, courtyards and plazas surrounded with palace platforms, all laid out to channel drainage into a system of cisterns and an enormous reservoir to collect rainwater.

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The site was settled by 200 BC, but most of the structures were built in the Early Classic period from about 250 to 600 AD. Many of them are still covered with thick vegetation and overgrown by trees. The original name of the site is unknown. The Spanish name does not actually derive from Mayan but from the English Cohune Ridge where cohune palm grew. This is the little coconut that grows on these palms. These palms were everywhere.

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The site is best known for its Temple of the Masks, an Early Classic pyramid whose central stairway is flanked by huge humanized stucco masks. The Temple was built around 500 A.D. and is one of the oldest structures at Kohunlich. After 700 A.D., this temple was covered over with a Terminal Classic construction, which protected the masks and accounts for the marvellous state of their preservation today. The figureheads that serve as ornaments look toward the setting sun, and show the members of the ruling lineage, represented in the form of Kinich Ahau, the sun face, one of the most important deities of the Mayan world. There were originally 8 faces but 3 were looted. It has been covered in thatch for protection and there is also a thin vale of see through fabric over them to look after them. You can still see all the detail on their faces.

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The Plaza of the Stelae.

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A time-filling activity was the ball game that Mayans called pitz, the oldest team sport in the world. The object of the game was to put a heavy rubber ball through a hoop on the other side of the field. Players could only use their hips, elbows, and knees.

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Well, the game often finished with the decapitation of the captain as this game was also a cosmology ritual. This is the altar where this occurred.

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The Acropolis.

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By the Acropolis was a residential complex.

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Temple of the King.

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The Palace of the Stelae.

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After a lovely day with very few tourists around we travelled another 2 and a half hours back to this ship, making it back just before the final call for boarding.

As we had had a long day we headed up to the buffet for dinner. Lucky, we did, it was chocolate night. The presentation was terrific. I didn't have my camera with me, by the time I had come back people had already starting attacking it all, but you will get the idea.

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This was the one I chose.

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We had a walk-through Central Park tonight; the lights were pretty.

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Later in the evening we went and saw a stage show called Blue Planet. It was very good, the music and dance were based around music to do with the earth.

18th January

Today we had our last relaxing day at sea heading back to Fort Lauderdale so just relaxed in Central Park for the day reading, writing the blog and playing suduko.

Posted by shaneandnicola 15:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Royal Caribbean Cruise 1

5th January 2020

This morning we disembarked the Pacific Princess and made our way to the Port of Miami. We were off on a new adventure today by taking our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. We were also going from Princess’s smallest ship to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas which is one of the world’s biggest cruise ships. It can hold a maximum of 6,680 passengers and 2,196 crew. It is 1,187 feet in length and 208 feet wide. Here are some wacky facts about the ship.

• The ship contains 3,300 miles of electrical cables -- roughly the width of the U.S.
• 110,231 pounds of ice cubes are made daily.
• Central Park has 12,500 plants, 62 vine plants, 56 trees and bamboo.
• The Aqua Theatre pool is 17.9 feet deep and is one of the largest pools at sea.
• 4.7 million pounds of fresh water are consumed in 24 hours.
• The ship has 7,000 works of specially commissioned artwork.
• There are 20 chefs, 222 cooks and 102 sanitation and cleaning culinary crew.
• All breads and pastries are made fresh onboard. The bakery has a machine that makes 4,000 rolls an hour.
• Consumption in an average week: 15,600 pounds of beef; 16,000 pounds of chicken; 18,000 pounds of potatoes; 8,000 gallons of ice cream; 10,200 bottles of beer; 86,400 eggs; 45,000 pounds of fresh fruit; 62,000 pounds of fresh vegetables; 2,225 bottles of wine; 3,500 bottles of water; and 18,000 slices of pizza.

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They have a brand-new terminal with these massive gold propellers.

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We spent the afternoon wandering around the ship. This is the Royal Promenade where you board the ship. There were people everywhere seeing the staterooms were not yet ready.

