Africa 2023:
Day 71 - Puerto Rico [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

Africa 2023: [Pre-Cruise] [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2-8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Funchal] [Day 10 - Arrecife] [Day 11 - Agadir] [Day 12 - Casablanca] [Day 13-14 - At Sea] [Day 15 - Tunisia] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Crete] [Day 18 - At Sea] [Day 19 - Cyprus] [Day 20 - At Sea] [Day 21 - Suez Canal] [Day 22 - Safaga] [Day 23-26 - At Sea] [Day 27 - Salalah] [Day 28-31 - At Sea] [Day 32-33 - Seychelles] [Day 34-35 - At Sea] [Day 36-37 - Zanzibar] [Day 38 - At Sea] [Day 39 - Mayotte] [Day 40 - Madagascar] [Day 41-42 - At Sea] [Day 43 - Mozambique] [Day 44 - Durban] [Day 45-46 - At Sea] [Day 47-48 - Cape Town] [Day 49 - At Sea] [Day 50 - Luderitz] [Day 51 - Walvis Bay] [Day 52-53 - At Sea] [Day 54 - Angola] [Day 55-57 - At Sea] [Day 58 - Ghana] [Day 59 - Côte d'Ivoire] [Day 60-61 - At Sea] [Day 62 - The Gambia] [Day 63 - Senegal] [Day 64 - At Sea] [Day 65 - Cape Verde] [Day 66-70 - At Sea] [Day 71 - Puerto Rico] [Day 72-73 - At Sea] [Day 74 - Ft. Lauderdale]

Tuesday, December 19, 2023: Dawn was breaking over the horizon when we woke up. We still had a little further to go before we made landfall, so we went back inside and had a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and French toast.
When we got closer, we headed out on to the bow of the ship for the approach to San Juan. This had been open several times over the course of the trip, but this was the first time we'd come out here on this trip. Our last visit was in Glacier Bay in 2012.
What a great view of the bridge and the 2023 Grand Africa banner. Here's the same view on our last visit.
We arrived just a little too late to get a view of Castillo San Felipe de Morro from seaward, but it looked very majestic from inside the channel.
That's the Old Town area. The decorations on the waterfront are part of the Paseo de la Princesa.
Debbie was very busy photographing everything that we passed on the way to our berth.
There was a Coast Guard station with four cutters tied up at their quay.
The waterfront looked beautiful in the early morning light.
Two cruise ships were already in port. On the left was the Sky Princess, and on the right was the Carnival Mardi Gras.
We checked out the balconies on both ships, ...
... especially the corner suites like ours.
Both ships were moored at the new cruise terminal, right in Old Town. We were going to be at the old cruise terminal, which was on the other side of the channel.
We cruised past the Ferris wheel and some very expensive yachts, ...
... and got a great view of the capitol building.
We pulled up to our berth just before 8:00 AM.
As we headed back to our cabin, we passed this portrait of the Rotterdam V hanging in the forward stairwell between decks four and five.
When we got back to our cabin, we were able to see the cement carrier that had delayed our arrival. Apparently, the harbor pilot was originally going to bring this ship in first, but then realized that it was higher priority to get our ship with its hundreds of passengers into port earlier than a cargo ship with a dozen crew.
We were docked right next to the Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport. It had mostly general aviation traffic, and we watched as a twin-engine plane came in for a landing.
LEGO Debbie and Tom had their tiny plastic passports and were prepared to go through US immigration, just like real Debbie and Tom.
We had waited until about 9:30 AM to get off the ship, which gave plenty of time for those passengers on shore excursions and the early eager crowds to go ashore. We breezed right through the immigration hall and waited only a few minutes to board a shuttle bus headed for Plaza Colón in Old Town.
As we left the harbor, we crossed a bridge over a pond in front of the Puerto Rico Convention Center. It's a beautiful building with a roof that looks like two overlapping waves.
As we turned toward Old Town, we passed an I Heart San Juan sign.
That's the Playita del Condada over there. Our plan today had been to take the shuttle bus into town, and then walk to that beach after we got back. Is that what we ended up doing? Keep reading to find out!
As we passed this hotel, balled up paper towels started raining down on this guy sweeping the sidewalk. They landed all around him, but none hit him. He was smiling the entire time, so we were pretty sure ...
