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Old April 24th, 2004, 10:25 PM
chesterh chesterh is offline
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Default Part XLI - Installment Travelogue: Millennium 2/22/04 – Cruising With Teens - St. Thomas (1)

This is Part 41 of a continuing travelogue covering the cruise adventures of the X family. For a complete index, please visit the cruise page at chesterh.com – links will bring you right back here for each chapter.

This is the third story in the series. Beginning with installment 31, it chronicles the experience of cruising with teenagers.

Part XXXI - Preface
Part XXXII - Choices
Part XXXIII - Ready, Set... (Mistakenly labeled XXXII)
Part XXXIIIa - Young Men in Black
Part XXXIV – GO!
Part XXXV – Settling In
Part XXXVI – Into the Night
Part XXXVII – Formal Charges
Part XXXVIII – Celebrity Suite
Part XXIX – Casa de Campo
Part XL – San Juan

I’ve been sidetracked by taxation, relaxation and technology. It was cool and windy today, so I finally got around to continuing the story…

Click on the little pictures for a larger view.

St. Thomas (Part 1 of 2 (or 3))

Sleep was fitful for me. I was excited at the prospect of returning to St. Thomas, where we lived from 1977-80. As a cruise destination, St. Thomas has taken some heat lately on the boards. For us, it will always be fondly remembered as ‘home’. I hadn’t been home in 24 years, and today was the day.

The wakeup call came at 6:30, and it was just in time. St. Thomas was already sliding by the window, and the sun was just starting to rise. Our view was to the aft, and I did not recognize anything in particular. The sun said we were sailing west, so I assumed we were heading along the south coast toward the narrow entrance to Charlotte Amalie harbor.

I ran upstairs for some coffee and returned to find Kris settled on the couch. She was wrapped in her bathrobe, silently watching the island slip by. This would have been a great time to be on a verandah.

I settled into a chair and placed the camera on a table. Every couple of minutes I snapped a picture through the window.

“We’ve got to be getting close to the harbor,” I said.

“I can’t wait,” replied Kris. “It’s going to be so great to see Frank and Chris.”

I worked with Frank during our years on the island. Among other things, we incorporated a company to do video work. Nothing much developed in this area before Kris and I moved away, but Frank stuck with it and has been very successful. We arranged to meet him at his studio, Mountain Video Associates, located right on the dock in the Havensight Mall.

I could tell that the ship was taking a right turn, not because of any physical sensation but because the sun suddenly veered left and disappeared behind the hills.

“Should see Frenchman’s Reef any second,” I said, expecting to see the large homely hotel come into view. Right on queue a large hotel appeared, but it looked nothing like Frenchman’s Reef. “Wow, that’s new. Where are we?”

It took me a minute to analyze the situation and realize that we were indeed seeing Frenchman’s Reef Hotel, and that it had received a complete facelift. The site is distinctive, but the building was totally unrecognizable.



Breakfast was due to be delivered at 7:00, but I couldn’t wait around any longer.

“I’m going out on deck. I need to see where we’re going.”

“I’m fine right here,” responded Kris. Easy to please -- give her a bathrobe, coffee and a view and everything’s fine with the world…

Grabbing the cameras, I went up on deck. The harbor spread out before me, and Charlotte Amalie snuggled against the backdrop of the sheer mountain face. There were a couple of people jogging around the track on deck 11, seemingly oblivious to the stunning sights all around. Otherwise, I had the space to myself.

I worked on getting my bearings. Our first residence overlooked the town and harbor from a spot just below what was then called the Mountaintop Hotel. The whole top of St. Peter Mountain was in the clouds, reminding me why we sometimes had mushrooms and other fungi growing in the carpet up there.

St. Thomas looked much the same as I remembered it. For the first time in three cruises, we were in a place that had some real dramatic beauty. There is something magical about mountains meeting the sea, and you just don’t see it anywhere in the western Caribbean. The harbor at Charlotte Amalie is the cauldron of a collapsed volcano. From the top of the mountain you can really see the shape and the remnants of the rim.

