Category Archives: Cruising

Go Yankees….

26th & 27th September 2015
New York, New York.

Go Yankees

We were due to visit Martha’s Vineyard Oaks Bluff yesterday and although the ship did actually drop anchor somewhere near to the port, my dear lady and I declined the crew’s kind offer to transport us ashore. The sea was active and having watched a couple of tenders rolling around in the somewhat extensive swell, we decided there was nothing particular we wanted to do or see there (stop shouting ‘Cowards’ at your screen)
However it was a very ‘Good Choice’.
We discovered later that most of the transfers to shore were full of incident with liberal amounts of carrot infested chunder thrown in for good measure (or should that be thrown up?) Several folk needed medical attention, and at one stage the ‘stretcher party’ was called to the tender dock.
Anyway, let’s leave that one for now and move to one of the highlights of this trip….
New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx’s is up but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.
(from the musical ‘On the Town’ lyrics by Comden & Green)
We were looking forward to our third visit to this metropolis, which is unusual considering my contempt for most big cities.
We had a plan, but it’s risky, so confidence was a little low, but expectation was high.
We were going to attempt to get to grips with the intricacies of that mysterious underworld better known as the ‘New York Subway’ (Dah..Dah..Daaahhhh)
So we set off for our first destination….50th and 8th.
Once found we joined hands, whispered a silent prayer and headed into the abyss.
Well…we were aiming initially to reach west 4th street, Washington Square on the C line. This would deliver us into the heart of Greenwich Village, a recommended area we’d not yet explored. So let’s get tickets….just how hard could this be?
A Metro Pass is the way to go as it’s very similar to London’s Oyster Card, load it up and off you go. Except the machines purporting to deliver these plastic novelties are not the easiest to understand….unless you do what I did before we travelled….check out the procedure on YouTube. I’m certainly glad I did as some of my fellow tourists ended up shouting at the rather shabby metal dream destroyer, as after many attempts it stubbornly refused to issue anything resembling a ticket.
Twenty five minutes later and the worst was over, my patience (and meticulous research) was rewarded, and as we swiped our access pass to paradise with gusto I felt a sense of euphoria at having successfully negotiated this first complex hurdle. My dear lady warned me not to shout ‘That’s the way to do it suckers’ as pride definitely comes before a fall.
So there we were on the platform, with what seemed like the entire population of a small city, and it’s hot.
Erm….maybe this wasn’t going to be fun after all.
The train arrived, pushing even more hot, acrid air in front of it. Like a lava flow we were overcome by a scalding wall of heat which stunned us for a second or two. The doors opened and we were virtually carried onto the carriage and pushed deep into the heart of the crush.
Now I’m often accused of exaggerating the situation a little, massaging the events to create interest and drama….ME??…NEVER!!…well maybe…just a touch 
To be honest it really wasn’t too bad. Let’s just say that New Yorkers have learnt to accept a lack of personal space in order to reach their destination quickly and very cheaply. And so must we as tonight we’re heading for Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. The taxi fare would be $50 each way, but we can use the subway for a tenth of that. Nuff said!
Moving on, and Greenwich Village was well worth the visit, as was Washington Square Park. There was a Pagan Pride festival going on with more witches in attendance than we saw in Salem. There was also a young man playing a ‘Grand’ piano under the ‘Grand’ arch entrance to the park…only in America would you find a grand piano in a park.
We left the park and headed downtown, specifically to Chinatown for lunch. For the second time this trip we stumbled upon the place we were looking for without too much searching and enjoyed a lunch of dim sum and noodles…yummy.
A lot more walking around the city hall and courts area to admire the grandeur of the architecture and the time passed quickly. As the baseball game was due to start at 4pm we set off to find the appropriate subway. Now this became bone of contention as the subway stations are not very well marked, and you need a different entrance for different directions. Eventually we found what we were looking for, a number 4 express, and managed to squeeze on.
Yankee stadium is huge and looks very modern. The collection of tickets at ‘will call’ was easy and entry through security was quick. All good so far. Seats were found and there was plenty of leg room and a great view. We stood for the national anthem and readied ourselves for the first pitch.
The whole atmosphere was great but maybe a little more subdued than we were expecting, but our overall impression was very good. As expected food and drink was expensive and when I went to get a beer I was actually id’d. That made me momentarily forget I was paying 10 bucks for a bud which, according to all the signs around, was going to increase my energy intake by 300 odd calories. In fact everything for sale inside the stadium carried a calorific value to let the fans know just how much weight they would gain during the game.
Wow thanks for that…go Yankees.
Game over and back on the subway to Grand Central and a walk down 42nd street, through Times Square and finally back to the ship.
I know…let’s do it all again tomorrow 

