Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 5: Curacao on the Carnival Vista

On our last port of call in La Romana, we had no specific plans, so we got to sleep in. Today we were booked for a two tank dive with Caribbean Sea Sports.....and we still got to sleep in! Yay! When we first booked this cruise, I noticed that our port times for Curacao were from 1 pm until 10 pm. My first thought when I saw those times? Night dive! I immediately started researching dive operators and whether or not we could do a night dive with them.

Since we were cruising in December, sunset was early enough to allow full darkness for a night dive and still give us plenty of time to get back to the ship. Works for me! A late arrival time into Willemstad would allow us to have a relaxed morning before heading to the dive shop.

We are really getting spoiled to having our coffee and pastries on the balcony for first breakfast! Cindy and I took our time over coffee while watching the coast of Curacao slide by in the near distance. Our dive gear was already prepped, so all we needed to do was grab it and go when we docked. Actually, we had lunch before reaching Willemstad as well. The weather was so nice that we decided to have lunch on our balcony as well. We headed up to Lido and I grabbed a BLT and chips while Cindy opted for a Reuben. With a light breakfast and a moderate lunch, we were set for food until we got back. We made sure to have a couple of Cliff bars in our bag just in case, though.

Approaching Willemstad

I'm glad we happened to have our cabin on the port side of the ship, as we got to watch the pilot boat approach. It never fails to amaze me when I watch these boats approach the ship. These huge cruise ships, with their stabilization technology, make for smooth, comfortable sailing, at least for the most part. While we may feel only the merest bit of motion, the smaller boats look like a carnival ride.

Here comes the pilot boat

As we watched the pilot boat get closer, it was pitching and rolling wildly, while our ship continued sedately on course. I even joked to Cindy about how it reminded me of one of our dive boats in Belize.

And it takes a big wave

I'd like to take a ride on a pilot boat one of these days, just to experience what we watched. I've seen this on several occasions, and always wonder if they are strapped into seats or just develop a keen sense of balance. 

Coming alongside

Once the pilot boarded the Vista, we picked up a little more speed and soon we were approaching the pier. Keith and Barbara were still feeling under the weather, so they opted not to dive again today. Cindy and I proceeded to the Red Frog Pub for "priority debarkation." Basically, a bunch of us were just milling around until a uniformed crew member said: "Right this way, please." We dutifully followed her down a few flights of stairs and shortly thereafter we were off the ship.

We met J.J. from Caribbean Sea Sports, who drove us to their dive shop, about a ten minute ride away. He dropped us off near the shop and a short walk later we met Marcel, our divemaster for the day. Since we paid ahead of time, all we needed to do was fill out the obligatory release forms and start assembling our gear. We also needed to analyze our gas mixture, as we were diving nitrox today. Our tanks checked out, just as I figured they would, and Marcel gave us our dive briefing.

CSS dive shop
photo courtesy of Caribbean Sea Sports

When booking this dive, we had several options, from an afternoon boat dive to a shore dive from several our choice of several locations. The night dive would be a shore dive on the dive operator's "house reef" near the dive shop. As a group, we agreed that it would be most interesting to make both the afternoon dive and night dive from the same location so we could directly compare the two.

If you've read my blog on our day in Grand Turk (I really hope you did), you'll remember how I made a big deal about not carrying my camera that day. Well.....once again, I didn't bring my camera. I had a good reason, though. Doing a night dive requires a good light source, which we both had. I do have a video light for my camera, but it isn't bright enough for use as a dive light. It's great for close up work, but not for distance illumination. So, I could carry one or the other. Obviously, I'd need the dive light for the night dive, which ruled out carrying the video light/camera setup. While I could've carried the camera for the afternoon dive, I didn't know if I could secure it adequately for the night dive. I made the decision to leave it on the ship as it just wasn't practical to bring both.

Marcel, our DM (the diver in front)
photo courtesy of Caribbean Sea Sports

For this dive, we walked to the end of the pier in front of their shop and stepped right in. We spent the first few minutes of the dive looking for a seahorse that had taken up residence on one of the pier's supports. We didn't find it, so Marcel led us off along the reef. It seemed like there was a lot of debris on the bottom, and I made note of it to ask Marcel when we got back to the surface. As we neared the end of our dive, Marcel led us up this gradual incline to our safety stop depth. Our exit was at a small beach near the dive shop.