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This is a bar on the promenade that goes up and down, it's called the Rising Bar.

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I will show you around the ship on our sea day tomorrow.

This is Miami from the ship.

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Our ship even has a Heli pad. Here we are heading out of the channel to sea behind another ship.

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Miami Beach Marina.

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As we sailed away, we got to see the famous Miami Beach.

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In the evening we went to a show at the Royal Theatre. Ronn Lucas was on. He is very famous and has appeared in front of the queen and several presidents. He also has a show in Las Vegas. We have seen him on TV too. He is a ventriloquist.

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He even got someone up on stage and used him as one of his dolls.

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6th January

Today we had a day at sea. This worked out well seeing it was such a big ship it gave us time to walk around and familiarise ourselves with everything. We have taken lots of photos to show you as you wouldn’t believe this ship without the proof.
We had breakfast at Johnny Rockets. It is kitted out like a 50’s hamburger joint.

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Johnny Rockets is on the boardwalk which is one of seven neighbourhoods on the ship.

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The boardwalk also has a carousel. I hadn’t been on one for years so really enjoyed it.

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The hotdog stand.

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The sports bar where they even had a 20/20 cricket game playing.

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An ice-cream and lolly shop.

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A beach shop.

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At the back of the ship is the Aqua theatre.

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Rock Climbing

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The 2 purple tubes are the Ultimate Abyss. It is the tallest slide at sea. With 216 feet of slide that looms more than 150 feet above the sea, and two full 360 degree turns it was too much for us to brave.

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This is looking down into The Boardwalk and you can see the interior balcony rooms that overlook it.

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The entrance to the Ultimate Abyss.

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Splash away Bay for the smaller kids. It had colourful waterslides, water cannons, fountains, pools and the famous drench bucket.

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There are several pools.

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This is called the Perfect Storm. You plunge down three stories of twisting, turning thrills to the bottom of the Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell slides.

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This is the zipline that goes across the ship.

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Even a full-size basketball court.

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This is the Flow Rider which simulates a real surfing and body boarding experience. Thirty-thousand gallons of water per minute rush underneath the rider at 30 miles per hour, creating a five-foot ocean like wave. Would you believe there is not one but two of them.

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Oasis Dunes is the mini golf.

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At the front of the ship on Deck 15 is the Solarium which is for over 16’s. It was much quieter in here and didn’t cost anything. There was a pool, waterfalls and comfortable lounge chairs.

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This is the amazing Central Park. This floating homage to its New York names sake boasts an impressive variety of trees, grasses and flowering plants. There were also restaurants along the walk. In the morning when we sat and had a coffee there were even birds chirping which made it seem even more real.

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Back on the Royal Promenade they have quite a few things to see and do.

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A karaoke bar.

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A real starbucks.

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An area where bands play.

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The Globe and Atlas English Pub.

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Beneath the bar that goes up and down there is a fountain.

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By Sorrento’s pizza

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They even have a bionic bar, where your cocktails are made by robots. You use an ipad to order your drink and then they make it for you. It was quite incredible.

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7th January

Our first port of call was Haiti. We docked at Labadee.

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Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti within the arrondissement of Cap-Haïtien in the Nord department. It is a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean for the exclusive use of passengers. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee and paying the Haitian government US$12 per tourist. The resort is completely tourist-oriented and is guarded by a private security force.
Views from the ship.

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There is a lot to do in the resort if you want to spend some money. First, we had a wander around.

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This is Adrenaline Beach. There are cabanas that you can rent and a swim up bar.

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It is called Adrenaline Beach as this is where the 3 exciting rides are. You have the dragon’s breath and dragons fire which are zip lines over the sea. One you sit and the other you fly like superman. You reach speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour from the mountain top to the sea.

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Then there is the dragons tail coaster which roars down the side of the mountain on an alpine coaster.

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The buildings were all painted in bright colours.

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There were plenty of places to sit and relax. It got to 32 degrees today, so we tried to stay in the shade.