Day two dawned bright and warm, however we slept late, missed dawn and went straight for the heat and chaos of mid morning.
Today we were on a mission to find and walk the High Line, a disused elevated section of rail track starting somewhere around 34th and 12th.
A short 10 minute walk from the ship and it was easily spotted and joined. We had a very interesting slow amble along about a mile and half of pretty gardens with interesting features, including what looks like a branch line which cuts straight through the middle of a building.
Once at the end we turned round and headed back the way we’d come until we reached Chelsea Market.
This was an incredible place to visit and full of complete surprises when it comes to comparing it to markets back in the UK. Brilliant and well worth a visit, especially for lunch as there is so much choice.
That’s pretty much all we did today and we really enjoyed this little piece of paradise in the vast sprawl of the city.
Just one small incident which gave us a titter. Outside Chelsea Markets there is a street marked ‘For Loading and Unloading only’. There was a line of about fifteen lorries all sporting the same company’s ‘Fruit and Vegetables to the Trade’ livery and they were parked up with no apparent activity of the loading/unloading variety.
A very happy traffic warden was gleefully writing tickets and dutifully booking every single one of them. I started to wonder if this was a regular Sunday morning activity for said uniformed enforcer of street law and I could imagine her begging to work overtime in order to get her quota in at the start of each week…Priceless.
Another great visit to this great city, and now we have an understanding of the subway system it will hopefully open up a whole world of possibilities next time….providing of course there is a next time.

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Azores…..

3rd December 2014

Ponta Degarda…Azores…we made it!

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We made it, despite the rumours!!

Having said that we only had a few hours here so just time enough to stretch our legs and visit the market. Not much else to say really.

There’s lots to do and see here but we either don’t get much time to do anything or the weather is not very good. It would be great to visit in the evening (which has never happened) because the town is all decked out for Christmas and I imagine it would be very pretty…..Ah well……maybe next time

 

4th December 2014

Sea Day & Last of the Rays

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The weather has been very mixed today and the captain has suggested that things may get a little rough over the next couple of days (let the rumours of impending doom continue)

It’s been really funny watching the sun worshippers trying to catch the last vestige of the big yellow ball in the sky on the odd few occasions it’s poked it’s head out from behind the clouds. They race for the loungers, stripping off to reveal as much skin as they dare, then collapsing in a heap….arms spread wide to maximise their exposure, only to be disappointed by an immediate appearance of a dark cloud which promptly sends them scurrying for cover.

But the weathers just playing ‘peek a boo’ and the fine rain stops as soon as they make it through the door and once again the sun comes out. So they attempt a return….but they’ve been spotted and once again the devious precipitation waits just long enough for them to bare all and relax…….such fun it has with them.

Anyway, enough sillyness.

This is probably my last post for this trip, which has been on the whole very good. Thank you for dropping by and if you’re off on your own adventure soon I wish you a very merry ‘Bon Vogage’….have a great time.

cover monkey - Copy2

Hey..have you heard this one?

1st December 2014

 

Another Sea Day…or just a rumour?

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Cruise ships are one of the greatest places in the whole of the civilised world for rumours, which range from the simply obvious to the incredibly and unbelievably ridiculous.

They’re going on all the time, but there’s always a crescendo of some of the more bizarre ideas as the trip draws near to its conclusion.

Early on there were the stories about certain individuals and their status or occupation, and apparently we had a world famous and well respected fashion designer on board as well as a very well known comedienne and even a Nolan sister. Turns out the designer was just an eccentric with strange hair and very little fashion sense, the comedienne was the least funniest person you could ever meet and the Nolan sister hasn’t been seen again as she’s gone into hiding (or maybe she never existed in the first place)

At one point the ship had a crack in the hull, the crew were working to rule and a whole gang of passengers had been arrested for nicking stuff from the shops (now that one I could believe) The weather was going to stop us getting into Cuba, someone was suing because of a splinter and rum had actually been discovered in the free punch served during the sail away party (that’s just silly)

With reference to an earlier post there is now even one tale being distributed about some members of the crew receiving in excess of $2k in gratuities each month. But I can categorically state that from all the whispering and scheming I’ve heard on this subject it’s more likely that they’ll get much less than that from this bunch to share between everyone.