Dive #1 - afternoon
scanned from printed log

When asked about the debris we saw, Marcel informed us that some of it came from a pier that was wrecked during a hurricane. Cindy asked about all the empty bottles we found, and he said these came from passing party boats and yachts. "These people will finish a bottle of Champagne and just toss it overboard. There is no way to catch them at it, so it becomes a mess." 

Even with a 50 minute dive, we still had plenty of time before sunset, so I knew we would have a long surface interval. Marcel suggested we go to the nearby hotel restaurant and grab some dinner if we wanted to eat. With our recent hearty lunch, neither of us was hungry, so we just hung out at the dive shop, relaxing and enjoying a day on a Caribbean beach.

Nature treated us to a beautiful sunset while we organized our gear for our upcoming dive. This would be Cindy's first night dive, but she showed no signs apprehension or discomfort. If anything, she seemed excited to try something new. That's my girl! 

Because we were diving the same location, Marcel's pre-dive brief mainly covered how we would use the dive lights for signaling. He cautioned us not to keep our lights shining on parrotfish too long, as that would cause them to move from their sleep position and destroy a protective bubble they created each night to sleep. Yet another reason I love diving. I learn something new every time.

By design, this dive would be limited to 45 minutes, more or less. We had to be somewhat cognizant of the time, and 45 minutes would be adequate to see what we wanted to see. Once again, we made our entry from the end of the pier. The next time someone tells me "Take a long walk off a short pier" I can truthfully answer "Been there, done that" and leave them wondering. 

We actually found the seahorse this time after a brief search. As we progressed through our dive, we found several lionfish, but not as many as I expected. That's a good thing, too! The really cool thing was the way our lights reflected off a huge lobster. It was almost iridescent, and I wish I could've gotten a photo of that. 

All too soon our dive was over and we made our exit at the same beach. As we walked out of the water, I noticed a group of three or four sitting around a fire, enjoying the evening. I would've loved to had a Creature from the Black Lagoon costume on as we exited the water. That would've been hilarious, at least to me. Then again, I probably would've gotten my butt kicked, too.

Dive # 2 - night
scanned from printed log

We rinsed our gear off in the outside shower and rinse tank. It would be too late to rinse our gear on Lido, so this worked out perfectly for us. Marcel insisted we take our time rinsing our gear and getting it stowed in our dive bags properly. We didn't want to hold him up, as he still had to drive us back to the ship. He assured us that we weren't holding anything up, as he had the next day off. "Just take your time and take care of your dive gear." Thanks, Marcel! 

Back to the ship
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

Almost aboard
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

He dropped us off at the cruise terminal and we got back on the ship in very short order. As it was already 7:30 pm, there was no way we'd get cleaned up in time to make it for dinner. Of course, we knew this ahead of time and had already planned to have dinner in the Lido buffet. A quick detour to the cabin to drop off our dive gear and we were headed up to Lido. I grabbed an assortment of food, from a rice pilaf to chicken strips and satisfied my hunger. 

Back to the cabin to shower and change into our nightly wear. Cindy looked through the Fun Times while I was showering and thought going to the "High Seas Karaoke" in the Limelight Lounge would be fun. Ummm, sure, babe, sounds like fun. I'd much rather listen to a bunch of amateurs sing than watch some of the ship's professionals entertain us. Oh, wait, there's no sarcasm font, is there? 

Hey, look, some empty seats next to Keith and Barbara. As we plopped down beside them, I asked how they were feeling. Even though they were feeling a little better, they decided to scrub tomorrow's dive in Aruba with us. I'll admit that some of our fellow passengers actually did a good job. None of them were truly "bad," but one or two really knocked it out of the park. Our pick up time was 10 am the next day so we could stay up a little. That also meant, yes, you guessed it, coffee and pastries on the balcony! Most cool.

While this concluded our day, I want to introduce y'all to some of our other traveling group that I've mentioned, but not yet really written about. Cindy's brother Brian, his wife Denise and their son Brian Marcus ("B-Man") had some really cool excursions in most of the ports. 

Brian, Denise and B-Man took a private excursion featuring the highlights of Curacao's east side. Of course we didn't get to ask them about their excursion until the following night at dinner. We got to hear about their day in Curacao and Aruba. My Aruba blog will be out after I post this one, by the way. They seemed to have a good time in Curacao, and judging from some of the photos I saw B-Man did some exploring after dark as well.