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We also walked out to the dragon’s breath lookout.

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We got a good view of the zip liners.

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One of the bars.

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We went to Nellies Beach and had a swim before returning to the ship. Yesterday we had one a free raffle prize of a seabed, so Shane took advantage of relaxing on it.

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We then farewelled Labadee.

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After taking a rest on the ship we decided to have a cocktail and take a ride on the rising bar that goes up and down.

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8th January

We were not sure if we were going to make it to our next destination as we had been watching the news and over the last 2 days there have been 2 earthquakes that were over a magnitude of 6. Most of the damage was the other end of Puerto Rico. They have issued a state of emergency, but the captain advised that we would be going ahead with our stop there.
San Juan meaning "Saint John" is the capital of Puerto Rico and is an unincorporated territory of the United States. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico ("Rich Port City"). We arrived at midday. This is the old part of San Juan as we cruised into port.

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You can see the San Juan Gate that we will be heading too shortly.

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We had the afternoon and evening here, so we decided to take a walk around the old town.

Located in Paseo de la Princesa is the Raices Fountain. It was unveiled in 1992 in commemoration of the Fifth Centennial of Columbus arrival to the New World, America.

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We then walked along the external old wall.

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If you were a dignitary arriving from Spain in the 1500s through the 1800s, you would enter the city through this gate, called the San Juan Gate. Access to and from the city was tightly controlled through five gates. There is a Latin inscription above the gate that reads “Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord”. Each of the gates had a similar inscription.

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Plaza La Rogativa is the most scenic plaza in San Juan offering a full 180 degree views of the San Juan bay. It has a beautiful sculpture that takes centre stage at the plaza. The sculpture is made from bronze. Rogativa means “The Procession”, which tells the legend about a Catholic Bishop and his companions who made a procession in faith holding crosses, torches, and chanting during an invasion by the British on the city in 1797. The British thought they were Spanish Army reinforcements and gave up on the attack.

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This is the La Fortaleza (The Fortress) which is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbour of San Juan. The structure is also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina's Palace). It is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World. It was listed by UNESCO in 1983 as part of the World Heritage Site "La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site".

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A view from Plaza La Rogativa.

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This is the Chapel of Christ the Saviour. It was built in 1753-1780 on top of the city walls. Legend traces its origin to a miraculous happening at the site.

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This is the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, which is the Roman Catholic cathedral. It is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan.

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You couldn’t miss Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

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It is a 16th century fortress. El Morro means “promontory” in English. The original fortress, constructed in 1540, guarded the entrance to San Juan Bay from pirates. As time passed, the construction expanded. The Spanish added more walls over time and now the original round tower is in the inner heart of the fortress. This fort consists of barracks, lookouts, cannon-firing positions, dungeons, garitas (guard towers), vaults, and ramps. Underground tunnels connect El Morro to the nearby Fort San Cristóbal. The fortress stands as evidence of Puerto Rico’s protective role for the New World. Both the Dutch and the English attacked the fortification multiple times. Its history started with the Spanish Conquistadores. It played a very active military role in the 1898 Spanish-American War. This war ended with the Treaty of Paris which forced Spain to surrender its control over Cuba and Puerto Rico to the United States. El Morro’s name temporarily changed to Fort Brooke while occupied by U.S. military. The fortress, used actively during World War I, received a massive concrete bunker by the time of World War II. From the bunker, U.S. military monitored the activities of German submarines and coordinated the coastal artillery. UNESCO declared the fortress a World Heritage Site in 1983. In 1992, El Morro regained its 18th century appearance.

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This was a dry moat that stopped the enemies short of the fortress.

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This is the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery commonly known as the Old Cemetery of San Juan. It is the resting place of many prominent Puerto Ricans. The cemetery dates to early 1863. The oceanfront location is symbolic of the journey over to the afterlife, a belief originating from Spanish superstition and fear of death. It is located amid the two forts.

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At the end of Calle Imperial is a lovely photo opportunity of the Puerto Rico flag.