Maybe I should start a rumour that folk who don’t pay their gratuities are going to be put on an international ‘tight wads’ register and are likely to be banned admission into any of the bars or restaurants on any cruise ship.

Anyway the latest rumours are that we won’t get into Ponta Delgado and we’re due to get hit by a force 10 storm as we make a run for home. And when we reach the UK we’ll be greeted with three foot of snow and Christmas (like all Christian festivals) will be cancelled in favour of a more politically correct celebration. But there’s nothing left in the shops anyway because of the black Friday lootings and all the turkeys have had to be destroyed because of deadly bacteria lurking in the skin.

Well I just don’t have enough space to list any more of them as there are so many.

Let’s just wait and see…..this could get even more stupid!!!!!

Gratuities……here’s a tip :)

30th November 2014

Another Sea Day

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The sea has started to cut up a bit rough over the past 24 hours and those who haven’t taken to their beds yet are looking for things to keep themselves occupied and entertained. There are still a few who are lamely wandering around with their latest batch of t-shirts, bags and coats announcing where they’ve been recently….trouble is everybody else went there as well, so the game is now to prove you paid less for your goodies than anyone else did.

I feel slightly cheated because I didn’t buy anything with the name of a location on it, so I’m not allowed to play because…..well because I’m just a cheapskate (and proud of it)

Others are now scheming on how to get out of paying their gratuities to the well deserving crew members who’ve looked after us all so well (and they call me a cheapskate?) It ranges from cancelling the automatic additions to their cabin account with the intention of feigning illness on the last day and therefore avoiding any contact with the staff, to outright deviousness by claiming they’re unhappy with the service they’ve received over the past 34 days. That has wider ranging consequences that they either haven’t considered or just don’t care about.

One couple stated that as they’d seen their waiter ashore at one of the ports and he was in possession of the latest iphone, was wearing designer clothes and shopping for jewellery then he was obviously paid far too much and didn’t need their hard earned cash.

I am truly amazed by some of the excuses…but somehow I’m not surprised…and you wonder why I hate people!!

Yes, for us Brits, tipping is always a bit of a hot topic because it’s not a culture we’ve been used to, but come on meanies you know the situation and you should factor the cost in with the holiday. I’m so disappointed to hear you criticise the efforts of the guys and gals who work 10 to 12 hours a day/7 days a week and yet you’re too tight to reward their genuine attention to your needs…yet you’ll spend $10 on a tatty t-shirt in every port…shame on you.

Next I’ll hear some poor soul claiming that they’ve had to cancel their gratuities owing to the heavy loses they’ve suffered at the gaming tables, or that they need to be careful with the pennies because they’ve just booked another two cruises.. ….oh too late…I heard those two tales last night.

Look folks if you can’t afford it then just say so, it’s not a crime you know. But please don’t rubbish the hard working staff just to save a few bob.

TWIT.

 

 

Weirdo….

29th November 2014

A Sea Day

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For us, this cruise has been one of the strangest. Don’t get me wrong we’ve been to some really interesting places and had a very enjoyable time away….the foods been ok, the weather great and the ship and the crew are good as usual. But some of the folk we’ve shared this holiday with are seriously strange. I can’t quite put my finger on any one particular reason for thinking this because there are many. There has been an excess of moaning, far more than the average cruise, and we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of ignorance and bad manners, mainly aimed in the direction of the lovely staff. And if you ever thought I was opinionated…well compared to some of these I’m a rank amateur.

Because of this I’ve been wandering around the ship singing the following which I’d like to share with you all……

“Weirdo” (to the tune Hero-Maria Carey)

There are weirdoes
When you look around this ship
You won’t have to search too far
To find another.
They’re all over
If you wander to the bar
In the restaurant or on tour
They will be there.

