Finally! Our first shore excursion day! With a full day planned ahead of us, we had ordered room service the night before, and had it delivered at 7am. Room service was complimentary, for items such as cereals, fruits, bagels, pastries, coffees, and teas, or you could opt for the $8 additional fee per room for items such as bacon and eggs. As we are not big into breakfast, we just ordered a bagel, fruit plate, donut, and green and black tea to share. As we ate, we watched as the ship pulled up to the port in Labadee, Haiti, a private resort dedicated to the exclusive use of Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Once we were fed, and ready to go, we headed down to the gangway, and disembarked for our first shore excursion.
As it is a private resort, the only options for Labadee were to book shore excursions, or wander the few small shops and private beaches. We chose to book two shorter shore excursions, one in the morning, and one after lunch in the afternoon. First up, was the Amiga Island Experience. Leaving at 8:30, and lasting about 3 hours, we first had to meet our boat at the docks, and board with our excursion group. Other than reserving private gazebos, or using the water park and beaches, most of the shore excursions required a small boat ride to get to, so the dock was fairly busy for the first hour, as groups headed out to see the sights. Hopping aboard with our twenty person group, we headed out to sea, and for the island of Amiga. Because there is no deck on Amiga Island, once the boat backed in towards the beach, we had about a twenty meter walk through the shallows to reach land. Though unexpected, it was fun to get our feet wet before even reaching the island.
Covered with shady palms, and beach loungers, we found a nice spot to drop our gear, and took a few minutes to enjoy the quiet rushing of the waves, and rustling of the palm fronds overhead. As we had brought along our snorkel gear, we were planning on taking a swim around the clear blue waters of the island, but we heard that one of the tour crew members was putting together a short 30 minute snorkel tour, and we decided to join his group. As it turned out, the tour group included the two of us, the guide, and one other gentleman. Setting out, all there was to see for a while was seaweed, and a few stinger-less jellyfish. The first point of interest on the tour was a couple of coral conservation pyramids, about two meters tall, which the Amiga Island Ecological Foundation put in place to help promote coral growth. Ian and the other two free dove the three or four meters down to take a closer look; unfortunately, as a very buoyant individual, I had to view it all from the surface. Next on our under water tour, our guide took us to a canon, salvaged from a local shipwreck, before swinging through a more populous coral reef. Our guide pointed out several types of coral to us, including fire coral, which I gave a wide berth, and boulder brain coral, which can live for two hundred years, and grows only about a centimeter per year. Judging by its size, our guide told us it was likely to be between 90 and 100 years old! After making our way back to land, our guide told us about The Amiga Island Ecological Foundation, which he was a part of, and answered all of our questions about what he showed us.
Tired out from our swim, Ian and I grabbed drinks, tropical rum punch (I asked for mine to be rum free, as I’m not the most fond of rum) from the bar. On this particular tour, our first drink was free, but after that drinks and snacks were for purchase; which seemed like kind of a steep price for an already almost $70 excursion. Drinks in hand, we headed out on a quick circuit of the island (a ten minute walk) to take some pictures. Once we made it back to our lounge chairs, it was time to pack up, and hop back on the boat headed to port.
With an hour until our next shore excursion, we stopped by the resort buffet for some lunch. Hotdogs, burgers, salads, and fresh fruit were just the pick me up we needed to refuel for our next excursion, the Arawak Water Park and Single Ride Dragon’s Tail Coaster. After dropping our bags and towels at a lounge chair in the shade, we entered the Arawak Water Park for our hour-long time slot. When we walked down the pier, which accessed the dozen inflatable islands, we were instructed to put on a life vest, which had to be worn at all times. After suiting up, we jumped into the water and started towards the nearest floating obstacle, the trampolines.