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The Plaza de Armas is one of the main squares. The City Hall is located on the square. The squares main feature is a fountain representing the Four Seasons.

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We loved all the colourful streets that we saw as we wandered around.

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We walked along to the State Capital Building which was an impressive building.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed as the earthquake had caused power outages. There were some places running on generators, so we were lucky to get our fridge magnet.
This is Plaza Colón. This plaza commemorates the explorer Christopher Columbus, whose name in Spanish was Cristóbal Colón.

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Our last stop was Castillo San Cristóbal, which is a fortress that was built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site.

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Castillo San Cristóbal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. When it was finished in 1783, it covered about 27 acres of land and basically wrapped around the city of San Juan. Entry to the city was sealed by San Cristóbal's double gates. After close to one hundred years of relative peace in the area, part of the fortification (about a third) was demolished in 1897 to help ease the flow of traffic in and out of the walled city.

This is the fort from the ship.

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This fort extended quite a way, so we first went out to the main firing battery area.

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This is the La Princesa Battery point. The name reflects three centuries of change in military technology. After King Charles III too the Spanish throne in 1759, he ordered that San Juan be made into a “Defence of the First Order”. New batteries, including this one, strengthened the defences. As threats and technology changed, the battery evolved. In the late 1700s cannon of iron and bronze defended against attacks. In the 1900s engineers built a circular gun track on top of the older cannon emplacement.

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The battery with the State Capital Building in the background.

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This is the observation post they had in World War II.

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One of these boxes, built in 1634, stands out from the rest, as it’s surrounded by legend still today. Known as the “Garita del Diablo,” or “Devil’s Sentry Box,” it is located farther away from the others, protruding out into the ocean. It’s said that because of its remote location, and the eerie sounds that were often heard, it wasn’t popular among the Spanish guards.

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We then returned to the main part of the fort.

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You could even see back to El Morro fort and the cemetery.

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As this was our last stop for the day, we could see our ship awaiting from the top of the fort.

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San Juan from the fort.

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The ramp entrance which is the historical entrance.

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In the evening we went and saw an amazing show at the Aqua Theatre. This is the outdoor theatre I showed you earlier. Luckily, we didn’t sit too close as there was a splash zone where the audience got wet. The show involved diving, dancing, acrobatics and tight rope. The theme was the 80’s so we really enjoyed the music. The show started with Back to the Future with someone high above us on a skateboard.

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You can see how high they did their diving from.

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When we got back to our room, we found this on our bed.

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9th January

Today we docked in Saint Maarten which is a tiny island nestled in the northern part of the Caribbean with two distinctive governments – French and Dutch. The capital, Philipsburg, has cobblestone streets and colourful, colonial-style buildings lining the streets. A view as we arrived.

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We had already been to Saint Maarten but there were still things to see and do.

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We were not sure how things were going to be as they had suffered a significant amount of damage in the hurricane two years ago and we had heard that things were moving slowly to rebuild. This was evident at one of the viewpoints we stopped at. The marina has not been fixed, there were remains of jetties and yachts everywhere.

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The houses on the hillside all seemed ok.

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As there is the Dutch and the French sides we stopped at the island’s monument.

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This island was covered in iguanas. It is mating season, so the males were out on display trying to attract their mates.

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Some of them were well camouflaged.

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This green iguana was so vibrant.

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A lizard sunning itself.

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This is the French town of Marigot.

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We had some time wandering around and found a lovely French bakery for some lunch. This is Fort St Louis.

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There were rum signs all over this island.

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We were looking for some excitement so went to Maho Beach. This is where aircraft are flying so low that you can almost touch them. This is what St. Marteen is known for and features as one of the top 10 dangerous airports in the world. There were 5 cruise ships in port, so it was busy, but we spent a while here watching the planes land. All shapes and sizes.

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Before we left, we finally had a big plane arrive.

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We saw what Simpson Bay Marina had to offer, from luxurious Yachts, restaurants and breathtaking villas.

