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Friday file: The 'Rich Port' Of San Juan

Of all the ports in the Caribbean, and there are hundreds it seems, one that keeps attracting more attention is San Juan, Puerto Rico (translation: “rich port”). Strategically positioned just east of the Dominican Republic, it can be either a port to visit on the way to the Southern Caribbean or a place to embark on a Panama Canal cruise. We have done both and today’s photos reflected our visits to Old San Juan…

Pina Colada

Shouldn’t we all know the who-when-where of the whole pina colada thing?

Fort-1

From inside San Cristobal, and what it must have felt like a few centuries ago.

Fort-2

Also inside the fort, another era’s “weapons of mass destruction” remain.

Seahorse sculpture

The first statue of a seahorse that we’ve seen in the Caribbean (or anywhere).

Starbucks

In Old San Juan, seats in Starbucks are rare, and everybody’s on a device.

Free trolley-1

Free trolley the best way to get around Old San Juan, where you need a day.

Horse-carriage

If bus is too crowded, there’s always the (not free) horse and buggy option.

Arturo Somohano Portela-musician

Conducting an orchestra in perpetuity: Arturo Somohano Portela. Google him.

Today at portsandbows.com: Another 'Port' (Canaveral), one that's getting more options for passengers

Norwegian Dawn
7 nights
October 16, 2015

Boston (return): King’s Wharf 
Inside: $629

Cost per day: $89
www.ncl.com

Puerto Rico Plans to Market Cruisers

News item: Puerto Rico is doubling the number of hotels, and doubling the number of hotel rooms, over the next decade because of an annual increase in tourist traffic of three per cent (2013) that is topping out at 1.6 million.

For the cruise community, Puerto Rico is San Juan. In a one-year period, San Juan visitors will include eight ships from both Carnival and Holland America ships, seven from Royal Caribbean, four from Norwegian, Celebrity and Silversea, three from Old_San_JuanOceania, two from Regent Seven Seas and one from Disney, Princess, MSC Cruises and Crystal.

You get the idea.

Almost half of that 1.6 million tourists arrive (and leave) on a cruise ship. To fill those hotel rooms, Puerto Rico's tourist people say they need to convince cruise passengers to stay for two or three days. This, of course, is only possible if you either board or get off your ship in San Juan.

Not many cruises start in San Juan. We flew there four years ago to get on the Celebrity Millennium for a cruise through the Panama Canal. That's the kind of thing that will convince cruisers to go a few days early or stay a few days late. Looking ahead for the next year-plus schedule, we couldn't find one major cruise line starting or ending a cruise in San Juan.

So Puerto Ricans might want to change their marketing strategy as the hotels increase, and convince cruise passengers to come back to this island jewel…or convince cruise lines to start and end more cruises in their charming port.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Valor
7 nights
July 6, 2014
San Juan (return): St. ThomasBarbadosSt. LuciaSt. KittsSt. Maarten
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com

Cruising Upgrade for Irene?

Maybe it’s time for a new name. Maybe “Hurricane” Season should be called “Tropical Storm” Season — at least by the cruise community.

The name change that could take place today is all about Irene. Weather experts could be saying “Goodnight Irene” to the ninth tropical storm to get a name this year, and change her to Hurricane Irene, if she picks up strength over the Eastern Caribbean Sea as expected. Let’s hope that name change never materializes!

Meanwhile, her impact has already been felt by cruise ships in the area. Four Royal Caribbean ships, include both mega ships Allure and Oasis of the Seas, will visit ports in a different order to avoid the storm. The Carnival Miracle (above),in the midst of its 8-night Caribbean cruise from New York, is skipping Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands entirely, and going to Half Moon Cay — its own island — instead.

Cruise lines have lots of expertise and lots of experience when it comes to avoiding bad weather to keep its passengers safe. What they can’t guarantee is that when you book a Caribbean cruise in Tropical Storm…er, Hurricane Season, you may be making some surprise visits.

Sculpture Missing in Old San Juan

In the water where cruise ships dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is a steel sculpture. About 10 months ago, it became a problem when the Carnival Dream was cruising into port and couldn’t get to the dock because the sculpture was in the way. There was only one place for the Dream to be moored, and that pier was already occupied by another ship.

To make matters worse, there was a press conference scheduled for the next day to announce San Juan’s plan to expand its ability to be a regular port for more and more cruise ships. The press conference was to be held on the Dream. The press conference was canceled. Since then, the decision was made to remove the massive sculpture from the water, at a cost of $2 million.

As recent (April) visitors to San Juan, we have a real problem with this. Not the money, because it’s up to the people of Puerto Rico how their tax dollars are spent. We’re okay with canceling the press conference. We’re even okay with the loss of the artwork in the water.

Our problem is this: We don’t remember the sculpture.

In a story about its demise (currently underway), the Associated Press described the structure this way: “The offending sculpture — it looks like a giant paper airplane propped up by gray legs — was installed along the dock in 2006 as part of a $30 million project to build a new port in San Juan’s colonial district.”

That’s where we were, the Colonial District, Old San Juan. We stayed on the fringe of it at the Sheraton San Juan, not for one day but for three. Since hearing about its impending removal, we’ve been researching the web for pictures that will jog our memory. We’ve poured over hundreds of our own pictures — it seemed like thousands — trying to find it in the background of one. Can you see it in this picture (above) we took?

What we’re really worried about is this: With such a flaw on our record, we may never be regarded as connoisseurs of modern art!

Remembering Roberto Again

When our American Airlines Boeing 757 touched down at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, so began my second visit to Puerto Rico, this time in advance of a Panama Canal cruise. The first was in 1974, but I’m told San Juan hasn’t changed a lot over the years. However, my second visit won’t be anything like the first.

I was a baseball writer in those days, and the trip to San Juan was for a spring training game. For me, it was more. This was just over a year after the death of Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates super star who died in a plane crash on a mercy mission to aid earthquake victims in neighboring Nicaragua.

I had it in mind to write a story about the wife and three children he left behind. It had the makings of being a good human interest story.

I found the address of the Clemente home — I’m really not sure how — and set about to find it. There was a short taxi ride to the suburbs and, having zero knowledge of Spanish, there was still some searching to do from where the cab driver let me out. Eventually, I was standing at the front door and, with some trepidation, I rang the bell. His widow, Vera, opened the door and after my short introduction and explanation, I was invited inside.

The interview lasted about an hour. She was gracious, and forthcoming, in recalling what the last 14 months had been like for Roberto’s family.

Somehow, I can’t imagine having that kind of experience today.

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