Before we left on the cruise we killed some time at Downtown Disney in Orlando. This was seen in a minivan's back window. You can always tell when you're at a Disney park... people get really, really geeky.
The Lego store; I liked this London display.
Cari and Aurora.
I tried on a Mad Hatter hat in a store.
I got a kick out of these smart Disney women. What I really like about Disney is the creative energy put into everything they do. Lots to look at.
We have all wondered.
Gangsta Mickey tee-shirt. Would Walt have approved? Probably not.
I didn't understand these odd vinyl "collectable" figures.
We left Orlando and drove to Port Canaveral to embark. As this photo suggests, this was not fun. Also as this photo suggests, the average age of the cruise participant was in the 60's.
Our cruise vessel, the good ship Norwegian Sun. Read about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_Sun - we wanted a somewhat smaller cruise ship. This one had about 1,900 passengers. Top speed: 23 knots.
A shot of the Sun as we boarded.
The ship's incredibly long corridors reminded me of the Kubrick horror movie "The Shining," where the kid rides the Big Wheel down the hallways.
Our stateroom; it was quite nice. The only problem was a crying toddler in the stateroom next door who awoke at 4 AM and 6 AM every morning and awoke us. Jamming cotton in my ears didn't help - so we changed staterooms.
Thinking about taking a small crying child on a cruise? Do yourself and your fellow passengers a favor - DON'T.
Our stateroom looking towards the balcony, which we were very happy to have. One of the major plusses in this trip was simply sitting out on the balcony and watching the sea and landscape pass by - very pleasant. Tip to those thinking of going on a cruise: Get a balcony stateroom. It's worth the added expense!
We toured around.
Here we are on the forward observation deck. I am wearing my boat shirt, which is appropriate at last. The ship is just north of Cuba. (You can barely see the skyline of Havana behind me.) We liked this area, and watched several sunsets from here.
Havana, Cuba. Maybe when Castro dies this place will return to sanity and become a major tourism destination for Americans...
Another shot of the upper deck.
One of the neat ship's things the hard-working stateroom crews do is creative towel folding.
We found this towel seal on our bed one evening.
There was a casino on deck and I dropped a couple of bucks on nickel slots. These things have become impossible to understand. Slot machines were more fun when I was a kid, when they only had three rolllers and were far simpler.
One of our favorite television stations showed ship's information.
I also appreciated the maps showing where we were in the world.
It seemed that most of the crew were Filipinos. These were the "Washy-washy-happy-happy" girls who sprayed everyone's hands with sanitizer when entering the eating areas. I suppose this kept down colds and flus, etc. They became celebrities.
We spent a lot of time doing this.
When we changed staterooms to get away from the crying toddler we wound up next to a couple also from Virginia! (You can see my reflection at left...)
One of the fascinations of the sea were all the shades of blue the ship left in its wake.
The sunsets were neat, too. Cari and I watched a number of these. I swear I have a Mormon Tabernacle Lp with a scene like this on the cover...
One of the sunsets.
It was also fascinating to watch the pool water slosh about in heavier seas. Here it collects in the deep end...
...and here it slams into the shallow end, spraying the people in the Jacuzzis. What fun to watch! It should be noted that there were some pretty horrible sights on the pool deck: Europeans in way too tight and small swim suits (one guy looked like he had an Ace bandage wrapped around himself), really obese people and horrible tattoos. The winner of the worst tattoo award was a young guy who had folded angel wings on his back. It looked like he slid across an inky platen.
There was a jewelry store on board the ship - they really push the jewelry sales... Cari bought some earrings.
The ship offered bobble heads, but we passed.
We woke up and looked out the balcony and this was our first view of our first port: Cozumel, Mexico. Do not cross the red line!
Here's the Cozumel shore from the ship's aft end, where we had breakfast. That's one big flag! We were pondering whether or not we wanted to go on a snorkeling expedition, but decided not to. As it turned out, this wasn't a bad thing. One fellow passenger we spoke to thought he encounted raw sewage (or Gulf oil spill oil) swimming near the lighthouse. When he got back to the ship he wiped hand sanitizer all over himself!
On the Cozumel pier.
As it was a VW I couldn't resist.
We saw a lot of luche libre wrestling masks - I own an El Santo one that a friend gave me some years ago.
I like this shot on the Cozumel beach: Cari, an enormous Mexican flag and our ship.
A sculpture on the beach. We rested in the shade of this little area for a time and I bought Cari some Evian water from a market across the street. I think we were both somewhat dehydrated. We were panhandled by a Mexican drunk.
This store was great! It wasn't at all like the Mexican stuff you see in, say, a Pier One Imports. This place represented full out Mexican design and culture - a fascinating store. Almost like an art museum.
Cari shops in the Five Suns.
The Five Suns complex also has a great restaurant where we had lunch - Pancho's Backyard. Cari loved her taquitos. I liked the shady backyard design. A very nice experience.
The musicians in Pancho's Backyard.
We bought this terra cotta sun in the Five Suns.
The plaque that went with the sun we bought.
The skeleton display - lots of this here...
After shopping and eating at Cozumel we made our way back to the ship. I was struck by this image...
As we left each port, people hung out of their balconies and rubbernecked. I was no exception.
The next stop was Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala. Here's the approach in the bay.
Cari pointed out some flying fish by the ship, and I managed to get them in flight.
The highlands near Santo Tomas. Our feet.
More highlands. It looked like the Vietnamese highlands as seen on episodes of "Tour of Duty."
Our first view of the pier was not promising. Looked pretty industrial.
