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Reflections 2011
Series 12
March 29
Amazon I: Coral Gables - St Barts - St Lucia - Trinidad & Tobago

 

Last year before going to Australia I took out my list of to-do items and made several decisions about 2011. Other destinations for 2011 later in the year will involve New England and Canada, but the decision I made for early in the year was that I felt it was time to see the Amazon, to check that off my list. Different people have varying opinions about ship travel. Forgive me if yours vary from mine, because mine are very specific. I do not call them cruises, a term that to me sounds too casual, too vacation-oriented, something less than serious travel. They are sea voyages (or river voyages, or canal voyages). I also want my voyage to have what to my way of thinking is a certain closure. I do not like segments and do not take them unless I have little choice. Some people are happy to travel halfway around the world, take a ship for some distance, then fly home, which is something I rarely care to do. Either it’s a transatlantic voyage from A to B, or a trip on the Victoria from New York to Los Angeles (with a South Pacific add-on), or it’s a complete circuit of the Hawaiian Islands or the Tahitian Islands--I require a sense of what strikes me as closure in a voyage. I am also adamant about the word “vacation”. Vacationing is something I do very rarely, if at all, since it also involves a sense of do-nothing casualness that I get involved in minimally. Someone who infers I was on vacation for two months last fall going around the world has missed the point entirely of what was happening. Just being away from home is not vacationing, unless you make it that. Was Marco Polo vacationing? Neither am I.

 
 

I knew that ships traveled the Amazon upstream as far as Manaus (ma.NOWSS; rhymes with “house”), but I didn’t want to do the type of voyage that results in a half-trip, to my way of thinking. Some ships sail just up the Amazon, and then one flies home from Manaus, or vice-versa. If my only choice was to do it that way or not at all, I’d choose not at all. Also, trips start from various coastal or island locations, but none pleased me until I found the one I decided on, a round trip out of Miami.

 
 

Unfortunately, it made island stops on the way, which I was not interested in, since I’d been to many of the places (and some were not worth the trouble) but I did like the idea of the length of time, 24 nights, that made the trip into a nice sea-and-river voyage. The price I found sounded good, but then I was floored by the size of the single supplement. There were no single cabins, like some ships and trains have, and the supplement wasn’t just 50%, reasonable enough to split the difference between the cruise company and the solo traveler, it was a full 100%. I went ahead with it nevertheless, and tried twice to get people I knew to go along with me, but the time period was too long for them. I thought that the idea of paying for a ghost passenger that didn’t eat food wouldn’t bother me, but it weighs on my mind, and I continue to feel suckered. Oceania has heard plenty from me on the subject. They didn’t even offer singles an onboard credit to ease the pain. They should be ashamed, but the trip went where I wanted to, and I agreed to it.

 
 

The voyage did break down nicely into three eight-night segments, 1/3 islands, 1/3 Amazon, 1/3 islands. I also decided to do this voyage in conjunction with my annual month’s stay at my Florida place, so I was gone from New York from mid-February to mid-March in Florida, and from then to mid-April on the ship.

 
 

Coral Gables   I could have flown from Tampa to Miami on the day of sailing, but I went the day before, because I wanted to stay in Coral Gables. We’d been to Coral Gables, particularly for restaurants, many times when visiting Beverly’s relatives in the Miami area, and I decided I’d like to actually spend a night there, especially since I could stay at the Westin Coral Gables free on points.

 
 

Many communities run together nowadays, which is a point I’ve been making in the New York discussions, but one always knows when one enters or leaves Coral Gables, which I’ve driven through many times. The map shows Dade County in orange as it fits into Florida. Miami is the largest of the gray areas, and Coral Gables is in red. Coral Gables is a slender rectangle with a waterfront to the south, but meets Miami and other municipalities on its other three sides. When driving in on a street from Miami, where there are nice enough houses, but nothing particularly special, when one crosses the line into CORAL GABLES ONE IS ALWAYS SPECTACULARLY AWARE OF THAT FACT until ones leaves again on the other side. What makes the difference no noticeable? The sea change in graciousness and style, the entry gates, the architecture, the trees, the fountains.

