"" Writer's Wanderings: Celebrity Solstice--Labadee, Haiti

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Celebrity Solstice--Labadee, Haiti

We awoke to a cloudy overcast day. For a moment I thought I was back home. Then the happy thought that someone would make me breakfast brought me back to reality and I hastened to get dressed. The Grand Epernay dining room provided excellent service, a terrific mushroom and Swiss cheese omelet, and a great cup of coffee.
The Solstice arrived at the Royal Caribbean Ltd.’s private beach area at Labadee, Haiti, at its scheduled time, 10 a.m., and we were informed that due to weather, many of the excursion water activities would be canceled. It was very windy and threatened rain. There was hope that the weather would improve and if it did, the snorkeling adventure, zipline-over-the-water, and others would be rescheduled for the afternoon.

Bob donned a swimsuit but decided he wasn’t getting in the water when we heard the temperature outside was only 68 degrees (it warmed up to the 80s). We boarded one of the large tenders sent from the beach for the five minute ride to shore.

Labadee has changed radically from when we were last there some 10 years ago. There is a ton of activities to do including kayaking, wave runners, a zipline that goes over the water, a play area with a splash activity for kids, a floating Aqua Park including floating inflated rock walls, inner tubes, and see-saws, and a huge inflated water slide on shore. Plenty of lounge chairs were stacked up everywhere and beach personnel were on hand to place them wherever you wanted to spend your day (keep a couple of dollars in your pocket for a tip). There were also hammocks strung from almost every group of trees we passed. And yes, for those who burn easily, there were a lot of shady spots.

We spent about an hour leisurely walking around the whole area. Some of the trails are pretty rocky but others are paved. There are some old ruins there and the landmark bell tower. I suspect this was a church or mission at one time. It would have been nice to have had some informational material on that. Workers were scurrying to clean the largest of the four beaches where enough seaweed washed up to fill a couple of small dump trucks. The sea was rough and the wind blowing in on that side but a small sea wall kept the swimming area calm. Caution signs were posted for those who ventured out into the water warning them of sea urchins, jellyfish, and other sea creatures that could be a nuisance or danger—among them, sea lice.

Construction sites abounded. There is major renovation going on everywhere including a new area for serving their barbecue lunch. It is much needed as it was apparent the hurricanes did some damage to the picnic area shelters. Right in the middle of everything is a large market area where locals are let in to sell their goods. Most of it is the same thing repeated over and over—wooden boxes, vases, wall plaques and the usual clothing items, T-shirts and Caribbean style dresses. Paintings were displayed all along a hillside in several places. If you don’t mind a little hustling and are up for a shopping adventure, it’s worth a look.

Lunch was served at noon and by that time we were hungry from smelling the hamburgers and ribs cooking on the grill. There was a nice offering of burgers, hot dogs, BBQ ribs and chicken, some fish, and a couple of other dishes I didn’t recognize along with potato salad, cole slaw, pasta salad, tossed salad, and other accompaniments including corn on the cob. A smattering of desserts and fruit completed the meal.

Throughout the day, the sun peeked through enough for those working on their tans—or burns. It also rained a few times but as I replied to the friendly gal at one of the watersports stands, “It’s a great day—no snow!”

Back on the ship, after a quick swim in the Solarium pool, we fell into our regular routines of exercise and blogging and answering email. The afternoon passed all too quickly.

This was our second formal night and we dined in the Grand Epernay expecting it to be lobster night. It was but not the lobster of the past. Instead it was a half tail split length-wise, mixed with shrimp and scallops and served over a risotto. Not terribly exciting. The usual baked Alaska is gone as well. That I’m not sad to see pass away. It always seemed like such a waste since many people didn’t eat it. Instead they now have a smaller individual serving that resembles it but is called something I can’t pronounce let alone spell. I ordered it by mistake and our very accommodating waiter exchanged it for a chocolate mousse-cake.

Our show in the Solstice Theater was another production by the singers and dancers. The theme was Broadway, Ghost Light. Most of the songs must have been from very recent shows since I didn’t recognize a lot of them even though we attend our local Broadway musical series at home every year. It was very well done though, not as loud as the night before, and staged nicely. Good music, good dance, good show. Great end to a nice day.

Here’s another odd picture. As we walked around, we looked up a mountain and saw a strange looking palm tree—extremely tall and straight with palm leaves on top. So, is it real or is it a cell tower?

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