George "The Scourge of Barbados" Reporting...
07.12.2014 - 14.12.2014 82 °F
I was fortunate enough to have a few interesting thoughts while swimming in an inviting, blue
pool beneath Blackbeard's Castle on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Some of these
thoughts were conjured up thanks to a few magic elixirs of 'Blackbeard's (a rum drink) mixed with
warm blue sky and topped off with bright, spring-like flowers surrounding the pool.
One interesting thing, I learned, was that fearsome Blackbeard the Pirate (real name Edward Teach)
used to place two, long entwined cannon fuses made of hemp underneath his big hat. The 6' 4"
pirate would then light them before going into battle, creating a swirling vortex of smoke about
his face that would both scare the beejeezus out of his enemies while, maybe, inducing a unique
state-of-mind for Blackbeard. Let me be clear, Blackbeard was a terrible, awful person who
killed many innocent people and had 16 wives, which he killed after every honeymoon.
But his whole 'smoking head for battle' showed a high level of creativity in my opinion. Blackbeard
understood well how evocative and unique presentation methods enhanced his performance. You might
even compare him to Lady Gaga or Madonna or any dance performer her used smoke and mirrors to
dazzle the audience. It was not too surprising to learn that his real last name was 'Teach', and
that he originally came from England. In those days, one's last name was very closely related
to the family occupations such as 'Blacksmith' or 'Gardener'. I don't think there is evidence
out there that proves Blackbeard came from a family of teachers but it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Some of the brightest and most creative minds I know of happen to be teachers. And if they ever
went 'bad', I would hate to think what damage they would do to the world. In fact, you might consider the main
character in the TV series 'Breaking Bad' as a modern day Blackbeard, an example of another teacher going "bad".
Ganda Excursion on St. Thomas Island, Caribbean $200
You probably already know that cruises offer various excursions costing anywhere from $50-$100 or
more. The cost mostly covers transportation, tour guides and perhaps snorkeling rentals and other
At our first island in St. Thomas, we bypassed the first series of excursions and created our
own for a cost of about $200.
This is what you get:
1. 1.5 mile walking tour from the boat to Charlotte Amalie city where you can window shop
at stores you won't buy anything. Stop about midway on the beautiful pathway and access free
wi-fi for up to 2 hours. Wifi on the ship is prohibitively expensive so now is a great time
to check that email and such.
2. Stroll through the center of Amalie and marvel at the beautiful old Victorian era homes
mixed with a centuries old fort and various more affordable shops where you can buy a pair of
men's shorts and a women's bikini set for about $60.
3. Stroll on through 'Little Switzerland' which is just like 'Little Chinatown' or 'Little
Mexico' exccept, you know, it's Swiss. Spend time (pun intended) looking for the ideal
travel watch because, you know, you need one and we didn't have one if you can believe that.
Find two solar-powered, water-proof Casio watches for a duty-free, tax-free grand total of $101.
4. Continue a hiking tour to the famous '99 Steps' up to Blackbeard's Castle. Cost: Free
5. Enter the grounds of Blackbeard's Castle and take the short, very interesting tour of his
castle/tour made out of brick and sugar-mortar. Yes, that's right. You can make mortar out of
sand, water and sugar. Cost: $20 for two.
6. Included in the tour is an opportunity to swim in the beautiful pool beneath the Castle/Tower
for as long as you like. Now aren't you glad you bought that swimming wear in town?
7. Purchase two glasses of the fearsome rum drink called 'Blackbeard's Revenge' and alternate
sips and pool dives. Cost of all drinks $16
8. Tour also includes entrance to two Victorian homes that are beautifully furnished and
reminded us terribly of our past home in Oakland. The main house on this tour is the ideal
floor plan Andrea said. And the balcony view of the entire port area was a knockout.
9. After finishing your walking tour, which includes gardens, pirate statuary, some history and
even a waterfall made entirely of amber, continue back down the 99 Steps to the heart of town.
10. Stop here and purchase two bottles of wine and a bottle of spiced Bacardi rum for a grand total
of $30. Oh, and pick up a $10 pair of sunglasses for your sunglasses-losing prone wife.
11. Take the 30 minute hike back to your ship and arrive about an hour before it sails off.
Total excursion time: 5 hours approx. Total Excursion Cost: $237
Sounds expensive except you get to keep the bathing suits, and bottles of wine and rum and sunglasses
to use on your continuing voyage! Sign up on the Lido Deck Now! Just ask for Ganda.
The value of cruising
So initially this Caribbean cruise was a spontaneous gift for my wife. I felt like we needed
a little break from carrying around our big backpacks from town to town and a little vacation
from our traveling if you can swallow that.
It had been about 7 years since the last time we cruised and I don't recall having the best
time then. Cruising seemed to limiting to our anxious minds and bodies then, however, it
now seemed like an ideal time to relax a bit from our hectic travel schedule. But I've learned that
there is quite a lot of value to cruising much like the post I did about the value of
living hotel to hotel.
The entire 7-day cruise for two cost approx. $800 not including airfare. That's just a little
bit over $100 per day that covers the cabin suite, all meals, all non-alcoholic drinks, on board
entertainment, all-you-can-eat ice cream, daily maid service (very important), gym, use of board
games, access to books and literally transport to a different island nearly everyday. There is
quite a bit of "savings" in there from the usual way we travel and food is accessible 24 hours
a day. The meals alone are a pretty good value. There is the usual Lido deck food court food,
which isn't bad, and you can make healthy or unhealthy choices. However, if you choose to use
the dining room, you get treated to excellent, restaurant quality meals which includes dessert
and in most cases, a bottle of wine. Tips are not required. We figured that the nice brunch
we had this morning which included bagel and locks, steak and eggs, various pastries and unlimited
coffee probably would have cost a minimum of $40 (not including tip) anywhere else. Brunch like
that every day of the cruise comes out to over 1/4 of the cost of the entire cruise. Lunch and
Dinner are equally luxurious and over great value.
Carnival will hit you with an $84 per person gratuity fee to cover all room service for the week which seem high but they clean TWICE
a day and put up with various slobs no doubt. But if you get lucky at the roulette table, like I did, then it's covered!
Mostly, if you can figure out a fairly inexpensive way to get to a cruise port, you should give the Caribbean a try. The pirate
history here is pretty cool and I'm always on the hunt for buried treasure. If you have
a secret map, please email me at your earliest convenience and I'll split the booty with you...
Aaargh me mateys!