Denise & Brian Weinert
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

Vista at sunset
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

Lighted arches
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

B-Man takes a selfie
photo courtesy of Brian M.Weinert

I believe all of us had fun in Curacao, whether diving, exploring or just hanging out on the ship and enjoying a little downtime. We have one more port day, Aruba, then two sea days back to Miami. What will tomorrow bring? 

For your convenience, here are links to the rest of my blogs in the series thus far:

Coming up next, we visit Aruba!

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi

Friday, January 12, 2018

Day 4: La Romana on the Carnival Vista

Sleeping in? On a port day? Yes, it's true! Usually, on a port day, we are up and ready to go, dive bags on our backs, ready to debark the ship and head to the dive shop as soon as we are able. As I mentioned in my last blog, we had no specific plans for La Romana. From what I was able to determine, the diving wasn't that good locally and there were no specific tours or excursions that sounded appealing. We'd just play it by ear and see how it would go. 

Welcome to La Romana

We were scheduled to dock at 9 am, and since I enjoy watching the process, I ordered our now-standard coffee and pastries for 8:30. We could watch everything from our balcony, have first breakfast and formulate a plan for the day. Cindy actually brought along some study materials for her last class she had to take. She was perfectly happy to study for a few hours in the morning while I sat on the balcony reading something on my Kindle. 

The cruise terminal is located in an industrial area, so I knew if we wanted to get off the ship it would be limited pretty much to the shops in the terminal area only. Fine with me, I'm flexible.

I watched our ship approach the pier and noted the line handling crew standing by, ready to secure the lines to the bollards. We actually backed into our spot, a somewhat common occurrence. Whew, it's definitely hot out here today! Well, maybe since our a/c is turned down nice and low it just feels hot. No, it's hot! The heat and humidity reminded me of summer in SE Texas, so it was really nothing unusual. Besides, we're in the Caribbean! What other kind of weather would be here?

Below is a screenshot I captured from Google Earth that will give you a good idea of where we docked and should give you a better feel for where I took some of the following photos. Note that the cruise ship on the Google Earth photo also backed into the same place we did.  

La Romana cruise terminal
image captured from Google Earth

Even from our Deck 7 balcony, I had an amazing view of the cruise terminal. The view got even better when we headed up to Lido for lunch, but more on that later. We were in no hurry to get off the ship, so I filled my tumbler with ice water and sipped on that while enjoying the view. The following few photos are looking basically east.

The terminal from our balcony

Looking forward (right)

Looking aft (left)

I had fun watching our fellow passengers as they walked down the pier, heading to whatever excursion or outing they had planned. Some were walking with a purpose, passing others who chose a more sedate pace. Some had backpacks or totes with them, while others didn't seem to be carrying anything.

Have fun, y'all!

First breakfast was good for a start, but lunch on Lido was sounding better and better. Being a port day, I knew lines wouldn't be too long at the most popular venues. That meant one thing: Guy's Burgers! You'd think being on a cruise ship, I wouldn't get excited over a mere cheeseburger, but hey, I love a tasty burger. Besides, I haven't had a Guy's Burger yet on this cruise.

A "Pig Patty" burger

We both took our time, savoring each bite, and watching those still on board enjoy their day as well. Once we finished lunch, we'd take a leisurely stroll off the ship and check out the vendors in the terminal area. If we saw something at a good price, we'd consider it. Otherwise, we'd take a look around and get back on the ship. There are an ice cream dispenser and a pool on Lido calling to me. No big deal, one way or the other.

A short walk from the ship brought us to the tourist area at the terminal. We passed several of our fellow passengers, heading back to the ship. Several were covered head to toe in mud! The only clean part on them was where their sunglasses were. We asked this group of four what they had been doing and they answered enthusiastically they had been "mudding" in ATVs. They related how much fun they had, which made us both want to do something like this the next time we cruised.

As we entered the shopping area we noticed that many vendors were present, offering a multitude of items for sale. Everything from shot glasses to t-shirts to hand-painted items was for sale. I happened to see a gentleman with dive gear in the area, and stopped to ask how the diving was. "Fantastic!" he replied. Great, so much for research.

