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+--| 10th anniversary cruise |------------------------------------------------+
|                                                                             |
| For our tenth wedding anniversary, we took our first ever ocean cruise,     |
| departing from Miami and taking in four ports: the Dominican Republic,      |
| Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Turks & Caicos Islands. The     |
| vessel itself is as much of a destination as the ports. The huge ship       |
| carried about 3,700 passengers and included swimming pools, a fitness       |
| centre, spa, restaurants, video arcade, casino, theatre, even a minigolf    |
| course and basketball court... and other cruise liners that we saw when we  |
| were docked were even bigger!                                               |
|                                                                             |
| Throughout the day there are activities on board (mercifully you can also   |
| leave the kids in care!), and at night they had shows such as music,        |
| stand-up comedy, magic and juggling.  Meals were all included, and it       |
| wasn't just buffet food either; dinner (and breakfast, if you like) is a    |
| sit-down a la carte meal with table service.  The decor was rather kitsch,  |
| with a predominantly salmon, grey and copper colour scheme; but that was    |
| fitting since I find the whole concept of a luxury cruise ship difficult    |
| to take seriously anyway.                                                   |
|                                                                             |
| Each stop is for less than a day, so it's really only enough to give you a  |
| taste of the country.  Many of the tourists oddly only seem interested in   |
| the beaches of each destination anyway, whereas we opted to take more of a  |
| taste of the port's culture and history. In the Dominican Republic we took  |
| a guided tour to the city of Puerto Plata, which contained one of the       |
| region's earliest European settlements, including a small Spanish fortress  |
| from the 16th century (the tour also took in a rum factory, and the         |
| mandatory handicraft factory stop).                                         |
|                                                                             |
| Following that, we opted for self-guided tours.  Our next two stops were    |
| the most interesting of these: firstly Saint Thomas in the US Virgin        |
| Islands, which had a Danish colonial history before its purchase by the     |
| United States.  A highlight was the 17th century tower that has become      |
| known (misleadingly) as Blackbeard's Castle, as well as several 19th        |
| century Victorian-style wooden houses furnished with period artifacts and   |
| exhibits.                                                                   |
|                                                                             |
| Next stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico, a well fortified historical city       |
| which was defended for Spain for decades from successive onslaughts of      |
| invaders, until finally falling to the United States, from which it now     |
| seems to have no desire to seek independence.                               |
|                                                                             |
| Finally we docked in Grand Turk; also rather misleadingly-named, as it is   |
| so tiny. For a change, we spent our time here at the beach. For some        |
| reason at neither this nor any of our other stops were we required to       |
| presents our passports or clear customs, although Turks & Caicos is a       |
| British territory (even the U.S. Virgin Islands seems rather British; cars  |
| drive on the left, for example).                                            |
|                                                                             |
| Arriving back to Miami, we visited the Freedom Tower which celebrates       |
| Cubans in exile, and also contains an art and design museum.  More          |
| impressive were the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an ostentatious mansion     |
| from the turn of the century which its own stocked with European antiques,  |
| designing their surroundings in faux-neoclassical style to match.  From     |
| there we went to Little Havana where we ate Cuban food, listened to Cuban   |
| music and watched the old men playing dominos.  We rounded out our trip     |
| with a stroll through the Art Deco district of Miami Beach at sunset.       |
|                                                                             |
| Browse some photos of our trip in our gallery.                              |
|                                                                             |
+----------------------| posted 561 days ago via news | reply (0 comments) |--+
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