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Views of Simpson Bay from the lookout.

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A view of Philipsburg as we returned to the ship.

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The back of our big ship.

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10th and 11th January

We had two days at sea, cruising back to Miami. Even though the ship was big, we had found our way around by now so really enjoyed the big ship experience. We spent a lot of time relaxing in Central Park.

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For our last night on board we went and saw the stage show Cats. You have to give it to Royal Caribbean, the sets, costumes and shows are fantastic. The quality of performers was also excellent.

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This is our room, it was quite spacious, we even had a lounge. We once again chose an interior room as we don't spend much time in the room.

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The bathroom was quite modern and had a great shower.

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Posted by shaneandnicola 11:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Princess Cruise - Week 2

29th December

Today we spent the day on Tobago which forms Trinidad and Tobago.

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From the first European explorers in the early 1500’s to today, Tobago has changed hands over 22 times. It has been occupied by the English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Latvian Courlanders, and a host of pirates and buccaneers. Originally a sugar colony, Tobago’s economy collapsed after the abolition of slavery. In 1889 Tobago was made a Ward of Trinidad, which remained until 1962 when Trinidad and Tobago became an independent Commonwealth and a republic in 1976. While Trinidad is the bustling commercial centre, Tobago is a much slower pace famous for its nature. We docked at Scarborough.

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We had heard about Buccoo Reef. It is one of the most accessible coral reefs in the Caribbean. It is a protected marine park. World famous French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau visited the reef and rated it as the third most spectacular reef in the world.
We first took a scenic drive to Pigeon Point Beach.

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This is where we took a glass bottom boat and cruised out to the reef.

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We passed over Coral Gardens. Upon arriving, we snorkelled the reef.

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When then moved on to Nylon Pool. This is a shallow white-sand area within the reef. It was dubbed Nylon Reef by Princess Margaret during her honeymoon in 1962, she commented, “it’s so crazy blue, it looks like nylon”.

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30th December

We made it to Barbados today. It was a busy port as there ended up being 5 ships docked.

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It is one of the few Caribbean islands solely colonised by one nation. Surnames like Worthing and Hastings abound here. It is quite clear though that you are not in England because of the rich fertile tropical fields, beaches and azure ocean. Barbados means bearded one. There are trees on the island that look like they have beards hanging on them, so the island was named after them. Last time we were here we spent the day swimming with turtles and visiting Nelsons Dockyard. So today we thought we would see some more of the history of this island.
We went to George Washington House which is a historic house where the future first US President George Washington visited in 1751. In 2011, the property was designated a UNESCO protected property.

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They had a water filtration system set up where the water went filtered through porous coral limestone until it went into the bottom bowl for drinking.

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The kitchen.

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His bedroom

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His brother Laurence’s room.

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Shane with a young George Washington.

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The dining room.

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The Garrison Tunnels were discovered during the restoration of George Washington House. The almost forgotten underground tunnels were used as secret passageways for soldiers, connecting them to still undiscovered locations throughout the 10,000-foot military area. They were only 2 foot wide.

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St Ann’s Fort was built in 1705 and named after Her Majesty, Queen Ann. The British military headquarters holds 100 well-preserved colonial buildings. It is still a current military base but the tour we went on can take us through some of the historical sites within the barracks.

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The old buildings are still used for accommodation.

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This is the building that houses the Sergeants and Officers Mess.

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Upstairs they had quite a few old artefacts including the original British flag that was taken down when Barbados became independent.

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We were even taken up to the Officers Mess for a drink of rum punch.

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Out the back of the mess some of the old remains of the fort.
The powder store.

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Part of the fort wall and cannons.

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The walls were made of coral, you can still see some of the corals in the stones.

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We then went to visit the old Armoury. They have the largest display of cannons in the world.

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Some of them even had the King George insignia on them.