 
 

Coral Gables is the grandest and most successful of South Florida’s boomtown developments after WWI. George Merrick, after whose mansion the town is named, in 1921 expanded an orange grove into a unified, planned community with broad boulevards, formal entrances, plazas, sculpture, and park-like landscaping, all in Mediterranean Revival style, which essentially means Spanish (not Cuban, not Mexican). Street names also reflect Spain, such as Andalusia, Valencia, Málaga, Catalonia, Sevilla, and Giralda Avenues. It was one of the first planned communities, and an early example of the concepts of the gated community and the homeowners’ association. It is also an inspired example of the City Beautiful Movement.

 
 

The City Beautiful Movement was a reform movement in urban planning just before and after the turn of the 20C that sought to enhance the look of uninspired city planning by using beautification and monumental grandeur to increase the quality of urban life. One place this was particularly noticeable was in the upgrading of the National Mall in Washington DC, including the opening of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. The Garden City Movement discussed in the Canberra essay (2010/19) incorporated elements of the City Beautiful Movement, and Canberra benefitted from its principles, as did Melbourne. The City Beautiful Movement was prolonged in Australia, and more monuments and memorials were erected there than in any other country. In Florida, Coral Gables is a notable achievement of the City Beautiful Movement, and, in addition to being called simply The Gables, is nicknamed The City Beautiful.

 
 

There are a few examples of double naming in Coral Gables, more frequently because a Miami Street there has an alternate local name. Most obvious is SW 24th Street, the main E-W road, which is also called Coral Way in town. To complicate things slightly more, four blocks of SW 24th Street/Coral Way in the shopping core of town are called the Miracle Mile, which runs from the upper left in this picture, crossed by Ponce de Leon Boulevard coming in from the lower left. (My hotel was one block up from Coral Way on the right.)

 
 

This picture shows Coral Way when it’s still called Miracle Mile, but when the road passes the Coral Gables City Hall, with a statue of Merrick (note the first of many full, dark trees coming up), Coral Way goes residential with a massive canopy of trees. To me this part of Coral Way is the embodiment of the Garden City concept. Then, noting at other locations the DeSoto Fountain and the public swimming pool known as the Venetian Pool, one really begins to comprehend the urban planning concept of City Beautiful, and why the nickname of Coral Gables is just that, City Beautiful.

 
 

I was also determined to ride the Miami Metrorail and Metromover, which I’d watched being built over the years, but always without participation. I’d decided to travel from the airport via Coral Gables to the ship just by public transportation. After having checked online about fares and routes, I simply took the 42 bus from the airport directly to Coral Gables City Hall, which could not have been easier. The next morning I took it again on to the Douglas Road station of Metrorail, an elevated rail system that approaches downtown Miami from the SW and then leaves again roughly to the NW. (Eventually there will be a direct airport connection.) It was only four stops to downtown at the Government Center Station.

 
 

To me even more interesting was the Metromover, a people mover (fully automated mass transit system covering a small area) as used at airports, downtown areas, and theme parks. It has only one or two cars and is otherwise just like AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark in that it is an elevated, unmanned, rubber-tired vehicle. The Metromover has close to two dozen stations all around downtown Miami, and is also free of charge. This picture shows a Metrorail train at Government Center Station (above), a Metromover car below, as well as a Metrobus. I had plenty of time, so I rode both the southern loop of the Metromover, which has nice views down over the Miami River, and the northern loop. In the central area of the loops I had a nice, elevated view out in the harbor of large Dodge Island, the passenger ship docking area, with about four large ships (this is a sample picture; none of these are the ships I saw) on the north side, and the petite MS Regatta on the south side, so I could see I was close. When I was ready to make my travel move, I found that bus 243 out to Dodge Island didn’t run on weekends--a fact not pointed out on the website--so I hailed a taxi on Biscayne Boulevard for the five-minute ride to the ship.

