MITSUGIRLYS GRADUATION GETAWAY CRUISE review and pictorial
Day 5: St Thomas
Day 5 and we are heading to beautiful St Thomas.
I had set my alarm for 6:45am and immediately opened the curtains to go out on the balcony. There were absolutely no waves and the ocean was as calm as ever.
We were pulling up. Beautiful St Thomas, oh how I've missed you. We were to arrive in St Thomas at 8am. We arrived at 7am and were cleared to go ashore by 7:30am.
We headed to the breakfast buffet. Of course I knew that Flamingo grill was not open. After trying to get a fast breakfast there yesterday, I had checked the dailies to see the hours of operation and found that they don't open until 8am (of course after docking and going ashore). So, this wouldn't work.
Since yesterdays fiasco of not being able to find the family and not having a "meeting" place. The night before we made plans of where to meet. Kendra, naturally running late, met us there and we didn't get off the ship until 8:30am. Of course I scolded her while telling her that we could have actually been off the ship 1 hour ago and we were wasting time in one of the most beautiful ports with awesome snorkeling.
The day I had been waiting for now for about 3 1/2 years. The last time we were here we went to Sapphire Beach and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We had the best day there. The scenery was so beautiful and the snorkeling was excellent. We couldn't have ask for a better place to go. However, over the years, things at Sapphire has changed (with closing the snorkel shack & food and pretty much the condo association wanting to stop tourist traffic to the area IMO). So we decided even though you can still go to Sapphire, it wasn't worth the hassle. It was time to try somewhere else.
Coki beach comes highly recommended for an excellent place to snorkel and a pretty nice beach. It has had it's bad publicity over the years with drugs, shootings, and just a shady place to go. After the shooting in 2010 of a cruiser (by accident due to a gang related activity going on during a funeral), the efforts of St Thomas to clean the place up, make it more presentable and tourist friendly seems to have worked.
So we headed off the ship and toward the gates to catch a cab to Coki.
We were immediately put into a VERY nice van (again, another with huge rims....I'm seeing a pattern here lol). We had 3 others going to Coki and a couple that was going to the Marina. We dropped the couple off first and then on to Coki we went. Our driver was seriously driving like a mad man. There are some pretty scary turns on the roads and some very close calls. At one point there was a huge industrial truck working on the side of the road, which forced our side of the road to go around it onto the opposite side of the road. Our driver went ahead and crossed over WITH ONCOMING TRAFFIC and the car coming our way hit the side of the van. It wasn't a bad hit, but you felt it and you knew someone lost a mirror with that as well. Neither of them stopped, but I can guarantee our driver was furious (by the look on his face) because he seriously had a nice van. However, IMO it was his fault. Just a thought...maybe slow down a little and give right away???
We were passing the cemetery and I immediately knew that we must be close to Coki. We pulled up at 9am and got out to discuss with the driver what time he would be back to pick us up for the return drive back to the port.
Looking directly across the street from Coki, this is what you see:
We were introduced to a lady who gave the impression that she ran things (we found out later she was just one of the runners that got you food and drinks), but she quickly claimed our group. She started telling us about Coki and umbrellas/chairs and where things were. At this point, I completely zoned out because I was not interested in a slow walking tour and listening to what things were...I just wanted to head down to the beach and get in the beautiful water and sand. I like to explore on my own.
I have to admit, the "vision" I had in my head of what the entrance of Coki and Coral world was like with the steps walking down to Coki beach was completely different than what it was. But I was not disappointed.
We made it down the steps and to the beach. We were trying, once again, to figure out how many chairs and umbrellas we needed this time. There was plenty of room on the beach and we decided to just take the prime location at the front of the beach and close to the entrance and we ended up with 6 chairs and 2 umbrellas. The guys setting up the umbrellas were totally different than the servers and you paid them separate. There are not chairs and umbrellas lined up and down the beach to pick from. They set everything up as you rent them. The chairs were $5 each and the umbrellas were $10 each.
As they were getting things sat up (and our server was yelling at the umbrella guy "no, you take that crap back and get good stuff") I was standing at the beach taking it all in and taking pictures of this beautiful paradise.
We quickly unpacked and headed for the crystal blue water. The hubby enjoying himself.
I ordered a soda ($2.00 each) and just needed something to quinch my thrist before getting started. Then we were off to play (notice I'm the smart one with a tee shirt on. I wasn't about to get burned anymore today)
What the heck? Where you seriously making funny faces while I was trying to get a picture? REDO!!
So time to put the snorkeling mask and snorkel on and see what all is under us. You could tell there were some friendly fish, but I had no idea just how many until I ducked my head underwater.
