Independence of the Seas 2014
Itinerary Show Voyage Map
Saturday 3rd May- Fly to Miami, USA
& stay overnight
Sunday-Transfer to Fort Lauderdale &
embark Independence of the Seas
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-San Juan, Puerto Rico
Wednesday-Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas
Thursday-Philipsburg, St Maarten
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday 17th May-Southampton, UK
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Independence of the Seas arriving in Southampton.
2008: 154,407grt - 3,634 passengers (4,370 max)

See the Independence of the Seas Ship Gallery >>

& my photos in 2006 of sister ship Freedom of the Seas >>

This was an entirely new experience for Andrew, Gerry & me and our biggest ship yet! And making up the party this time was Gerry's sister Peggy, her daughter Claire, Andrew's sister Carol and her friend Marilyn, all of whom were "Proper-Cruise Virgins". Moreover, also joining us would be Claire's friend and "Cruise Virgin" Sarah and her mum, Hilary, making our Group 9 once again!

There was a slight upset 2 weeks before departure when our first port of Nassau, Bahamas was cancelled and changed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, cancelling the tours we had pre-booked in Nassau. But my 50th cruise was also marked by another first experience - a lost suitcase.....

My photos of Independence of the Seas & all ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Click this link to follow our adventures as posted live on-line....

Saturday 3rd May 2014
Flight to Miami, USA

At least it all began well, with everyone in high spirits, a smooth airport check-in and a hearty breakfast to get us all in the holiday mood. (below left: Our British Airways Boeing 747 at Heathrow Airport)

Show Picture Full Size Then the first of the delays kicked-in when they couldn’t close the baggage hold door on the plane! Luggage would figure quite a lot in the day’s events!

So we were already running an hour late when, after an otherwise uneventful flight, we arrived at my favourite destination in the world, Miami International Airport!

Amazingly, we were through Immigration in 30 minutes but we then waited over an hour for our luggage because they couldn’t open the baggage hold on the plane, probably because they had to screw it shut at Heathrow! Meanwhile, thunderstorms in Florida had caused a back-up of flight arrivals and as it passed 9pm in the Customs Hall, the night shift came on duty and promptly closed one of the exits! The resulting queue to get out of the Customs Hall added another 45 minutes.

But even I wasn't prepared for what happened next....

From the Brink of Disaster.....
It was 10.45pm by the time we got to the Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. Actually very nice, except for the fact that it was in the grips of a Sex Industry Conference and the lobby was full of bulging hips, high-heels and outrageous make-up; that was just the men!

But before we realised what had happened, the bus driver had driven off with half our luggage still on board his bus! As the other passengers on the bus were staying at the Sheraton, that was where I guessed our luggage would end up! So at 11pm, with no way of contacting the driver, I had to get a taxi over to the Sheraton, by which time, 2 other passengers had followed me looking for their luggage too! As expected, we found the luggage stacked on a trolley in the lobby - except that there was just one suitcase missing; you guessed it, mine. There was no sign of it anywhere!

Meanwhile, Sarah & Hilary had arrived on an earlier flight and were staying at the Sheraton, the same hotel where we stayed in February last year. Sarah had come over to the Hilton to meet Claire and when I got back with most of the luggage, I recounted what had happened.

Finally, at gone midnight on a Sunday morning, while the Security Manager at the Hilton tried and failed to get someone, somewhere to answer a telephone, we finally gave up and went to bed. At 1am, I was lying awake in bed, trying to figure-out how I would salvage the rest of my cruise with only half my luggage when the phone rang. It was a message from Sarah back at the Sheraton, saying that she had found my suitcase, which had somehow become separated from the rest of the luggage!

Finally, after breakfast Sunday morning, I rushed over to the Sheraton again to fetch my suitcase, dashed back to the Hilton to shave, change and be ready for boarding Independence of the Seas. What a way to begin a relaxing holiday!