 
 

MS Regatta   The longest voyage I’ve ever taken was on what was then Cunard’s Caronia around South America in early 2004, which lasted seven weeks and was a round trip out of Fort Lauderdale. This was to be the second longest, at just half that size, 3 ½ weeks, and out of the Port of Miami instead, which I understand is the largest cruise ship port on earth. After the two voyages in Tasmania, the Amazon trip will be my voyage # 49.

 
 

Although I chose this trip--despite the horrendous single supplement--because of the route, from what I later read, Miami-based Oceania is apparently well-thought of, including its flagship, the Regatta (which is the same name as my New York building, perhaps a fortuitous sign). All four of its ships are recycled from defunct Renaissance Cruise Lines. I read critiques that Oceania “operates four luxury cruise ships on world-wide itineraries” and is “the world’s largest upscale cruise line”, reasonably priced “when compared to other upscale cruise lines”. It is “one of the best value-for-money options” (HA!) It’s a “fabulous” ship. Again, these are critics speaking, not me.

 
 

The MS Regatta was built in 1998, renamed in 2003, and refurbished in 2007. It was built in the Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazaire, France, which built the Normandie in 1935, the France in 1962, and the Queen Mary 2 in 2004, among many others. On this trip it had 659 passengers out of a potential 684. The interior decoration is to me the most impressive aspect of the ship. It’s all polished dark wood and warm colors, including within the cabins. It didn’t strike me until it was pointed out that there were no kids on board, nor any special facilities for them, which added to a calmer atmosphere.

 
 

It is most definitely a petite ship, and I did feel confined. You only can walk so far before you just run out of ship. On my typical deck 6 (in a windowless interior cabin, because of the double expense I’m paying), each row of outside cabins is on a corridor, and between the corridors is enough space to accommodate two elevators facing a staircase. That’s the entire width of the ship. I’m located up front, one set of elevators is 1/3 back and the other 2/3 back.

 
 

There are 11 decks. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, have cabins. Deck 11 is just a partial sundeck, of little importance. This leaves the public decks as 5, 9, and 10. 5 midships has a casino and boutiques and 9 forward has a fancy spa, none of which interest me. So I spend my time outside my room as follows, in this order of interest:

 
 

REGATTA LOUNGE The Regatta Lounge is right below me on 5 forward. Evening entertainment and lectures take place there. I’ve walked out on all but one show, a variety show. One lecturer drones on about pertinent topics, such as Brazil, but isn’t too bad. The other talks about space and spies, and I’ve avoided him. I thought one might not be too bad, and walked out after three minutes. However, every day in the late afternoon Team Trivia takes place in the lounge, which is my salvation on this ship. Between 8 and 11 teams of 8 players participate, and the first time, a group of us just came together that worked very well; four from the American Virgin Islands, one from western North Carolina, the others from Saint Louis. We compliment our expertise quite well. Point cards for eventual tourist junk (key chains, t-shirts) are given out to winning teams each day, 3 points for 1st place, 2 for 2nd, 1 for third, although there are frequent multiple winners at each level. Still, our team which I wisely named Number One, has picked up at least one point every day we’ve played, and once won 1st place, with no tie. One other day, we had a perfect score of 21 out of 21, and weirdly, another team did the same. David the Cruise Director, said he only once before saw a perfect score, about five years ago, and then these two came in on one day. My day tends to revolve around our Team Trivia game, including a minor one occasionally played after dinner.

 
 

HORIZONS LOUNGE The fancier Horizons Lounge is on 10 forward and has windows overlooking the bow of the ship, so you can see where we’re going. They do a great tea time here, which a nice variety of teas, very good finger sandwiches and pastries, and the occasional peach flambé or something similar. Only tea time on the Deutschland is better, but only a bit.

