Mitsugirlys FASCINATION with San Juan-review & pictorial
Day 1: Flying to Puerto Rico and staying at El Conquistador and visiting the bio bay that night.
This would be our 15th cruise and our 1st cruise out of San Juan.
We really spent a lot of time trying to find an AI for our summer vacation. I feel like maybe Sakari is getting a little burned out with cruising (even though it's all she talks about). She's in it for the beaches...and well, I figured maybe we should just fly to Cancun (which we've never been), and stay for a week. That way she could go to the beach every day to get her "fix". We checked pricing, we found a place, we were ready to book...then I started reading things I didn't like. Now normally I don't influence too easily, but I just felt uneasy for some reason.
On to the next thought...we'd head to Orlando and rent a house and hit up all the theme parks. Sakari has never been. Then all the bad news just started rolling in about the shootings in Orlando, the gator sightings in weird places, then the poor child that was snatched up at the beach at the Disney Resort. I know, Florida has gators, I know there's bad all over the world these days. But something just didn't feel right to me.
Obviously I always turn back to cruising just to take a peak at something that might be worth checking into....
BOOM!!!!! There it was. A Carnival cruise coming out of San Juan Puerto Rico doing a Southern itinerary. I have ALWAYS wanted to do a southern cruise but never really knew about flying all the way to PR to leave. The more I checked into this, the more appealing it sounded. THEN, there was the price of this cruise=:eek: Like one of the cheapest cruises I have seen in several years cheap. I couldn't believe it.
I immediately headed out to our local grocery store to buy some gift cards (for the free gas), hit up Verizon to use some points to buy some more gift cards at a reduced cost, then got in touch with my TA. Within the week all 3 of us were booked and I was getting SUPER excited.
This is a VERY PORT INTENSIVE itinerary!!! It only had 1 sea day. I didn't know much about the Fascination, nor did I care with that price or the ports.
Woo hoo! Two new ports for me and one that I had only been to for the first time a few months ago (and really wanted a do-over since the last time was not the best experience).
BOOK ME! Off to research in between my assignments in class and I ended up with some awesome advice and suggestions from the wonderful people over there at cc.
Fantasy class ship
Entered service in 1994
Length: 855 feet
Passengers: 2,052 double occupancy
Speed: 21 knots (diesel electric, 2 propellers)
Originally built without balconies and several were later added, giving this ship a unique appearance...which I found "Fascinating". :D
I really stalled in booking our flights for this cruise. I was really unsure about what day to leave and what time. I really hate having to leave in the early morning, we are just not early morning people. Flights after noon work out so much better for us.
The more research I did on Puerto Rico, the more days I seem to add on. Oops. I kept finding so many things I wanted to do when we were there, but obviously my job was having a fit about the amount of time I would be away.
So...I bit the bullet and booked an EARLY morning flight for us on Thursday morning. That would give us several days in PR to explore, but when it came right down to it, it still was not enough days for what I had planned. I guess I'll be watching cruises out of PR again in the future and have another re-do! I seriously LOVE this place!
We cruise with Southwest only, thanks to having a business card that gives my hubby a "free companion pass yearly" and Sakari and I fly free using the enormous amount of points we accumulate each month. So I guess it's "almost" as good as living in a state close to a port. hehe Thank goodness that PR is a place SW goes to.
So since I'm a night-owl, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult for me to go to bed early, but I knew I had to. We had a VERY long day planned with the flight into PR, renting a car, driving to our hotel and no time for rest due to an excursion we had planned.
I FORCED myself to head to bed at 5pm...where I would continue to lie awake, starring at the clock that spun around quickly like time was just passing me by. This was just not working. I was poppin Melatonin like it was candy and before long, I believe the last time I looked at the clock it was 7:30 and I'm pretty sure my eyes were deceiving me when it looked like the clock was melting onto my nightstand like an Alice in Wonderland scene.
I briefly peeled back my eyes around 10pm when the hubby came home from work and climbed into bed. I'm pretty sure I mumbled how tired he would be in a few hours when we had to get up...then off I drifted again.
2am....BAM! HELLO WORLD...I'M WIDE AWAKE! I got up before my alarm clock even pierced my ears with that annoying eye-phone ring. A half hour later, here comes Sakari wide awake as well. I guess we were both a little excited to get the day started.
I decided to be an awesome wife and let the hubby sleep in as long as possible and I went to pack the vehicle. I woke him up around 3:15am and we headed out the door by 3:45 and was at the airport (after stops to get gas and coffee for the hubby so he could 1) function and 2) doesn't start to grow fangs) and we arrived in the airport parking lot by 4:45am.