We made the rounds of all the vendors, and actually found a few things worth a second look. One booth sold hand-painted shirts, and Cindy picked out a colorful shirt that will certainly look good on her. We also found a hand-painted wooden plate that had this beautiful sea fan painted on it. The price was right so we bought that as well.

Sea fan on a wood plate

This plate now resides on our fireplace mantel, alongside a wood Angelfish we got in Belize a few years ago. We shopped a little more, then decided to return to the ship. That ice cream wasn't going to eat itself. Nor were the chocolate chip cookies.

We walked past this large statue, and naturally I wanted a photo of it. Both of us posed with it, and we took several photos.

Interesting statue

Is it just me, or does this statue seem to have a Brazilian? Click on the photo for a larger view and tell me what you think.

I'm not the only one who takes many photos. Carnival has photographers constantly taking photos of the passengers, at dinner, on Lido, and at every port. As you get off the ship, they'll stop you on the gangway and have you pose for pictures. We usually just say "no, thank you" and keep walking. I realize they are just doing their job, so I don't hold it against them. As we made our way back to the ship, I saw two of the Carnival photographers waiting for more people to pass by. Bringing up my camera, I imitated their spiel about posing for a photo. Both immediately jumped into the act and posed nicely for me.


Back on the ship, we dropped our purchases off in the cabin, changed into swimwear and headed up to Lido. We found a couple of prime spots on aft Lido and plopped down to relax. Well, Cindy did, while I decided to take some more photos of the port area. As you'll be able to see from these photos, it's definitely an industrial area. If you'll look back at the Google Earth photo earlier in this blog, you can match that to what you see below.

Looking generally west

Looking generally WNW

Looking north

More and more people started filtering onto Lido as they came back from their time ashore. Based on the animated conversation I overheard, it sounds like most people had a great time. After my brief photo shoot, I dropped my camera into my bag and we enjoyed soaking in the hot tub for about an hour. By now the sun was creeping towards the western horizon and sailaway time was approaching. Timing was going to be perfect for this sailaway! Not only would we have time to watch sailaway from Lido, but shortly thereafter I could get some (hopefully) good sunset photos. I take many sunset photos on our cruises, and some of them have turned out quite nicely.

Sunset approaches...

We hung out on Lido, watching the sunset, until close to 5, when we headed downstairs to our cabin to clean up for dinner. For not having a full day planned, it still went by rapidly. We'll have to seriously consider doing that ATV mudding excursion the next time we're here.

If I haven't made it abundantly clear in my previous blogs, I'll make it clear now: I love that map screen on the TV! Then again, I'm that nerd who carries his GPS with him on every flight and every cruise and downloads the track log of those trips as well.

En route to Curacao

Did you notice our current speed? See what I mean about that number seeming to pop up everywhere? Recently Cindy and I had dinner with family from out of town and what was his order number? Yep, 19!

So, what's for dinner tonight? I'm not overly hungry, so just about anything on the menu will be fine with me.

Appetizer: "Michigan Pasty"
Filled with beef and potatoes, honey mustard dip

Wow, these are good! The beef was spiced just right, and the crust was flaky. I'm a big fan of honey mustard, so seeing this as a dipping sauce made the decision to order this app easy for me. I hope they are available on the next cruise we book.

Main: "Flat Iron Steak"
Pepper, herbs, broccoli, baked potato

I ordered my steak medium, but unfortunately, it came out well done. Well done, as in needing a scalpel to cut through it. The waitstaff is always happy to please, and it would've been easy for me to send it back for one less incinerated. I had taken only a couple of bites when the head waiter asked if I wanted another steak prepared. I wasn't hungry enough to warrant the extra work for them or wasting another steak, so I politely declined and finished the baked potato. That will just leave me more room for dessert.

Cindy's main: "Beef Wellington"
Puff pastry, burgundy sauce, roasted potato, pea gratin

She thoroughly enjoyed her beef Welly and was happy to see that the puff pastry wasn't soggy or undercooked. I had a bite of her pea gratin and would love to find a recipe for something similar. 

Dessert: Boston Cream Cake

No, that wasn't a typo. It was cake and good cake at that. It tasted just like a traditional Boston cream pie. I especially enjoyed the chocolate crumble with chocolate sauce you see on the plate. 

Cindy's brother Brian and his wife Denise followed us back to our cabin so they could check out the balcony. Like us, they book interior cabins and haven't done a balcony yet. All four of us fit on the balcony, although it was just a tad crowded. Not bad, but a larger aft wrap balcony would be more suited for more than just two.