 
 

COMPUTER ROOM The computer room is well equipped and is on 9 forward. Getting online is quite expensive, so I bought a non-returnable package, and am afraid I overbought too many minutes, but I need enough time to do website postings as well as regular email and occasional research I hadn’t done in advance. All communications are via satellite, and, while not as fast as at home, are not bad, and possibly the best I’ve had on a ship.

 
 

POOL AREA The roofless pool area is on 9 midships. The lounge chair area around it is partially roofed, and protected on the sides from the wind by window-walls. It’s nice to sit and read there.

 
 

LIBRARY The library is on 10 midships. Its dark paneling is gorgeous, but it has little to nothing of interest, and its reference area is quite poor, compared to other ships.

 
 

RESTAURANTS All the food is very good. The dress style is “country club casual”, and a bit more relaxed in the buffet restaurant. There are no set dining times or set seating arrangements at tables anywhere.

 
 

The buffet restaurant is on 9 aft, and as on all ships, I always eat breakfast and lunch there. Unfortunately, the workers are far too oversolicitous, (Oceania apparently believes “more is more”, whereas I believe “less is more”), and you can’t walk down the line just to look without a constant nagging of people with serving spoons in their hands wanting to “help you”. For instance, it’s irritating to pick up a small box of granola and a bowl, and the girl wants to open the box for you. Still, I manage to decline, having been a professional curmudgeon for years.

 
 

I almost always also eat dinner at the buffet, since it’s quick, relaxed, and less formal, and since one doesn’t “go out to a restaurant” every night at home, either. As of this writing, I only ate at the Grand Dining Room once. Single travelers were invited one evening by phone to one of two singles tables set up. It was nice enough, but was mostly women with only one man at each table. One tended to be with ultra-grandmotherly types. I cannot remember slower service. We sat down at 6:30, and at 9:10 after my own dessert, I excused myself for another appointment, while the others were finishing.

 
 

The two specialty restaurants require reservations, but there is no extra charge. Both the Polo Grill and the Toscana are on 10 aft. I’ve eaten twice at the very Italian Toscana, which was very good. The time I dined with people I knew and had something in common with was more enjoyable than the time I asked to be seated with others and was in the super-elderly crowd again. There is nothing wrong with age, as long as one doesn’t have a certain stodgy mindset that in some people goes along with it. I had to smile when one woman forgot her reading glasses for the menu and they didn’t only provide some, but brought out a wooden chest of about a dozen reading glasses in all styles. I suppose one “plays to the audience”. (One evening in the lounge, the comedian asked for everyone in their twenties to raise their hands, which brought a roar of laughter.)

 
 

I’ve so far dined once in the Polo Grill (later on, when in Brazil), which is essentially a steak house. It has a very upclass atmosphere, and the food was good, but a steady diet of steak is also not my cup of tea. I asked again to be seated with others, and sat with two elderly couples. They discussed bridge a lot, and were enamored of group, not individual, travel. One woman had stopped at a pharmacy, where she managed to ask for a certain product, and the woman then said “It was in Portuguese!”. I chided her about what language she expected in Brazil, at which point she said “No, the box was in English. The price was in Portuguese!” I finally understood, but had to peel away myriad layers of misunderstanding. Peel away “Portuguese” and you’re left with “Brazilian”. Peel that away and you’re left with the Brazilian real. They gave the value of the real against the dollar every day in our bulletin, but to this woman, the price was, not in reals, not in “Brazilian”, but in “Portuguese”. I liked the meal in the Polo Grill that evening, but I excused myself before dessert and went to play evening trivia at the bar in order to find more interesting conversation.