Sakari was excited, the hubby was still nursing his caffeine for the morning.
We checked our luggage, did the security thing, then headed to our gate. We would find out that there was only 67 people on this flight and we had our choice of seats.
Sakari has issues with her ears on planes. We have tried everything from gum to the airplane plugs you buy at the drug store. This time I decided to bring my super expensive Bose sound deadening earphones I bought when I was back in school trying to study and take exams to see if that worked. (She only has issues coming down, not up. If anyone has suggestions, I'd appreciate it). I'm still kicking myself for spending so much just to be able to get some studying done. Ugh
Up up and away we went
It was a short 50 minute flight to Baltimore, but yet I still had time for this to happen...
I managed to spill Sakari's drink when she ask me a question and I pointed to something and down it came.
Sticky wet goodness spilled all over me. So embarrassing. I would now have to walk around the airport looking like I had an accident...and it wasn't the kind of accident I actually had. Sigh
We landed safely, headed to the next gate after a quick release of caffeine and found out it was a totally booked flight. Thank goodness we had an "A" seat and would get a good pick. I believe they said there was 169 people on this flight and I'm almost positive we were the only English speaking people on the flight. I'm seriously going to have to learn Spanish soon!
I prepare the munchkin for this flight by filling her mouth with gum, putting her ear plugs in and headphones over top of that! She is ready.
I made sure to sit by the window because I heard coming into San Juan was beautiful and I would want to get pictures. Rock, paper, scissors...I win. I get the window seat!
We sent Kendra, my oldest daughter, one last picture rubbing it in that we were headed to yet another cruise without her, confirming she was put on the cruiser losers list (we joke about this all the time)...and then airplane mode it was.
The flight was supposed to be 4 1/2 hours with an arrival of 12:50pm. However, they said we would be arriving earlier than expected and the weather was good.
I kept track of our flight using the plane wifi
The excitement rolled in once I seen this display...
The one thing I noticed this flight was the water when looking down. The ripples in the water reminded me of all the times I have been on google earth. It's exactly like that on google earth in the areas where the ocean is. I don't know what I expected, but it just caught me off guard and I thought it was neat.
I started to see land and the excitement started building even more.
Now I thought that I read to sit on the left side of the plane to see the forts when coming in. But maybe I was wrong. I did not see any forts but was able to catch the beaches and hotels and I'm sure where we would be staying that last day of our "mini-land" vacation was somewhere in that mixture below.
I spotted a ship!!!
Wow that looks a little intimidating.
Touch down...we made it. Look out Puerto Rico! Here we come!
Our arrival time was 12:10...ish.
We blindly headed out of the airport, after gathering our rather "loud" luggage so it's easily spotted and looks like something from the drug induced days of the flower child, to try to figure out where the car rental place is.
Directly out of the airport terminal you will see the rental area across the traffic picking up passengers. It's time to play frogger and hope for the best.
Inside we went and we would find the line to be a little long, with only 2 people working the counter for both Budget and I believe Avis...ALL TOGETHER. Ugh. It was about an hour wait. It was long, we were tired, it felt like the clock wasn't moving this time.
I had originally thought I would rent from Charlies, as suggested on here, then I received an email from Southwest stating that if I rented with Budget I would get a discount and earn double points or something like that. So, that's why I ended up renting with Budget.
When it was finally our turn, we were assigned our keys and told to head to the parking garage to find our car.
Once we made it out there and found our "parking spot number" assigned to us, we noticed 2 ladies in the car with it running. Ok, did they just assign us a car that was just returned? I stood there not knowing what to do. I questioned the hubby several times about "are you sure that's our car?". We double and triple checked the tag number, the type of car, and the location it was sitting in.
When we noticed the lady in the drivers seat put the car in reverse, I was shocked. I immediately banged on the car several times and she stopped and rolled down the window. "Um, you have my car?!?" She said that the worker told her this was her car and she double checked with them. I showed her my paperwork. She pulled back in and got out and started taking her things out of the car. A worker came up and looked at my paperwork and told her "Yes, you have this persons car". Then, they started looking at her paperwork...well guess what...it was HER car too! They had assigned us both to the same car! UGH! At this point I'm getting really agitated, which usually doesn't happen for me but we are all Hangry at this point. Life is never good when we are hangry.
Once again, we were stuck waiting in the line outside now to try to get answers and figure out what car was ours while the ladies put their things back in the car and proceeded to leave in my assigned car.