We hung out in our cabin, just visiting and catching up on family gossip until the Love & Marriage Show. Of course, we left about 15 minutes early to get good seats, and all four of us settled into what is usually a funny show. For those not familiar with this show, the CD will host the Love & Marriage Show once per cruise. He or she normally selects the most recently wed couple, the longest wed couple and something in between. He'll then bring them on stage, sitting back to back, and ask them a series of questions. Much like TV's The Newlywed Game, these questions are definitely adult in nature, so Carnival restricts minors from the show. You can just imagine how funny some of their answers (and reactions) are. 

The show was as entertaining as we expected it to be, and afterward, Cindy and I headed back to our cabin to hang out on the balcony and listen to the water rushing by the ship. It's so relaxing to just watch the stars, listen to the waves and let your mind wander.

We don't get into Curacao tomorrow until 1 pm, so we get to sleep in again. Yay!

Coming up next, I'll take y'all on another "virtual" dive when I write about our time in Curacao.

For your convenience, here are the links to the previous blogs in this series:

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Day 3: Grand Turk on the Carnival Vista

Believe it or not, I was actually starting to stir a little when the alarm went off. Maybe it was the natural light seeping in around the curtains; I don't know. If it was, it definitely made getting up a little easier. If I had to pick one downside to port days, it would be having to get up "early." Hey, we're on vacation and if I don't have to get up before 8'ish, I won't. We've had a couple of port days where we had to be up at 6, yes 6, to get to our dive operator on time.

Today, though, we got to sleep until 7. Since everything was ready to go, Cindy and I dashed up to Lido for a quick breakfast then returned to the cabin to grab our dive bags. We were off the ship by 8 without even feeling like we had to rush.

Welcome to Grand Turk

I'm sure most of y'all reading this know just how badly that part of the Caribbean got hit by hurricanes in the Fall of 2017. It's bad enough when one major hurricane blows through, but two? Wow!  Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria both slammed into Grand Turk within a short time of each other. I can't even imagine facing two major hurricanes, back to back like that. According to several news outlets, Grand Turk was hit particularly hard and had no electricity for weeks afterward. At the time, we wondered if Carnival would be forced to change our itinerary and select a different port. 

Remarkably, Grand Turk made great progress with repairs and was ready for tourists around November. We booked our dives with Grand Turk Diving Company ("GTDC") since we used them the last time we were here in 2013. As we did before, we walked through the cruise terminal area to the taxi stand, where we met up with another couple and shared the van. Our fare from the cruise terminal to the dive shop was $6 per person. Not bad! Due to the rules of the terminal, wasn't allowed to pick us up in their boat, but they drop us off. Works for me!

During our seven-minute ride, the driver gave a thorough commentary of Grand Turk, including its part in history during the John Glenn's Mercury MA-6 mission. He splashed down very close to Grand Turk, in case you are curious. Here's the point where Cindy, if she was proofreading this, would call me a nerd......again......and give me that "Oh, bless your little nerdy heart" look. And she would be right.

With all the news reports we heard about how badly Grand Turk was damaged, I was amazed at how little destruction we actually saw on the way to the dive shop. There were a few buildings here and there that were obviously damaged, but just to look at the island, you wouldn't have known two major hurricanes wreaked such havoc just a few months previously. 

Has it really been four years since we were here last? It surely doesn't seem like it. We are glad just to be back here again. I still wear my GTDC cap I bought last time frequently. Not on this trip, though. While we dive in different ports on a given cruise, I always feel awkward wearing a "local" dive operator's cap, even though they are not in direct competition. So, if we are cruising the eastern Caribbean, I'll take a cap from somewhere in the western Caribbean. On this trip, I wore my "dive Cayman Islands" cap. When we do a western Caribbean cruise, such as Cozumel, Belize, and Honduras, I'll wear the GTDC cap. Yeah, I know, I'm probably wayyyyy overthinking this, but I feel better doing it this way.

GTDC dive shop

Jason, our divemaster from 2013, still works here and was actually scheduled to be our DM again. Something apparently came up, though, and Smitty, one of the owners, took us out. Originally, there was going to be four of us: Keith, Barbara, Cindy and me. With Keith and Barbara not feeling well, it was just Cindy and me. It was too late to e-mail GTDC and let them know that there would only be just the two of us the next day. While GTDC had every right to cancel this trip due to only two of us, they took us diving anyway. That just validates what I thought from the beginning, that they are truly a top-notch dive op. Thank you, GTDC!