Some large new buildings dominated the scene at the east end of town. They had the look of government installations, which indeed they proved to be. Also visible was the new hospital. Kris worked in the emergency room at the old Knud Hansen Memorial hospital, and I heard the horror stories every night. Let’s just say that a new hospital was a very good idea…

Mega yachts lined the waterfront, and one was actually making its way out to sea. It’s nice to see these things being used now and then. Mostly, they just there and look pretty. I recalled one that sat motionless on the waterfront for months. It had a helicopter strapped to the landing pad, speedboats hanging off the side, and a half-dozen golf carts lined up on the deck. Too many things needing maintenance for my taste…

Millennium took a hard right after passing through the mouth of the harbor and eased into the third and last position at the dock, behind Carnival Victory and Sun Princess. The rear of the ship extended well past the end of the main dock. In the late 70’s, four ships could comfortably fit here – five in a pinch -- and as Frank would later tell me, the dock had been extended over the years, twice. Ships have certainly changed.



Although I had never seen it from a cruise passenger’s perspective, the dock used to be a pretty ugly place. Now many of the industrial sheds were gone, replaced by several buildings containing shops and offices surrounded by pleasant landscaping. Shoremen sprang into action and tied Millennium to the dock. The whole thing had an air of professionalism, not the first trait that comes to mind when thinking about St. Thomas, based on my time there.



Although we had glimpsed the sun earlier, dark clouds were now predominating. For just a moment the mountaintop emerged from the mist, and I saw the old homestead. We rented the guest apartment in a house directly across the street from Fairchild Park, which sits on the ridge along the road to Mountaintop in an area called Estate Lerkenlund. At roughly 1200 feet above sea level, the views were spectacular.


Friday night view from home in the 1970’s

Our landlords were characters – he was a former senator and she a retired actress. They lived on the upper floor of the large house with their two dogs, Peeky and Pokey. The ‘great room’ was about 60’ x 25’. One of the long walls was composed entirely of sliding glass doors, affording a spectacular view of Charlotte Amalie and the harbor.



For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, our landlords kept the blinds in this room closed at all times. Every piece of furniture was covered with sheets, and the air was stale. They spent their lives sitting in the kitchen at the rear of the house, drinking wine and arguing loudly. In the two years we lived there, I never saw them leave the house – and by that, I mean I never saw them outside at all. For that matter, I never saw the dogs outside either. As far as I know, their maid brought in all the food and other necessities. Despite the oddities, we enjoyed a good relationship – they just loved our dog Foxy, and became honorary grandparents to Ryan when he was born in 1979.

I went back to the cabin to find that breakfast had arrived. I also found that Kris had eaten hers while wearing her bathrobe, showered, dressed for the day, packed for the beach and tidied the cabin. I guess I must have been gone for a while, mesmerized by the views and lost in the memories…



After eating a cold omelet, I got ready for the day. The boys were due to show up at 8:30, and Kris called them at 8:20 to make sure they didn’t oversleep. Good move – they hadn’t stirred.

At 8:35, Wells and Dan rang the doorbell and were admitted to 8106. They looked terrible.

“Another late night?”

“Yeah. Actually, I went back to the room early,” mumbled Dan.

“What time?”

“3:30.”

“When did Wells come back?”

“About 5:00,” Wells volunteered.

Oh boy… I questioned the wisdom of their late night habit. “You knew this was going to be a busy day, right?”

“Oh yeah, we’ll be fine,” said Dan. Wells fought to keep his eyes open.

Actually, I had no idea what the day would bring. Planning hadn’t gone beyond meeting Frank at 9:00. After that, anything could happen.

I called Paul for an emergency pot of coffee. He arrived seconds later, and we began a caffeine transfusion on the boys.



Five minutes before our scheduled meeting time, we collected our beachwear and headed out. Emerging into the daylight on the gangway, Kris stopped our progress and insisted that we pose for the ship’s photographer.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” I asked. The photographer was busy posing another group, and we were blocking the way. I herded us to the side.

Kris tried to reason with me. “Well we don’t have a nice picture of all of us together. It’ll only take a minute.”

“I know, but take a good look at the subjects.”

She took one look at the boys, and changed her mind. “Oooo, they don’t look too good, do they?”

We politely declined a dozen solicitations from cab drivers and walked the few hundred feet to the building where Frank’s studio was located. He was waiting for us inside.