They finally managed to assign us another car and we were on our way. We ended up with a Ford Focus and if you are an owner of a Focus, I'm sorry (for you). This had to be the slowest piece of crap I have ever drove before. Seriously. I was the little engine that couldn't in the hills of Puerto Rico. Next time I need to request a car with some power. The size was fine and the gas mileage was AWESOME, but the car...geesh. I think my kids have go-carts that run quicker than that car. Are they all like that?
We headed out of the building and onto the road...and had absolutely no idea where we were going. I was trying desperately to get my googlemaps to work and it just wasn't. I ended up pulling over to try to figure out how to get my phone to work and what setting it needed to be on while in PR to work.
Once we got the map working, we just wanted to head to the nearest food place we could find...and that said it was Subway. Ok, fine with me!
One thing we were told by others on these boards is that there shouldn't be any problem communicating with the locals because I "would find that most speak English" most of the time around tourist. Well.....I'm here to tell you that this isn't the case for us. LOL No comprende. No hablo ingles. This was an interesting adventure to say the least.
We arrived at Subway and attempted to order. We would proceed with hand signals, pointing, and other gestures to attempt to order subs. It was probably quite amusing to the workers and who knows, maybe they do this to English speaking customers to have a little fun in their daily routine. I do believe my hubby took the award for the most hand gestures though. He was even entertaining to me.
He said he didn't want it toasted...they proceeded to put it in the oven. So he says ok...I guess I'm having it toasted, but just a little. HEY I knew that...un poquito! That one year of high school Spanish taught me something I guess.
While we were there I called Verizon to get the scoop and make sure our phones weren't going to be charged some outrageous roaming charges while we were there. As I was talking to the representative, I told her we were in Puerto Rico and just wanted to double check. She proceeded to tell me that we could use our phones, but would incur international charges. But why??? It's still the US! She said, "Well, when you are in Mexico, it's not the US". :eek: Um...lady, this is not Mexico, this is Puerto Rico. After several confirmations to her that this was not Mexico, she made the comment that "I've even been to Puerto Rico before and I thought I was in Mexico and told everyone I had been to Mexico". At that point, I could not hold in my laughter and I let it out. The hubby had this look on his face wondering why I would be laughing like that. I couldn't wait to get off the phone to tell him. I'm still wondering what all of her friends and family are thinking when she told them she was in Puerto Rico, Mexico. :o
After our bellies were full and we were no longer hangry, we programmed my phone to take us to our first hotel.
EL CONQUISTADOR!!! It was supposed to be about a hour away and it was pretty darn close...57 minutes to be exact.
The maps sent us to the wrong "entrance" and when we pulled up to the gate, the worker (who also was limited in English and used a lot of hand signals himself) told us wrong entrance and did a few hands gestures about turning around and heading out and to the left...and out we went again and down the road.
We finally arrived...
The entrance was extremely long. You go past golf courses and down and up winding roads. This resort is way back there. But it had a nice view.
We pulled up to the entrance and it was a grand entrance for sure.
As we pulled up to the entrance and started to get out, we were stopped by what I presume was a bell-hop. He told us that we couldn't park there and to remove our luggage and they would take it and we would have to drive back down the road to park at the parking lot (since we were doing self-parking instead of valet) and then catch the shuttle back.
He mentioned that it would be beneficial if I just went in to stand in line while the hubby parked the car and shuttled back so that by the time he returned, we would be checked in instead of waiting.
We removed our luggage and everything we would need for the room and I was actually going to just wait outside, with our luggage, for him to return since there was only 2 people inside in line. The bell-hop kept insisting that I needed to check our luggage in and once we got checked in that they would deliver it to our room. I'm a very self-sufficient person and like to keep my things with me (I even get a little bit of anxiety when dropping off my luggage at the port to the porters wondering if it will make it to its destination or if it will go off into lost-heaven somewhere). But his persistence kept coming at me. Now I know darn well the reasoning behind this is for tips and I was more than capable of handling my own luggage as I do in any other hotel.
I proceeded inside where I would stand and wait and stand some more. The hubby was able to drive back down to the parking lot, park the car, wait on the shuttle (which he said he waited on a couple because they filled up quickly) and return and walk in...and I was still waiting. I had not moved an inch. There was only one person checking people in. I guess since it was a Thursday and not a weekend, maybe they don't expect a crowd. I'm not sure. Did I mention there was only 2 people ahead of me???
The road heading back down to the parking lot we had passed on the way to the hotel:
Entrance outside under the roof:
Inside where you check in
I managed to finally get checked in and I did ask the lady at the front desk if we were just allowed to get our own luggage and take it or if they had to bring it (because the guy outside had originally told me that once we were checked in, they would let him know what room to deliver it to and the way he presented it to me was it would be "later" and not instantly). I wanted my luggage with me and needed to freshen up, redo the hair and change out of my wet britches that was soaked in sticky pop from the flight. I didn't want to have to wait on delivery of luggage. I had also seen others taking their own luggage too.