There were thousands of these little fishes everywhere you went. It was funny to see them all grouped together and there was like this invisible line that magically told them "stop here".
There were a lot of Ballyhoo fish here. They must just like St Thomas because the only other place that I recall ever seeing them is also in St Thomas at Sapphire Beach. They are silver and really long. They have a very long sword fish like nose.
I REALLY struggle with taking pictures straight forward in the water. I'm not sure if there's a certain technique to it or not, but if there is, I haven't found it yet. These Ballyhoo fish like to swim at the top of the water and they are quick. They usually won't let you get anywhere close to them. So, it makes it really hard to capture a picture of them.
Now that I'm home and going over my pictures, I know the Ballyhoo is the top fish, but there's another fish under it (which I didn't see when I took the picture). It might be a barracuda, but I'm not sure since I was so far away and couldn't tell in person.
By now, it's starting to get a little more action on the beach and more people are arriving.
I drank the rest of my soda and geared completely up for snorkeling...fins, mask, snorkle, snorkeling socks, and snorkel vest. Away I went.
Since we were situated as soon as you enter the beach, I figured I would head to the right side first since it was the closest.
***DISCLAIMER*** I try my best to take multiple pictures over and over of things. No matter what, I always end up with different pictures with different outcomes in the quality and color. Sometimes I'm lucky and get excellent pictures and clarity. Other times not so much. It's really hard to focus on something when you are underwater...after all, this is a point and shoot camera with just a viewfinder. You have to hope that what your camera is focusing on is the same thing you are trying to capture. A lot of things depend on the shots you get as well. If the sun is out or there's a cloud going by. How deep the water is. If you are pointing head on to the subject versus straight down. Even the movement of the water and those around you stirring things up with have an effect on your picture. I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I tried to narrow it down to just the ones I thought worth sharing. Some are excellent. Some are not but I still wanted to share. Hopefully you enjoy them. I really think I need more vacations so that I can "practice" my underwater photography skills. hehe I'm sure I would get the hang of what settings to have on if I practiced enough.*****
Just a warning...you are about to see TONS OF PICTURES!!! This should give you an idea of how great the snorkeling was there. I spotted a parrot fish
A Juvenile Beaugregory and a Parrot fish with some Sergeant Majors
Sea worms, better known as "feather dusters". You will find that I take a lot of pictures of the sea worms. I absolutely love them. The reason why is I use to have a huge 150 gallon salt water tank. The story goes...my mom use to live in Myrtle Beach on the ocean. One summer we went down and was collecting rocks along the sand and we brought them back home with us to use to give my tank some scenery. Well several months later there were tons of "feather dusters" all over the place. They were beautiful and really added to the aquarium. I had no idea this would happen. Needless to say that when I sold my tank years later, the "live rock" was worth hundreds and hundreds since the aquarium stores sell them by the pound.
Parrot fish, Sergeant Majors, Blue tang and Surgeon Fish.
I have honestly not seen so many black long spined sea urchins snorkeling before as I did this entire cruise. They were just everywhere here and St Maarten.
A huge boulder brain coral with some pretty orange Christmas tree worms on them. This place had more Christmas tree worms than I have ever experienced before. They came in a lot of colors and I was just amazed by them. I have only previously spotted a few of them on my Western Caribbean cruises and there were by mistake and I found them after I got home and was looking at my pictures once.
A beautiful yellow tail damselfish was below the coral wondering why I wasn't taking his picture....so I did.
So I'm still in this area, and I'm still checking out the cute little sea worms and all of a sudden I see this huge mouth come out at me!! I kinda jumped back (the best you can jump back in water) and it was a spotted moray Eel. Eeeeekkkk. IT'S MY FIRST EEL!!! OMG! I'm so excited. I was so excited that I completely forgot that I had a camera in my hand. I was pretty close to the Christmas tree worm (trying to get a close up of it) when this eel came out and totally caught me off guard.
I guess I was getting a little too close for him and he swam up the rocks. By that time, I realized I was not catching this on camera. I'm also tugging at Kendra and talking in my snorkel (which I admit, it's sometimes hard to understand when you do that), but I'm frantically waving my hands at her and pointing. (She has seen an eel before last May when they stayed back at Mahogany Bay in Roatan and we went to Little French Key). But this was my first time. Eeekkkk.....I'm so ecstatic.
Oh my gosh. Can you imagine had I been prepared and caught him coming out from under the rock the first time with his mouth open? That would have been an awesome shot. Darnit. Still kicking myself for freezing up with the camera.
Yea, yea, yea, ok, back to worms I guess.
Some feather duster worms and some yellow and brown christmas tree worms.