Other than completing the transition to gray hair, Frank hadn’t changed a bit. I haven’t had many opportunities to see an old friend for the first time in 24 years – hard to imagine it had been so long. We spent a few minutes catching up on life’s highlights. The boys melted into some comfortable chairs while we chatted.

Enthusiastic and energetic, Frank gave us a tour of his studio and showed us some of his work. He does much of the ‘location’ footage for the tour and shopping promo videos shown on all the cruise lines, local TV advertising and programming, as well as location work for several networks. He had just finished a project with TechTV, and would be flying to Miami in a few days to cover a million dollar fishing competition for ESPN.

When the technical talk got too deep, Kris admired the bulletin board displaying photographs of various stars Frank and Chris had worked with over the years. She pointed out a picture of Chris standing with Victor Borge, who lived for many years on St. Croix.

“So where’s Chris?” asked Kris.

Frank explained that she was at school, and hoped to break free for lunch. She was just finishing up a degree in Nursing, realizing a lifelong ambition. I could only think about Kris’s mid-career flight from nursing to teaching – here we had Chris going in the opposite direction.

It was time to make a plan and get going. “So, what would you like to do?” asked Frank.

“Well, it would be nice to see a few of the old haunts, and we promised the guys we’d get them in the water. You can just dump us at a beach later.”

“I have a production meeting at Frenchman’s Reef at 4:30, but otherwise the day is ours,” said Frank. “Lets just get in the truck and see what happens.”

We roused the boys, who were slumped over in their chairs, and headed to the parking lot. Frank has a huge SUV, and we piled in.

“I know where we’ll start,” said Frank. “This was built after you left…”

He drove out of the parking lot, crossed the street, and entered another parking lot beside an industrial building. Around the back, he aimed for a gap in the trees and entered a narrow road that immediately climbed straight up. After a few hundred feet, the road began to snake through a series of hairpin turns. The SUV took the entire width of the pavement, and required planning to get it around the corners in one motion. My ears blocked as we gained altitude. Thick vegetation encroached from both sides of the road. The only view was of the sky, which had begun to brighten.

After a few minutes, the road ended in a small parking lot at Paradise Point – the destination normally reached by cable car. This attraction was built several years after we moved away, and I knew of it only through mention on CruiseCritic.

The view was still blocked by vegetation until we walked toward the outdoor café. Once out on the deck, I could hear each of the boys draw a sharp breath.

“WOW!”

“Holy #&*!$”

I shot a stare at the verbal offender. The reaction was understandable, though. This was they boys’ first real view of the island, and it was a good place to start.

“This is awesome. Look at that water! I can’t believe you guys lived here.” Dan was obviously impressed.



Paradise Point is really quite nice. The view of the harbor and of the ships in particular is first rate. There is a café with a big deck area, shops and various lookout points. Frank explained the massive hydraulic counterweight system used to keep the cable system balanced as the cars went up and down.



Frank pointed to the hillside to our south, the location of his new house. “We got wiped out in the last hurricane,” he explained. He held the boy’s rapt attention with stories of the hurricane and the long recovery period. The part about not having telephone service for over a year really got their attention.

We hit the road and headed toward downtown. Frank pointed out the big changes, most of which resulted directly or indirectly from hurricanes. On the waterfront, one hotel sat shuttered and rotting, too damaged to repair. Another was gone entirely.

A new government building held the jail. When we lived in St Thomas, the jail was located in the historic old fort on the waterfront. The prisoners spent their days shouting out the windows at tourists.

We side skirted the main shopping area and got on the road that leads up the face of the mountain. I was surprised to see that it was marked by a route number, as were all the ‘main’ roads. We stopped for a couple of scenic views before cresting the hill and turning onto the road to Drakes Seat.



“Is the guy with the donkey still there?” asked Kris. The man and his donkey had been a fixture at Drake’s seat forever.

“Nope – vendors aren’t allowed there anymore,” answered Frank. He went on to explain a recent deal in which The Nature Conservancy acquired more than 200 acres of land from a private estate. The acquisition included the Drake’s Seat Overlook and the entire hillside running all the way down to Magen’s Bay (including 600 feet of the beach itself). In a deal with the local government, the Conservancy donated the beachfront to the people of the Virgin Islands. One upshot of the deal is that no vendors are allowed at the overlook anymore – even the guy with the donkey.