So out we went to retrieve it...except the guy insisted and said he would walk with us and "show you how to get to your room". We were already told (and pointed to the building next to where we were at) the building and second floor. I mean how hard can it be? But once again, he insisted.
Off we went to our room with him in tow.
I entered the room and thought...yep, this is my home for the next few days. I can deal with this.
Entrance and a little area off to the right of the entrance with a counter, coffee machine, cups, ice bucket and refrigerator.
The beds were sitting on a platform and I will just go ahead and say now...these beds were COMFORTABLE!! I slept wonderful while we were here. Absolutely wonderful!
There was a nice little desk area, which would become the hubbys office for the next few days.
The bathroom is off the to right as we walked in. This has got to be the biggest bathroom ever!!! Seriously. I loved the little cut back at the end of the bathtub that gave you plenty of room to put your shampoo and stuff there.
The water had awesome pressure but I do have to mention that the tub itself had a bit of a slope to it on the edges so getting in and out you need to be careful and hold the handrail on the wall so your feet don't slip out from under you on the curve. I'm prone to breaking things, especially during vacation, so I was extra careful with the tub.
Right behind the tub was a little room with the toilet. The middle of the bathroom was huge and open and led over to the vanity area.
Behind these doors is a closet with bath robes and places to hang clothes, there's a thing in there with drawers and plenty of storage...along with iron and ironing board.
I swear I thought I took a picture of it open, but can't seem to locate it. Oh well, just know it's the biggest bathroom and area that I have ever seen in a hotel before. I was very impressed. Plenty of room for people to get ready at the same time if you are a family or dare I say a bunch of women traveling together. :D
On to the balcony. WOW!! That's all I can say. Well actually, I can say a lot more. This thing was HUGE! You could throw a party out there and never bump into each other huge.
It had a nice "garden" view (which is what they called it) but it was a view of the tennis courts and basketball courts, but still very pretty out there. You could see the mountains in the distance (which might have been the rain forest? Or just mountains). You could also see the ocean off in the distance.
It had a bump out (some of the rooms had them and others didn't).
It was a little cloudy and I wondered if we were going to get some rain. Remember I had an excursion planned for tonight, so while I don't mind if it's cloudy, the rain might be a little different.
You can see the various rooms with the bump out here:
I did question if they had cleaned my room prior to us coming there because this was my trash can...
I did find something else that made me also question the room, but I can't remember what it was.
I have to say that I seriously HATE when anyone puts stickers on my luggage. Stickers and my luggage don't go well together. It's hard to get off and it never come off whole. I'm forced to use wet rags to get it moist and create a knife with my fingernail to peel stickers off little by little. There has been several times that the airline has put stickers on it and it's just so annoying.
So, the bell hop decided to sticker my luggage up as well when he took it. I do remember that when we were on our way to the room, I looked over at the luggage and seen this rather long sticker across all of them. I made a comment about "What the heck? Where did this sticker come from? Who put a sticker on it? I can't stand when people put stickers on the luggage because it's so hard to get off!" At that point I had no idea that it was the hotel or THIS guy that did it. I thought maybe it was something at the airline again (although I did not recognize this type of sticker from before).
The guy did not say a word to me but I would later discover that it was him that put it on there. Once I found this attached to the luggage...
On the "other side" of the room (front door) was a beautiful open area in the middle of this particular hotel. It was nicely landscaped with huge unique trees, blossoming flowers, and a lot of vocal frogs!
On to explore more of the hotel. This place is so huge that I think you would have to spend a week there of constantly exploring every inch without going off the property.
There is an entire shopping mall in this place with all your needs.
Shops inside, shops outside. They are everywhere and located in different areas and buildings.
There are several birds located inside one of the buildings off to the main reception area. They had 2 birds in one cage and another bird in another cage (then we would later find another huge cage outside too).
Would you look at the age of one of the birds? The other bird was really old too but I forgot to take a picture of it.
There is an area that included pool tables, games, and an area for dancing.
This was the area one night when we went by and the place was popping with music and dancing.
I got a kick out of the snacks there one night.
The pool area(s) were amazing and very beautiful.
Yep, there's an escalator, which leads up to more restaurants (there's tons of restaurants in this hotel...everything you could possibly crave from a steakhouse, to asian, hamburgers, ice cream, snacks, pizza...the list goes on.)
