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Cruise Diary: In St. Lucia

HAL blogger Gary Frink is currently sailing on board Prinsendam’s 24-day Amazon River and Caribbean adventure and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout his time on board.

When it rains in St. Lucia, it rains very, very hard. Jeanne and I travel with yellow, thigh length, rubberized slickers; they were needed today. Our goal,  as we slipped out of the deck four forward gang plank, was to see the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, facing Derek Wolcott Square (named for a native son, winner of a literature Nobel prize); it is perhaps the largest church in the Caribbean and famed for the brightly-hued paintings above and around the tall arched windows on the two sides of the interior vault.

We began the short trek past the Carnival ship at dock in front of the Prinsendam to the water taxi dock with the slickers tied around our waists, for a only a slight mist accompanied us. By the time we completed the 10 minute voyage in the rough and rusty water taxi and made the long step onto the concrete dock in center city Castries, a torrential rain was upon us.

My wife Jeanne about to board water taxi in the pouring rain in St. Lucia.

My wife Jeanne about to board water taxi in the pouring rain in St. Lucia.

Protected by our hooded slickers and splashing along in boat shoes and sandals, we plunged on toward the Cathedral, passing local citizens who had paused on the sidewalk under building overhangs. The beautiful Cathedral, constructed in 1897, was worth our efforts to reach it. With permission from a man at the front of the church offering candles, Jeanne and I took a series of photos.

Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Then it was back into the rain (falling more intensely than before), a slog through the streets to the water taxi dock, the brief ride, a brisk walk through puddles and we were again in our cool, dry Prinsendam balcony cabin. Yesterday the Prinsendam anchored off Gustavia, St Bart’s. We tendered to town; there we met a fascinating 88-year old innkeeper, father of nine, who established the first bar and grill on St. Bart’s in 1947 and still runs it. He calls Jimmy Buffet “my best American friend” (I saw a photo of Buffet playing guitar in the joint) and has made a presentation to the King of Sweden in Stockholm (another photo.) The experiences of yesterday and today are pleasant, but they are a side show, a prelude to the main event; they are like an overture to a three movement symphony, the first card warmup fight to a world champion heavyweight boxing match, the opening act for—lack of another entertainer to come to mind—Jimmy Buffet.

I want to get on to the main event and it is going to be like nothing that I have experienced in almost 60 years of travel to 120 countries and detached jurisdictions. How different you, dear reader, might well question. Let me count the ways.

Yesterday we received a letter from Captain Gundersen; the operative force in the letter briefly follows:  “During out stay on the Amazon, it will not be possible to produce fresh water onboard due to the poor quality of the river water and the sediment that clogs up the evaporators.” He goes on to state, obviously, that the passengers and crew will have to sharply curtail water usage while we make our 2,000 mile Amazon roundtrip. Another example:You fellow HAL repeat patrons are familiar with the in-cabin excursion pamphlets; they set forth how you can drop some of the family lucre on tours, horseback riding, rum-soaked sunset sails, ATV rides and any number of diversions while your ship is at dock or anchor.

To demonstrate how different the Amazon experience is likely to be, allow me to quote from the excursion pamphlet for Boca Da Valeria, Brazil: “No shore excursion is available in BDV. Take time to interact with the locals. Between…stall keepers, hunters, fishermen, children and shamans, you never know what you might see. SHAMANS? Are you kidding me? No tourist infrastructure at all? Our next and last stop before the Amazon is the defunct French Devil’s Island penal colony, though we won’t land there because nature has completely reclaimed it; we’ll land at Isle Royale, also part of the old French Guiana penal system.

Then let’s get it on. Let’s get to the main event. Let’s get to the Amazon River.

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