There is a reason why Magen’s Bay is named on of the world’s most beautiful beaches – because it is, particularly when viewed from above. The colors are otherworldly, and if the sun is shining just right, it is hard to convince yourself that it is real. Pictures look fake, and cannot give the view justice. The sun was barely penetrating the clouds during our stop, but the view was still gorgeous.



Frank pointed out the house where he lived back in the good old days. I looked up the hill and spotted our second residence, which we called home after son Ryan was born. It had a nice view down the valley to the head of Magen’s Bay, an image that is forever burned into my mind. We decided to do a ‘drive-by’.

It was a quick drive. In a few minutes, we stopped in front of 1-42 Estate Wintberg. The house was instantly familiar, but two things stood out. First, there were a lot of new houses on the hill above, where there used to be nothing but trees. Second, the house was surrounded by a high, ugly chain link fence.

“Who ever lives here now must really be worried about something,” I said while climbing out of the truck to take some pictures.

A little yappy dog on the house’s deck announced our arrival. He was so upset with my presence that I was sure someone would come out and ask what I was doing – either that or shoot me. Sadly, the view that we enjoyed of Magen’s Bay was not visible from my vantage point.



We spent a lot of memorable time in that house, and told some of the stories to the boys as we continued on. One of the most frightening experiences came when we rode out hurricanes David and Frederick, which arrived back-to-back one year. Kris and I hid in a closet in the basement with little Ryan, unable to converse over the sound of the wind. We had no power for months afterward.

One night while cooking dinner, I heard a low rumble off in the distance. It was coming closer, and at first I thought it must be a big jet flying very low. The rumble grew louder and louder until I could feel vibration under my feet and became convinced that a big truck was about to crash through the wall. Then the house began to shake, and I had difficulty standing – everything was fuzzy from vibration. The motion continued for about 15 seconds, and then the sound rolled on in the same direction, fading like thunder in a storm. That was our first experience with an earthquake, and it was a pretty big one – between 5 and 6 on the Richter scale. I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since we were living on an ancient volcano in the collision zone between the Caribbean and North American plates. Just to the north of St. Thomas is the Puerto Rico trench, where the two plates have bent downward under stress to produce the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean -- 28,374 feet.

Frank crested a hill and started to descend into a valley. “Know where you are?” he asked.

The geography was familiar, but something wasn’t right. “This looks like Tutu, but where are the apartment buildings?” The most striking feature of the Tutu I knew were many mid-rise apartment buildings that snaked all the way down the hill to a commercial area.

“Gone. They were so damaged in a hurricane that they were abandoned and torn down.”

I could still see the remnants of the foundations and the outline of the roads. Hundreds of people had lived there. At the base of the hill we entered the commercial area. The little strip mall that had dominated in the late 70’s was abandoned, a victim of newer and larger shopping areas. The Kentucky Fried Chicken had survived, and the main intersection had a genuine traffic light. Shocking…

“We even have a Home Depot now,” said Frank pointing to the distinctive orange-highlighted building. “Can you remember what it was like to get supplies?” I certainly did – impossible is a pretty accurate description. “I have to stay out of there. I’m like a kid in a candy shop.”

We continued through town and headed toward the East End. Frank pointed out the house of ill repute, unchanged and still thriving. We came to an area where dozens of parked cars lined the road. “There’s the road to Red Hook. There are so many people going back and forth now that they have to park all the way out here. It’s terrible.”

As we continued down the road, Frank prepared us for the next sight.

“A few years ago, there was a federal program to fund bridge building. The local government wanted to get in on that one, so they spent $10 million dollars to build a first-class bridge.”

“A bridge over what?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine.

“Ah, here we are.” Frank turned onto a small side road, went over a short bridge spanning what looked like a drainage ditch, and then turned around in a dirt parking lot filled with abandoned vehicles. In front of us was one end of a wide concrete bridge that abruptly ended at the top of a scrubby dirt incline.



“The Bridge to Nowhere. Usually when I come by here, there are goats all over it. They like it up there.”