And when the weirdo comes along
You’ll lose the will to carry on,
As you cast your eyes on high
And you know you can’t deny,
Now you feel like hope is gone
Look around you and be strong.
But you’ll finally see the truth
As a weirdo stands by you.

It’s a long cruise
When you take this trip alone
Someone reaches out a hand
For you to hold.
Then you face them
And you realise with fear
That a morons sitting near
With scary eyes.

And when the weirdo comes along
You’ll lose the will to carry on,
As you cast your eyes on high
And you know you can’t deny,
Now you feel like hope is gone
Look around you and be strong.
But you’ll finally see the truth
As a weirdo stands by you

Lord knows
Escape is quite unlikely
But don’t let anyone
Talk you to death.
Hold on
There may be tomorrow,
In time
You’ll find the way,

But then the weirdo comes along
You’ll lose the will to carry on,
As you cast your eyes on high
And you know you can’t deny,
Now you feel like hope is gone
Look around you and be strong.
But you’ll finally see the truth
As a weirdo stands by you.

Bermuda..just lovely

27th November 2014

Hamilton, Bermuda

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Last stop on this side of the Atlantic before we head home.

First impressions are that Hamilton is nowhere near as commercial as Nassau, and considering the people who live here it probably doesn’t need to be. This is most definitely the playground of the rich and famous, and when they’ve finished playing they head back to their multi-million pound houses which cover the island. The rich and famous live side by side with the rich and not so famous in properties that dominate the skyline or beachfront, and you can get on a boat which will take you to gawp with envy.

Not for us though as we’re heading off towards the Botanical Gardens to see what’s on offer in the flora and fauna department, and as it’s a warm (but not overly hot) day the walk is very pleasant.

P1030902We pass a life sized bronze statue of ‘Johnny Barnes’ which is supposed to depict the spirit of Bermuda, it is very good. It was designed by a sculptor named Fountain, who incidentally designed several other pieces around the island including…yes you guessed it…a fountain.

The walking up the hill we enter the ‘Medical’ district. What a great idea to have all the different clinics and speciality healthcare services centred around the main hospital, there’s even the local branches of Red Cross ad St John Ambulance here as well. This would be a great place for any medical student to do their ‘elective’ placement…not that we know anybody like that!!!

The Botanical Gardens are really pleasant to stroll around with lots of singing birds and ‘spooky’ shaped trees to photograph….just brilliant.

P1030920Then we head off to the fort, which is a bit of a climb but well worth the effort. You can see the amount of effort that was put into digging out the underground tunnels here, and the guns are enormous. Oh and the views are just the best.

The cathedral is pretty and the town gardens are fascinating (or the other way round if you prefer) but the one major downside to this peaceful haven is it’s very expensive. To be fair a lot of the people who live here aren’t short of a bob or two, but when you compare the prices we’ve been used to at previous stops it’s very different. But then it costs nothing to browse and no one hassles you for a sale, it’s all good, and the locals just love to chat.

P1030909So Hamilton is a really great place to visit and we really enjoyed it so thanks for having us, but we didn’t spend much this time….sorry.…but I’m fairly sure you won’t miss it.

Busy Busy Bahamas

24th November 2014

Nassau Bahamas

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Hmm…not sure what to say…so maybe I won’t say too much.

This port is exceptionally popular with the cruise ships and today we’re the smallest of five floating hotels which are jostling for position along the harbour. So this is a very busy commercial town and most people seem to head off across the bridge to Paradise Island to spend the day on the incredible beaches that are available on the far side of the island.

I’m not saying it’s not a nice place…it’s just not my cup of tea…sorry.

At least the weather was good so we had the chance of a nice long stroll, and I hear the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo are well worth a visit (catch the number 10 bus)

We enjoyed a nice snack lunch at the Conch n Kalik (great conch fritters and chicken wings) followed by some shop browsing before returning to the ship.

P1030818It was nice to see the police in their white uniforms and pith helmets, very smart.

We had a nice day here but sooooooo many people around (including us of course)

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Club Tropicana drinks aren’t free, but they are good

21st – 22nd November 2014

Havana – Cuba

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It would be wrong of me to say I’m totally relaxed and looking forward to today’s visit to the city of Havana in Cuba, but I have no rational reason for feeling the way I do, so I intend trying to keep an open mind.