... that he knew the guy that was throwing them down from several floors up.
This is Caribe Plaza, a huge structure that contains hotels, condos, office buildings, restaurants, and bars.
As we turned on Avenue Luis Muñoz Rivera, we passed the Caribe Hilton. Debbie's grandparents ate here at Trader Vic's on their 25th anniversary back in 1961.
This old hotel had seen better days.
There were plenty of opportunities to take a photo with an "I Love Puerto Rico" sign.
A statue of Sixto Escobar stood in front of the Puerto Rico Sport Hall of Fame. A professional boxer in the 1930s, he was Puerto Rico's first world champion in the sport.
The stands of Sixto Escobar Stadium were painted with a surfing mural.
The baseball field right next door was decorated with colorful flags, and the color scheme continued around the park.
With the ocean only a few yards away, it wasn't surprising to see tsunami evacuation route signs.
Speaking of ocean, it was looking particularly beautiful along the northern coast of the island.
Almost twenty minutes after boarding the shuttle, we were arriving at Plaza Colón.
A few minutes later, we were off the bus looking up at the statue of Christopher Columbus in the center of the square. There were tents erected around the square with vendors selling crafts, ...
... and a giant I Heart SJ sign in case you had missed some of the others.
We headed off to the northwest, deeper into Old Town.
The narrow streets were lined with colorful buildings containing shops and restaurants.
This manhole cover had "Isla de Puerto Rico" stamped into it.
These lovely street signs are made from painted tiles.
We turned down this alley which was next to the restaurant where we'd eat lunch later. Oops, sorry. Spoiler.
The alley was paved with brick and was very charming. More importantly, there was a very strong breeze blowing through the alley that cooled us off tremendously.
Both of these manhole covers have Puerto Rico stamped on them, and the top one in this photo was made in Wabash, Indiana. Cool!
The colorful buildings were very pretty.
Back at the square, we stopped to get gelato from a vendor. Debbie got a cup filled with pineapple and guava, and Tom got coconut and passion fruit. Delicious!
We walked along the Constitution Avenue, passing the Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico, ...
... and a basketball court outside of a school. After seeing endless soccer fields on our trip, it was interesting to see a basketball court.
This building housed the American Red Cross, ...
... and this is the home of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee. It was built in 1913 and used to be a YMCA.
The façade on the Department of Finance building was a metal lattice designed to look like bricks.
Across the street was the Athenaeum Puertorriqueño, which is a combination museum, library, and performance hall.
Behold a rare sight! A Carnegie Library building still being used as a library.
Casa de España is an event center and wedding hall, and was originally built as a gathering place for the Spanish community in Puerto Rico.
A little further along was a wall inset with stones memorializing Puerto Rican women. There were teachers, poets, ...
... and the first woman elected Mayor of San Juan.
This obelisk was part of a monument dedicated to police officers who have died in the line of duty.
We passed the Plaza de los Leones, or Lion's Plaza, ...
... and the Holocaust Memorial.
In the corner of the Holocaust Memorial, there was a time capsule that was buried in 2012.
Next door was the start of the Walkway of the Presidents. There were statues for the Presidents of the United States who had visited Puerto Rico while they were in office. The first one was Theodore Roosevelt who visited in 1906.
He was followed by Herbert Hoover who visited in 1931, ...
... Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, ...
... Harry S. Truman in 1948, ...
... Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960, ...
... John F. Kennedy in 1961, ...
... Lyndon Johnson in 1968, ...
... Gerald Ford in 1976, ...
... and Barack Obama in 2011.
The statue of President Obama and the plaque with the details of his visit were installed while he was still in office, and they haven't updated his plaque to reflect the end of his presidency.
The walk ends across the street from the Puerto Rican Capitol Building.
Near the end of the street, there was a small park with a monument to Gentlemen's Sports, which apparently was best represented by statue of a man at one side staring at a rooster on the other side. We're not going to say it, but you're thinking it.
There was a food truck on the corner near the Medical Arts Building, and we thought about getting food from there, but it was doing a steady trade with construction workers and we were more than a little intimidated.
Tom called this "the monument of the last guy to use Map Quest" in which the guy in the center has his printed instructions and wants to go "that way." In reality, it is the monument to José de Diego, Ramón Emeterio Betances, and Román Baldorioty de Castro, men who worked to free Puerto Rico from Spanish rule in the late 1800s.