The “easiest” way to access any of the obstacles, was to swim to an adjacent inflatable platform, and pull yourself up, primarily with upper body strength. As I am not the buffest person out there, it took some time, and a few accidental slips off, until Ian and I managed to make it all the way down the floating platform, and haul ourselves onto the two adjoining trampolines. By this time we were both already winded, and gasping for breath, so we bounced around for only a minute, before we were ready for a slow swim to another obstacle. Slides, seesaws, and an enormous iceberg; each obstacle was the same. A two minute swim from one to the next, and then the agonizing climb, which more often than not required some serious flexibility to even get a foothold to begin the torturous venture, culminating in a brief moment of respite, and then the final plunge into the water below. Though we did have fun at times, this shore excursion took its toll on us, and we called it quits at least fifteen minutes before our time was up.
After drying off, and massaging our poor toes and sore muscles, we grabbed our belongings and headed off on the five minute hike to the Dragon’s Tail Coaster, the last bit of our shore excursion. When we reached the beach across from the coaster, we were given waivers to sign, and a wristband for entrance onto the ride. Essentially a hybrid between a roller coaster and a bobsled, each cart could hold one or two people. We chose to go separately, and hopped in the next two available seats. A short safety video later, I was cranked up the steep slope, and on my way. The sled was very easy to drive, as it was only pushing the handles forward to go, and pulling them back to brake, but, because I am short, I had to lean forward to prevent the handles from slipping back into the braking position. Once I got the hang of it however, I was flying through the trees and around curves. The highlight of the ride back down the forest mountain was the brilliant view overlooking the bay, and the ship docked at port. Two minutes up the mountain and another two down the mountain, and the ride was over. Dragon’s Tail Coaster totally made up for the letdown that Arawak Water Park was, but I wish we had known how much fun the coaster would be, so that we could have gotten an all-day pass for the ride.
Adrenaline pumping, we got off the ride, and headed back towards the shuttles, which circled the resort and took visitors back to the central hub of port. With only one or two shops, the buffet from earlier, and a few scattered eating areas, the port was really quite simple, and we were able to find our first souvenir of the trip quite quickly. As we are investing our time and money into travel, we really have no use for frivolous things, but we do make sure to pick up a magnet for every location we travel to, so that we can have a keepsake from every destination we visit, without it taking up precious space in our luggage. Hand painted, Haitian trophy in hand, we dragged ourselves back to the ship to clean up before dinner.
Dinner at the American Icon tonight, was the only night that we remembered to be good bloggers, and we actually took pictures of our food! Go us! After the obligatory bread binge, we each had a bowl of the Chilled Strawberry Bisque, Ian ordered the Chicken Marsala, while I had the Grilled Chicken and Veggies again, because it was so tasty. Finishing off the meal with a dessert of Sticky Bread and Butter Pudding and Chocolate Fudge cake, also repeats because we couldn’t get enough of them the night before. Leaving the dining room, we made our way to the Boardwalk for our 9pm showing of OceanAria, but stopped through the Royal Promenade on the way to check out the $10 Super Sale, where everything from watches and jewelry to hats and handbags were $10 each. I picked up a simple sun hat to wear while lounging around the pool, and we ran out back to the Boardwalk to get good seats for the OceanAria aqua show.
Staged in the Aqua Theater, at the very back of the ship, Ocean Aria is a diving and aerial stunt show of about an hour, and some of the feats of strength and acrobatic grace left us speechless. Though there is an overarching story line of an ancient underwater race of divers and the unfortunate bellhop who finds himself in the company of these strangers, no scene seemed to last too long, and each scene transitioned neatly into the next. A gorgeous couple seemed to levitate high above the stage on a trapeze, a group of female performers danced and twirled in the water, two men from eastern Europe showed tremendous strength and skill as they balanced each other over the water’s edge, divers took turns leaping into the small pool from one, three, and eventually ten stories up, and, unseen by any, the scuba divers made it appear as if the performers simply materialized and then disappeared into the depths of the pool between scenes, and the technical workers kept the performance flowing smoothly. This was an extraordinary performance to see, especially given that it was being performed on the back of a moving cruise ship.
Exhausted with our long day out in the heat and humidity, we called it a night and trekked back to the front of the ship and up to Deck 7, where our Day 4 Cruise Compass sat waiting for us on the bed. Even with a late arrival into port the next day, we prepped our beach bag for the morning, searched the compass for anything that peaked our interest, and packed it in for the night.