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Sunday 4th May 2014
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
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Our hotel this time was the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, beside the massive 17th St Causeway Bridge, opened in 2001.
(left) The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina & the 17th St. Causeway Bridge (Gerry's photo)

In the knowledge that my suitcase was safe with Sarah, I was at least able to get a decent night's sleep and after a Full American Breakfast in the hotel restaurant, I dashed off in a taxi again to the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach to retrieve the rest of my luggage. Now at last, I was able to shave and change into something more suitable than yesterday's travel clothes!

Meanwhile, the others were able to enjoy a gentle stroll around the Marina beside the hotel, admiring the many impressive yachts on display. (below: some of Claire & Gerry's photos)

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33-slip Private Marina
behind the hotel
Peggy poses in front of the 258ft 12-berth charter yacht
Pegasus V (ex-Princess Mariana 2003)
and beside the smaller 194ft 12-berth charter yacht Helios (2001)
The Hotel Restaurant
Facing the Marina

Independence of the Seas - Embarkation in Port Everglades
It was just a short bus transfer to the Cruise Terminal and even without "Priority Boarding" this time, we were aboard and in the Windjammer Café by 12.15pm, although some of the luggage took rather longer, most arriving by "Lifeboat Drill" but Claire's not turning-up until we were at dinner!

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Independence of the Seas
(2008: 154,407grt 3,634pass)
The Royal Promenade
inside the ship!
(Claire's photos above & left)
in the Windjammer Café
a group photo

US Navy Fleet Week
In port for Fort Lauderdale's 24th US Navy Fleet Week was the Amphibious Transport Ship USS New York (LPD-21 2009). With a crew of 360, she carries 700 Marines and multiple aircraft but is notable for incorporating in her ship's bow-stem 7 tons of steel from the 9/11 World Trade Center catastrophe of 2001.
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Show Picture of Yacht Attessa Full Size Perhaps more eye-catching however, was the sight of the private luxury yacht Attessa IV (2010), the latest rebuild project by Billionaire Industrialist, Dennis Washington. Carrying her own helicopter, as well as a private tender-launch and another fast boat, she is 328ft long, is bullet-proof, sleeps up to 18 and is the largest private yacht in North America as well as one of the top 25 largest private yachts in the World. (Claire's photo)

Everyone was on deck for Sailaway at 5pm as we watched Allure of the Seas depart ahead of us. At just 2" longer than her Oasis-class sister, she is the biggest (and longest) cruise ship in the world.

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Sailaway from Port Everglades
behind Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world
Allure of the Seas
(2010: 225,282grt 5,400 pass)
largest cruise ship in the world
Ft Lauderdale Beach

In the "Old Days" of the 1990's, the occupants of the condominiums lining the channel to the sea always used to come out on their balconies and cheer the ships away but there are so many ships these days and the experience has become so commonplace that today, very few seem to bother.

Our Accommodation
We three guys shared a Junior Suite and at approx.300 sqft, it was the same size as a Sky Suite aboard Celebrity Eclipse/Equinox. While it didn't come with the same extras such as Butler service, it proved ideal for us. Bathroom storage was limited for 3 but the Walk-in Closet was a real plus.

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Junior Suite #9298 The Bathroom
with full-size bath
Walk-in Closet
lots of storage
The Balcony
with 2 loungers & 2 chairs

Show Picture Full Size Meanwhile, the 6 girls had 3 D-grade Balcony cabins. While approx.189 sqft, they were similar to a standard or Concierge-class cabin aboard Celebrity Eclipse but they seemed bigger; maybe it was the furniture? Whatever, for the girls this was their first time on a big cruise ship and they were all thrilled. Show Picture Full Size

The Macbeth Dining Room
The main restaurant for over 4,000 passengers is arranged over 3 decks, with each deck having a different name and subtly different decor. Ours was the Macbeth Dining Room in the middle; the other two being King Lear on the top (exclusively dealing with "My Time Dining" reservations and Romeo & Juliet at the bottom (although I felt they missed a trick here because Romeo & Juliet should surely have been at the top - with that wonderful balcony over the stairs!)