First impressions are, once again, a little mixed as the place we’re berthed at is quite dirty and dishevelled. I must remind myself of my previous comments about not expecting things to be the same here as in other places.

This is a country which is growing and improving, yes the revolution was some time ago but rebuilding takes time…and many boatloads of money.

We have to wait a while for immigration clearance and there’s a huge queue to change money into Cuban Convertible Pesos, but once that’s done we’re off. It’s a hot and sticky day and like many places there is the gauntlet of horse-drawn carriage owners and taxi drivers to negotiate. But to be fair they’re not as pushy as some of the ones we’re encountered on previous trips, so the first good point of the day is awarded.

We walked along the harbour front but a lot of care is needed here. The pavements are quite bad and are very uneven with huge holes here and there. But the people appear genuinely pleased to welcome us to their city with many an ‘Ola’ handed out along with big smiles. All seems friendly so far.

Some of the streets and buildings are seriously depressing though and there is a lot of construction and renovation happening. Unfortunately our first wanderings led us into a less salubrious area of the city and within a short time we quickly get lost in all the backstreet alleyways. I wouldn’t say we felt in any danger but elderly men urinating against the wall is never a good sign.

P1030769Much is made of the old American cars which dominate this city, and it’s true there are so many of them around the average car enthusiast could spend hours here and look at nothing else.

 

But be careful if you decide to ride….be absolutely clear in your negotiations as we heard many a story of a price being agreed but the passengers not realising the price quoted to them was per hour and/or per passenger and not a total for a tour. We heard one couple saying that as they’d had insufficient money when the time came to pay, the driver had demanded the man go off in search of cash while his terrified wife remained in the sweltering confines of the back of his car.

There are a lot of ‘dead’ railway engines around the streets as well, not all are accessible to look around but seeing the scatterings of ‘open air’ museums was interesting.

Anyway, by the evening of the first day I’m still not totally convinced, but the highlight of this tour was about to happen….we’d booked to go to ‘Club Tropicana’ to see this world famous show.

Well what can I say? It was very spectacular and with half a litre of Havana Club rum between the two of us it got better by the minute. Then to be fair we were quite lucky as we were directed to seats which gave us a decent view of the stage. Others were not quite so fortunate. The members of the audience are packed around oblong tables and this poses a big problem, a lot of folk are facing the wrong way….and it’s nigh on impossible to rotate your chair for a better look as the person behind is so close.

Overall we were both quite pleasantly surprised by the entertainment on offer although I would say that some parts became quite repetitive. This is a high-energy dance show with lots of fast salsa drum beats, so don’t expect too much variety. But it was very lively and colourful, what more can you wish from a show?

And so closed our first day here….dare I say with a smile….but was Havana or Havana Club responsible?

Day two was just as hot and sticky and there’s a load more to see and do, so off we go again. The one inescapable fact about this place is it’s cheap…very cheap.

We bought a number of presents to take home and food and drink is very reasonable…for example lobster for two with several mojitos to wash it down will cost around £20, and we bought two litres of Cubans finest rum for around £8!

We visit the the usual tourist haunts such as the Cathedral, the government buildings, revolution square, the armoury museum, etc and it was all very interesting. There is an awful lot of renovation going on so the future potential of this city appears to be a really good place to visit.

P1030807We end up having lunch in some back street café, which turns out to be the owner’s front yard with chickens and children running around, and a pile of colourful laundry drying on the washing line overhead. This for me was one of the highlight of this trip so far and demonstrated how friendly the people are here, as well as how desperate they are to earn a living, however they can. Needless to say the food was as good as the hospitality…..

And that was Havana. Much better than we’d expected and certainly different but I’m not sure we’ll come back….why?….probably because I wonder if the major renovation of this city which is happening at the moment will have a huge impact on the people and spoil the atmosphere and attitude that you feel in these somewhat chaotic streets. And as for those fantastic American cars….we all know what happened to the old buses in Malta once outside agencies put money into the local economy. Losing them would just be disastrous….oh well, I suppose we should come back in a few years time to find out what’s happened.

ADIOS CUBAP1030799

 

Sea Day

20th November 2014

A Sea Day

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So far I haven’t included many posts during this trip about the numerous sea days we’ve had. Mainly this is because nothing much has been happening to inspire me or worth any particular mention.