Hello, Smitty!
photo courtesy of GTDC

I'm happy to see they still use the same dive boat we were on the last time: New Moon. She's fast and comfortable, and seeing her again was like seeing an old friend.

New Moon

I almost always take some sort of camera with me when we dive, be it a still camera or my GoPro. Today, though, I opted to leave my GoPro on the ship. I just wanted to dive, and not be thinking about capturing that next ultimate shot. Since photos, at least in my humble opinion, add so much to a story, I thought I'd add some from our previous trip here. While not from the exact location we made our dives, they'll be close enough. Lesson learned, just take the damned camera.....on every dive! I should've learned that lesson once in Grand Cayman (that's a whole 'nother story) but apparently, I'm too thick headed to listen to myself.

Smitty gave a very thorough pre-departure briefing, showing us where all of the safety/emergency equipment was located and soon we were heading to our first dive site, Amphitheater. I'm going to try something a little different on this blog, and I'd love some feedback on it. I thought I'd add a scan of my dive log printout from each dive. I don't keep a paper logbook anymore. I download the data from my dive computer into a dive log software and keep everything electronically for the most part. I do keep about a year's worth of dives printed out in a traditional logbook though so I can refer to it when traveling. Why is this important? 

Well, I knew that the last time we were diving in Grand Turk, I used 14 pounds of weight. I figured I could drop to 12 pounds on this dive. It's too hard to remember specifics like this, especially if it's been several years between dives in a given area. 

Before we knew it, Smitty had us tied up at the buoy for Amphitheater. He gave us a detailed site brief and in we went. The water temperature was a balmy 80 - 81 degrees throughout most of the dive. Visibility ("viz") was fantastic, probably 75 feet or better on average. Honestly, it did feel a bit odd for me, not having a camera in my hands. Many different species of fish, as well as turtles and rays added to an enjoyable dive, not to mention some beautiful coral. 

taken just south of Amphitheater at Alien Nation

Hiya, Mr. Grouper!
taken on same dive as above

Around the 45 minute mark, we ascended to 20 feet and did our 3-minute safety stop. I still had enough air in my tank for a few more minutes but wanted to keep my nitrogen loading down. Another fun dive in the books! Then again, I have yet to have a dive that's not a "fun dive."

I set my dive computer to record data (depth, air pressure, time, water temp. etc.) every fifteen seconds. That's the shortest time interval available. I can then download this data into software that will generate all kinds of neat graphs and analyses. Below is a scan from a printout of my electronic log from this dive. The graph represents depth in feet (vertical scale) versus time in minutes (horizontal scale). 

Amphitheater dive log

While there doesn't appear to be much narrative in my notes, I keep that section relatively brief, noting only the most important details. The software will allow much more narrative, but will only print what that text window will display. I usually add many photos to the electronic log in its own section to complete the story.

All three of us climbed back onto the boat, shed our gear and reviewed the dive while quenching our thirst with water. Scuba air, for those readers who don't dive, is extremely dry! As ironic as it is, we are completely submerged in water, yet will be really thirsty at the end of even a short dive. 

I knew we'd have at least an hour between dives (called the "surface interval" or "SI") that we could use to relax, get rehydrated, have a snack, make notes about the dive, etc. Depending on the dive operator and location, sometimes we'll get lunch or a snack on shore. Smitty decided it would be most efficient to spend our SI on the boat. Cindy broke out some Cliff bars to snack on and I started making notes on the dive to add to my log. What a beautiful day to be diving, too! We had blue skies with just a few clouds and a gentle breeze created the perfect temperature to relax in the shade of the boat's awning. Good thing there wasn't a hammock rigged up in the boat, or I would've crawled in and taken a nap.

During our SI, Smitty slowly moved the boat south to our next dive location, English Point. This location is a bit north of Windmills, our second dive from 2013. Since I've been tossing all these dive site names around, let's take a look at where they actually are in relation to each other. I only mention this to give you an idea of the variety of locations any given area will have. 