The boys were getting a kick out of this.

“So what are they going to do with it?” Dan asked.

“I have no idea. Maybe they’ll connect it some day, but this road doesn’t even go anywhere.”

Continuing on, we stopped at an overlook above Sapphire Bay. (panoramic picture coming soon)

“See that island over there? You can buy it for $7 million. Cheaper than the bridge.” He went on to tell about a recent video job in which he filmed the island for the seller while hanging out of a helicopter.

“Cool,” said Wells. Both boys pressed for details, and were rewarded with harrowing tales of aerial videography. I couldn’t listen.

“I’d love to buy that place,” said Dan. “Looks like it has a great beach.”

“Actually, there’s no beach at all. That strip that looks like a beach is just coral, hard and rough. There’s no harbor – nowhere to land a boat. No electricity, no water.” He went on to tell about the owner of one island who spent a huge sum to have an underwater cable run for power. Unfortunately, the contractor failed to secure an easement from the owner of the land where the cable emerged on St. Thomas. The island is still in the dark.

Frank’s cell phone rang. Chris was calling with bad news – there was no way she could get out of her school commitment, so lunch was out of the picture.

The boys were more awake, and picked up on the fact that Chris was attending college.

“They actually have a college here?” asked Dan.

“College of the Virgin Islands,” I piped in.

“It’s The University of the Virgin Islands now,” corrected Frank.

Wells and Dan looked at each other, and were struck by the same thought. All their agonizing about where to go to college ended.

“I’m going to UVI,” proclaimed Wells. I hadn’t heard such enthusiasm about college before.

“Me too,” added Dan. “Well, actually, I think I’ll just move here and work. Is it easy to get a job?”

We had a long conversation about the pros and cons of learning, living and working on St. Thomas. Thankfully Frank was able to give them pause for thought on several fronts – it really isn’t an easy place to do any of those things.

I changed the subject. “We should get to a beach.” The sun was shining at the moment, but it looked to me like we’d be seeing some rain before the day was out.

We discussed where to go. Magen’s would be nice, but the boys couldn’t go home without at least one snorkeling experience. There’s nothing but sand at Magen’s Bay.

“Well then, we should just go to Coki -- give these guys some real local flavor.” On queue, we pulled onto the road leading to Coki Beach. Frank pulled alongside a cemetery and parked next to the fence. The cemetery was filled with crude crypts, leaning stones and rotting flowers – a very disconcerting sight.

“What is this, the Beach of the Dead?” asked Wells.

Welcome to Coki Beach, the real Virgin Islands…

Cruise stories, pictures and videos at chesterh.com

Last cruise, aboard the Millennium, E. Caribbean (but who's counting?)

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[This message was edited by chesterh on 04-25-04 at 12:54 AM.]
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  #2  
Old April 24th, 2004, 10:49 PM
wieslaw wieslaw is offline
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Chesterh,
Only You can 'paint' this story so beautifully with words.
Thank You, I really enjoyed this as well as the other segments.
Wes
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Old April 24th, 2004, 10:57 PM
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Thanks for another great chapter. Well worth the wait. It must be tough going home after 20+ years then leaving again. Although living in the States ain't all bad either. We're looking forward to the next installment. Great post!



Century 10/00
Millennium 12/01
Rhapsody of the Seas 5/02
Rhapsody of the Seas 11/02
Infinity 5/03
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  #4  
Old April 25th, 2004, 02:37 AM
Truffle Truffle is offline
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Hi Chester,

So glad to see a post from you! Came home late after a great dinner and many drinks with friends and was very pleasantly surprised at this late hour to see another installment from you!! We have been waiting for our "fix" and missing you!!

Thanks! Melody
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Old April 25th, 2004, 07:34 AM
abbymac abbymac is offline
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Chester:

All our previous trips to St Thomas have consisted of shopping and the beach. Your delightful observations are showing us that there is so much more to this lovely islands. Once again, thank you for all you do for us fellow cruisers.

We'll be visiting St T on our cruise next January. We've got a whole new perspective to bring to that visit. Hi to Kris!

abby
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Old April 25th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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safein safein is offline
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Chester,

We were all going through withdrawals!!!! Your stay at St Thomas has been really a breath of fresh air! Your prospectus is a welcome change from the usual review.

