Cruising - another neat thing to do during retirement.

by Irwin
(Lakeland, FL)

Cruising – something everyone should do at least once during retirement!

Well, I am back with yet another tidbit of information about life during retirement. Had someone told me years ago while I was working that I would be doing all that we have been doing since we retired, I would have told them “it will never happen!” but here it is, happening and we aren’t done yet.

The reason this article is so much later than previous articles is because of our being on a cruise that took us to St. Thomas and St. Martin and to be quite frank, I just didn’t have the time to do any writing. We are back at home and I am still having trouble finding the time to write. I did make it a point to give up an extra hour or so of sleep this morning so that I might pen this article to share with my readers. Here is a little bit of information about our recent escapade.

This past Sunday (January 15th) we set sail for Coco Cay, then St. Thomas, on to Saint Martin returning to Port Canaveral on Sunday January 22, 2012. Here are a few of the facts I learned both from Wikipedia and the local tour guide(s) that showed us their islands.

While we were supposed to stop at Coco Cay, an island owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines during the second day at sea, the seas were so rough that five to seven foot waves were pounding the shoreline so bad that tenders were unable to make the trip safely to the ship to transport us to the island and so we just headed back to sea. Hence we were at sea three days before being able to make landfall. But as is usual of cruise ships, there was so much to do on board ship that the matter was soon overlooked and an enjoyable cruise was enjoyed by all in spite of this brief setback.

Saint Thomas, according to Wikipedia, is an island in the Caribbean Sea and with the islands of Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) , an unincorporated territory of the United States. Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of Charlotte Amalie. As of the 2010 census, the population of Saint Thomas was 51,634 and about 48.5% of the US Virgin Islands total. The district has a land area of 31.24 square miles.

The visit to Saint Thomas was a wet one in that it rained the day we arrived but the rain did not stop us from hiring a taxi to give us a tour of the island. Something I learned while visiting this island was that Christopher Columbus supposedly stumbled upon the Virgin Islands in 1493 while on his second voyage to the new world. It is said that despite what many believe, the Virgin Islands are not called virgin because they were uninhabited upon Columbus’ arrival. Columbus named the string of islands Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes (Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins) because the way they were scattered through the Caribbean Sea reminded him of the legend of St. Ursula and her virgin followers. Our tour guide was quite knowledgeable and while true, the rain did put somewhat of a damper on the visit to the island, we were able to do some shopping (a favorite pastime of many of the women on the cruise – my wife included) and enjoy ourselves during our brief visit.

Again, according to Wikipedia, Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean, located approximately 190 miles east of Puerto Rico. The island is divided roughly 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, however, the Dutch side has the larger population. It is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations, a division dating to 1648. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivite de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France. Collectively, the two territories are known as “St-Martin / St Maarten”.

On January 1, 2007 the population of the entire island was 74,852 inhabitants, with 38,927 living on the Dutch side, and 35,925 on the French side, although our tour guide informed us that the population today is approximately 100,000 with the same 60/40 split between Dutch and French.

St. Martin was the next port of call and eight of us decided to rent a van with driver and made a 2.5 hour tour of the island visiting both the Dutch and French sides of the island. We were even taken to a nude beach which I am happy to say that the few visions encountered during this very brief visit was both the first and last time these old eyes will be taking in such sights. After reaching certain ages, there are definitely parts of the human anatomy that should remain covered, least-ways in public. What was amazing to me is the laid back atmosphere of the islands. No rush to do anything or be anywhere. Everything happens in slow-motion so to speak. What also caught my eye was the way in which items were discarded. It was nothing to see rusted out cars just off to the side of the road or back off the road in the bushes just sitting there deteriorating. We drove by one place that apparently at one time was surrounded by a wooden fence with a gate. However, the gate was still partially connected by one hinge with the balance of the gate lying on the ground. It was evident that cars drove past the gate to get to the establishment and merely either drove around the gate or over it to get to their destination. There did not appear to be – leastways in the area traveled by the taxi – any pride of ownership when it came to cars or houses. While the islands might be nice to visit, this writer would have to do much more research before he would consider packing it all up and moving to the islands to get away from it all.

The balance of the cruise was very enjoyable and as usual we all probably ate more than what we should. The shows on the ship were both enjoyable and entertaining. The entire staff seemed to be bending over backwards to make our week with them one of the most pleasant they could. Nothing was too much trouble. One of our favorite things to do while cruising is line dance and we were able to line dance several of the days at sea making the trip even more enjoyable.

Well, that about wraps up my brief summation of our latest cruise. It is a shame that everyone cannot experience a cruise as it is a neat get-away from our busy lives. No cooking. No housekeeping. Just 24/7 of having someone else cater to your every desire. But we are now back at home and reality has set in. We are as busier than ever. We have what we affectionately call a “dancing gig” coming up February 3rd and are practicing for that. Plus we are preparing for several events being held in our community that my wife and I are either hosting or assisting with the hosting of the event and that in and of itself takes up quite a bit of our time. To name a few of those events, there will be “An Evening in Paris” (a French dinner party), Valentine’s Day Dance, Horse racing night, and a Casino night put on by our local Lions Club. And this is just for the month of February.

Who said retirement was boring! Until we meet again, smile and keep on dancing!

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