There is an area that had the most beautiful view looking over the ocean. When I took these pictures, I thought I was taking a picture of the private island for the hotel, but I would later discover this was not it.
We are going to move on to some night time pictures of the hotel. This hotel has lights everywhere you go and they are bright and they are pretty. I really enjoyed the landscaping, architecture, and layout of this hotel...and of course the lighting.
I also have to mention that the sky, the night these pictures were taken, was so blue and made for some interesting pictures.
This was an area above the pool and close to the entrance area and had an outdoor restaurant and bar. It was a nice little area that you could get breakfast at and food during the day and evening, along with pizza.
Just an FYI, the pools are open 24/7...every day!
If you look in the following picture, in the purple section, you'll see a huge cage. This was another bird cage (I believe there was a macaw in there) that we didn't even notice until the last day.
There was a water fountain out in front of the entrance to the hotel in the turn around area. It also had a lot of changing colors too.
They even light up the trees.
We discovered even more shopping areas that we hadn't in the beginning. Like seriously, you could live at this place and never have to leave and they would have everything you could possibly need. (Of course I'm sure that's their goal, which makes them more money)
whew, that pretty much concludes my "tour" of this place. I did not adventure all over the place. There was just not enough time. We only went in a few different buildings and areas. So much to take in.
So back to the review...
Once we made it to our room, I had to change my britches and clean up. I really didn't feel like taking a full blown shower and having to redo the perfect hair (that I just had colored before vacation) and makeup that I had blindly applied at 2:30am in the morning when I thought I was wide awake.
Everyone wanted to take a nap but there really wasn't time for a nap because we only had about an hour before it was time for our excursion...TO BIOLUMINESCENT BAY!!
Now here's a funny story. One of my nursing classes we had an assignment that had to be a "descriptive" essay. We had to describe something we had done before and make it as if the reader felt as if they were there with you and could picture it. Well, although I hadn't done it (but knew I would some day), I decided to do an essay on bioluminescent bay. I did so much research and learned everything about it. Now it was time to experience it...in person. Would this trip live up to my expectations? Would I feel as though I was reliving something I had already done before? Only a few hours stood between me and finding out.
We grabbed the shuttle and headed to the hotel parking lot. Once in the car we couldn't figure out how to get out. We headed out the back way only to find that it only led to another parking lot. The shuttle driver told us to turn around and head back. That took us to a gate arm that you put your "ticket" in it and it is supposed to raise. Ours didn't. The shuttle bus driver saved the day and took off the cover of the box the arm was attached to and opened the arm. (This must happen a lot since it just popped off and he acts like he does it a lot). He would later tell us that you had to have the parking pass stamped at the valet desk in order for it to work. Ok, noted!
I put the "address", which really wasn't an address to me, into my phone and it said we were only about 6 minutes away from the place. Sweet...that meant more like 20 minutes for someone like us who can't follow a GPS well because ...well have you ever seen the names of these roads???? YIKES! They are so long and of course in Spanish and the GPS pronounces them differently and backwards. For instance our hotel was located on El Conquistador Avenue. The GPS would say Avenida El Conquistador. Now of course this don't seem to bad you say? Well that was easy because it was the same name as where we were staying. BUT, once you put in a Spanish "twang" to it...or changed the name of the streets, well...it got a little confusing.
We followed the GPS and I was shocked that we actually made it in about 10 minutes...but where did we make it to? It just kinda took us down toward the water and stopped. We weren't the only vehicles looking for it and thank goodness we were not the leader of the pack so couldn't be held reliable for the wrong ways we turned that included a few U-turns.
We headed down a road close to the water and didn't see any place with the name of the company we had booked with.
However, once you start seeing a bunch of kayaks, you know you have to be in the right place.
We drove along the road and the minute I seen a parking spot, I pulled in. It was a really tight squeeze but I managed with my small race car.
It was right in front of a playground. Of course Sakari was excited about this, but I assured her there was no time for playing and we were doing something more exciting.
We walked across the grass and playground area and found that there was also parking on the other side of this...plenty of parking, which was closer to where we needed to be. But that's ok. I needed to work off some of the cruise weight I would be gaining the following week.
The following is a picture of the baños located at this park. Pink and Blue...no Spanish needed to know which building was yours. You have to pay .50¢ per person to use it. Say what??? You have to pay to use the restroom? That's crazy. I should have just left my wet clothes on and played it off and saved my .50¢. (Just kidding of course) Especially at a local park. I decided we would "hold it" and go right before we took our tour.