This building is home to the School of Tropical Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico.
How many trees do you think this was originally? Two? More? It was fascinating to look at and amazing that it was still healthy and growing.
We walked north along the side of the capitol building and then headed back west toward the Plaza Colón. The building has the State Senate on the left (east) side and the State House of Representatives on the right (west) side.
We walked along Avenue Muñoz Rivera which overlooked the ocean until we reached Plaza San Juan Bautista, ...
... where we took the stairs down to Playa del Capitolio.
The tide was definitely rising, and the waves were crashing along the shore.
Back at the top of the stairs, we admired the tile flags representing the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico.
There were all around the top of the wall on the circular plaza.
A statue of John the Baptist, after whom the city is named, is on the ocean side of the plaza.
The plaza is directly across the street from the capitol building.
El Día de Reyes, or Three Kings Day, is the Christian holiday of Epiphany. It is a major holiday in Puerto Rico.
We continued our walk, passing the Castillo San Cristóbal. It is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World, and is part of ...
... the San Juan National Historic Site.
This beautiful coat of arms has a Latin inscription at the bottom that reads "His name is John."
After walking for about 45 minutes, we were back at the Plaza Colón, ...
... walking past all of the colorful buildings again, ...
... until we reached El Asador, the restaurant we had spotted at the beginning of our walking tour when we went down the charming alley next door. There was a nice breeze through the lobby which helped us cool down while we waited for our food to arrive.
Debbie ordered the fried calamari and fish tacos from the appetizer menu, ...
... and Tom ordered the ropa vieja mofongo, which was mashed yucca stuffed with shredded beef. We washed it down with two Diet Cokes each. It was good to be back in United States territory where Diet Coke is in abundance.
Every now and then, a bird would walk through the lobby and pick up a fallen piece of rice from the floor.
When we got our bill, the server brought us two shots of Coquito, a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas liqueur that contains rum, coconut milk, condensed milk, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It was delicious!
We walked back to the plaza, ...
... and stopped at this market right on the corner.
We love souvenir shopping at grocery stores, ...
... especially when they have this many Goya products to choose from. We bought six different flavors of nectar and a jar of salsa. Yes, salsa. We were going to satisfy Tom's craving for chips and salsa once and for all when we got back to the ship.
They had a shelf with bottles of Coquito, which apparently comes in two flavors. The white one is the traditional flavor, and the green one is pistachio. Of course, we had to get some.
There was also a huge display of coconut treats that Debbie could not resist.
We paid for our purchases and headed back to the shuttle bus pickup location, and arrived just in time to be the last two passengers aboard before the bus departed back to the ship.
San Juan Bay Marina is at the end of the bay where our ship was docked and held some huge luxury yachts.
This was the last time we get to see the Welcome Home banner on the ship.
Back on board, Tom was sad that there were no more ports on the moving map display.
By the time we were in our cabin, another cruise ship had arrived. This one was the Valiant Lady, a beautiful ship belonging to Virgin Voyages.
Look at all of that loot. There were three small bottles of vanilla Coquito and one larger one, one small bottle of pistachio Coquito, six different flavors of Goya nectar, one almond coconut treat, and a jar of salsa.
The final cruise ship, the Celebrity Ascent, arrived just after 2:00 PM. Each of these large ships held more than 3,000 passengers, and some of them, like the Ascent, may have been closer to 5,000. We were very happy to be docked away from the others at our quiet pier.
We took advantage of the beautiful day and the nearly empty ship to head to the Sea View Pool for the last time. Here's Debbie demonstrating the chair technique on her $5 floatie, ...
... and Tom demonstrating the saddle technique.
A single frigatebird flew overhead. It was the only one that we saw on the entire trip. Seagulls and pelicans flew by as well.
It was glorious to have the pool to ourselves on such a beautiful day.
The captain had said during his previous day's announcement that the ship would be inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard during our stop, and while we were floating in the pool, they announced that they would shortly be testing the emergency diesel generator. It rumbled to life with a momentary cloud of black smoke which quickly cleared away, ran for a few minutes, and then shut down. A few minutes later, it started back up again and we joked that the ship's crew still hadn't elected a new pope, otherwise the smoke would have been white.