Can't wait for your next installment!

Anita

And now Infinity 2005!
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  #7  
Old April 25th, 2004, 09:09 AM
OCruisers OCruisers is offline
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Don't forget to visit Chester's web site:

chesterh.com

Not only does it have his past reviews ... but ALSO a small Forum for questions.

Happy Sailing!
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Old April 25th, 2004, 08:24 PM
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RodPat RodPat is offline
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Chester, I wish you many more cruises because I love reading your posts. I have been to St. Thomas many times starting in 1966 but your review opened my mind even more. I wait with bated breath til you write again. Pat
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Old April 25th, 2004, 10:11 PM
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mromoff mromoff is offline
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Thanks Chester! Everything is right in the world when I can end a wonderful weekend reading a new installment of your review!



Mindi



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  #10  
Old April 27th, 2004, 05:44 PM
chesterh chesterh is offline
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Technology Moment...

Thanks all. Mindi, here is a little techno tidbit for you (and anyone else who is interested):

The sixth picture in this story is the result of about an hour's worth of work with Adobe Photoshop.

The original was a nice picture, but the difference in brightness between the inside and outside portions was simply too much for the camera to deal with. The outside portion was way over exposed, and I simply couldn't adjust it enough to look good. All the detail was gone.

Here is the original picture:


Luckily, I had taken a picture from the same angle on the open deck above the cabin just a couple of minutes before:


I was able to take the original picture, and remove the image from the window area:


I then took the substitute picture and slid it 'behind' the windows, sizing it to approximate the original perspective. The resulting picture shows what we actually saw. The human eye is much better able to deal with large differences in light levels:


Cruise stories, pictures and videos at chesterh.com

Last cruise, aboard the Millennium, E. Caribbean (but who's counting?)

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Old April 27th, 2004, 07:08 PM
donnaman43 donnaman43 is offline
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Chesterh, I kept waiting for more of your story. I was in St. Thomas in January but now I need to go back and explore more of the countryside. Your pics are superb and I so enjoyed them. Please keep the stories coming and try not to wait so long. Thanks for the memories. Thru your reviews I have relived my cruise on the Galaxy.
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Old April 27th, 2004, 07:58 PM
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Hi Chester-- Well, we are back and I hope we did bring some warmth!!! Should be nice by the end of the week. Kind of wet while we were gone, huh?? The rain gauge was almost full again for this month.

Really enjoyed this last chapter as we were in St. Thomas just last Friday. The picture of the table on deck 10 was "our" table on the Summit!!We spent many an hour there talking with our group and eating, of course. I could really go right along with you as you travelled the island. We stopped at Coki Beach, too. We took a tour with Godfrey this time and he was wonderful. Looking foreward to the next chapter.
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Old April 27th, 2004, 09:45 PM
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mromoff mromoff is offline
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Thanks Chester - this is totally great!! I have been playing quite a bit with Photoshop, nothing quite this dramatic though - so I really appreciate this.

I have a similar exterior picture of St. Thomas that we took when we arrived there - ahhh, such good memories.

Mindi



Constellation - Southern Caribbean

Infinity to Alaska 8-03 Review
Millennium to Eastern Carribbean 11-02
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Old April 28th, 2004, 04:51 PM
chesterh chesterh is offline
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Thanks donnaman. Sorry to keep you waiting – I kept getting sidetracked with little ‘research projects’, like studying the plate tectonics of the Caribbean…

Welcome back blindone. I know I was supposed to have good weather waiting for your return – it’ll be here tomorrow. Trust you had a great trip.

Mindi, Photoshop was a mystery to me until I broke down and took a 4-day course a few years ago. It really is an amazing program. The only thing more complex in my experience is the video software, which is basically Photoshop with the added dimension of time. Lots of fun.

All the best,

chesterh

Cruise stories, pictures and videos at chesterh.com

Last cruise, aboard the Millennium, E. Caribbean (but who's counting?)

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Old April 28th, 2004, 05:07 PM
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jerin jerin is offline
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Ooh, ahh .. gotta love the age of modern digital photography! We're really enjoying your story (and my dh would probably be fascinated by what you've learned in the plate tectonics department!)


