Subject: Caribbean Ports of Call
Hello fellow Ziners,

With the bustle of the holiday season behind us, I can now take some time to write about the ports of call I visited with my mother in law on my late November southern Caribbean cruise on Celebrity's Constellation.

We flew into San Juan on the same day as the ship departed, as we planned to stay an extra day after the cruise to see some of San Juan. The first port was Sint Maarten/St Martin. As I had already visited the Dutch side of the island, we took a shuttle from the ship into the town centre and took the local bus to Marigot on the French side. The bus was really a minivan, and everyone was greeted as they boarded or disembarked, and the cost was about $2 USD. Being a Sunday morning, the centre of Marigot was quiet, but while climbing up one of its hilly streets we stopped to hear the singing at a French church where Catholic mass was being celebrated.

In Roseau, Dominica, we and two other couples went on a minivan with a local guide to visit two inland waterfalls, one in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. We had to walk along paths/trails into the park to visit the Emerald Lake which is the pool created by the waterfall. We learned about the banana industry as we drove past the plantations and about the Carib indians who still live in an area on the island.

In St Lucia, we wanted to travel to Soufriere to meet up with a friend who had been living in Ottawa for about 15 years but had returned there in the fall to care for her mother. The taxi drivers were trying to convince us to use their services, at $90USD !! We took the local bus for $8 each(a minibus, again), jampacked with people, for the 1 hour or so drive to Soufriere, along the mountainous roads with hairpin turns (they even had faded signs all along the route cautioning "hairpin turn") and there we visited the world's only drive in volcano. We could smell the sulfur and see the steam emanating from the ground from where we stood on the viewing platform at the volcano's edge. Since the island is tropical, we had a short rainfall while we drove to the volcano. Consequently, I was very nervous during the return journey to Castries on the now wet curvy roads, since they were no guardrails anywhere, even though there were many steep cliffs off the edge of the roads.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we stayed overnight at the Sheraton Old San Juan, which is walking distance to the old part of town. We spent the better part of the day walking in the rain (without an umbrella) on a walking tour of Old San Juan. We walked beside the old walls that surround the old city and were impressed with the thickness and strength of the walls that were built by the Spanish to protect from invasion. Our first stop was El Castillo San Felipe del Morro which protected San Juan from an ocean attack. We toured the ancient castle or fortress and watched a film that recounted the history of the castle. Back out in the rain, we hardy souls wandered in the narrow streets of the old section, when quite by error we discovered Hotel El Convento when we tried to find respite in an archway away from the rain. What a discovery! It is a lovely hotel right in the middle of the most historic part of town, with an inner courtyard and open air covered corridors along the courtyard sides where tables were set up for dining. We dried off as best we could in the ladies' room, and had lunch there. Very enjoyable! I especially liked the tea service: they gave me a silver picture of hot milk along with the teapot. A local tradition, I assume. We were able to see what the rooms were like, as we ran into a couple who we had met on the ship who were staying a night at that hotel. The rooms had the old fashioned casement windows but the room's ammenities were very modern ie a flat screen (plasma?) TV and updated bathroom. The hotel also had a tapas restaurant on the second floor, but due to the fact that a large part of their restaurant was open air and rained on, they were full and our tummies wouldn't allow us to wait. We then soldiered on to the second fort in San Juan, San Cristobal, from the top of which I could get great views of San Juan.

In all, a very enjoyable trip, not to mention the quality of the cruise itself.

Helen Ottawa, Canada