We walked along the street and seen that this was all a little foreign to us. We are use to going somewhere and there being a building or booth or something with the vendor. However here, the vendors just pull up and park along the side and pop up a tent. We looked until we found the name of the company. I didn't realize just how many vendors offer these tours (mostly kayaks and only 2 companies are authorized to do the boat tours).
Now...my essay was renting kayaks. Why? Because it made for a funny descriptive story of not being able to control the kayaks in the pitch dark and running into mangroves. I believe because of my essay, I decided I didn't want to make a fool of myself as I did in the story and we booked biobay by motor boat.
About the tour:
We booked with Bioisland Puerto Rico. The price was $52 per adult and $38 per child and the tour was supposed to be around 1 hour and 15 minutes long from start to finish. We had several times to pick from (according to the site 6pm, 7:15pm, and 8:30pm) and we booked for 7:15pm, but when we received our confirmation it said 7-8:15pm. Our directions also stated to arrive 40 minutes early...which we did (it was more like 1 hour early).
We checked in, they marked our name off the list, they told us that we had an hour before the tour and that we were welcome to hang out with us (they sat out chairs), had snacks and water, or we could wonder around the area and return. I really didn't want to just hang, so we decided to allow Sakari go play at the playground for awhile and off we went. (I'm still not sure why we had to be there so early if they were just going to tell us to hang out for an hour)
Our entire stay in Puerto Rico, I noticed that the trash cans were located up in the air at parks and beaches. Anyone know the reason? I assume they are trying to keep the critters out of them, but I was wondering what type of critters do they have that would get into them? Most critters I think of (that we would have at home) have claws that could climb most of those barrels sitting up high.
After a lot of Pirate play for Sakari, it was time to head to the baño's prior to our trip. All I can say is mucho gracias the hubby brought some cash. I had totally walked out of the room and forgot my "spending" money (the excitement of the excursion) and so we managed to get in some "relief" prior to heading back.
The restrooms were super clean and there are attendants that sit out in front of them to collect the money and after each person went in to use the restroom (there were 2 stalls in each building) they attendant would go in and clean...and by clean I mean even mop the floor clean. Ok, I guess someone has to pay them to keep the restrooms clean and the .50¢ makes it worth it.
We went back over and re-checked in. They told us to have a seat and we started talking to the tour guide. He was in nursing school for his BSN. How exciting, I can relate. I ask if he was a practicing nurse and where he worked but he said that he wasn't because he was still in school and is due to graduate next summer. I guess he's doing the entire program and graduating with his BSN (which I wish I would have done instead of the associates to BSN). His story was moving to me. He worked at the biobay in order to have money to pay for his car so that he could get to clinicals for his nursing.
We talked for awhile and he was very interesting. Then all of a sudden he jumps up and says "Would you look at that sunset? You guys are missing it! Don't you want to take pictures?" LOL So pictures we did.
A lecture on biobay that I did during my research for my paper:
So what is Bioluminescent Bay? This is an amazing light show, within the waters, that can only be experienced at night. There are only five bays in the world where you can find this illumination in the water, and Puerto Rico has three of them. Every time this brackish water is physically disturbed, the water lights up a bluish-green glow. The water in this area contains millions of one-celled micro-organisms, which are half-animal and half-plant, called dinoflagellates. Dinoflagellates are basically self-illuminating plankton. When they are disturbed, they convert chemical energy, which is the same thing fireflies use, in to light energy. However, they will only emit illumination during a disturbance, which excites them, and only under certain surrounding conditions. Very specific nutrients must be available in the water, red mangroves must surround the bay and provide a habitat that produces a bacterium with vitamin B12 in large quantities, and the temperature must stay warm and constant. It also must be contained within an area that is very calm with a lot of sunlight. The calm water allows the salt to sink to the bottom and then be carried back out to the ocean by undercurrents. These organisms cannot survive in salty water. All of these combined circumstances provide us with a wonderful light show within the ocean waters.
With all this in mind, I felt as though the tour guide tested me on a few things (I told him the funny story about my essay). For the most part I got it right. However, my research said that once a single dinoflagellate was disturbed and lit up, it was done for the night until the next night. He said the "type" of dinoflagellates that were located in their bay can light more than once.
We all piled in the boat and I made sure to get a seat toward the back. I have seen many pictures and read that the best seat in the house is in the back if you are in a motorboat. The engine will stir up the critters and you'll see a trail of blue in the water.
Pictures from the internet showing this....
