Cruising the Carribean – Final Thoughts

This is our fourth cruise. They are all with the same line so I don’t have to get into that comparison. These closing thoughts will confine themselves to spending  days on the Caribbean Sea. First of all, for Americans, this cruise is close…Especially for those of us on the Right Coast. Two plus hours in an airplane and we are in Miami. Our last cruise started halfway around the world and 12 time zones away. We changed one hour during this cruise. Needless to say, this was a huge factor. No jet lag !!! The other major factor is the weather. It’s February and we had balmy 80 degrees most days with warm ocean and pool water. And that is why people do the Caribbean…I don’t think it is to see exotic places or learn about the world’s cultures. Don’t get me wrong…There are plenty of things to learn, even some ancient civilization heritage. After all, we are North Americans (mostly), and the Mayans were a truly outstanding culture. They lasted 1600 years. That’s longer than the Greeks and Romans combined !!! They developed their own written language, architectural styles, calendar, sports, and astronomy. But it seemed to me that one has to go out of his/her way to acquire this knowledge. When we were in Athens, Greek philosophy, architecture, and history are all around you and stare you in the face until you pay attention. Same for Rome, Angkor Wat, and Saint Petersburg…

And there is a lot that can be learned on this cruise. We sailed the Spanish Main !!! Explorers and Pirates… The triangle trade… Columbus…Privateers…The various roles of the Spanish, English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese… Cuba, then and now. For example, did you know that the English attacked and held Havana for about two years ??? They then traded it back to Spain for Florida !!! Did you know that, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, there was a strong push to annex Cuba ??? We actually made two cash offers to Spain to buy it. The offers started at 100 million in 1842, lots of money back then.  Both were rejected. So then the Maine blows up…
But my favorite bit of gained learning came from discussing the exchanges of knowledge acquired after Columbus began his voyages. For example, the Spanish reintroduced the horse to North America. It had become extinct during an earlier ice age. Also, there were no tomatoes in Italian food, or potatoes in Ireland until New World explorers introduced them to Europe.. Potatoes are native to Bolivia and tomatoes to southern Mexico

So, you are probably wondering whether I spent my whole cruise at the swim-up library, instead of the swim-up bar. Well, some of our new knowledge came from excellent guides during tours…No way to learn about the people’s beliefs and expectations any other way. But we were also very fortunate to have a guest lecturer aboard. Ours, Dr James Freedman, goes by the call name of “Scholar at Sea.” He stopped counting after visiting his 140 country, and he primarily presented lectures on days when we were not in port. I attended all his presentations, while Mrs Bear watched them on our TV system. This opportunity was one of the best features of our cruise. We have been fortunate to have guest lecturers on three of our four cruises. The other cruise had no scheduled at-sea days. So to get back to my main point, when you tour Venice, India, or Copenhagen, your knowledge will be conveyed by guides in a very active modality…In the Caribbean, there is more fun and sun, and the learning is a supplemental activity on the ship (if offered).

And there is nothing wrong with this…While we are in a twenty year window to see the world, it was very satisfying to watch Mrs Bear take naps on our balcony as Cuba passed by on the horizon. It was also quite cool to realize that we will personally visit this island in future travels.
So to sum up, the Caribbean in February can be congested with cruise ships, but it is close, balmy, peaceful. The waters are clear…The countries are more stable…And the Rum is…Well, come on down next winter and find out for yourself.

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