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Oliver Cromwell was linked to Barbados. They had a scene in the armoury depicting the signing of the charter of Barbados in 1652, between the royalist Governor Lord Willoughby and Cromwell’s commander Sir George Ayscue. The charter was signed in the Mermaid Tavern in Oistins. It is said that when George Washington visited Barbados in 1751, he saw a copy of the charter and included some of the articles in the Constitution of the United States.

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This English gun Circa 1652 in the front of the scene, has Cromwell’s arms on it. Apparently, there are only two that exist in the world with his arms on it.

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We even learned where the saying “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” came from. To prevent the cannon balls from rolling around on ships they had a metal plate called a monkey with 16 round indentations. When they made them from iron the balls would rust too quickly so the solution was to make Brass Monkeys. This is what it looked like.

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Brass contracts much faster than iron when chilled, so when the temperature dipped too far the brass would shrink so much the iron cannon balls would roll off the Monkey. So, it was literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey.

This was the headquarters of the garrison.

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On our way back to the ship we drove past Parliament House which was established in 1639. It is the third oldest parliament in the Commonwealth.

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Independence Square.

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The Bethel Methodist Church from 1844.

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In the afternoon we visited Harrison’s Cave. It is one of Barbados’ hidden treasures. To get there you need to take a lift down into the lovely gardens. There they had the trees that looked like they had beards so you can see why the island was named after them.

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There were even monkeys wandering around.

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A bird.

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It is a massive cave system that has over two miles of chambers filled with flowing streams, deep pools of crystal-clear water and beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and delicate limestone formations. Said to be one of the natural wonders of the world, it is named for Thomas Harrison, an early settler who owned much of the land in the area in the 1700’s. There is even a tram that goes through there.

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You must wear hard hats.

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Some of the lovely formations.

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At points we disembarked to see the majestic 50-foot high “Cathedral”, the caves largest chamber.

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This is the 40-foot high waterfall that cascades into a blue-green lake.

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31st December

New Year’s Eve was spent at Mayreau on the Grenadines. Mayreau is the smallest inhabited island of the Grenadines with only around 300 inhabitants. This is Mayreau from the ship.

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We had to tender to shore so we watched the crew getting the tenders ready.

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The Mayreau beach.

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Once ashore we headed off on another boat to Union Island. It was a 15-minute boat ride on this small boat.

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Standing in the shadow of 1,000-foot-tall Mt. Parnassus and Mt. Taboi, Union Island has a volcanic landscape. This is the island from the ship.

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We docked in Clifton.

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We stopped at St Mattias Church in Ashton which is the first and only Anglican church on Union Island. The original was built in 1875 but was rebuilt in 1998 due to its growing population. They left the layout the same. The Anglican religion was introduced to the island following the treaty of Paris in 1761. Under that treaty, Union Island was transferred from the French to the British.

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A busy street in Ashton.

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They rely on the sun; this is one of their solar farms.

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We drove around the island and up Clifton Hill which has a 400-foot-high peak which offered sweeping views. Here are some of the lovely views we encountered.

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Up at one of the viewpoints there were lots of different cactus and goats.

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We then took a walk around Union Island Lagoon. This area was destroyed when they started building a marina which never eventuated. They have since implemented a program to restore the area. Here are some of the views along the walk.

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At the end of the walk is a bridge to take you out to where the marina was started.

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In this view you can see remains of the marina.

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We came across a lizard which was colourful in places.

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We then headed back to Mayreau by boat.
In the afternoon we once again headed out by boat about 25 minutes to Tobago Cays. This time we were on a beautiful catamaran.

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We visited the isles of Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal and Jamesby. This must be the place to be as we could not believe how many yachts were moored around this part of The Grenadines.

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We also saw Petit Tabac whose landscaped starred in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie with the rum scene when he was marooned on the island.

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This uninhabited islet boasts some of Grenadine’s finest underwater sites. These remote cays had calm turquoise water which teemed with lots of marine life. The water was so clear here.

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We snorkelled on the southwestern edge of Baradal which is a designated turtle watching reserve where you find green turtles in the wild. We didn’t see any turtles while snorkelling but did see quite a few from the catamaran.