It got more industrial... we docked near a shipyard. The NCL people said that this was a "primitive" port, and they were right!
I was told that Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita ship produce out from here. As it turned out, watching the shipping operations here was interesting. Those big yellow vehicles can stack the modules atop one another. This went on without stopping.
I call this shot "McHale's Navy."
Tie the Sun up to the pier...
Our welcoming committee. The Guatemalans seemed very happy to see us arrive, and gave us a nice send off with dancers and musicians when we left.
We made our way down the pier to a warehouse where a tourism center was located, and shopped there. It was very hot and so we decided to not go on any inland excusions - none really appealed to us. But we liked the musicians. This lot played an unforgettable version of "the Stars and Stripes Forever!"
Cari looks a little wiped out - as she was.
The local beer here is Gallo, $1 a bottle. A lot of it was purchased by Norwegian Sun passengers... I'm told it was "okay."
Shopping. Very colorful goods.
We bought a Christmasy green and red runner from this woman. By the way, the southern end of the warehouse is the farthest south I have ever traveled on the globe...
There were some jade Mayan artifact displays. Santo Tomas is known for its jade.
Some drummers and dancers appeared - they were quite fun to watch. Reminded me of a section of the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland... I am *such* a provincial Southern Californian...
I kept seeing this Santa Claus-looking Norwegian Sun passenger. I wanted to get my photo taken with him, but it never happened.
Some children did some dances, too.
The children dancers. That little kid in black at front stole the show as a monkey.
The next stop was Belize City, Belize (formerly British Honduras). As the pier was too shallow for the Sun, we were tendered ashore on boats. The Sun was anchored five miles away. The trip out was quite fun.
Belize City. We decided to go on the Altun-Ha Mayan temple expedition here. The weather became cloudy, threatening rain.
On the bus to Altun-Ha. I got a kick out of this street sign.
Some of the homes were... well... unusual.
An iguana hanging out on a wall. Lots of 'em here. And yes, Belizians eat them.
I got a kick out of this patch.
Plaque at the entrance of the ruins site.
Temple at Altun-Ha. You're allowed to climb these.
I liked this temple. Looks very Mayan. There were actually some tourists standing around, but I Photoshopped them out...
Here. See? Tourists. And Cari.
Lynette, our pleasant and cheerful tour guide. She sang us the Belizian national anthem on the bus.
Her associate Evette. Lynette and Evette - cool!
There were some pretty interesting trees on the site, too. This is a banyan tree.
A Mayan face seen in the construction.
It started to rain; I'm glad I brought the umbrella for Cari. I also like the red and green Christmas seasonal motif...
The highest temple; we climbed this one.
The site seen from atop the highest temple.
The temples, by the way, were built circa 200 - 900 AD. Read about the site here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altun_Ha
Cari and I atop the highest temple.
I Am Wesley the Lamanite! (That's an inside joke for my fellow Mormons...)
I Am Still Wesley the Lamanite!
Back in Belize City we had lunch at a place called the Wet Lizard - owned by a gal from Georgia! I had many good Cokes while on this cruise, by the way. Made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup...
For a $1 donation to a local charity you can write your name to commemorate your visit. "Fools' names and fools' faces are often seen in public places," as Dad used to say.
The Wet Lizard.
I got a kick out of this Breitling street clock.
The next stop - after a day at sea - was Key West, Florida. Here's the pier (on a Navy base) at sunrise.
We took a tour trolley. I wanted to ride the little conch trains, but couldn't - so that was a minor disappointment. This is a gate that is open only for U.S. Presidents - so we were told.
This is the Federal building - finished with crushed coral. Or shell. I forget which.
I liked this shot...
A wharf scene.
This unassuming little white building is actually Jimmy Buffett's recording studio.
Here's Kermit, the chef, showing a pie to the trolley.
The oldest house on Key West, c. 1829.
Bahama Village Market.
Key West Lighthouse.
Key West is closer to Cuba (90 miles) than mainland Florida, so here's a monument to the Father of Cuba.
The southernmost point in the continential United States is on Key West.
...and here's the southernmost Menorah. I don't know why.
Highway 1, which runs from Maine to Florida, begins and ends on Key West. On one side of the street is this, Mile 0.
Here's the other side of the street, where 1 begins.
Key West cemetery. Because the place is three feet under sea level and floods, the graves have to be put above ground, as in New Orleans. Otherwise, atrocities.
Lots of roosters walking about in Key West. I saw some crossing the road. I didn't ask why.
I had a slice of real authentic Key Lime pie here. You know what? Cari's is much better!
This is the building where the Sloppy Joe was invented. Key West has many such claims to fame.
Art painted on a piece of roofing, which I found interesting.
Cari found this - women wearing nothing but body paint - interesting.
Shopping in Key West. Cari bought some shells.
Back on board the ship... we didn't have a long enough visit to Key West.
The shows on board the ship were pretty good. On the last night the crew came out on stage. The fellow in front third from left is Ronny Borg, the ship's captain. (Yes, we had a captain named Borg. Resistance was futile.)
Disembarking from the ship was far faster and more pleasant than getting on it was!
Back in Downtown Disney, Cari dances with the Fantasia brooms.
Another example of Disney creativity. That's a topiary Mickey Mouse.
We visited several Disney resort hotels, just to check them out. She's on the cell phone to our daughter in the Wilderness Lodge lobby, where we had lunch before driving to the airport for the trip home.
...and here's what Virginia looked like when we got back home. Brown and cold (35 degrees and windy). But it was very nice to visit the Caribbean in November and December! I'd like to do it again!