A Tropical BREEZE to Clear My Head – The Dominican Republic

I suppose the title is enough to tell you that the ship made it to The DR…

I had set my alarm on my phone to go off again this morning. With each new (to me) port I visit, I like to be up to see the ship’s arrival. Watching the bow cam on the cabin TV, the water looked much more calm than yesterday. This was promising. I took a quick shower, got dressed, and headed out to get some breakfast. This morning was another run to the Blue Iguana Cantina for another breakfast burrito. Man, was I glad they had re-instated breakfast at this place. There was little to no line so I was able to grab my food and a nice table by the large panoramic windows again.

After eating I could see land off the side of the ship. Sun was trying to peek through the fairly cloudy sky. The weather was starting to look more and more promising. I had my Nikon with me and ran to the front of the ship as we approached La Romana, Dominican Republic.

I could see there was another cruise ship actually leaving while we approached. I learned later, it was the Costa Magica. Apparently the ship sails from La Romana at 7am and just “hops” over to Isla Catalina. Carnival Breeze passed Isla Saona which looked very nice. I kicked myself a little for not booking the excursion to it. The ship stopped a little short of port to turn around and back in before pulling alongside the pier. There was a pretty cool looking tanker ship docked opposite the channel. Beyond the tanker ship, there was an odd sort of zoning. At the shore there was a beautiful properly with a nice house, nice landscaping, and large pool next to a helipad. Beyond that was what I was told was a sugar mill. As we backed-in the mill’s whistle went off.

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When the time came to leave the ship. I started feeling some anxiety. Dang. I tried to keep myself level while stepping off the ship and walking up the pier. The further I walked the more it seemed to sort itself out. I passed through the duty-free shop and walked by what looked like stands where other vendors were supposed to be. I walked beyond there and up to the large parking area where I was to find a bus taking me and others Altos de Chavon. There were a bunch of buses. Many with signs easier to read than others.

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**If you do book an excursion make sure you look carefully at the signs because they will say “CARNIVAL” in large font, and then the actual excursion in very-very small font.**

After walking around the parking lot twice and then asking where my bus was, I told about how the sign font was small and to look for a certain kind of bus. Armed with that information, I did find my bus and boarded. I was not the only lost one in the parking lot. Once on the bus, it seemed to be getting a little more crowded. After being aboard for about 10 minutes, we were made to leave and board a larger bus as the tour had actually been oversold. It was actually a good thing, because the newer bus had nicer seats, cooler air conditioning, and a better view from the taller windows.

After waiting, waiting, and waiting for this one particular family the bus finally set off. The driver and guide took us through sections of downtown La Romana, which was actually not as bad as I had envisioned given others impressions. It was much like most Caribbean towns. The only thing I noticed in this town were the teens trying to wash car windshields at a large intersection. Traffic got a little held-up, but not too bad. We drove by bars, markets, restaurants, homes, police and stations. Those who do complain about this place, note that it was not quite as tired looking as Falmouth, Jamaica (outside the port gates) or Belize City.

After driving around the town, we were taken through a resort property on the way to Altos de Chavon. The guide on the bus did the usual spiel on which famous person lived where or bought property. It honestly a nice area with a large golf course (those who are into banging a tiny ball across acres of nicely cut grass.

When we arrived at Altos de Chavon, it appeared to be a very nicely maintained property. Foremost though, it should be said that this is a very nice recreation of an old Dominican village that had once stood on or near there. We all stepped off the bus and were led by Peter, our guide, along the paths. He would give us short lessons about the trees/fruit and buildings. There was a room in one building where we were able to see locals using a loom. Across the way, there was a large open theater. On the large stage crew were prepping for a show that was to feature the famous singer, Andrea Boccelli. Walking past the stage was a large fountain where we were encouraged to take photos. Behind the fountains though and at the bottom of a steep drop was the Rio Chavon (river). Before I had too much time to look at it, we were ushered along the village into the Chocolate Museum. Well, it was actually less of a museum and more of a shop that had informative posters and signs. We were given samples that were delicious and I bought some chocolate covered peanuts to tide me over until lunch. Moving along on the tour, we entered a real museum with Dominican artifacts from when the Carib indians lived there. Through different parts of the museum we were given descriptions of day-to-day living, culture, beliefs, and how things had changed. It was mostly interesting, but many of the people on the tour were growing pretty antsy. Fortunately we only had one more stop at a museum that featured amber and gemstones. It was actually a nicer place and we were able to look around instead of being given a speech. Of course there was jewelry to buy, but most passed on anything.

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At the end of the tour, we were given a good amount of time to just hang out and walk around. I chose my time wisely and sought a nice cold Presidente from the local store there. Some had a lunch at some cafes. I walked around and took some more photos of the property including some of the cat residents.

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It was a very nice area, that probably would have been great to have a good dinner, but time was limited. Just over an hour after being given our free time, we all reboarded our bus for the trip back to the port. It was a nice and shorter trip back, I had some good conversation with the woman who sat next to me.

Back at port, it was pretty much game-over for the Dominican Republic. I didn’t necessarily feel up to heading into town and there really wasn’t anything to do in the port area. I did manage to buy a t-shirt and magnet in the duty-free shop after waiting in line an eternity behind people who kept grabbing bottles of liquor. Afterwards, I headed back into the ship.

Once back on the ship, it was time for a shower and lunch. When I got into the cabin, I found my Chef’s Table reservation waiting. That in mind, I decided I better take it easy with lunch and have a couple of slices of pizza, annnnd some conch fritters, annnnd some beer. Haha, I couldn’t really help it, but that’s how it goes when on a cruise. I did regret it a little later though.

After eating a little more than I should have, it was time to sail. By then the water had developed some chop to it again. Waves were slapping against the rocks that formed the shoreline. Most of the crests were white. The ship made no problem of it though as we pulled away. Shortly after the Costa ship departed Isla Catalina. Shortly after that, Aida Bella crossed behind us as well. Watching the ship leave and other ships around us was a nice way to wind down the day before dinner.

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I noticed some crew adding paint to some of the railing supports.

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Meeting time for Chef’s Table was 6:15 at the Breeze (Lobby) Bar. I had changed into some slightly nicer clothes. It’s not required to wear nicer clothes, but it should be. The last time I did this, a woman showed up in sweatpants and a tacky t-shirt. Fortunately everyone who came had better sense. You do need closed-toes shoes though because of the galley tour, which you will walk across floors that can be a little slippery. On the tour, we were provided canapes, and given an idea or how certain things work. We were also given instructions on how to make the cruise lines signature desert, Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. After a short tour, we all sat down for the dinner. Course after course came and we all got really full. At this point I was regretting my lunch, but not before trying to polish of most of my desert.

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Chef’s Table wrapped at roughly 9:30 and it was all I could do to think about doing anything. I found myself just walking around to not give in to the sleepy-ness. At 10 the nightclub opened and I stopped by briefly. I enjoyed one drink before exiting and going to bed. The loud music was more than I could really manage, unfortunately. It must have been a side-effect of my recent sinus procedure. Bed time indeed.

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