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Saturday, 16 February 2013

When the Saints... First Stop,St. Thomas

After several hours of having nothing to do, but wait for luggage.. and drink... while lounging by the pool, our luggage arrived by our cabin door. It was a nervous time, not because we had anything worth stealing...but because we had tucked a bottle of rum on in our bags. A no-no! We feared someone might catch us in all our sneakiness, and leave the bags dockside! "Let that be a lesson to you, Hamill party of two"!!

For dinner we had a table seating of 6pm. Far too early for the sun lovers that we are. So we moaned about it well past the 6pm seating time, leaving us with the buffet as our only option that night. Oh well, "got a big day tomorrow" we rationalized. Plus, we had to plan our excursions, for day one!

We spent many hours scouring the internet for excursions, in the months prior to our trip. We researched excursions we would be offered on the ship. We also researched excursions we would be offered shore side. Shore side excursions tend to be up to 20% less than ship board options. It also appeared there were more options, more creative possibilities. The downside of shore side purchases was that a cruise ship will not wait for passengers who get delayed by an independent excursion. For St. Thomas, we planned to take a jet ski tour, that we would purchase when we landed. It was to take us to several of the island hotspots. What's that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

As we pulled into Charlotte Amalie harbour, at around 7am, I was wide awake. Excited as an child on christmas morning. Surrounding the harbour was steep hills, painted with palm trees, and speckled with houses, neatly lined up, like seats in a movie theatre. I stood on our balcony dutifully watching every movement,almost as though I thought I might learn something!? I scouted out the visible hopspots and tried to finalized a plan for the day. Once my beautiful wife completed her morning routine we sprang from our room. The elevator was slow, so we took to the steps. I think I skipped 4 of every 5 steps on the way down. Being married to a step teacher, this presents no challenge to Leanne.

The minute we stepped onto St. Thomas, our plan for the day just kinda got lost. We knew that St. Thomas was a great place to buy gold, and the gold shops were everywhere. I had promised Leanne nice new earings for our first anniversary, which was November 23, so we had our work cut out. We roamed from shop to shop and even I enjoyed it. The shop keepers were keen to sell but it was no where near as high preassure as Dominican Republic or Mexico. We were warned that the shop keepers would try to take advantage of 'cruisers' knowing they had a limited amount of time to make the deals. So I needed a plan to break them down. Yes, I would have to use the 'boss lady won't let me spend much' approach. BAD plan for buying gold jewelry for the 'boss lady'! After an hour or so we had a firm idea of the deals that were available, but we weren't where we wanted to be. We decided to wait, thinking they may lower their prices later in the day.

It was time for the beach, so we decided to grab a cab. As we approached the taxi line, we heard another couple say they were heading to Magans beach, so I pitched them on sharing a cab. Little did I know that the cabs were actually buses, that typically took a full load of people each trip! Can you say Rookie!

As we wound through town, there were jewelry shops on virtually every corner. At the edge of town we started up the winding road that climbed the hills surrounding the harbour. The road curved back and forth, with each turn presenting an exciting new challenge for our driver. Around every bend a new, even more breath taking view presented itself.  At the climax of the hill, you could see the entire harbour, the waiting cruise ships, and a smattering of sailboats that filled the harbour. Looking ahead we caught our first glimpse of Magans Beach, and the Atlantic side of the island.. We descended down the back side of St. Thomas slowly twisiting and turning, until we came out at the beach, an oasis more beautiful than I could have imagined. The sand was white, and pure, with a swath of palm trees trimming its edge. The bay was horseshoe shaped, with turquoise water, and a lonley island at the opening. Yep, this is DEFINATELY a place I could see myself living!

After laying on the beach, and dipping in the warm water, we decided to explore a little. As we got up we noticed an Iguana lazing about 20 feet away. We took a few pics, but figured he wouldn't make a very good pet for our dogs! Further down the beach we found a shack doubling as a bar. The beer was cold, the service good, an a view of the ocean was included. Who cares how much the beer cost!? Although I think it was still cheaper than tax happy Canadian prices... a LOT cheaper!

Soon it was time to go 'back to work'! Yes, we hadn't settled on a jewelry purchase for my lovely wife, so it was time to head back to town. As we climbed on our bus, "the Big Orange Crush", we listened to Reaggae Christmas tunes, en route to town.

We checked out some shops downtown, but realized we were badly out numbered! There were two of us, and about a gazillion gold shops! Discouraged we headed back to the cruise terminal. I figured the merchant I had negotiated with there had room to move, and I had Canadian prices on my iPhone by now! He had no hope!

Reality was said merchant didn't seem as eagar to move as I hoped. He refused to acknowledge my Canadian pricing, and budged only slightly. We were still about $100 apart! Leanne put on a brave face, promising that it was ok, she didn't need new earings. The little voice in my head warned me to be careful... this COULD be a test!? As we headed back to the ship, I felt a store pulling me in. Ignoring Leanne's assurances, I told the merchant I was looking for .25 - .5 carat diamond earrings, I knew the prices in Canada, and he had one chance to make it worth my while to buy there. He gave me a better than expected price, DONE! Amazingly, my little voice stopped screaming!? Although, I began to wonder if I needed to find a gift to make up for the difference between purchase price, and expected purchase price?

As we headed back to the ship, the concept of living on a boat, and visiting exotic ports seemed a little more possible, a lot more exciting, and my resolve to do it strengthened. Looking at the boats in the harbour, I could see me bbq'ing, while Leanne tries to throw Daeyten overboard!

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