Monday, August 2, 2010

Cruise Vacation Blog Part Six


Approaching Samana as seen from our balcony

25 May 2010 Enchantment of the Seas Day Six: Samana, Dominican Republic

First thing this morning, we met with the folks from Cruise Critic in the Library to make sure we all had tickets for the same tender into Samana. Luckily, one of the ladies is a Diamond Plus or something or another member, so, she was able to get a slew of them from the private Concierge for Crown and Anchor Society members (gotta sign up for this!) Unfortunately, some other people who were lurking around in the Library at the same time we were pretended to be part of our group and made off with several of our tender tickets. Can you believe that? Jerks pop up everywhere, even on a floating paradise. But, we figured that the security people stationed at the gangway wouldn’t argue too much if one of the families didn’t have tickets for their kids since they were all together.

So, we trooped down to Deck 1 this time go get onto the tenders. Actually, what they really are? Lifeboats! We ended up on the first tender out, and, since no one even bothered checking tickets, we all got on with no problem. Although we can all thank the Titanic disaster for having sufficient lifeboats for all passengers, I certainly hope I never have to float around in one for any length of time. Even not filled to capacity (they don’t load them up totally up for tenders); it was uncomfortably crowded. BTW, the reason we had to tender rather than dock is that Samana is in essence a peninsula and there was not a place large enough for the ship to dock.

Map of Samana

Tendered Enchantment of the Seas

We were met at the pier by a few representatives of Terry, the guy who runs the tour outfit. A brief word about how we ended up doing this. Several months before we cruised, I was poking around on Cruise Critic and “talking” to several people who were also going to be on our cruise. One of them, Kenny, mentioned this person, Terry Bandini, who owns and operates “Terry’s Tours” in Samana. He also owns a restaurant (and probably a lot of over things). Terry offers a bunch of different tours ranging from fairly sedate to pretty active (e.g., lots of hiking and horseback riding on the beach). The cost of the tour includes transfers, beer, soda, water, food and “whatever” the tour itself is. Relatively speaking, it seemed to us the cost ($55 per person) was reasonable for an all-day tour plus food and drink. On top of it, Terry had received many complimentary reviews both on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor.

I’d say all told there were 30 or so of us on this tour; many of the people we’d met at the Meet and Mingle and run into several times on board. So, it was nice to go out on an adventure somewhat knowing some folks.

At the pier, we got into two jeep-things (which seriously reminded me of transports you might see at an attraction at Disneyland).

We rattled our way through town to Terry’s restaurant where we were to pick up Terry. Upon arrival, many of the ladies (yours truly, included) made a bee-line for the bathrooms. When I came out, beers were being handed out all-around (Presidente) and Mr. B was eying a street vendor who was selling cigars (YES, he bought a box!)

From there, we traveled up out of town to our first stop of the official tour, Terry’s property. This trip was quite the adventure as the streets were narrow, there was a ton of traffic and there did not appear to be any semblance of order regarding traffic rules.

Busy streets of Samana

Talk about feeling as if I were REALLY on some mad-cap ride! When I wasn’t busy holding on for dear life, it was interesting to note all of the political signs hanging up everywhere you looked. Terry told us that, once the signs go up (prior to an election), they never seem to come down. Some of these signs had been up for many years.

Political posters

As we climbed, the vegetation surrounding us became more and more lush and tropical. Terry told us they’d until recently been in the midst of a drought! Not that you’d ever think this, seeing how green everything was.

We arrived at Terry’s property (actually his mother-in-law’s house) and clambered out of our vehicles to have a look around. Next door was a very squalid looking house (by our standards, I should add). There were several children, some half-naked, running about, very excited to see us. They immediately came running over asking for dollars. Terry said a few words to them and they backed off but stood on the periphery, watching us hopefully.

Still hopeful...

From this vantage point, there was a lovely view of the water down below.

Lush and tropical with the ocean way down in the distance

Smile, Mr. B!

Terry showed us a few interesting things; flowers, pineapples (I had no idea that they grew out of bush),

Do you see the pineapple?

coffee plants, etc. He talked a bit about the locals and how what we might feel were awful living conditions were perfectly fine by them. I guess he was preparing us for what we’d see in the nearby house as we went inside it and I’m fairly sure everyone had a difficult time imagining being happy living there. It was built sort of like a cinder block with the outside of it being the bark of palm tree.

It was very neat and tidy inside and there was a TV and a washing machine (sort of an unusual washing machine, but, a washing machine all the same). There was a teenage boy sitting in there pretty much ignoring us while holding his pet snake. This freaked some folks out so Terry told him to put the snake outside, which he did.

Terry reminded us that these folks don’t have mortgages or much in the way of financial responsibilities. The majority of the food they eat they grow themselves or get it nearby. They live in fairly decent weather year round and have a fabulously beautiful view. The children go to school and the parents have jobs. Yes, not our standard of living, but also not our standard of stress and materialism, either. I tried to keep an open mind about all of this throughout our day but I’ll admit; I don’t care how lovely the view is, I wouldn’t want to live in those conditions. I don’t think he did, either; I mean; he wasn’t running around wearing a clout!