 
 

It wasn’t the elderly crowd that I’d been wary of, it was the vacationing crowd, which tends to include people who have less interest in the sort of thing I like. I was talking to a nice Canadian lady, who mentioned she also has a place in Palm Harbor, near Tampa. She said she goes there for “golf, of course”, at which point I interrupted her, since I didn’t like that “of course”. I said I knew a lot of people in the Tampa area, and know of only three couples that are deeply interested in golf, and one has moved away, so I don’t consider it a prerequisite for going to Tampa. On further discussion, she wasn’t aware of the story of Manaus, of the significance of its opera house, or that it was rubber that caused it all. To me, that’s like going to Rome and not knowing at least something in advance about the Colisseum. I did fill her in, but she typifies the person who goes somewhere without having found out why it’s worth going there, and then arriving with her head in the sand. I feel there are more of these vacationing types on board than I like to see. It sort of hovers over me on this ship, along with the compact space and with being overcharged for my room, like a very mild malaise, in spite of the outstanding beauty of the interior woodwork décor, and the pleasantness of the people I’ve met that are fun to be with.

 
 

I have been told by more than one person that my writing is such that one feels one is on the trip as well, which I’m pleased to hear. In that vein, I’d like to show the picture of the MS Regatta (click to enlarge) once again, this time pointing out some locations we’ve just described. The four lifeboats are visible on deck 6, and right below them is the short trip of deck 5, four lifeboat lengths long, that’s the only direct access to outside on the lower decks, and these are sometimes closed off because of wind or rain. This minimal outdoor access adds to the cramped feeling. The lower of the blue strips entirely encircling the ship are windows on deck 9 that surround the spa area up front closest to the viewer (wasted, to my mind), that form the glass wall midships on both sides of the pool area, and that surround the buffet aft. The buffet also has an open dining terrace behind it with rear view, but it’s often too windy there. The next blue window strip is incomplete. Forward, closest to the viewer, it surrounds the Horizons lounge, with great views, including at tea time. Aft the blue-strip windows surround both specialty restaurants. Midships is an area above the pool, that is really the only other space, other than on the windy deck 11 (“Sundeck”) where you can stand at a railing and see the ocean. You’ll note that the single stack is aft.

 
 

The "Caribbean"   There’s the “Caribbean” and the Caribbean. Most people don’t pay attention to the difference, and that’s really OK, since it’s just human nature not to. But the name signifies two different viewpoints, and we can point out the difference here.

 
 

The difference involves what I like to call the two realities, the emotional one of the heart, and the more rational one of the mind. This is a Caribbean map (click to enlarge) covered by the two realities. Most of the time, most people talking about the islands and waterways here would say this is the “Caribbean”. A trip to any island here is called a “Caribbean” trip, and one would say he’s “going to the ‘Caribbean’”. That is the everyday reality of the heart.

 
 

The mind looks at things more carefully, and locates the Caribbean Sea, distinguishing it from the Atlantic Ocean. The mind sees very clearly the string of islands forming a “land border” separating the two bodies of water. These islands include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, and a long string of small islands in a backwards C-shape from the Virgin Islands to Grenada. These islands straddle two bodies of water, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. While usually referred to as Caribbean islands, that is only half true.

 
 

Clearly NOT in the Caribbean are the Bahamas, the nearby Turks & Caicos, rather surprisingly Barbados, which stands off well east of the others, and the country of Trinidad & Tobago. All of these are Atlantic islands.

 
 

Jamaica is the largest island totally in the Caribbean; to its NW are the Caymans. All the other Caribbean islands are coastal, such as, to the west, Mexico’s Cozumel and Honduras’s Roatán, and, to the south, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire and Venezuela’s Isla de Margarita. Thus the actual, physical Caribbean varies considerably from the everyday concept of the “Caribbean”. This is something that doesn’t happen when people talk about the Baltic or the Mediterranean, for instance.

 
 

Thus this route of the Regatta would inaccurately be described as Caribbean-Amazon-Caribbean, since we visit the Caribbean sides of only two islands and stay almost exclusively in the Atlantic. We should say it’s an island-Amazon-island trip to maintain accuracy, and follows a “lazy-3” pattern. The route follows (check the above map):

 
 

From Miami we sail several days along, and quite close to, the north coasts of Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. We then cut south through the Virgin Islands to actually enter the Caribbean and stop at St Barts and St Lucia. We then return to the Atlantic to stop at Trinidad. Thus there are three island stops southbound, and we’ve covered the upper half of our figure 3.

