Monday, November 27, 2017

Arriving in Cuba

This morning is overcast and cloudy with a light drizzle. Thomas and I woke up around 6:30am and went out onto the balcony to see the beginning of the day. Today we anchored off the coast of Cuba at Cienfuegos and will be tendered onto shore for our excursions. We don't meet for our excursion until 9:00am. So we showered and dressed and then went for some breakfast in the World Café. We returned to our cabin around 8:00am and got our things ready for the day. We need our passports, visas, custom forms, ship ID card and our shore excursion tickets. Of course, I had my camera with extra batteries, our hats and sunglasses, and some toilet paper, wet wipes and hand sanitizers. We were warned that some of the public restrooms lack toilet paper and soap. So once we were ready we just did a little reading until it was time to go to the meeting area for the tender to shore.

We arrived at the Star Theater at 8:55am, were told we were in Group 6 and then we found seats to wait until we were called. At 9:05am they called our group and we made our way to Deck A and climbed aboard the tender. It was a 10 minute ride to the dock. Once on shore, we made our way through customs. First, we entered an air conditioned building where a man watched a computer screen. We noticed a camera on the wall that pointed to about head level. When we reached the computer we saw on the monitor a thermal image on the heads of the people walking through. We assume they were checking people for a fever to make sure no one was sick - not sure if that is correct or not. Then we entered a second building with agents at booths where we had to turn in our customs forms, give one half of our visa and get our passports checked. Then we went through a gate and were directed to the bus for our excursion.

On the bus, we met our guide (Letty) and headed for our first stop - Laguna Guanaroca. The bus ride lasted about 30 minutes. We parked in front of a small hut with a covered patio area. There really wasn't a parking lot, we just parked in the grass off the road. Our guide divided us into two groups and then we had to wait for a second guide to take our tour of the park. The weather was overcast and cloudy but luckily we had no rain. When the guide for our group showed up we headed out for the tour. We followed a small path for a little while. Along the way our guide pointed out a few things. We saw large ant hills along the trail and termite nests in the trees. We also saw some calabash trees (Crescentia cujete) along the trail. The tree produces a gourd like fruit that they use to make maracas. The trail led to a small dock area where we saw some small row boats with rowers. We were divided into small groups of three to a boat. So me, Thomas and Deanne got into a boat and our rower took us out into the lagoon. He paddled out to the middle of the lagoon where we saw a flock of about 26 flamingos. Our rower paddled us around the lagoon but didn't get too close to the flamingos and we were able to get some pictures. The lagoon was beautiful - surrounded by mangroves with some views of mountains in the distance. On our way back to the docks our rower took us to the edge to the mangroves and caught a small crab that was climbing up one of the trees. I loved being on the water and seeing the flamingos in the wild. Then we got off the boats and then finished the trail and returned to the patio area. When the second group returned we got back onto the bus and headed to our next destination - Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos. The drive to the botanic garden took us about 15 minutes. We stopped at a visitor center and picked up a guide for the gardens and then drove a short distance down the road. The bus stopped and we all got off and then the bus continued down the road. Our guide walked us along the road and talked about the trees and plants along the way. We learned about bamboo, different fruit trees, flowers palm trees, banyan trees and brazil nuts. After about an hour the tour ended and we returned to the bus and headed back to the port. Our drive took us abut 45 minutes and we got a tour of the outskirts of Cienfuegos and then the city itself. Most of the buildings were run down and needed a lot of TLC. You could tell that once upon a time it was a beautiful place with lots of color and splendid architecture. I loved the lagoon and gardens but would have liked to see more of the city. We made it back to the dock and boarded a tender and we were taken back to the ship.

Once back on the ship we headed to the World Café for a late lunch but it was closed so we ended up at the Pool Grill. Thomas and I had a burger and fries and we just sat and relaxed by the pool and enjoyed the afternoon. After an hour and a half we headed to our cabin where we took showers and rested for a bit. At 5:00pm we met Dave and Deanne in the Explorer's Lounge for a drink. We relaxed and talked and then at 6:00pm we headed to Manfredi's for dinner. We had reservations in this specialty restaurant (no extra charge) for a nice, special, delicious Italian meal. The meal was so good and we all enjoyed ourselves. It was a quiet, relaxing dinner that lasted two hours. After dinner Thomas and Dave went back to the cabins and Deanne and I went to the Explorer's Lounge for another drink. An hour later I was ready for some sleep.

We had a great day in Cienfuegos and a wonderful meal back on the ship. We have to be up early tomorrow for our trip to Havana so it is time to hit the pillow.

No comments :