Other pictures on the internet made me so excited:
Now I know (as someone who has messed around with photography for several years, that in order to catch a picture of something glowing or lights in the dark, you need a long exposure. I also know that it's impossible to have a good picture of the people (such as above) in the picture unless you have a flash. So, in order to produce pictures, like above, you have to take 2 pictures and combine them together to get that "perfect" picture. This requires a SLR camera, which I have, but no longer take on vacations with me. It's just too much equipment to haul around. So, I wasn't very hopeful in catching really any shots during this experience.
This is the very first picture I had ever ran across when I discovered what a bioluminescent bay was...way before I knew Puerto Rico had one or what it even was (we are talking years ago). It had always intrigued me and I never thought I would ever get to actually go to a place that had one.
If you look on the vendors website, they do have a picture gallery of the bay and pictures that have been taken. I'm honestly not sure how they got the pictures, but I assume it would definitely have to be a long exposure and stabilized with a tripod (of course on a moving boat, that's a little tricky)
We geared up and was ready to head out..
We headed across the water and toward the mangroves. Once we entered the mangroves it was pretty neat. It was dark in there, but there were areas that opened up and the dark blue sky did show itself. I believe the mangroves are backed up to peoples homes and you could hear chickens in the background. We couldn't help but laugh about it.
The mangroves are over a mile long...yes, this would make for a long kayaking trip and at this point, I was happy that I decided to go by boat instead. We were super tired from being up since 2am and I'm not sure I would have had it in me to "row". We did catch a couple of people holding on to the boat and being pulled along (I assume they were maybe tour guides or something because our guys seem to know them and chatted with them along the way).
I will admit, this night I took probably the crappiest pictures I have ever taken in my life. We were told that we could not use flash unless the front of the boat had its light on. If it didn't have the light on, we could not use our flash. Mine went off once and I was scolded (not directly but "just a friendly reminder to everyone not to use the flash in these areas unless the boat had the light on" type of thing...which I knew was directed toward me since I was the only one that flashed by mistake.)
Also, when you put the camera on night mode and turn the flash off, it still wanted to flash a light real quick (to try to focus on something/anything before taking the actual picture without the flash. This created a problem of me having to aim the camera down and cover the flash with my hand, continuing to hold down the shutter button so it didn't go off again, then aiming and shooting. Sigh. I was so not prepared for this.
I'll admit, my sleep deprived delirious brain was getting the best of me and I honestly have no idea what setting I had my camera on. I believe, from the looks of the pictures, I forgot to put it on "sport" because we were moving. Most of the pictures ended up a blur, but I'm going to share a few of the "good" (#seriouslyrollingonthefloorlaughingatthisstatement) ones so that you get the idea of what it was like.
They did have a flash light that they would shine along the way to show us "critters of the night". There were A LOT of iguanas hanging out in the trees. Each one of them had been named by the staff...including Lady Gaga, which happened to be a boy. LOL We ask how they knew it was the same iguana on any certain branch along the way and they told us that iguanas are territorial and return to the same spot each night.
There were tons of the tree frogs, birds (cranes and others) and tarpon fish in the water.They would shine their light in the water and show us various very colorful coral. It was pretty and some of them were a decent size.
We followed right along with the kayaks in front of us and behind us.
This was one of the times I used my flash and was scolded. Oops. I was trying to capture pictures of the coral they pointed out in the water...but with the flash, it still didn't work. I give up!
We made it out to the lagoon and it was a HUGE area. There were tons of kayaks already there and they each had their little "space" picked out. You could tell the groups apart by the color of their light on the kayak. Here's the "red" group.
Now I was really grateful for the cloudy day/evening and hoped that this would help. It was covering the moon, but the problem was that the city lights all over was making the lagoon very lit up. The guide told us that they have petitioned to get the lights (maybe at the closest city or lighthouse or someplace close by) to be off due to it disturbing the tours.
I was starring at the back of the boat...I was not seeing anything glow in the water from the engine. They told us not to worry because they had tarps that they would use in order to make it dark and we would see it. I noticed the kayaks were lined up together and their group threw a tarp over top of them.
We tried several places and the tarps were attached to the side of the boat (rolled up along the way there). Once we got to an area away from the kayaks, they unrolled the tarps and let the end flow into the water. We turned around on our seats, belly down, and put our hands in the water and swished it around. Since Sakari was so small (and short) they gave her a long stick/handle/wand to use to move the water around. I wasn't seeing anything. I thought I might have seen something, but then thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me. I just wasn't sure. I was sure that this is NOT what I had expected.
Here's the problem...the tarps they put into the water would end up drifting under the boat. It would be a battle between us pushing the tarp out and pulling it out from under the boat, swishing our hands around while trying to keep the tarp out. The tour guide kept asking me if I seen it...I told him not really.