 
 

We then do the lower half of the 3 down to and along the Amazon. After several stops on the Amazon to and from Manaus, we stay exclusively in the Atlantic on a similar northbound route as southbound, stopping at Devil’s Island (off French Guiana), Barbados, Dominica, Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and Nassau in the Bahamas. That makes six island stops northbound, completing the upper half of the figure 3.

 
 

Saint Barts   We sailed out between South Pointe on Miami Beach and Fisher Island, the tony residential island named after Carl Fisher, the “Man who Built Miami Beach” but who floundered on building Montauk as the “Miami Beach of the North” (2011/10). We then had two pleasant days “at sea”, my favorite kind, followed by three days of island stops. This is the point described above where we first sailed close to the shores of Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico, then turned down through the Virgin Islands, shortly after which comes Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten and others, including our first island stop, tiny Saint Barts, with a capital at Gustavia, which I loved on first sight, as I knew I would.

 
 

Saint Barts is today an overseas region of France (and uses the Euro). It used to be under the jurisdiction of Saint-Martin, but in the last couple of years it became more self-governing, which made the Travelers Century Club give it separate status. Therefore, for me, following the UAE and Qatar last year, Saint Barts is my destination # 141. It is the only new TCC destination on this entire trip for me.

 
 

I was scheduled to stop in Saint Barts on the Deutschland in 2004, but the stop was cancelled, so I’m glad to have made it this time. I was just now interested to go back and read the sour grapes I had to say at the time (2004/20), but I’ll just copy here from that posting the only item of real interest: Saint Barts is known as the chic playground of celebrities, and these people (and more) either own(ed) there or visit(ed): David Rockefeller, Rothschild, Nureyev, Barishnikov, JFK Jr, Warren Buffett, Mick Jagger, Princess Di, Calvin Klein, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow.

 
 

On this trip I was much more interested in the French and Swedish history here, and in the charm of Gustavia. Columbus discovered Saint Barts during his second voyage of 1492, and he named after his brother Bartolomeo. Its full name in French is Saint-Barthélémy (when it was Swedish for 94 years, it was Sankt Barthelemy). The French name is shortened in French to Saint-Barth, and in English it’s shortened to Saint Barts.

 
 

Let me first present my consolidation of the research I found online many months ago and stored away, and I’ll then comment on it afterward: The island was first claimed by France in 1648 (interrupted for five years, 1651-1656, when it was under the jurisdiction of the Knights of Malta) but France gave it to Sweden in 1784 in exchange for trade rights in Göteborg / Gothenburg. France then purchased it back 94 years later in 1878. Swedish influence remains in the name of the capital, Gustavia, named after Swedish king Gustav III, and in the names of some streets. The coat of arms of Saint Barts illustrates the three jurisdictions, having a band with three French fleurs-de-lys, a Maltese cross, and the Swedish national arms, the Tre Kroner / Three Crowns.

 
 

Some of this research came from Swedish Wikipedia, which not surprisingly, had more information than English Wikipedia; so did French Wikipedia. The Gustavia sign, though, came from French Wikipedia, and doesn’t appear on the others. I’d say that shows it’s worth searching a bit further, since I think the sign (which I did not see in person) blends the history so well (Välkommen in Swedish with Bienvenue in French). I also delight in the blending of all three layers of history in the coat of arms.

 
 

Saint Barts was the only island we had to tender in on. The Regatta stayed at anchor in Gustavia Bay, on the Caribbean side of the island, and it took about 15 minutes for the tender to arrive on Quai de la République. Gustavia and its harbor (click to enlarge) really are as picture-perfect as they appear here, where the Regatta would have been beyond the headland to the left, and the tender would have arrived in the rectangular harbor and docked on the right. I then walked throughout the streets on that side of town, up to the two churches here in the foreground, one of whose steeples shows in the picture.