GTDC dive sites
image from GTDC website

Clicking on any of these photos will display a larger version in a new window, just like any blue text will link to a specific site in a new window. Just a reminder for my new readers. After another thorough site briefing, we donned our gear and splashed in. Ahhh, this water feels sooooo good! This site was every bit as nice as Amphitheater, and Smitty lead us along some beautiful reef formations, pointing out interesting species of fish along the way. 

As is customary, our second dive was a bit shallower than our first dive, so we were able to squeeze out a few more minutes than our first dive. We stopped in this flat area where there were quite a few garden eels hanging out and swaying in the light current. Smitty was able to coax one from the sand so we could see the entire thing, maybe 8 inches long. These eels are extremely shy and only keep their heads above the sand. They look like an index finger just poking out of the sand. They'll quickly hide completely under the sand as you approach them, so it's difficult to get a good photo of them. 

I found a suitable photo of some garden eels I took near the C53 wreck (one of my absolute favorite dive sites) in Cozumel a few years ago so you'll know what we look for.

Can you find them?

Yes, you'll have to click on the photo to enlarge it. Go ahead, I'll wait. Sort of like a "nautical Where's Waldo," right?

Did you find at least two of them? Here, let me help you out a little.

I circled two in orange for you.

Usually, there are many of them poking out of the sand, but as I mentioned earlier, they'll start hiding as you get closer. I was lucky to get at least these two on camera. 

I cropped the raw photo above to make it a little easier to see a pair of eels close together. One is sitting a bit higher than the other. 

There they are!

Once we got back on the dive boat, Cindy remarked how hard it was "to get close to those sandworms." Yeah, they are.......wait, whaaaaaat? What did she just call them?

No, she didn't just call them "sandworms!" My interior nerd sirens were screeching at top volume and a more rational part of my brain was trying to shout over my nerd sirens: "Don't do it! Just leave it alone!"

Yeah, right! With as straight a face as I could muster, I looked at her and said something like: "Oh, those are wayyyyy too small to be sandworms. Besides, we aren't on Arrakis." 

And there she goes.....calling me a nerd.....again......and she was right.....again. 

I tried to explain to her about the sandworms on Arrakis and got the same look I described before, with plenty of eye-rolling to accompany "the look." Smitty, to his credit, watched all of this with just the barest hint of a smile as he steered the New Moon back to the cruise terminal area. 

Sandworms of Arrakis
image from Google search

From the image above, you can see just how massively huge these critters are. Those little finger-sized eels aren't even close. Geeze, Cindy, how could you miss something like that? She did figure out I was imitating Beetlejuice when I then muttered, "Damn sandworms are 13% up!" Those sandworms are smaller than those on Arrakis, but still way bigger than our garden eels. And she's still married to me!

Thank you for indulging yet another of my nerd moments. I'll now return you to our regular blog programming.

We enjoyed two fun dives with Smitty, seeing many cool fish and types of coral. The viz was fantastic at both sites and the warm water kept all of us comfortable. 

English Point dive log

Smitty dropped us off about 50 yards from the cruise terminal. We could see a long line forming along the pier to get back on the Vista as we walked up to the security gate to get back into the terminal area. The line appeared to be moving quickly, so neither of us gave it a second thought. 

It was close to 1 pm when we got back on the ship. Our first order of business was to swing by our cabin and drop off everything but our dive gear. We headed up to the aft Lido to rinse the salt water off of our dive gear. We figured out several years ago that it is much easier to wash our dive gear in the fresh water showers by the pools. We also spread our dive gear on empty sun loungers to dry in the sun.

Now hold on, before the "no chair hogging" people get too bent out of shape.....we make sure to limit our gear to two loungers each and only if there are plenty available. That's why we wash our dive gear as soon as we get back onboard. The ship is usually much less crowded with many still on tours and off the ship. We also keep our gear out only as long as it takes to dry, then we gather everything back up and take it to the cabin. 

The aft Lido was remarkably empty when we got up there, and dozens of sun loungers were empty. We rinsed all of our dive gear and I babysat our gear while Cindy went to find something for lunch. This nice lady, Yanique, happened to be sitting on a lounger next to us. She heard our conversation and offered to watch our gear while I went to get my lunch.