They decided to move to a different area. We tried again. I seen a little bit, but Sakari was having issues since she was just so small and couldn't reach over the edge with momma beside her freaking out.
We moved to a different area, they were a little brighter. I took picture after picture hoping for some miracle. The further we moved away from the crowd and to the other side of the lagoon (over by some trees, which I think helped because it was darker over there) the brighter it became. They called it "Pixie Dust" and that's what it reminded you of. We also discovered that they were a "little deeper than they were the night before" proclaiming that they were about 6"-12" down, so you had to really stick your hand/arm in (which was difficult when you are on a boat sitting up high). But, we borrowed Sakari's stick and that helped out somewhat...well, I ended up having the hubby at some point hold the stick toward the tarp to keep it out and away from the boat so that I'm actually touching the water and not the tarp.
The tour guide kept saying "Do you see it Kim? Is it working for you? Do you need some help? What can I do to make this more enjoyable? I want you to be happy? I want you to have a good experience" He was so kind and caring, but it wouldn't make them glow the way I had expected them to. It was nothing like the pictures. It was nothing like I had thought it would be. Did we see them? Yes! It got better the more we moved and discovered they were deeper down that normal. It was a very cool experience. One that I will never forget. It seemed like a freak of nature type of thing. But nothing at all like I thought.
Out of all the black pictures I ended up with, this picture had a spot on it. Whether it's actually one of the brighter ones lighting up, I'll never know. But I'm going to go with it is, even though it appeared on my screen as white instead of the blue color.
We stayed out at the lagoon long enough for everyone to be satisfied that we had seen all we were going to see. The tarp was rolled back up and we headed back toward the mangrove for more of the tour commentary on the way back.
I have to tell you that we came across the cucubano beetle and it was one of the highlights of the tour for me (pun intended). These beetles are like fireflies and they fly around in the mangrove and light up. You would see them zipping back and forth for long distances and it was pretty cool.
The cucubano, Pyrophorus luminosus, is a species of click beetle native to the island of Puerto Rico. It is often confused with a firefly because both species emit light from their rear segments. Unlike fireflies, however, the Cucubano can also emit light from its middle segment, thereby giving it the appearance of two "headlights" and one "backlight", which it can turn off independently.
Because light pollution interferes with their reproduction, they prefer rural areas without much development.A Puerto Rican firefly is called a cucullo which is a true firefly, also native to Puerto Rico. Cucullos average half an inch in length. The color of both of these insects' lights is bright green.
We did come across an area where they said a snake must have hung out in the mangrove trees above because one day they discovered a huge snake skin left behind in the tree and flashed the light up there.
After we came out of the mangroves, we gently glided across the water back to where we started. The city lights had everything lit up.
We made it back to shore and I wasn't really sure how I felt...other than I was really sure I had to use the restroom again and that was the place we headed to next. This time they did not charge me for Sakari. I'm not sure why.
We got in the car and out we went, still unsure about how I felt about the experience tonight. We were starving and needed to find a place to eat. We looked on the map for food and it immediately showed us a Burger King. I know, not what you expect to go to Puerto Rico and eat, but at this point we are tired, sleepy, hangry again and just wanted something cheap and fast. Burger King it was.
Here we go with our order...hand signals, pointing, gestures, and a game of charades it was for us, trying to order food in Puerto Rico, where I'm told just about everyone is fluent in English...not.
The thing I found strange about Burger King was ordering a large drink was equivalent to our small cups here. They also did not have any condiments or napkins or even lids and straws out. You had to ask for anything you needed...which as you can guess, became an issue for us and after trying to ask for napkins, as I took my hand across my face, I finally gave up. Remember I was hangry and at this point I didn't care if I used my shirt.
After getting our bellies full, we decided to try to find Walmart. A couple of wrong turns, thanks to our GPS telling us to turn before it was actually time to turn, we managed a few more U-turns before this day was over.
I had discovered that I must have forgot to pack my brush in the last moment and needed to get a brush and also some "pop". Another weird thing I discovered is PR only sells 8 packs of pop instead of 12. Sigh
Back to the hotel we went and I started to recognize the "route"...especially the part that you have a quick turn to the right, on what looks to be some side road but is actually the main road, and there's a HUGE speed bump there that comes out of nowhere. It got me every time. I seriously thought I was going to pop a tire a few times.
We headed back to the hotel and time for a real shower, wash my newly colored perfect hair that was now pulled up in my normal pony tail right before the biobay tour due to having the breeze blow it and the heat sculpt it into a fine frizz masterpiece...then I was off to the most comfortable bed ever by 10:30pm. ZzzzzZzzzzzzz