WARM & COLD, GEORGE TOWN to PRINCE GEORGE: 27 Nov - 13 Dec 04
A working barge motors past two pleasure palaces moored off George Town, Grand Cayman.
Our second cruise of the Western Caribbean began on 28 Nov. in Fort Lauderdale. Essentially, the itinerary went around Cuba, with stops in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico. We were delighted to hear that George Town had been reinstated as a destination. Because of hurricane damage, it had been replaced with Key West as a cruise stop for several weeks. Although the areas we saw on Grand Cayman all seemed to be in good repair, we were told by a store clerk that only the tourist areas had been addressed, and it would take 4 or 5 years to repair the heavy damage along the South shore. Grand Cayman is our source of 12-year-old Tortuga rum, the smoothest rum we've ever encountered.
Again we sailed with Holland America, the "Old Folks Line" (it's hard to imagine they're owned by Carnival), on one of their newest ships, the Oosterdam. Although service remains excellent, we find that cruising has become an exercise in extracting as much money as possible from the passengers. Everything is overpriced, from the drinks to the shore tours, and HAL now follows the lead of other cruise lines in adding a "gratuity" of US$10/passenger/day to your bill.
A serenade in the Oosterdam dining room
"Life is a beach"
A "Folkloric" show ashore in Cozumel
Left: Caribbean sunrise, taken from the verandah of our cabin.
It's noticeable that the newer ships come with a much higher percentage of verandah cabins, no doubt in response to passenger preference, and the upcharge from an outside cabin appears to be slightly less.
We were fortunate with the weather, which was excellent throughout the cruise. The hurricane season had just ended and it was smooth sailing under sunny skies.
After a couple of days at home to do laundry, we flew to Prince George to visit family. The above scene is Sadler Drive, near the home we had during the 5 years we lived there in exile. I had forgotten how much I dislike driving on ice and packed snow.
This picture was taken near sunrise from the road up Connaught Hill which leads to the picturesque campus of UNBC. It was a chilly morning at -15C and there was fog in the "bowl". That fog invariably contains strong hints that Prince George remains very much a pulp mill town, with four kraft mills within the city limits. Fortunately it's not like the old days when residents derisively spoke of the smell of money. Foul condensate strippers, and the collection and combustion of both concentrated and dilute non-condensable gases at all the mills have vastly reduced low level emissions of sulphurous compounds and improved the air shed quality.