I’d say Terry was in his late 20s to early 30s. He’d moved to Samana somewhat on a whim (he’s originally from Michigan). He met and married a local woman (we met her, too). He’d pretty much built his business from the bottom up, and, considering that he had several tours running the same day and probably did every day cruise ships were in port PLUS his restaurant, I’d say this young man was doing quite well for himself. He seemed really happy and he was extremely informative and personable. He was also cautious; asking us to pay him before we drove back to the pier and out of sight of the eyes of potential thieves. Considering he likely had well over $1,000 in hand collected from all of this, definitely wise to be prudent.

Terry talking about coffee

After leaving Terry’s property (BTW, even though it was technically his MIL’s property, he was having a house built adjacent), we drove on a bit to what can only be described as a “tourist trap”, albeit, a small one. There was a church to take pictures of (which we dutifully did)

and a small gift shop. The more interesting building, though, was the cigar factory where several gentlemen were seated inside giving cigar rolling demonstrations and handing out free stogies. Most people on the tour took advantage of this; learning to roll a cigar (a dismal failure on my part), and smoking a free sample while enjoying another Presidente. Oh, yes, and the bathrooms were relatively clean; the last ones on our tour that would be such!

Mrs. B with one of the cigar makers doing my best Bonnie Parker imitation (minus the submachine gun, of course!)

From here, we journeyed back down towards the water, then, skirted around the pier area to another side of the peninsula. Thus ensued quite the ride; going through ditches full of water, bouncing about, tree branches whipping into the jeep and into our faces, rain pouring in. After about 20 or more minutes of this, we ended up at a quite picturesque beach. There were more little children about here. Many of them ran right up to us and started putting handmade bracelets (made from palm fronds) on the women’s’ wrists , hoping for some dollars. Several of us needed to use the facilities after drinking the beer and bouncing around in the jeep. I must say, this bathroom was very rustic, however, as I’m always happy to see a bathroom, I wasn’t about to complain (although I could have done without several of the little children attempting to follow me inside; not sure what they were hoping to do for me to earn a buck or two!)

Lunch was “typical island fare”; this consisted of fish, chicken, vegetables, rice, plantains, and more beer. Foo foo drinks (served in either a coconut or pineapple were also available for $5 each but we passed on these).

Where we ate lunch

After lunch, we took several pictures on the beach

before loading back into the jeeps to head over to where, apparently, some absolutely killer waterfalls/swimming holes were. Unfortunately about this point in time, it started to rain fairly hard.

So…this meant by the time we made it to the site where the falls were located, it was a muddy mess out there! We got out of the jeep and started down the trail but, after seeing several people slip and slide down on their asses (despite the help from yet another group of small children), Mr. B and I decided we’d sit this one out. Back to the jeep (along with a few other people) to wait while these brave souls went down to the falls.

After what seemed like an eternity, the started to come back. Someone showed ups pictures on their camera; yeah, nice, but, no; not worth getting muddy (or hurt).

By the time, it was probably close to 4:00 so we needed to head back to the ship. It seemed to take FOREVER to get back to the pier; again, likely because by now we were damp and cold.

Finally, we got there; no issues getting back onto the tender to the ship. No one checked tickets but they always checked to see if you had your Sea Pass and ID.

Once back onboard, we headed over to the Solarium for a bit before getting ready for dinner. While sitting there, I overheard a conversation between two couples sitting at a table behind me. They were observing “Dr. Yummy” wandering about asking folks if they needed some “medication for their vacation”. At this particular point in time, he wasn’t getting many takers. One woman said, “I just don’t understand why people would spend so much money on these cocktails!” Her male companion said, “Me either. I’ve heard that many people’s on-board account ends up costing MORE than they paid for the cruise!” Other woman: “Well, I REFUSE to pay money for my drinks. I mean, there are plenty of free options on board. We just love the juice and lemonade. Why, just the other day, there was actually pulp in my husband’s lemonade!”

PLEASE! Holy cow, folks. You are on VACATION and here you sit getting a) high and mighty about other people who chose to drink and b) going into a twitter over PULP sighting in your free lemonade?

Remind me to pick very carefully people we may ultimately cruise with!

After dinner that evening, we actually went to see the ship’s comedian. He was fairly amusing; he made a lot of jokes about ship-life that we could all relate to.

As far as the Casino goes; Mr. B is still down, Mrs. B is up a whopping $4.50 now!

Tonight’s towel creature…actually two. Ah, lovey-dovey!

Ah....sweetness :-)

Tomorrow, Labadee, Haiti.

Mrs. B


Mr. B said...

Maybe they'll have pulp in the lemonade again when we go in January. I'll make an note to make sure I try it this time! ;-)


Mrs. B said...

Those frozen Mojitos certainly had plenty of "texture"!