Get Away With Fran

March 25, 2010

Snorkeling and Tattoos: Cruising the Caribbean on Norwegian Pearl

Filed under: Cruise — admin @ 7:49 am

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This Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Pearl will be remembered by me as the one where I really got into snorkeling, I suspect (well, also the first cruise with new guy pal).

He is very into snorkeling, and to make sure we could take advantage of clear waters at any opportunity we picked up our own snorkeling gear before leaving Florida (masks and snorkels purchased at a dive shop in the Keys).

With our second port of call Road Town in lovely Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, we knew we would be able to explore some of the finest clear blue seas and underwater sights anywhere.

I had heard that Smuggler’s Cove was the place on Tortola to go, but the ship’s crew seemed perplexed when we asked how to get there (you can take a taxi but some of the way is off-road). So we decided to take the easy route and book a shore excursion to Norman Island ($70.99), that assured stops at two known snorkeling sites.

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It turned out to be an excellent choice – as the day before, the excursion operator more than delivered what was promised. Norwegian Cruise Line has impressed us in this regard; they obviously know how to pick tours and don’t overprice them either.

From Road Town, about 20 of us headed out in a small boat with a three-person crew. It was a slightly bumpy ride (those prone to seasickness should pop a Dramamine) but things calmed down considerably about a half hour later as we anchored near the shores of tiny Norman Island. Off the boat and into the water we could see fish, big ones and coral and sponges. Blue chromis, black bar soldierfish, and blue-striped grunt fish among them, according to guy pal. (“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish,” for sure.)

Guy pal headed off to explore underwater caves, but I was quite content to float and let the fishes come to me. Beautiful.

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Our second stop was at a beach. By this point I was a little woozy (I did take a Dramamine and it knocked me out). So instead of getting in the water again, I parked myself on a nice lounge chair on the sandy beach for a nice sunny snooze.

It was a wonderful experience altogether.

Yesterday the port call was St. Thomas. And I should note here the ship did a little switcheroo in schedule without much explanation – we had a full day in Tortola and a shortened day (but still 8 hours) in St. Thomas, which was fine with us though there was some grumbling from other passengers. It is the cruise line’s prerogative to do this (and no, they don’t need to compensate you in any way if they do).

We decided to see if we could walk to a beach. Turns out we couldn’t (there are two main piers and we were at one far from a beach; if you dock at Crown Bay you can walk). But we did do the half-hour walk into town and a bit beyond, getting a little exercise before we broke down and took a cab the rest of the way to Crown Bay.

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The beach at Crown Bay was lovely. It’s near the airport but the occasional plane overhead just gave us something else to look at. Guy knows his fish, so we headed to the cliff-side of the beach where as soon as you go in the clear blue seas with snorkel you could see little white fish and little blue ones too. I was content to hang near shore, but again guy went exploring and even saw a barracuda and a big blow fish.

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On the open-air jitney back to the pier, some passengers off another ship were asking us about the Norwegian Pearl. Yes, we said, the food was quite good (even in the main dining rooms). We bragged that there are 14 restaurants and the service spectacular.

But when the several ships in the main harbor came into view, one woman made us feel particularly proud in commenting on the exterior paint job on our ship (which includes many pearls). “Your ship has nice tattoos,” she said.

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