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The Macbeth Dining Room
(the middle level)
The main central space, the Captain's Table
and the Grand Staircase
King Lear Dining Room
(the upper level)

Our waiters were Hilario & Omdish, who proved to be extremely efficient and friendly, while not being over-familiar. Even though we sat in different places each night, they seemed quickly to learn all our personal preferences and seldom got anything wrong!

Show Picture Full Size After perhaps being spoiled too much aboard Celebrity ships lately, the Menus were surprisingly extensive and it was refreshing (for the "Old Hands" like me!) to have an unfamiliar choice and layout of menu. Meanwhile, the food, while sometimes lacking finesse or imagination on the plate, was actually pretty good too and I was impressed.
(left) Hilario & Omdish and (right) This evening's Dinner Menu
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Tonight I had Escargots, Roast Prime Rib and Lemon Sorbet. See more menus at Independence Dinner Menus >>

After dinner, while the others became acquainted with the Casino, I paid a visit to Passenger Relations to report yesterday's problems with the luggage. Although I had ultimately been reunited with my luggage in time, it had been no thanks to Royal Caribbean! But they were appropriately apologetic and promised to report the sorry tale to Head Office. (They later refunded my taxi-fares)

Monday 5th May 2014
A Day at Sea
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Our original itinerary would have put us in Nassau this morning but with all the travelling and the trouble over my missing suitcase, I was thankful for a day to relax and get to know this vast ship.

Show Picture Full Size With 3 pools to choose from, I was disappointed that the Solarium Pool, next to the Fitness Centre forward, was not covered; but it's not really big enough for swimming and the other 2 pools include the Sports Pool, which is a decent size for swimming lengths.
(left) The Sports Pool, one of the ship's 3 outdoor pools

Loud Music & Cold Water Torture at 7.00am!
The only drawback to the outdoor pools was the loud "compulsory happy time" music booming out across the deck, even at 7.00am! Ear-plugs helped with that but when I asked if the pools were heated, the deck steward gave me the cryptic response, "All the pools are maintained at the same temperature, sir." He didn't say what temperature but it was extremely cold today!

The Royal Promenade (deck-5)
Four-decks high and running more than 430ft (131m) between the midships Atrium (or Centrum) and the forward lift tower, this is the multi-functional heart of the ship. With no natural light, its ambience is controlled by clever lighting; clear white during the day, changing to bright neon colours at night.

Dozens of "inside" cabins overlook this space on decks-6, 7 & 8, while on deck-5 are various shops and cafés. During the day, it feels rather like a shopping-mall.
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Promenade Café
Sandwiches, pastries and
special alcoholic coffees!
Cup-Cake Cupboard
Decorate your own cakes
Ben & Jerry's
Ice-Cream Parlour
The Dog & Badger
an "English-style" Pub!

Show Picture Full Size With cafés located at either end, the food is free, except at Ben & Jerry's and the Cup-Cake Cupboard, where you can decorate your own cup-cakes. The Promenade Café became our regular morning stop for a liqueur coffee, while for lunch, Sorrento's had some of the best pizza I had ever tasted.
(left) Sorrento's Café for the best pizza and paninis
Pride of place on the Promenade is taken by a Morgan "Roadster" sports-car outside the aptly-named "Vintages", a wine-bar where you can buy wines by-the-glass or bottle from the ship's quite adequate wine-cellar. The car may not actually be "vintage" but it's certainly a classic - and it's British!
(right) The Wine Bar, "Vintages" and the classic Morgan "Roadster" sports-car
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Gossip from the Royal Promenade
One advantage to being a late-night owl is that you pick up all sorts of gossip in the bars. For instance, Claire & Sarah found out quite early on in the cruise that one particularly unruly passenger, ignoring the "please do not touch" sign beside the classic Morgan "Roadster", had sat on it as a prank and dented its beautifully polished and leather-strapped bonnet. The passenger was not just reprimanded but asked to leave the ship at the next port and make his own way home!

