-Postcard from San Juan Puerto Rico
Before we ever prepared for this cruise we thought of Puerto Rico as being near bankruptcy, which it is, but the World Bank classifies its economy as a high income economy and it is further classified as the most competitive economy in Latin America.
It is a small island and has few natural resources. More than 40% of the population lives in poverty. Some time ago the US Government did away with tax exemptions for US corporations doing business here and it tore up the economy.
Puerto Rico became a US territory as a result of the Spanish American War as did the Philippine Islands which unlike Puerto Rico became an independent nation.
Orlando Florida has joined New York City as a center for the Puerto Ricans who move to the US to find better employment.
Today, there are at least six cruise ships in San Juan with approximately 20,000 tourists spending money. Unfortunately, it is also the weekend of the San Sabastian Music Festival so most of us are confined to the Old Town because of traffic snarls. This is not much of a problem for us since we were here in San Juan not long ago.
We are making new friends. There are many children on the ship, but not American children. We have 600 Brazilians on board and more than 60 nationalities.
The Old Town is a treasure. It is little changed except for new hotels and businesses serving tourists.
Over the next three days we spend a day in each of three ports – St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and the Dominican Republic.
Regards, Meda and Bob
E-Postcard from St Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas is the capital of the American Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in l917 for $25 million dollars in gold to keep them away from the Germans and to provide some security for the Panama Canal. This was during our country's period of empire expansion. We had purchased the Philippine Islands from Spain for $20 million after the Spanish American War. The Filipinos felt deceived at not becoming a free nation after helping us defeat the Spanish and began a serious insurrection against us a year later which lasted three years.
Denmark, Holland, England, Spain and France all owned islands in the Caribbean.
St. Thomas has just over 50,000 residents so when four cruise ships like today visit it increases the population by about 15,000 people. Tourism is the main industry and the people of St. Thomas do it well.
St. Thomas is a little more prosperous and nicer than many other Caribbean countries. We enjoyed a tour of the island this morning but were initially shocked when the driver drove on the left hand side as do all drivers here. But all the vehicles are left hand drive so it is puzzling.
Many, many wealthy Americans have homes here and judging by the number of super yachts in the harbor they leave their yachts here. Yesterday afternoon we watched a sailboat race in San Juan Harbor.
The shows on our ship are of Las Vegas quality and the one last night was spectacular. It was on a theme of Paris and included Cirque Soleil-like entertainers who performed feats we could hardly believe.
Regards, Meda and Bob
E-Postcard from La Romana, