Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cruise Vacation Blog Part Four

23 May 2010 Enchantment of the Seas Day Four: San Juan, Puerto Rico!

For breakfast this morning, we decided to try the Windjammer Café. It was amazingly crowded in there; seriously, so many people stumbling and bumbling about. It seems, too, in these buffet type places, people check their brains at the door. After figuring out where the much needed coffee was (BTW, the coffee in our stateroom is terrible), we managed to snag a table (no small feat, that). Then, off to brave the buffet lines.

Thankfully, the food and the variety of same more than made up for the extremely irritating co-passengers cutting into lines in front of us and the busboys taking away plates, utensils, cups, etc., before we were actually done with them. Better hold onto your spouse; you may return from a trip to the food trough to find him or her whisked away!

Anyway, after eating, we roamed around the ship a bit. We ended up sitting and reading in the Library for a while; mostly to give Esther time to clean up our stateroom. Unfortunately, there was some loud buffoon sitting in there as well holding “court” behind us and pontificating on every little thing to do with cruising to a small group of people around him. I wasn’t sure if they were actually traveling with him (poor souls) or just caught sitting next to him and were too polite to leave. Well, not us. We got up and went up to the Solarium were it was far more quiet and peaceful.

We were in our stateroom as we pulled into San Juan around 2:00 pm. Since we were not taking an excursion, we had to wait for those who were to get off. No matter, as we had nowhere in particular to go, anyway.

Mr. B on our balcony as we pulled into Old San Juan

After getting off around 2:30 pm, we decided to walk to one of two forts in Old San Juan (as evidenced by the name, this is the older, historic section of San Juan). It took us about twenty minutes to get there at a steady pace. It was a nice enough walk save for the swirling clouds of gnats we kept running into (it was quite humid; in fact, there was even a bit of rain).

Enchantment seen from the pier in San Juan

The fort, Castillo San Cristobal, built, aptly on San Cristobal hill, is the largest Spanish fortification in the New World. It is part of the defensive system built by the Spaniards in 1539. Castillo San Cristobal protected the city from land based attacks whilst its sister fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (about one mile northwest; we saw it as we sailed into San Juan), protected San Juan from sea going enemies.

Happily avoiding the gnats at the fort!

So, we wandered around the fort for awhile; pretty cool. I especially liked the drawings of five Spanish ships on a wall in the dungeon. They are said to have been made by a captive enemy captain awaiting execution. I tell you, it was really hot and humid and stuffy and dank down in that dungeon; execution may have seemed like a blessing to this ill-fated person!

Cool drawings by a doomed captive. I wonder if he could have ever imagined people would, years later, be gawking at these?

Three flags fly over the fort; the US’s, the Puerto Rican and the old Spanish military flag known as the Cross of Burgundy

Sentry box at the fort. This is one of my favorite pictures from our vacation

Hot hot hot hot (the temps, I mean!) Great view of the ocean

After leaving the fort, we headed over to the Hotel el Convento to try a tapas restaurant located there that I’d read about both in Frommer’s and on Trip Advisor.

El Picoteo is inside this hotel

It wasn’t easy to find; no signage! Turns out it was on the 2nd floor of the hotel in an inner courtyard. Great boutique looking hotel; cool courtyard with lots of multi-colored bougainvillea hanging about; this really reminded me of San Diego!

The restaurant is called El Picoteo (we think this means The Pigeon). We each had a sangria type drink and one tapas each (didn’t want to fill up too much since we were definitely planning on eating dinner later on the ship). Mark ordered lobster empanadas and I had little meatballs in a spicy tomato, garlic, almond sauce (so many meatballs that Mark had to eat some of them, too). Great fresh bread (tasted like Cuban), too. An enjoyable interlude save for some people sitting at the table behind Mark who had a small child who they let run amuck all over the place (we ran into them later on our ship…figures). We’d definitely return to this place. See my review on Trip Advisor here.

After eating, we roamed around Old San Juan a bit so I could take some pictures. It’s very quaint and there is also a lot of decent outlet shopping (which we avoided but I know a lot of the folks on the ship were looking forward to).

Old city gate

On our way back to the ship, we saw the brewery that mom and dad had told us about so we stopped in to try their beer. Eh, it was “ok plus”. First, the place was CROWDED; 2nd, the service was so-so (slow and inattentive) and lastly, the beer wasn’t all that great. It’s doubtful we’d return, if ever back in Old San Juan. See my review on Trip Advisor here.

Best thing about the Old Harbor Brewery was getting this picture!

We were back on the Enchantment of the Seas by 6:00 pm or so. It was really easy, BTW, getting on and off the ship. The only required IDs were Sea Passes and driver's licenses.

After getting cleaned up (I felt as though I had those little gnats in my hair, in my ears, in my teeth…); we headed down to enjoy a bit of pre-dinner music in the Centrum area. We ordered some Champagne from the nearby Champagne Bar (probably the only “oops” for us as two glasses were $40!)

Enjoying that expensive Champagne in the Centrum

and listened to a great violin/guitar duo play. After dinner, we decided to go to the Spotlight Lounge and listen to big-band/swing music and watch all the older folks dance far better than we ever could!

Tonight’s towel creature…”where are my peanuts?”

Tomorrow…St. Thomas.

Mrs. B


Mr. B said...

Too many pictures to post, but there were a number of neat looking places off the street we were walking down to get back to the brewery. This is a place I would go back to visit.

Nice summary honey. TA

Mrs. B said...

Minus the gnats, of course :-)