Caribbean Wrap-Up

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The next stop after Antigua was Grand Turk.  Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, (population 5,000). It is here that Christopher Columbus first made landfall on his initial voyage to the New World in 1492. Almost 500 years later, US astronaut John Glenn “discovered” Grand Turk himself, after he became the first American man to orbit the earth and splashed down a mile off shore.

The Carnival Corporation has developed a cruise terminal here that is a destination all it’s own.  There are retail shops, a beautiful huge pool, a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville, and of course there is a beach all set up with many chairs.  And the water! It just keeps getting prettier and prettier on each island.

untitled-19It’s not as crowded as it looks. I’m the last person that likes to be around many people at one time but have to say taking a cruise with 3,000 people and probably 1,000 crew members is really not bad at all. The ship is so big that once on it, there is plenty of space and it’s easy to be alone somewhere. Ask my daughter. She lamented the fact that each night that she went “bar hopping” there was no one to socialize with except the bartenders. Fortunately, she met a woman her age from the Ukraine towards the end of the cruise and they did things together.

Next stop was Half Moon Cay, an island in the Bahamas that Holland America bought in 1997 for 6 million dollars. The 2,400-acre island serves as a private retreat for passengers  of Carnival, Princess Cruises, and Holland America. This was the only island where we had to take a boat to the shore. Normally the cruise ships use their lifeboats that hold about 150 people each. But Half Moon Cay has some much larger open air boats permanently located there to transfer passengers and therefore the process goes much quicker.

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Carnival Corporation invested $15 million to spruce up Half Moon Cay, but just two percent of it has been developed. Located less than 100 miles southeast of Nassau, the island houses its passenger facilities on less than 50 acres; much of the remaining land serves as a preserve for migratory birds.  Physically, the island boasts a 2.5-mile-long crescent-shaped beach — the source of the name Half Moon Cay.

untitled-24Crew members from our ship ferried our lunch to shore and set up buffet lines. There were covered picnic tables for everyone that are each surrounded by tall hedges.

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Actually the hedges surround everything and when it was time for me to head back to the ship I had no idea what direction I was going. Here again, it was possible to be all alone because I didn’t see a soul until I wandered into the shopping area. From there, I knew where I was.

untitled-36Bartenders from the ship set up several bars in the area including in this ship that was built by a whiskey company but I can’t remember their name.

untitled-31My daughter Lauren  decided to see a little sun but she was so slathered in sunscreen that she came back to Colorado as white as she left.

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Back to the cold. But not for long.

Under Contract!

I have been home from the Caribbean cruise for five days and not had a chance to write a post for the last two ports we stopped in.  The internet on the ship slowed down to the point that reading email was about all anyone could do.

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Alison and Susan

The cruise ended in Galveston, Texas and friends Alison and Susan were at the port waiting for us.  Steve and I met these two cousins on our free cruise to Australia September 2014 when we were assigned to the same table in the dining room. Then coincidentally, Alison and her sister-in-law were in the cabin right next to us on our second free cruise which was to Hawaii December 2014.  After going out for brunch and a bit of shopping in Galveston, Alison and Susan drove us to the Houston airport.  These two cheerfully drove all the way from north of Houston to Galveston and back to Houston for us, probably 200 miles altogether.  Southern hospitality at it’s best and I hope we can repay them someday.

I have to mention that Steve and I have made so many fine friends since we started traveling 6 years ago.  On the other hand, in 9 years of owning our home here we don’t know the name of a single person on our street and no one says hello or is so much as willing to even make eye contact.

I had my phone on airplane mode while out of the country in order to not have roaming charges but once at the Houston airport I checked my phone messages.  For a bit of background, we had listed our house for sale by owner back in November. A full week before I flew home a real estate agent came to the door and told Steve he had some buyers who found our house online and contacted the agent (instead of us–not smart) to see it. Steve asked what the commission would be and he said 3%. That’s $13,470 to do some paperwork and coordinate inspections and appraisals which I could have easily done.  Steve told him I was not at home and he would talk to me about the commission. When Steve sent me an email about it I blew it off.

When I checked my phone messages there were three from the realtor which at first I wasn’t going to respond to. But since I was bored sitting in the airport I decided to call and before he could say anything I told him no we would not show the house to his buyers as we were not going to pay any commission. Evidently, he must have known the buyers were very interested because he said he would check with them to see if they would pay the commission. He called back a few minutes later and said yes they would pay all of it and we set up a showing for the next day, Sunday.

