Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Puerto Rico and the Picture Window Cave

Our second excursion on the cruise was to the island of Puerto Rico. It was our third time there (the boys' second time). It was sad to see all the damage that Hurricane Maria had caused the previous fall. Puerto Rico was hit even harder than St. Thomas and was in full recovery mode. But it was good to be back and we had a fun day there (spoken like a true tourist who doesn't have to deal with the difficulties of life after a Category 5 hurricane!).

The view from our balcony that morning as the ship was docking. (We had to be up early for our excursion.)

Behold the almost biggest cruise ship in the world!

Another ship, incoming.

John is so cute!

For our excursion we went on a bus ride around the capital city of San Juan and then drove across the island to hike to a cave called "The Picture Window Cave." You'll see why below. It was so fun!

Sam and John both had fun exploring. This is the real-life science classroom right here!

We all had to wear helmets to protect our heads in the dark and sometimes low-hanging caves. Our guide was both knowledgeable and funny; his sense of humor was dry and witty and I still smile thinking about some of the funny things he said.   

This was the first cave we explored. The light shining into the darkness was like the light at the end of a tunnel. It was lovely.


A combination stalagtite/stalagmite. You don't see those very much!  
These caves are ancient. It's so neat to think of their inhabitants and wanderers from centuries ago.

Descending into the really big cave (the picture window one).

Insert "visions of afterlife" comparisons here. 😇

This is why it's called the picture window cave! How pretty is that!?

Looking toward the interior of the cave, from whence we came (and would be returning).

We decided to let Peter in too.

There's a big black snake coiled up there in the upper middle part of this picture. Do you see it? I was horrified to find out that there were snakes above us! 😱 The guide assured us they weren't harmful, but still...they're snakes! Above us!!

Back into the land of the living (phew!). The lush green forests of Puerto Rico are so pretty.

This tree looked like something out of Middle Earth.

The caves we went in are out there underneath this land. What lies buried beneath our feet is truly fascinating (caves, dinosaur fossils, historical artifacts, ancient dwellings and cities, etc.). 
Sometimes I wish I'd become an archaeologist. Penn has an excellent archaeology program and one of my roommate friends from my senior year was getting her Ph.D. in archaeology. Lucky! 

Back on the ship. Views of San Juan from our balcony...

...and views of people on the ship too. 😄

Peter and I visited that historic fortress in the distance (at the top of the land) when we took a trip here in ~2007.

Pulling away from the island to go back out to sea.

Time for a selfie!

It was a fun day in a place that I've really come to like and appreciate from my visits there. I hope to go back at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Pirates (and Hurricanes) in St. Thomas

Our first excursion on our Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas cruise last year was to the beautiful island of St. Thomas. It was our second time going there and we did different things than the last time we were there.

It was heavenly to wake up to this view! Look at that water!

St. Thomas is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the capital city of those islands (Charlotte Amalie) is there, hence the Supreme Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Views of the ship from terra firma.

We went on a drive to some of the island's famous lookout points. We stopped at this point that overlooks Magens Bay Beach, a beach we'd been to on our Disney cruise in 2017. This is the blog post I did about that and you have to see the pictures to compare. Hurricane Maria did a lot of damage to this beach in the fall of 2017 and many of the beautiful trees along the beach were destroyed. The treeline on the beach is much more sparse than it was when we were there in March of 2017. 😢
It's still a beautiful view, though.

We stopped at another lookout point that overlooked Charlotte Amalie and met this donkey who thankfully didn't kick any of us!

There's our ship!

Our excursion was a historical pirate adventure. We went to Blackbeard's actual castle and got to see it, but unfortunately we couldn't go in it because of hurricane damage that was still being fixed. That hurricane really was devastating to this part of the Caribbean. 

Pretty views from the hillside below the castle (and the million steps we climbed down to get to ground level)...

I love the contrasting colors of the sea, the hills, and the roofs! 😍

We went to a pirate museum that was really good, with lots of real artifacts from shipwrecks in the sea. There was a really nice guy who worked there who's been on TV for his work diving and finding things like these.

Also at the museum was a dead-ringer for Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean!

I spotted this cool iguana hanging out on a rock on the way back to the ship.

More hurricane damage, viewed from the front of the ship. 

Just pretending!

I'll always love the beautiful island of St. Thomas!