I absolutely love these types of coral...the ones with the holes in the middle. You don't see them offen.
I'm not sure the name of it. I'm really not good with coral names and have not taken the time to research them in the past. It's a soft coral.
Hundreds of little fishy fish and a Blue Tang Surgeonfish
This was some very beautiful green coral. I really wish I knew the names of coral. They are so beautiful. I had never seen one like this before.
Popped my head up for a minute to see where I was in relationship to the beach and area.
They were enjoying their day on the rocks in the sun.
I'm honestly not sure what these fish are. At first, I thought they were just the now sergeant majors that you see everywhere. However, they did have a different shape to them and they were really huge compared to normal sergeant majors. So I'm not sure. If anyone knows, please let me know. Maybe a damsel?
Also a Elkhorn coral...the only other type of coral (other than brain coral) that is an obvious one.
Some pretty neat coral was growing on top of this coral. It was a beautiful bright orange color.
Parrot fish. Although I have never seen one that just had the yellow on only the top of them.
Parrot fish, sea urchins and sergeant majors with coral.
Check out this little guy that appeared. He was shy. Trumpet fish
I always try to punish myself by tryin to accomplish one of these above water and below water pictures. LOL I think they are awesome...WHEN they turn out. They are very hard to do, especially considering the small lens on a point and shoot camera doesn't give you much of an area to shoot above AND below the water. None the less, I always give it a try. This was the best one I could get. It really takes some very calm water to do this in. Otherwise you are just putting the camera down at the edge of the water while the waves are going back and forth and pulling the trigger over and over hoping for the best. LOL If it wasn't for that huge sun glare on the water, this one would have turned out at least a little better than normal.
Another trumpet fish and sergeant major and some beautiful bright orange coral.
Eeeeekkkk. More christmas tree worms....and different colors. Trying to get a close up of more of the beautiful christmas tree worms and the awesome coral they were on. Orange, yellow and pink for the win! They remind me of the cleaning brushes you get for the tips of baby bottles. LOL
The valley of doom....black spiny sea urchins.
A bunch of Ballyhoo fish off in the distance.
School session is in! Everyone pick a partner for todays activities.
A parrot fish and then this little smooth trunkfish appeared.
School of fish and a trumpet fish. I don't think I have ever seen this many trumpet fish on any one snorkeling adventure either.
Now I don't know what this is. Is it coral? A growth? Or rock? I'm not sure. It was almost shaped like one of those hard shelled crabs you see at the zoo. But it didn't move, so I have no clue.
This dark red coral was absolutely stunning to look at. Too bad it didn't have a lot of family members in this area. A bunch of them would have been nice to photograph.
More tangs and parrot fish. Do you notice the huge black marking on this tang surgeon fish? I wonder if it's his birthmark? I have never seen anything like this before on one of them.
Now I want you to take a look at this. Do you see anything with the most beautiful color ever? (It's Sakari's favorite color)
Are you ready to find out what it is up close and personal??? Are you ready for this? It's stunning!
The absolute most beautiful purple color I have ever seen. Eeeekkkkk! Would you look at that? I have never seen such a beautiful colored coral and never purple!!! I was so excited. They were everywhere along the left side of the beach by the wall.
More of those prickly urchins you stayed away from and more parrot fish and beautiful red coral.
I got this parrot fish to smile for the camera.
More brain coral and christmas tree worms. I think one of them looks like they went SPLAT! Or he was just stretching at the time I snapped this picture.
Coming up for air to see where I'm at.
More purple coral as I'm coming back in toward the shore. It's christmas in May around here.
Ooooo, green coral and white christmas trees. I guess I can't escape the snow this christmas either. The trees are covered on the coral.
The wall here at the left side of Coki "kinda" reminds me of West Bay in Roatan. They call it the iguana wall. This was something like it (only on a smaller magnitude scale of course), but it had iguanas crawling all over it. The kids were going crazy (not mine, they were back at the camp)
As I was coming back and and getting ready to head back to camp, the kids came along to snorkel. Yea guys, perfect timing...not. They wanted me to go back out, but I was beat. I had been out there for a long time and wanted to get back to order something to eat and I needed a drink. I handed off my snorkeling equipment to Courtney and away they went.
Walking back to the chairs, I decided to try out a pano shot.
Back to the chair and ordered me a Bushwacker ($9.00) and Sakari some chicken nuggets and fries ($12) and the kids ordered cheeseburgers and fries ($11). I seen how big the plates were and knew I wasn't hungry enough to eat an entire plate, so I munched on Sakari's fries and Kendra had ordered some type of seafood platter with shrimp and she gave me a few of those. It wasn't the best shrimp for sure. I'm glad I didn't order it.