But why is there a classic car there in the first place?
According to Royal Caribbean's own website, when building Voyager of the Seas in 1997, the lead architect for the Royal Promenade, Njal Eide, had built a design model and had placed a toy model of a Morgan sports-car there just because he thought it looked nice. But the chairman, Richard Fain, thought it was such a clever idea that he donated his own Morgan, which he had previously been given for his 40th birthday. Since then, having a vintage car on the Royal Promenade proved so popular that Royal Caribbean continued the tradition with later ships in the Voyager, Freedom and Oasis classes.

After the spaciousness of Celebrity Eclipse & Equinox, breakfast in the Windjammer Café was a bit frantic but by lunch-time, I was beginning to get the hang of the the layout. Not as well laid-out, the serveries were more crowded but at least there were plenty of tables.

Meanwhile, there was an opportunity for Diamond Members of the Crown & Anchor Society to get tickets for the first performance of the Ice Show, "Strings" in the afternoon, so Gerry & I went.

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The Windjammer Café Studio B & the Ice Rink
The Ice Show "Strings! A World Adventure on Ice"
The Ice Show
Located in Studio B on Decks 2 & 3 amidships, the 60ft by 40ft ice-rink may not be large but this did not seem to limit the scope of the performance by the ship's talented team of ice-dancers. The first show entitled, "Strings! A World Adventure on Ice" was certainly that! Well structured and set to music, with multiple costume changes and choreography ranging from the lyrical beauty of the "Blue Danube" to the exhuberance of the "Hoe-Down", this was a first for me and I loved it!

What! No Sandwiches for Afternoon Tea?
After enjoying the splendid Ice Show, I went up to the Windjammer Café looking for "Afternoon Tea" and was shocked to discover that there were no little sandwiches or special cakes! Apart from a few jam scones with cream, there was just the same selection of cakes and desserts that were available at lunch-time. I had been prepared for difficulty in finding any Earl Grey Tea (which was difficult to track down but not impossible!) but I had not been prepared for such a lack of effort when it came to "Afternoon Tea". Not to be thwarted however, I improvised my own ham and cheese roll from the deli-counter!

Show Picture Full Size In the evenings, the Royal Promenade is transformed with an array of coloured lighting which sets the scene for the ship's various after-dinner theme "Parades" which usually feature the ship's entertainment staff in an "interactive" style of themed entertainment geared to the large number of passengers aboard.
It being our first full day at sea, tonight it was the setting for the Captain's Welcome Reception.
(left) The Centrum at night & (right) Claire & Sarah's official photo with Captain Henrik Loy
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After dinner, Headliner Showtime in the Alhambra Theatre featured The Unexpected Boys with a tribute to Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons; pretty good and with a rousing finale of "One Day More" from Les Miserables guaranteed to get the audience on their feet!
(right) The Unexpected Boys - a Tribute to Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (Gerry's photo)
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Tuesday 6th May 2014
A Day at Sea - (well, mostly!)
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Another relaxing day at sea was in no way unwelcome but we were expecting to arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico by 4pm this afternoon. However, this morning the Captain announced that we were "having screw problems", so we would be about an hour late, meaning 5pm. With sunset at 6.45pm, this was going to leave very little daylight time for sightseeing. Oh well.....

For lunch, Andrew & I joined Carol & Marilyn in Johnny Rockets, a classic American-style Diner located aft on Deck 12.
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Johnny Rockets
American Style Diner
Our Waitress Johnny Rockets
Interior View
Guilty Pleasure
Carol with her
Oreo Fudge Sundae

With a nominal $5.95 cover charge, it's all-you-can-eat in a happy atmosphere made all the more so with mini-juke boxes on the tables playing old records and by its staff, who break into song from time to time, to entertain the guests! For the price, it was fun but the food quality wasn't as good as "Ed's" back home, although I confess that their "Oreo Fudge Sundae" was pretty good!