There were brand new loungers on the pool deck. We'd seen them discarding some older loungers during our stop in the Seychelles, and these must be the new ones that replaced them. They were gorgeous.
We went to the port side of the pool deck to get a photo of the parts of San Juan that we couldn't see very well from our balcony.
Tom suddenly remembered that we'd bought salsa at the market and ran up to the Lido to get some tortilla chips and a second bowl.
If you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of a craving being satisfied. Let's listen in.
Tom took advantage of the 5G cellular signal to call his mom, ...
... and watched as the Sky Princess departed, ...
... followed shortly thereafter by the Carnival Mardi Gras.
Here's a close-up view of the forward decks of the Mardi Gras. They have wrap-around balconies on the front of the ship! That must be a great view, but also very windy while they are sailing.
The Valiant Lady was such a beautiful ship with all of its red accents on the gray hull.
Debbie zoomed in and realized that every cabin had a red hammock slung on the balcony. Interesting!
We picked up burgers and fries from the Dive-In and watched the sunset as we ate on the balcony.
The Distrito T-Mobile center has live music, entertainment, and food, and was one of the places that we'd originally thought that we would walk to, but we'd had such a great time with our walking tour earlier in the day that we had no need to go back out again.
As the evening deepened, exterior lights came on the two remaining cruise ships.
The Valiant Lady's balcony lighting spelled out the phrase "Nauti or Nice."
Such a beautiful sky.
The lights of San Juan were also pretty, ...
... especially those on the Ferris wheel. There were different patterns to the lights that would change over time. This is the beginning of a spiral pattern that radiated out from the center hub, which was itself displaying a series of animated emojis
There was a Caribbean-themed party with red and green lights at the Sea View Pool tonight. Many people were still ashore enjoying San Juan, so it wasn't as crowded as the other theme nights had been.
Just before 10:00 PM, the Celebrity Ascent started her departure.
We looked for the first time at the Christmas decorations on the far side of the harbor near the Cataño neighborhood, ...
... just in time for them to start launching fireworks.
By now, the sky had cleared and the moon and stars were shining brightly.
Just after 11:00 PM, we started our departure. We backed out of our berth almost all the way to the pier where the Valiant Lady had been docked before starting our turn. This was the very last time we would see the start of our wake as we left port.
The lights of the airport runway were beautiful as we left the harbor, ...
... passing back by the Paseo de la Princesa that we'd seen when we arrived.
It was decorated with white lights for the holidays, and there was a giant "2024" at the end of the walkway overlooking the water. What a great place to bring in the new year.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro was lit up as we sailed out of the mouth of the channel.
It looked fantastic with the lights of San Juan in the background. Hasta la vista, Puerto Rico.

Day 72 >

Africa 2023: [Pre-Cruise] [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2-8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Funchal] [Day 10 - Arrecife] [Day 11 - Agadir] [Day 12 - Casablanca] [Day 13-14 - At Sea] [Day 15 - Tunisia] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Crete] [Day 18 - At Sea] [Day 19 - Cyprus] [Day 20 - At Sea] [Day 21 - Suez Canal] [Day 22 - Safaga] [Day 23-26 - At Sea] [Day 27 - Salalah] [Day 28-31 - At Sea] [Day 32-33 - Seychelles] [Day 34-35 - At Sea] [Day 36-37 - Zanzibar] [Day 38 - At Sea] [Day 39 - Mayotte] [Day 40 - Madagascar] [Day 41-42 - At Sea] [Day 43 - Mozambique] [Day 44 - Durban] [Day 45-46 - At Sea] [Day 47-48 - Cape Town] [Day 49 - At Sea] [Day 50 - Luderitz] [Day 51 - Walvis Bay] [Day 52-53 - At Sea] [Day 54 - Angola] [Day 55-57 - At Sea] [Day 58 - Ghana] [Day 59 - Côte d'Ivoire] [Day 60-61 - At Sea] [Day 62 - The Gambia] [Day 63 - Senegal] [Day 64 - At Sea] [Day 65 - Cape Verde] [Day 66-70 - At Sea] [Day 71 - Puerto Rico] [Day 72-73 - At Sea] [Day 74 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

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