I grabbed a Cubano sandwich from the deli and Cindy picked up a couple of slices of pizza. We split the sandwich and pizza slices and enjoyed chatting with Yanique. That was very nice of her to watch our gear, so I asked if I could buy her a drink when I got a couple for Cindy and me.  She seemed surprised at the offer but allowed me to buy her a daiquiri. I brought Yanique's and Cindy's drinks first, then ordered mine. About the time I sat down and took a sip of my drink, Yanique noticed a fly in hers. I jumped up and told her I'd take it back and have them make another. 

She then stood up and said "Oh HECK no! You've been running back and forth since you got up here. You sit down and enjoy your lunch and drink." I tried to convince Yanique to let me take care of this, but she would have none of it. At least we could watch her stuff until she got back. What a pleasant, charming lady! And that's another reason we love cruising....meeting nice people like her. I gave her one of our contact cards that has our e-mail and blog address on it and told her I was going to be writing a blog about our cruise. Yanique, if you are reading this, I sure hope you comment on it and leave your e-mail address. You are a class act!

Once our gear was dry, we gathered it up and were taking it to the cabin when we ran into Brian, Denise and "B-Man." They were coming up to Lido to relax by the pool after their day in Grand Turk. They saved a couple of loungers for us while we dropped off our gear and returned. Now that we didn't have gear to babysit, we all enjoyed hanging out in the hot tubs for sailaway. We talked about our respective days in Grand Turk and soaked in the hot tub until 4:30. We needed to shower and get dressed for dinner. 

Our late lunch was tasty, but I was still ready for dinner. Half a Cubano sandwich and a slice of pepperoni pizza, after diving, served its purpose of tiding us over. While we were getting cleaned up in the cabin, I had our mp3 player cranking out Christmas music while the TV displayed the map channel. Cindy and I headed to Deck 3 for dinner, wondering if we'd see Keith and Barbara there. We knew Brian, Denise and B-Man would be there.

I was glad to see Keith and Barbara at dinner. They were feeling a little better, but still not quite 100% yet. They still have a couple of days before our next dive in Curacao. Shall we have a look at the menu?

Appetizer: "Cannelloni"
Ricotta, bacon, shaved parmesan

I don't recall having this particular app before and was pleasantly surprised with it. The pasta was cooked al dente, just as I like it, the smoky bacon adding another layer of flavor to the richness of the ricotta and parmesan. I'll definitely order this again if it's available the next time we cruise.

Main: "Grilled Beef Tenderloin"
Polenta, red wine sauce

Pleasant surprise number two tonight: The polenta was loaded with flavor! Thick and rich, it served as the perfect counterpoint to the beef. I didn't need to add salt or pepper to anything on the plate.

Dessert: Caramelized pineapple and ice cream

This was a hybrid dessert of sorts. I ordered the caramelized pineapple off the featured dessert for the day and supplemented it with buttered pecan ice cream, available daily. There are few things more decadent and satisfying than caramelized pineapple slices. Add a couple of scoops of buttered pecan ice cream and you get one heckuva finish to a tasty meal.

We waddled back to our cabin to change back into our "comfy clothes" and plan our evening. Our cabin steward left us a gorilla, I think, towel animal and tomorrow's Fun Times. 


We had no specific plans for La Romana the next day. From my pre-cruise research, the diving didn't appear to be that good around there, and no tours (excursions) looked that appealing, at least for the price we were willing to pay. That meant we could sleep in, enjoy breakfast on the balcony and play the rest by ear. At worst, we could get off the ship and check out the local merchants in the terminal area. 

For tonight we'd check out the other comedian currently on the Vista, Jason Blanchard. His adult show was as funny as Rob Little's. All seven of us had a great time, and I'm looking forward to hearing him again. Thanks for the laughs, Jason! The night was still young, so we figured the piano bar would be a good place to listen to some tunes, sing along to them and see how much fun we could have. A lot, apparently, as we stayed there until midnight. 

Midnight? That's, like, four hours since we've eaten something. We can't have that! Up to Lido, we went, contemplating what sorts of munchies would make the perfect ending to such a fun day. I think more pizza is in order. That, and ice cream. It's a classic midnight-on-a-cruise ship pairing, you know. 

So that was our day in Grand Turk. I hope y'all enjoyed reading about our dives and activities once we got back on the ship.

My next blog will cover what we and some of our traveling group did in La Romana.

For your convenience, here are links to each blog in the series so far:

My Grand View of the Carnival Vista (first in a series)
Day 1: Embarkation on the Carnival Vista
Day 2: Our First Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

Until next time......

carpe cerevisi