I took this with Mom's camera on the walkway over the highway. I thought it was neat perspective.
After a 3.5 hour flight, we landed in Santo Domingo. I could see that beautiful Caribbean water from the airplane window most of the way, and that really got my blood pumping. I swear there’s a little salt water in my blood.
“Salty air ain’t thin, it sticks right to your skin and makes you feel fine.” ... Jimmy Buffett Tin Cup Chalice
We land in the very busy airport to discover a couple things:
You have to pay $10 to get into the Dominican Republic, even if you’re only staying one night.
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of Dan enjoying our first balcony.
2. Very few people speak more than about 5 words of English. I don’t say this as a negative thing, but as a prepare yourself if you don’t speak Spanish thing.
Fortunately, I brushed up on my Spanish enough to get our passports stamped and clear us on through. The next item of business: get a taxi to the hotel. I located the information booth and a very nice gentleman that spoke about as much English as I spoke Spanish (so we communicated pretty well! J) and he referred me to a taxi driver.
We had 5 people and a boat-load (no pun intended) of luggage, so we needed a van rather than a car. This is where Segundo came in. Segundo Ramirez (cell #1-809-256-4384) is a very reliable driver. He does not speak any English, but was very patient with me and my limited Spanish. His van was in good condition, air-conditioned, and very clean. We negotiated a price for both the trip from airport to hotel, and again for hotel to the port the next day. He asked $30 to take us to the hotel and $50 to take us to the port. This was for all 5 of us and our luggage. I didn’t think this was terrible. We probably could have gotten a better deal, but Segundo was recommended by the airport and was not pushy at all. We never felt “rushed”. I did consider using some of the local busses, but didn’t want to clog things up with all our luggage. It takes awhile to get all that baggage loaded and unloaded out of ANYTHING, let alone a small, fast-paced bus.
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of me enjoying our first balcony.
Anyway, Segundo and I agreed on a time for tomorrow’s pick-up. He helped us unload and we paid him $40. On the short drive, he told us a little about the area, the island, and we chatted about our families. I was AWFULLY proud of myself. In my small Midwestern town, I have no reason whatsoever to speak Spanish.
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of me at Columbus lighthouse. Behind me is Columbus' final resting place.
QUICK REFLECTION: Every time I spoke Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, even if it was to say “I don’t speak Spanish very well, I’m learning. I get nervous when I speak Spanish, could you please speak slowly?” I was ALWAYS greeted with a warm smile and people were very willing to help. At first, I was afraid that I would irritate people with my slow communication, but in general, people were very patient and understanding. One of the housekeepers in the hotel thanked me for giving it a try.
I know this seems like such an obvious thing to say, but if you’re going somewhere that speaks a different language than you, it’s worth it to make a couple flashcards with phrases like “I’m just learning your language.” I thought about if I was in the same situation, I would be much more willing to help out someone who was obviously trying to learn than someone who expected to find someone who spoke like them. (You’ll have to read my overall reflections at the very end about some behavior I witnessed which made my skin crawl to understand why I typed that.) Anyway… back to your regularly scheduled blog…
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of me in the port terminal before getting on the ship.
We stayed at the Quality Hotel not far from the airport. It’s fenced and gated in. There’s a small but nice swimming pool with a cool tiki-hut with tables. No bar out by the pool. There’s a very nice yard which was nicely manicured.
We got a kick out of the few small lizards we found running up and down palm trees. The restaurant was spotlessly clean as was the bar. Our room was clean. We had 5 of us with 2 full beds and a pull-out. The workout room has updated equipment in fairly good working order and a radio for local stations and CD’s. There is a charge for Internet use. I was very pleased with the hotel. We charged a couple drinks and dinner to our room. The dinner buffet was $19 USD (United States Dollars), but worth it. All of our food was very good. Mom’s burger was a bit undercooked for her liking. The staff fixed this quickly and efficiently. After meals, drinks, room, and taxes, we paid $200 USD. I didn’t think that was terribly unreasonable, considering we had 5 people (quick math - $40 a person for dinner and a room. Not shabby).
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of me sneaking out to sea early... ha ha.
The next morning after an EXCELLENT breakfast buffet (included with the room) we crossed the busy highway on a walking overpass and explored the rocky coast a bit.
We had fun with the waves that would come crashing up through the igneous rocks formations and sprayed us. Upon heading back we discovered that Segundo had arrived early. We were ready to head to the port so we grabbed our luggage and loaded up. On the way to town, I mentioned to Segundo that I would like to see the statue of Christopher Columbus. He told me he’s take us somewhere better and drove us to Columbus lighthouse, which is Christopher Columbus’ final resting place. What an AMAZING piece of history. It really was one of those “life changing events” for only $3 USD. If you’re in the DR, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s made of marble and just breathtaking. Segundo waited for us (we spent about an hour there). Before taking us directly to the port, he drove us around old town a bit pointing things out. Upon arriving at the port, I asked him how much for the whole tour with the extra stops. He said $80 USD (again, for 5 people, not bad).
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of me being a treehugger even in the Caribbean.
We ended up giving him $100 USD because we were just so happy with his reliable service, information, and “extras”.
Mom (FishAtHeart) took this of us preparing for MUSTER DRILL!
Getting onto a cruise ship is one of my least favorite parts of the whole vacation. It seems crowded and loud. Luckily Mom and Dad were at RCI’s platinum status and could get us all through priority check-in, which shaved off about 30 minutes. We arrived on the ship. The Legend of the Seas was smaller than my last cruise ship (Mariner of the Seas) but far more beautiful. The overall color scheme involved a lot of gold and utilized light extremely well. It really was the most beautiful of the 4 ships I’ve been on.
In the cruising world, if you’re visited by the “upgrade fairy”, it means that for some magical reason, RCI moves you to a better room at no additional charge. We had 2 rooms for the 5 of us on deck 3 with a window. (Mom and Dad in one room, Mike, Dan and I in the other.) We had adjoining rooms. However, the upgrade fairy (whom 98% of the cruisers don’t believe exists) visited us and we ended up with adjoining balcony rooms on deck 7! HORRAY! I do, I do believe in the upgrade fairy! We unpacked and explored. We met our tablemates (3 couples from England. 1 couple was traveling with their son) whom were all extremely friendly. Dinner was never boring or dull. Conversation was always lively and interesting. I love it when we luck out with excellent tablemates! It makes the whole cruise better! (Some of you are probably reading this! HELLO AGAIN!) Dan and I sat closest to Linda, Allen, and Scott. I’m a big fan of traditional cruise ship dining, especially when mixed with friendly people. Our waiter was sufficient and friendly. Dad found the menu selections to be a bit limited, which I also noticed. However, I enjoyed everything I ordered. I didn’t hear any complaints about the quality of the food.
Mom and I agreed that the entertainment on this ship was the best we’d ever seen on a cruise. The singers had beautiful voices that were easy to understand. The dancers were EXCELLENT. Among the “special” entertainment was Ivan Pecel (a juggler/comedian from Vegas, out of 5 stars, I’d give him 6 for sheer entertainment value), Jonathan Kane (a very convincing Elton John impersonator), Sabrino and Dario (professional Tango dancers), and Herb Reed and the Platters.
More about the ship later. Now on to our first port of call…