Saturday, January 3, 2015

St. Thomas - Tuesday, 11/17/14

Today would be our first early morning of the cruise.  And some of our group (that would be Megan!!) are definitely not early morning people!  Even when on vacation and there's the promise of super exciting adventures!  I'm the opposite...When I'm on vacation, I usually wake up early and can't wait to see what the day will bring.  What will our next adventures be?  Whether it be a day on the ship, a day at a resort or a day exploring a different country or city....let's get started!  Wake up!!!!  The sunrise was beautiful!

So, once everyone was finally up and dressed, we went to the buffet for breakfast and it was time to head out to the beautiful island of St Thomas!

We had gone back and forth trying to decide just what to do here...This was the one port none of us had been to before.  One part of me really wanted to visit St. John's.  My brother had loved that island so much and it was really special to him.  I wanted to see what about it he treasured so much.  But I also didn't know if we wanted a beach day, and I also knew we didn't want to do a ship excursion to get there.  So, did we want to catch the taxi, take a ferry and then find a beach once we got there?  I'm sure it would have been great, but I really wanted to get out on a boat and snorkel!  And there was mention of sea turtles!  So....we decided that this trip, we'd stay at St. Thomas and save St. John for another visit!

We had no wait getting off the ship and had instructions as to where to go for our sailing trip! We booked with Fury Sailing Charters and Captain Mike. It was a bit of a walk, but we had no problems finding our meeting spot and when everyone arrived, our final payments were collected and we boarded our sailboat. I'd say there were maybe 20 - 25 people tops on the sailboat. And that may be a high estimate.

This was our sailboat

Our captain gave a brief explanation of what we'd be doing and any rules for the journey and....

he put the sails up and we were off!

We were going out to snorkel with the sea turtles. I love all things water and feel most at home on a boat. Not necessarily a cruise ship, for a vacation, it could be land or sea, but put me on a catamaran or a sailboat, give me a snorkel and just set me free. I am cut out to be close to the sea! Every time we get on a boat my kids laugh at me because I have to go through the whole bit about how much I just love being so close to the sea! 

We enjoyed the ride out to snorkel. And it was really nice to see the sails being used. Sometimes on excursions, especially ones on catamarans, they go under engine power and never really use the sails. But this one really used the sails, to the point that the boat was at a nice tilt and we were moving pretty fast! 

The views were beautiful and the day was just gorgeous!

We pulled up to our snorkel spot and could see that it was already pretty crowded with other excursions. They were all had the pirate ship, the catamarans, the party name it. Here we were on the nice, calm sailboat. But our captain anchored away from the others, just a bit off to the side. I was glad to not be in the masses of other snorkelers looking for turtles, but I also wondered how we'd see them if all of the people were "over there"!

We were given our snorkel gear and mandatory life vests and the assistant, who's name totally escapes me at this time, went into the water with us. The first part of the excursion was him taking us on a guided snorkel tour to actually see the turtles. We followed him around and he swam to where they normally hung out. Actually away from the crowds. They were very conscientious of not harming the turtles. Cautioned us against touching the turtle and telling us to watch to not kick them by mistake as they surfaced. I really appreciated their approach. You could see other groups of people actively chasing turtles trying to grab them and I don't think that's what this area is all about. 

So here I was, all ready to go, underwater camera in hand, battery fully charged, and first thing we saw was a barracuda! So cool! I turned on my camera and well, nothing happened. Tried again and still nothing. Took it out of the water and played around with it and it suddenly dawned on me that when I took the battery out last night to charge it, that I never put it back into the camera! Now that was a real bummer! Me, of all people...the queen of cameras and photography! How would I live that one down? Not one picture of a single sea turtle or of us snorkeling? we have to go back! 

Once I got over the disappointment of having to carry around my useless camera, we really enjoyed this time snorkeling. We spent about 25 minutes I would guess with the guide. Maybe more and we saw a lot of turtles. And then he swam us over to one of the reefs. From here he told us we had some options as to what to do next: hang at the reef and snorkel, continue looking at the turtles, swim in the lagoon area and snorkel, or there's a bigger reef with more colorful fish across the way - but the current is stronger so watch your time getting there and know it's a bit more difficult to do. Of course Alex and I went to the other reef! Keith and Megan stayed at the first reef and then swam back via the turtles. 

The other reef had some huge sea urchins and some great little colorful fish. And yes, it was a bit strenuous, but nothing overwhelming. It was all shallow water. We just made sure to see our sailboat and know how long we had until we had to be back on board.

It was a pretty perfect morning so far, and we still had a sailboat ride back!

The pirate ship excursion, came in after us and left before looked very crowded too!

Part of the area where we snorkeled

In all I would say we had at least an hour to snorkel. Then we were back up on the sailboat.

You can see the snorkel vests they gave us to wear - actual snorkel vests, which was really nice. This way if you were an experienced swimmer you didn't have to inflate it, or you could just put a little puff of air in. And if you felt the need for a bit more air, you could put more in as needed. When we got back on the boat they hosed us all down to get the salt water off of us. Another nice personal touch. 

There was rum punch, water, granola bars and pretzels for everyone during the ride back. And mostly the crew walked around and just chatted with the passengers. It's was a really nice ride.

We got back to the dock, passed right by the Reflection....

and now we had to make a decision....what would we do for the rest of the day in St. Thomas? We'd never been here before, we definitely didn't want to go back to the ship! We still had hours before we had to be back on board.

While we were discussing what to do, we met this guy

So, I had heard about this world famous banana daiquiri....up on a mountain top....that would be our next stop! Off to find a taxi!

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