On Tuesday we received an offer and it was exactly 3% less than our asking price. Can you believe it?  However, one half of the married couple buying the house signed the contract as Doctor ……………..  That wasn’t a very smart agent to let her do that because we knew they didn’t have affordability issues when we made a counter offer. It was accepted. Now we just have the hurdle of inspections and the appraisal which I’m not too worried about.

Closing date is set for April 8th and then we will be FREE of property taxes (that subject alone warrants a rant post), homeowners insurance (another rant), a water bill that is an absolutely gouge when we barely use any, sewer bill, natural gas bill, electricity, trash removal, cable, and internet bill. And of course never ending maintenance costs.

The next two months are going to be very busy getting rid of almost everything we own before we take off in our little motorhome Tulip. It is too small to full time in and sooner than later we will buy something larger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antigua

Antigua

This particular cruise is what is called a “Journeys” cruise. What this means is that in every port local entertainers perform either on the pier or inside the ship. Local chefs also come on board and give cooking demonstrations and every lunch and dinner has a sampling of Caribbean dishes specific to the island we are docked at. 

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Antigua has a touristy shopping area right off the ship as do the other ports. I was immediately waylaid by a lady who thought I needed one braid on the side of my hair to keep it out of my face. $2 and just a few minutes was all she needed. I told her we would be back later.

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This is Karen and her taxi. She approached Lauren and I wanting to sell us a little tour. It was time to see something other than port areas and off we went.

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We passed by two herds of goats and they were being herded by dogs – with not a person anywhere. Karen said this is typical.

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Antigua has a new sports stadium for cricket that the people are very proud of. There’s an opposite side just like this one. 

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Other than this old church in St. Johns that is being renovated, we saw typical neighborhoods, the airport, a long ago shut down sugar factory, and houses along the beach.  We did see a modern looking medical college too.

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Beach house

Karen was a smart lady and very interesting to talk to. We learned there is no university in Antigua so the students who receive a scholarship go to Cuba. The Antigua government pays a small portion but Cuba covers the rest without asking for anything in return. There is very little unemployment in Antigua other than “the people too lazy to work”. Antigua is technically not in the Caribbean but in the Atlantic Ocean.  When the tourist season is over Karen goes to New York and works as a chef. Gas is $5 a gallon because it has to be shipped in.

Karen, as well as another local that I talked to wanted to know what we thought of Trump and what is wrong with all those people who like him.  When a music store owner asked me that I told him we might move to Antigua if Trump got elected. He said good and that he would take care of me because he wanted me to be his mother-in-law, meaning he had eyes for Lauren.

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After the tour was over the corn row lady was waiting for me. She took Lauren and I to a rooftop where another woman from the cruise was getting a full head braided. There were no mirrors and so I couldn’t see what she was doing but it seemed like she was parting my hair in a different direction than I thought it should be for just one braid on the side. Pretty soon it was obvious she was doing more than one braid and I asked to see a mirror. Egads! She had done 4 braids going backwards on my head and since they started in the middle it would look very strange without having a few more. She said she thought I would need 8 and I reluctantly said okay. Well she did 10 and then wanted to do the right side too which would have been 20 braids and $40. At that point I said enough and gave her the $20 and left. As soon as we got to the ship I took them out.  That is known as the corn row scam and no you can’t see the picture Lauren took.

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I cannot get over how clear and pretty the water is on most of the islands

St. Kitts and St. Maarten

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These signs are on several decks and are a big help to find my way off the ship as my seeing eye girl Lauren mostly opts to stay on board.

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Hindsight tells me I should have booked an island tour in St. Kitts as there are several that look interesting. I will have a second chance when it is time for Steve to see some of the Caribbean. This is the center of Basseterre. There is a huge shopping area for the cruisers just beyond the museum on the left side of this picture. This, the actual town was mostly devoid of people from the ship.

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This small island is home to Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin. Our ship docked in St. Maarten, a very pretty place. I took this water taxi to Philipsburg, the capitol.

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Spectacular color which I have not made one single enhancement or adjustment to. It is straight out of the camera. Not too many people took advantage of the beach chairs that locals rent out for approximately $10, but they were pretty to look at as every section was a different color.

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This nice long walkway covers the length of the city along the beach. As you might expect, being Dutch, the city was very clean.

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Pretty little church. Children inside were being taught hymns to a subtle Caribbean drum beat in the background.

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The Wind Surf, docked next to our ship, is the largest cruise sail ship in the world

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There were many high dollar yachts in port as well as three cruise ships. Next stop for us is Antigua.