Tuesday afternoon/evening
San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Late that afternoon, we made our approach into the harbour, passing around the headland topped by El Morro, the great Fortress of San Felipe, built by the Spanish and dating from 1539.

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Rounding the headland The Fortress of San Felipe, dating from 1539
The fortified headland defending the city of San Juan
The Lighthouse
& El Morro

We all crowded ashore at 5.30pm but with barely 2 hrs daylight left, we were not going to see much on foot, so we took a chance with one of the mini-bus tours being touted outside the Terminal.

First stop on our $20 tour was outside the Capitol Building or Legislative Assembly. Also known as the "Palacio de las Leyes", it was inaugurated in 1929. We were not able to go inside today but...

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Palacio de las Leyes
The Capitol Building
J F Kennedy
35th US President
with President
Barack Obama
The North Shore & Casa Lola
one of many speciality restaurants in Old San Juan

...outside was the Paseo de los Presidentes, 9 life-size bronze statues of the Presidents who have visited Puerto Rico since it became a Territory following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the most recent being President Barack Obama, beside whom Claire was quick to have her photo taken!

The next stop, beside the North Shore beach, was less interesting but conveniently close to a souvenir shop (which had remained open!), so the girls disappeared inside looking for trinkets!

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San Cristobal Fortress
Completed around 1783
A Watchtower
in the Old City Walls
El Morro, the Fortress of San Felipe
& the Cemetery of Santa Maria
Magdalena de Pazzis (1863)
The Lighthouse
& El Morro

We made a couple of other photo-stops on the way back into Old San Juan, including a view of the Fortress of San Cristobal, the second fort in this heavily fortified town, completed by the Spanish around 1783, as well as the Cemetery of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis, dating from 1863.

Show Picture Full Size By the time our short tour finished, it was dark and Andrew & I went back to the ship with Carol & Marilyn, with just enough time to change and have a drink before dinner.

Meanwhile, the others decided to explore the shops and hostelries in the Old Town(!) before returning to the ship and turning-up for dinner a bit late and a little flushed!
(left) After Dark - Independence of the Seas in the harbour at San Juan

After dinner, there was a "Dancing Under the Stars Party" on deck at 11pm, as the ship made its departure from San Juan.

Notwithstanding our brief visit, everyone enjoyed Old San Juan. On another occasion, preferably during the day(!), there's plenty more to see and do.
(right) The "Dancing Under the Stars Party", as we depart San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Wednesday 7th May 2014
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI
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Overnight, we made the short passage of 74 nautical miles to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where we docked at a harbour to the west of the capital, Charlotte Amalie.

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Carnival Glory (2003: 110,000grt) approaches the dock
beside Independence of the Seas (2008: 154,407grt)
Independence of the Seas
View from
Blackbeard's Castle

Andrew, Gerry, Hilary, Carol & I all met on the dock after breakfast and (at my suggestion) took a taxi up to Blackbeard's Castle (for the view), from where we could then walk down through the town and catch one of the shuttles back to the ship....

A Hair-Raising Ride!
Our "taxi" turned out to be a dusty old 7-seater Truck with a clapped-out gear-box, twin-carbs and dodgy silencers, driven by a local lunatic! In fits and starts, we lurched and growled through busy traffic until he turned up the hill to the castle at breakneck pace. In a scene not unlike that from "Now Voyager" (where Bette Davis and Paul Henreid crash off the road and get stranded up a mountain!), he hurtled around each hairpin bend until, inevitably, we came face-to-face with a vehicle coming the other way, whereupon he jammed on the brakes! Miraculously, we didn't hit anything - or anyone - but undeterred, he jurched off again around two more bends until the road ran out and we skidded to a stop outside the gates of the castle! Throughout this little "adventure", the girls were in fits, almost hysterical with laughter. Carol likened it to a "Space Mountain" Disney ride. Meanwhile, I was wondering whether or not our travel insurance would have covered us in an accident!