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Rum punch was served on the way back to our ship.

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We had another great day and loved this part of the Caribbean.
This evening we had a lovely New Year’s dinner with our table of friends.

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Shane and I in our formal wear.

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Of course, we had to see the New Year in so went up for the deck party.

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They even had a late-night buffet.

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1st January

New Year’s Day was spent in Antigua and Barbuda.

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It is the largest of the British Leeward Islands. Antigua (pronounced an-tee-ga) is dotted with stone sugar mills, relics from the bygone era when sugar was king. It is also famous for the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, where Admiral Horatio Nelson quartered his fleet in 1784. Last time we were in Antigua we visited the dockyard. Today being news year day, we just had a day relaxing on the ship and wandering around town. We were quite disappointed with town. It is dirty and run down. This is the town of St John’s from the ship. Redcliffe key is at the front and has lots of colourful buildings.

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We visited St John’s Cathedral, also known as St John the Divine. This is the cathedral from the ship.

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This cathedral has imposing white twin towers and was built on a fossilised reef in 1845 and is now in its third incarnation as earthquakes in 1683 and 1745 destroyed previous structures. Unfortunately, it is in a real mess, it needs to be restored.

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The grounds of the cathedral date back a long way. We found a tombstone from 1758.

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The iron gates on the south face of the church are flanked by pillars displaying Biblical figures of St John the Devine and St John the Baptist.

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We saw lots of lizards as we wandered around town.

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2nd January

Today we visited Virgin Gorda.

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What a fantastic day we had. Rain showers had come through as we arrived, but we had a fine day when we headed off for our last adventure of this cruise.

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The British Virgin Islands including Virgin Gorda were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The silhouette of the island reminded Columbus of a rotund and reclining woman, hence the name Virgin Gorda, which translates to “Fat Virgin”. It is the third largest island in the BVI’s and covers an area of around eight square miles. This was an anchorage port, so we had to tender to shore to Spanish Town, which was settled by miners hailing from Cornwall. As the first seat of government in the BVI’s, Virgin Gorda’s capital dates to 1680. Spanish Town from the ship.

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We moored at the yacht harbour.

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Once ashore we travelled by open-air safari bus and covered the entire length of Virgin Gorda.

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Gorda Peak National Park is one of the islands dramatic landmarks and the views from the peak were amazing.

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We then stopped at Soldier Bay Vista for even more stunning views.

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This is Savannah Bay which is just one of the many crystal-clear bays and coves lined with soft white sand beaches.

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We ended up at Gun Creek.

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Gorda Sound.

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We boarded a boat and had a cruise around Gorda Sound. There was way too much money out on the sea. The number of super yachts was ridiculous.

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This is Richard Branston’s private island, wind turbines included.

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Lush Virgin Gorda.

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Our ship awaiting our return.

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Some of the other views we had along the way.

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We cruised past “The Baths”. These are huge granite boulders of all shapes and sizes (some 40 feet in diameter), they seem to appear out of nowhere. Created by volcanic activity they create lots of hidden pools thus their name. There were boats everywhere.

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We had a walk around Spanish Town and came across this sign.

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In the afternoon we had heard about a nice beach at Spring Bay. It is meant to be quiet and has the rock formations just like The Baths. They were right. There were only 6 people there compared to hundreds of tourists at The Baths. As we had tendered to shore and hadn’t planned on visiting the beach, we didn’t have our bathers with us, but we didn’t let that stop us. We just went in in our T-shirts and undies seeing it was quiet.

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3rd & 4th January

We had another two days at sea travelling 1145 miles back to Fort Lauderdale. We enjoyed relaxing as we had had some full-on days seeing as much as we could. The Pacific Princess is such a nice ship. Here is Shane sitting in one of the bars.

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Resting on the deck.

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Sitting out the back of the Panorama Buffet.

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Our last day at sea saw us at the buffet for the desert extravaganza.

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Posted by shaneandnicola 10:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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