Century Western Carribean 1/15/05
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  #16  
Old April 28th, 2004, 07:34 PM
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Pacificlander Pacificlander is offline
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Enjoy every chapter of your story. We are doing an Alaska cruise in Sept. but this latest chapter has me really wanting to visit St. Thomas again. Your technology moments are great, makes me want to take a class.
Hope the weather is improving on the opposite coast!

Norway 08/02 Rhapsody of the Seas 09/03
Mercury 9/3/04
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  #17  
Old April 29th, 2004, 06:55 AM
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Estelle Estelle is offline
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Chester -

My first time on the Celebrity board in a long time and I was so happy to see a new cruise story from you! Nothing else compares to your sagas - the first Galaxy review is what got me hooked here.

We just completed a trip to the Caribbean on the Mariner of the Seas (been hanging around the RCL board as a result) and the best day of our trip was our stop in St. Thomas. We honeymooned there in 1985 and couldn't believe the changes either - especially Frenchman's Reef where we had stayed!

For anyone going to St. Thomas and looking for something different to try - if your ship offers the Water Island Bike Tour take it. Wonderfully run by a small group who are among the 130 residents of Water Island - great scenery, fun bike ride (with an extra optional challenge at the end that my husband loved) and ended up on private Honeymoon Beach which was picture-perfect. Highly recommended - but you must be able to ride a mountain bike comfortably - not dangerous but it does involve some effort on off-road conditions. On our trip a couple of ladies had not been on a bike in about 20 years (and were wearing flip-flops!) so they had more of a challenge - but they completed the ride too!

Thanks again Chester - looking forward to the next installment!

Mariner of the Seas April 2004
Celebrity Infinity September 2001
Disney Wonder June 2000
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  #18  
Old April 29th, 2004, 05:47 PM
chesterh chesterh is offline
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Jerin, this newfangled digital stuff is lots of fun once the mystery dissolves. It is time consuming, though. Before your next trip to the Caribbean, suggest to your DH that he do a little web surfing on the tectonics subject. That area is full of fascinating riddles and anomalies.

Pacificlander, I think Alaska will be next for us in the cruise department. Next visit to STT is going to have to be of the extended land-based variety. Need more time to get reacquainted… Nice weather arrived today, so I'm taking tomorrow off to work in the yard. What a disaster area.

Estelle, great to ‘see’ you again. I remember your transformation from ‘lurker’ to active poster on CC – it was a memorable occasion for me. The population of STT has roughly doubled since we lived there. Frenchman’s Reef was a big surprise – it used to be quite homely. I understand that the makeover was pretty superficial, though. I’d love to do the Water Island bike ride. Just another reason for an extended visit.

All the best,

chesterh

Cruise stories, pictures and videos at chesterh.com

Last cruise, aboard the Millennium, E. Caribbean (but who's counting?)

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  #19  
Old April 30th, 2004, 05:40 AM
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NJ Cruisers NJ Cruisers is offline
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Ah Chester!

Another great read! I can't tell you how much I enjoy your writings!

I not had a lot of time for the boards lately, but once my brother's "wedding of the century" (do I sound sarcastic?) is over in a couple of weeks I will be able to return to my cruise planning in earnest.

I wish I had consulted you before our last visit to St. Thomas. Our visits there have been spent in a rental car exploring blindly, but we had a good time.

Looking forward to more!

Donna
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  #20  
Old April 30th, 2004, 06:00 AM
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davis0056 davis0056 is offline
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Hey There Man of a Thousand Words. I see that you are interested in going to Alaska. This was our last cruise, second time we have gone. We really enjoyed it and we have been posting on the board trying to answer everyone questions. Not knowing a whole lot but just trying to share what we liked so much. Doing the dome train is a must; you’ll be able to get so many photos. We’re thinking about returning when the son and his wife can join us. There is just so much to see and we wish we had taken a repositioning cruise back to the states.

Great to read your last review, but I’m jealous as I wish I could do all the things you are able to do with your pictures.

Best to you and Kris, keep those boys straight.

Dave & Elaine

Transatlantic sailing on the Constellation
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