Show Picture Full Size Overlooking Charlotte Amalie, Skytsborg (“sky tower”) was a defensive tower built by the Danish in 1679 to watch for enemy ships which might attack Fort Christian and the harbour. While there was a real pirate called Blackbeard (Edward Teach) who prowled nearby waters, his association with the site owes more to colourful tradition than history - but who cares!
(left) Blackbeard's Castle and (right) Blackbeard himself (Andrew's photo)
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A Grand House
(now private offices)
The US Governor's
Terrace Pool
for hotel guests
The Bar
(our reward!)

Show Picture Full Size Today, Blackbeard's Castle is a small private hotel and restaurant but for $10 you can take a self-guided tour that begins at the Tower with a fantastic view over Charlotte Amalie. However, after that taxi-ride and with such a view, we had to stop at the terrace-bar.....
(left & below) Too Tempting! The view of the harbour from the bar-terrace of Blackbeard's Castle

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Disney Fantasy, Norwegian Getaway and Freedom of the Seas with Carival Glory & Independence of the Seas in Crown Bay

Show Picture Full Size From the terrace, the tour involves walking down through the gardens of the estate which include a number of historic houses and a monument unveiled in 2005 to The Three Queens (Queen Mary, Queen Agnes & Queen Josiah), who led a successful insurrection in 1878 against the Dutch Government, demanding better living & working conditions and wages.

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99 Steps!
The Haagensen House Museum
(Gerry's photos)
The Haagensen

The 99 Steps begin here. Once called Store Tarne Garde, they are one of a number of steep stepped streets built by the Dutch in the 1700s. (Apparently, there are actually 103 but I lost count on the way down!) The Haagensen House was built in 1822 and is a fine example of an elegant merchant's house, now a museum furnished with various Caribbean antiques.

Descending the 99 (or 103) Steps, we emerged in the main town, where I left the others to do some shopping, while I took the shuttle back to the ship to meet Peggy, Claire & Sarah for the next adventure of the day, the Buck Island Catamaran Sail & Snorkel.

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Peggy, Claire & Sarah
enjoying the sun
Under Sail Yours Truly
(Claire's Photo)
Stars & Stripes
& Captain Kyle

Show Picture Full Size Once aboard our modern catamaran "Stars & Stripes", the sail was raised but we had to motor-sail out about 3-4 miles to Buck Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where we dropped anchor in "Shipwreck Cove" for an hour's snorkelling. The crew were great and there were plenty of Rum Swizzles on the way back!
(left) Our Boat Captain Kyle and (below) My poor attempt at underwater photography!

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Snorkelling Coral An old wreck! Claire+snorkel
& our sail-boat

Although I've snorkelled a few times, I'm no expert in deep water and prefer to stay on the surface but the inflatable vest they gave us proved more of a hindrance than a help and I deflated mine! I didn't see that many fish but there was a sunken wreck and our crew-guide brought up a Sea-Urchin to show us, so overall the experience was good fun; and we got a free "Pirate" tattoo as a souvenir!

Back at the ship, however, I was truly knackered - although it seems the girls were none the worse for wear after their afternoon of sun, sea, sailing and snorkelling!

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A local Iguana Sarah & Claire
clearly none the worse after their snorkelling trip!
Show "Under The Big Top"
colourful & funny but some pieces didn't quite work for me

Hilario and the Crème Brûlée
For the last 3 nights, our senior waiter Hilario, ever wishing to please us, had been bringing extra Crème Brûlées for Sarah because she had complained that it was too runny on the first night. Tonight, at last, he stopped and we all breathed a sigh of relief, especially since it had been Claire who complained in the first place and she thought the whole thing "Hilari-ous" (groan!)

The after-dinner show tonight was the first big Production Show, "Under The Big Top". Imaginative and funny in parts, it had lots of colour and razzamataz but some of the pieces didn't quite work for me and the choreography even seemed a little pedestrian in places. Still, it was free after all!