The bushwacker was great and then I had to try a Dirty Monkey, which was awesome as well. Although we had people stopping by all the time to see if we were "ok" and if we needed anything. I hadn't seen the lady that brought us our first drinks in awhile, so I ordered the bushwacker off of him.
Later she came by and was a little furious about it. She said we are to order only off of her! We replied that everyone was stopping and asking for us to order drinks and said that we can order off of any of them, so don't blame us for them giving us this information.
She told us that she wasn't going to "go over and have beef with him" because he was lucky it was her son that we ordered off of. She said she would "settle up with him" later in the day.
Our fiesty red head server Michelle.
I had finally ran my battery dead on my Olympus (which I knew I would with as many pictures that I took). It was time to pull out my Canon D10 to take a few final pictures.
Sakari spent most of the day making friends with others in the water. I don't think she came out but a few times to get a drink. Some people there had brought dog bones to feed the fish and they gave her one and it pretty much kept her busy for most of the day.
She loved swimming and looking at all of the fish.
She is so good at holding her breath for such a long period of time. I think she can probably hold hers longer than me. I can't wait until her gets big enough to get an actual snorkel in her small mouth to be able to learn how to use it and snorkel for long periods of time. She goes snorkeling with us every where we go and usually goes out when we are at the reefs. She was perfectly happy snorkeling around the rocks to the right of the beach and she remained there most of the day.
Even when she wasn't over by the rocks, there were plenty of fish for her to see.
A school of Palometas swimming by.
We watched a lot of divers going out. They would be in the shallow end (usually a group no more than 5) and get demonstration there, then away they would go. You could tell where they all were because they took a bouy tied to a rope to signal their location.
Maybe some day I'll try this. I don't know. I'm just too scared of going deep for some reason.
I came out of the water after taking just a few pictures because I could no longer get my camera to take a picture. It was like it was frozen. I had no clue what had happened. When I got back to the chairs Kolin opened it up to remove the battery to get it to turn off. For some reason :mad: he decided to blow in it??? Well it was only minutes later the screen turned gray!!! The camera was officially DONE. Water logged and unusable. The bad thing is, I had taken the SD card I was using in the Olympus and put it in the Canon to continue using the same card for that day. I quickly put the SD card back in the Olympus and it would NOT WORK! YIKES!!! Oh my. Did I also ruin my SD card with all of my beautiful pictures on it? I had been using this card for days. This meant I would lose my pictures from not only St Thomas, but also St Maarten.
I have to say this is the FIRST time I have ever done this (take the same SD card from camera to camera or reuse it). I always bring my small 10" laptop with me and download the pictures daily on it so that I will have 2 copies...just in case. I didn't bother to bring my computer with me this time. Would this be a lesson for me? I was heartbroken and not in the best mood after this.
We did see they had banana boat rental there and it was $25 per person.
Our driver was due to pick us up at 2pm. We settled up our bill with Michelle and when our driver arrived, a guy came down and told us that he was waiting for us in the parking lot.
They did have several water hoses that you could wash all the sand off of you up on the deck at the entrance, which was nice.
We got in the van and the driver did a head count but kept waiting saying that he was missing 2 people he was waiting on. When we figured out that he was waiting on the "original" group he came with, we informed him that the other 2 people got off at the marina...remember? Oh yea. So off we went. Driving like a crazed person of course. We made it back without incidence this time and intact. Guess what...he was from Jamaica as well. Does everyone migrate to the Virgin Islands from Jamaica or what?
We arrived in port and did a little shopping right there across the street in port. I managed to find me a St Thomas tee shirt and Sakari a Lobster magnet.
We were back on the ship by 2:30pm.
I plugged in my Olympus to charge it and was completely afraid of what results I would have with the SD card. Can you believe I waited until I got home to find out that I didn't lose any of my pictures? YEP, I was so thankful. All the great pictures you have seen so far of St Maarten and St Thomas are from that SD card. woo hoo. I got really lucky!!!
I was completely beat. I took a cold shower and didn't even wait until we pulled out of port and fell asleep while the hubby and Sakari were watching t.v. I was out quick.
So carrying on with the rest of the days review.
I woke up at 7:30pm and knew that I was very hungry. For some reason I had thought I was dreaming about Courtney, but later found that she had came to the room to borrow my shoes to go do the ropes course with Kolin again.
We met Courtney and Kolin up there after they were done with the ropes course and decided to grab a bite to eat at the buffet. Darnit, I keep missing my apple crapes (Courtney had it twice already and every time I go, they never have the apple.)