 
 

Quai de la République / Republic Quay changed its name to Rue du Bord de Mer / Seaside Street, and therefore continued running along the harbor. Perpendicular to these were Rue de la Suède / Sweden Street and Rue de la France / France Street, two names I was glad to see. Two streets inland from the harbor was Rue du Roi Oscar II / King Oscar II Street, and the historical marker below told you he was Roi de Suède / King of Sweden. I had printed out street maps at home of the places I’d be visiting, as I always do, and my Gustavia map showed that this street at one time had been in Swedish Kungsgatan / King Street. One block back closer to the harbor was Rue du Général de Gaulle, on which I saw two Swedish flags flying. I went into the shop where one was, which was named, in English, the Swedish Design Center. The other flag was at a quirky, devilish little pub which seemed to delight in having put up a historic Swedish sign on its façade saying Östra Strandgatan / East Beach Street. I went to see the two churches at the end of the harbor, one Catholic, one Protestant. The Protestant one had a historical marker, in English, French, and Swedish. In the latter, the church was described as an Anglikanska Kyrkan / Anglican Church. Finally, a little harborside park was called in French Square de la Rétrocession / Retrocession Square, to celebrate the return to France. Obviously, while others shopped, I had fun my own way, and loved Gustavia. I would add it to Willemstad, Curaçao as my two favorite Caribbean towns.

 
 

Saint Lucia   We sailed a few islands south to the middle of our three island stops in a row, which was in Saint Lucia (LU.sha), which has been both French and British, but is today British. There are some places ships stop at as fillers, and this is one. In fairness, some people do like to go look at waterfalls and stop at beaches. Saint Lucia wasn’t worth stopping at on the Deutschland (2004/20), nor was it now, but this time I did get out in Castries and did an hour’s walk in the heat through the shabby streets to a park in a main square, with a cathedral on one side. This mountain view of Castries, the capital, makes it look much more interesting than it really is.

 
 

Trinidad & Tobago   The first two island stops above were in the Caribbean, but the third, in Trinidad & Tobago, was in the Atlantic, off the coast of Venezuela, yet involved a change of plan as to which island.

 
 

The Deutschland trip in 2004 that had to skip Saint Barts did stop at some dozen islands, many worthwhile, some not. Several are to be duplicated on the Regatta. On the return north later, we’ll stop again at Barbados (worthwhile) and Dominica (not). On this southbound trip, we stopped at the just mentioned Saint Lucia (not), and we almost stopped at Tobago (not), yet it turned out that Tobago was not to be repeated for me. Instead, Trinidad was to be repeated for me.

 
 

Trinidad & Tobago form one country off the northern coast of Venezuela and South America. The day we boarded the Regatta, we got a letter stating that, because of refueling problems, we would not stop at Tobago, which was good news, given earlier experience, but would stop instead at Trinidad, in the capital of Port of Spain, which was somewhat better news. I’d been to Trinidad many years ago, but remembered little.

 
 

Trinidad & Tobago was a Spanish colony from the times of Christopher Columbus to 1802, when it was ceded to Britain. The country obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976. To me it seems obvious that a non-English sounding name like that of the capital, Port of Spain, was translated from Puerto de España, while the name Trinidad was never translated at all to Trinity.

 
 

The Regatta docked close to the center of town, right next to the Hyatt Hotel, just where this other ship in the picture is located. It was a relatively short walk into the center of this rather large city, with a number of tall modern buildings. Of interest were a long, park-like promenade down the middle of a main street, and Woodford Square, a large central park, bordered on its western side by the Red House, the seat of Parliament, shown here as seen from Woodford Square. The heat, especially when walking, was such that a stop in the air-conditioned lobby of the Hyatt was welcome on the way back to the Regatta. After this stop we had three sea days on the way to, and up, the Amazon.

 
 
 
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