How do you write a cruise review on a cruise that you took almost 30 years ago. Well it can be a little daunting, but luckily I have pretty good memory of the 70s and the help of about 6 reels of home movies.
This was our one and only cruise that we took out of San Juan. Thats pretty much the only way to do a 7 day Southern Caribbean cruise. Our itinerary included Curacao, Caracas, Venezuela, Martinique, Grenada and St. Thomas.
Our first day at sea we were faced with pretty rough swells, so rough that we couldn’t even use the pool for all the water being thrown around, but we quickly made friends with the other families onboard with kids. There was one family with a girl and a boy around my sisters age 12, and another little girl who as about 8. I was 10 and met two boys close to my age. We had no kids program back in the old days so we amused ourselves by attending the scheduled grown up activities like ball room dancing and bingo.
Our first stop was the Island of Curacao. Back in the 70s there wasn’t much on the Island other than the financial centers of Willemstad. Entering port here was one of the highlights of the cruise. The cruise ships entered a narrow channel under a huge bridge, the Queen Juliana Bridge, one of the highest bridges in the world at 185ft above sea level. The town’s floating pontoon bridge was pulled back along the side of the channel so that we can pass through. The pontoon bridge, built in 1888, is officially named the Queen Emma Bridge, but has the nick name “The Old Swinging Lady.”
Ice cream colored Dutch Colonial style buildings created a beautiful scene as we entered the port. We took the City Zoo and Beach Resort Tour. The zoo wasn’t much to speak of, but the beach and resort were quite lovely. Well. except that my sister tried to walk on the reef and stepped on a sea urchin. Her foot was very sore the rest of the cruise.The next morning we headed towards the port that served the mountain city of Caracas, Venezuela. I don’t think Ive ever seen such poverty as I witnessed in Venezuela. The city was filled with run down housing projects, and even worse the hill sides were covered with shanty towns. Even worse, people seemed to dispose of all their garbage by throwing it out the windows of the projects. This was such a shame for a country that has the potential to be very beautiful. We also had lots of rain that day. Our tour included most of the major government buildings and then a trip into the mountains to visit a glass blowing factory. Our family purchased two of their creations a small song bird and larger parrot. I have that small purple bird still displayed in my house today.. My dad even caught the creation of a similar bird on his home movies.
After our day in Caracas we were treated to another day at sea, but this time the sun was out and the seas were relatively calm. This meant once again amusing ourselves by the pool.The next day we visited Martinique. We were very excited to visit this island as we had recently seen on TV a program called When Havoc Struck that followed destruction caused by the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee, and the devastation of the town of St. Pierre. Almost 290000 people were killed in St. Pierre by a superheated cloud of hot gas. The only survivor was a prisoner who was housed in a cell with a very small window. He was later pardoned of his crimes and set free. Our tour included the ruins of St. Pierre, a tropical rain forest and many scenic vistas.Our next port was the spice island of Granada. Our tour here included a beach resort where we body surfed and sunbathed. We also enjoyed listening to the music of an authentic Caribbean steel drum band.
Our final port was St. Thomas. Here we also enjoyed a side trip to St. Johns and Trunk Bay. My parents have visited this pristine marine life park the previous year on their Carnivale cruise, so they just know they had to take my sister and I to see it. We enjoyed snorkeling in the bay and viewing the underwater wildlife trail. After our day at St. Johns we enjoyed shopping back on St. Thomas, and Banana Daiquiris (Virgin Daiquiris of course for the kids) at Sebastians.
Our final day of sight seeing was back in San Juan before boarding our plane and heading back home.
On Board Entertainment:
I seem to remember that the nightly entertainment on this cruse was actually pretty good. The cruise director and his wife were a song and dance team. They also had four lovely ladies that were billed at the West End Dancers. They performed in Vegas showgirl style costumes as part of the floor shows.
Dining was very pleasant on this cruise. We had then only American, and most likely English Speaking waiter in the ship. Back in the 70s most of Costa crew were Italian and spoke Italian with each-other. So the crews knowledge of the English language was very limited. Our waiter Tony was wonderful and we had no communications problem with the wait staff. I was only 11 years old on this cruise, so from what I can remember the food was excellent. I was a pretty sophisticated eater at the time for an 11 year old, but who knows if the food was really as good as I remember.
Interesting and Funny Stories:
We shared a shuttle bus from the airport to the cruise terminal with a couple we called the Angelina people. They were in their thirties and friendly like my parents, so we quickly struck up a conversation with them. We learned that they were traveling on the larger of the Costa ships, the Angelina Laura. What we didn’t realize was that these to ships shadowed each-other for much of the voyage. We ran into this couple again in Curacao, the glass blowing factory outside of Caracas, and shopping in St. Thomas.
Caracas is located in the Mountains just off the coast at about 7000 ft above sea level. Cruise ship dock at the port city and then tourist travel by bus into the mountains to visit the city. As we sailed into port a woman commented. “Wow I just didn’t realize that it would be so beautiful here at 7000 ft.”
While in one of the ports we noticed that the Pacific Princess was also there. We went over to her and were allowed on board to tour the ship on our own. With today’s security concerns one would never be able to do something like this, but it was such a thrill for me to visit the one and only “Love Boat” during the height of the shows popularity.
As mentioned earlier, the cruise ship features a quartet of British showgirls billed as the West End Dancers. We entered the costume contest as the South End Dancers. Our quartet of showgirls featured my mom, sister and me in ballet costumes. Then just when people thought we were serious about the whole thing, out comes my crazy Dad in his own tutu and wig, smoking a cigar. Thanks to my fathers crazy antics and bad dancing we won the contest.
Back in the old days of cruising, tours weren’t very sophisticated, even the one arranged by the ships tour office. In Martinique we booked a cab tour of the Island. We ended up with a driver/guide who did not speak much English. However, my Mother had minored in French literature in college. She wasnt really even close to conversational in French, but she knew enough basic words and phrases to bridge the communication gap between us and the driver. He told us he was working on his English, but he was having trouble with the words Sheep and Ship. It was very hard for him to hear the difference between the long and the short. So I can remember my mom working with him on his pronunciation saying over and over again Shee-ee-eep MoutonÃ¯ Ship Bateau.
We also were greeted with very sad and shocking news. The Jones Town mass suicide had taken place while we were on the cruise and our first news of this tragedy came from our cab driver who showed us the headline Muerte, Muerte in the Spanish language paper.Our day of touring San Juan was day was granted to us by an act of trust in this same cab driver. We picked up a cab at the cruise terminal, and we told the cab driver that our flight wasn’t for several hours. He told us that he would gladly keep our suit cases in his cab, drop us off in old San Juan and then pick us up at a designated place and time. He assured us he was on the up and up, giving his licenses number and other identification. Sure enough after we toured El Moro and did a lot of great shopping in Old San Juan, he met us at the designated time. What a pleasant end to a great vacation!!!!
I have also uploaded a bunch more pictures in the photo gallery.