After the successful and exceedingly exciting launch of ‘The Other Side of Me’, my first novel, I’ve spent most of the time on sea days trying to concentrate on my next project, or more importantly trying to decide what to do!!

I’m currently considering trying to turn this cruise/holiday blog into a book, something like a cruisers diary with a plot line running through it (a bit like Adrian Mole meets Bridget Jones with a touch of Deputy Dawg thrown in for good measure) Oh well, let’s see.

Tomorrow we reach Cuba and although I feel a certain amount of excitement about the visit, I also feel a little apprehensive.

In the meantime here’s a little ditty.

ditty

Yes I know that was awful but what did you expect? 🙂

Grand day out….Grand Turk

19th November 2014

Grand Turk

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Now here’s a place we’ve never been before, and after the events of last night we weren’t sure if we were even going to make it!

There’s a certain feeling of sadness mixed with enormous dollop of compassion generated throughout the ship at the broadcast of two simple words over the tannoy…’Code Alpha’…this means that some poor soul’s holiday of a lifetime has just turned into a nightmare. The term ‘Code Alpha’ is used to indicate there is a medical emergency on board and the announcement continues by directing the medical team to the location of the incident.

Last night there was one of these dreaded occasions which resulted in the captain needing to turn the ship around to head for the nearest port…Costa Rica…in order to obtain the very best of treatment for the patient involved.
We were told this would involve a detour of several hours, and just before we retired to bed the expectation was for a much shorter visit to Grand Turk as a result.

So imagine our surprise, and of course delight, when we awoke the next morning already alongside our berth at our original destination. Unfortunately the detour hadn’t lasted long as the patient had passed away shortly after the manoeuvre to get him ashore.

Our delight was somewhat short lived……

Anyway, our first impressions of this island were mixed. It looks idyllic with white sandy beaches fringed with shade giving palms. The facilities here have been built and paid for with money from the cruise lines and it shows…This is a manufactured destination with lines and lines of sun loungers on the beachfront, then behind the obligatory huts selling souvenirs and expensive beer there’s a swimming pool complex to rival any major resort hotel.

Oh well…let’s give it a go. We commandeer two loungers and set off for a swim.

The sea is lovely and warm and we’re in for an extra special treat. Within minutes we’re surrounded by shoals of fish, all shapes, sizes and colours. They’re really inquisitive and gently nibble at your fingers and toes if you keep still. We spent quite some time with our new piscatorial friends and it was really a lot of fun.
Unusually I was quite content to sit for some time enjoying the sun afterwards, but when midday was finally a couple of hours behind us it was time for lunch.

We found a very welcoming bar a little further along the beach, away from the main area, and settled for a platter of conch fritters and coconut prawns, followed by nachos….well, who could resist? It was great and we were really looked after by our server.

At the end the bill wasn’t too bad either and we tipped our very attentive waiter well and left….but that wasn’t to be the end of it and a bigger surprise was yet to come.

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As we walked across the sand we were called back by our waiter. He told us that he was really grateful for the tip we’d given him, and although he had nothing to give us in return, he thought we might like a memento of our visit. He then produced a Grand Turk Yellow Pages and with a huge grin he handed it over.

What can I say? Now either most of the other visitors to his bar don’t treat him very well or he’s taking the mickey!!

Well I can tell you I’m fairly certain it’s the first one of these options. Why do I think that? Well as we sat enjoying our meal we were surprised at just how much whining and whinging some of the other customers indulged in. We heard some really nasty things said and this was probably what prompted us to show this lovely guy that we, at least, appreciated his attention to our needs.

I really do despair of the behaviour of some of our fellow holiday makers who rarely understand that standards are not the same all over the world…and neither is the food.
Yes it’s hot and sticky…but it’s not his fault.
Yes the food may not be to your taste…but it’s not his fault.
Yes you may have been bitten by one of the local bugs…but…ok you get the picture.
You may be older in years folks…but you’ve never really grown up, have you?

TWIT

P1030727Anyway we had a really nice day here in Grand Turk…made all the better to know at least one resident appreciated our visit and made us feel very welcome. This may not have been our ideal destination, but it was certainly good enough.

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