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Thursday 8th May 2014
Philipsburg, St Maarten
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The last time we were here (in 1995), there were no facilities for big ships and we had to use local tenders. But today at 7am, we where docking at the "new" Dr AC Wathey Cruise Pier, opened in January 2001 at Pointe-Blanche.
But arriving alongside us was elder sister-ship Freedom of the Seas (2006), which had also been in St. Thomas yesterday and which must have been following us during the night.

Today, we had all chosen the same excursion, The Ultimate Island Tour, promising a bus tour around the island to Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island, then a "Party Cruise" back to Philipsburg on the Dutch side. I suspect that it was really the prospect of unlimited rum drinks on the "Party Cruise" that swung it but as it turned out, it was the "Party Cruise" that saved the day because we reckoned without today being a French public holiday and everywhere being shut!

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Houses at Belle Vue
overlooking Orient Bay
The colourful Flea Market
in French Marigot
The Yacht Harbour
in Marigot

Show Picture Full Size Sadly, the weather started out grey and showery, and the island views were a little unexciting. Then with the shops all shut, our 1-hour free time in Marigot was mostly spent in the Flea Market (mercifully, that was open!) or in Andrew & my case, on the boat getting our first free drinks of the day! Unsurprisingly, the weather improved after that and we all had a great time!
(left) A House-Boat on Simpson Bay Lagoon

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A Party-Cruise on Simpson Bay Lagoon aboard "Explorer"
Everyone having far too good a time!
Ex-hurricane damage?

Unusually, our party-boat "Explorer" must have been exclusively chartered for us (just one bus load of passengers) so it wasn't at all crowded. The crew were great, the sun came out and the DJ played plenty of requests for our group, frequently refuelled with unlimited rum-punches as we cruised across Simpson Bay Lagoon, back to the Dutch side of the island and under the new Airport Causeway Bridge, completed in November 2013.

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The new Simpson Bay
Causeway Bridge

Opened in November 2013
Continental Airlines
Boeing 737
preparing for take-off
(left) Classic 1980 Exploration Yacht "Bleu de Nimes"
& "Altitude" (right)
both 12-berth private charter yachts in the Marina

Show Picture Full Size Back at the pier, I didn't have time to try the shuttle-ferry across the bay to the centre of town but the girls (of course!) managed to do some more shopping amongst the stalls near the pier.

With identical ships in port, it was just as well they had their names on the stern! But then a "medical emergency" delayed our departure until gone 5.30, so Freedom of the Seas sailed (noisily!) first.
(left) Twins! Independence of the Seas (2008: 154,407grt) & Freedom of the Seas (2006)

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Twins side-by-side!
Freedom of the Seas
making a noisy sailaway
Classic Tug Trafalgar
ex-Vanquisher 1966 (UK)
A cloudburst looms!

Here's Freedom of the Seas departing, with both ships' whistles answering each other!
Press "Play Video >>" for the HD version and TURN UP THE VOLUME!
(If your system won't play that, click on the "YouTube logo" for the lower-res YouTube version)
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Another Medical Emergency!
After our earlier "medical emergency", we finally sailed at nearly 6pm but it wasn't until during dinner, 4 hours later, that the Captain announced that we would be returning to Philipsburg because the medical emergency he had previously feared but which he had thought resolved, had now recurred and he had to put someone ashore. So we turned around and made full speed (22.5 knots) back to Philipsburg, arriving in the early hours of the next day, barely dropping the gangway for 5 minutes before setting-out again on our Transatlantic Crossing!

Friday 9th - Friday 16th May 2014
8 Days at Sea - Crossing the Atlantic
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By the time I got up for my morning swim, we were back on our correct course, making 20 knots so as to put us back on schedule after last night's 6-hour detour back to Philipsburg!

The rest of our holiday follows on Page 2.... Independence Transatlantic Page 2 >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 4,941 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 181,508 n miles

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