Now one thing we have always noticed is that NCL doesn't do deserts well. This would be no exception (well, other than the crapes). However, he looked really excited about the 3 deserts he had picked out.
A face only a mother can love. He was excited about treats!
Yep, this was no exception, they were not that good.
After eating we dropped Sakari off at the kids club. Tonight's theme was...I can't even remember and by looking at the decorations, it doesn't ring a bell with me either. Hmmm
I do know that they were practicing their circus skills for the show. Sakari decided she wanted to do the balancing act with the peacock feather. How appropriate for her since she loves animals.
I headed down to customer service because this will be the SECOND cruise in a row I have been on that I did NOT receive my ship pins. Can you believe that Kendra got hers? She sails once a year with them and I sail twice a year...go figure. Last time (on the Jewel) they forgot them in my room and I completely forgot to go down and ask for them...forcing me to beg and cry on here for someone to let me have one of their extra ones. Thank goodness for the lovely people of cc. But, this time I walked down, told them I didn't get my pins and they quickly handed over 3 of them. woo hoo.
We headed up to the photo lab to see if we could find our pictures from today and also look for ziplining pictures. Kendra and my hubby are the only ones that have been able to find theirs so far. Everything was printed out up until the 19th and nothing beyond. So we ask a representative there and they assured us they were printing them all out and we would be able to find them tomorrow.
I did have a problem locating our picture from St Thomas today. I guess I will have to look again tomorrow. It wasn't in our folder.
We headed off to the shops to see if there was anything that interest me. I found a few things but decided I would make tomorrow my official shopping day since it was a sea day. I also didn't feel like carrying everything around since we had planned on going to the casino later. I have had my eye on this ring since day 1. It was beautiful and with a very hefty price tag on it. I just love rings with begets and this was perfect. I joked with the hubby about going down to hit the jackpot on the slots so he could buy it for me. He owes me one. On the Epic, I won the jackpot on a slot and we raced down to the jewelers to buy a black diamond ring he had been eyeballing the entire cruise. It was now my turn. Go win me some money honey!!!! Moma wants a new blingy ring!!!
We headed to the casino and the place was hoping. I did pretty well this night. I did hit the jackpot, but it was the lowest jackpot with matching 5 of the big wins (9 is the big jackpot and of course only if you are playing the max bid). It was a progressive slot machine (so the money keeps going up the more that people are putting into the machines that are hooked up to the same system). The lowest it starts out for matching 5 is $30. I won $36.50. Whew wee oh boy. Well, that wasn't even a fraction of what my ring cost, so I had to keep playing. Kolin found a machine that he did pretty well on and it kept him playing for a good hour on $20. Of course in the end he lost it all. I however, walked away with a win of $147 out of $20. So I was good for the night.
The hubby was over with a big crowd watching a high roller play with $500 chips. YIKES!!! He watched him loose thousands at a time and then win thousands back. My heart just dropped standing there the little bit of time I was there.
We picked up Sakari from the kids club and she was so excited to tell her how well she did with her Peacock feather. But, she said "I can't balance it on my chin or my elbow like they want me to" Insert the saddest face here now. I told her balancing it on her chin should be the easiest thing ever for her since she has a dimple "butt" chin like her mommy. Just stick it in the hole and it should stay. hehe It made her laugh and then feel better. No more sad face.
I stopped on the way back to the room and took some pictures of their frozen drinks menu. I just wanted to know what kind of booze goes in what so I can make them at home.
We were out on the pool deck of course and they had the colored lights in full force. I took a picture of the hubby and Sakari on the lounge chairs without a flash. Then I teased him about getting a "little too much sun today honey". What do you think? He was glowing red.
We arrived back at our room to find this little guy was the animal of the night.
We watched t.v. for awhile and I was completely freezing at this point from the burn we got the other day. Sakari had developed a cough as well. It kept me up half the night. Good thing tomorrow is a sea day and I can sleep in.
The hubby watched a movie with Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs. Toward the end of the movie I guess it stopped playing. He had to start it over and there was absolutely no way to skip scenes like you can with a dvd. He was forced to put it on FF until it made it to the part that it had cut off. He got a little more in, but it ended up cutting out again. I guess at this point he was fed up and decided it was time for some sleep. I was already fast asleep at this point and exhausted from the day even though I had already had a nap.
The following day I was able to locate our St Thomas picture...someone had put it on the shelf and I just happened to see it there. Hmmm. It was not in my folder, which is linked to your room...you know 9180? I was giving that number to every photographer as they took our picture. OH NO!!! That was the problem. We're not in 9180, we are in 9188!!!!! Problem solved.
So here was our picture from the day.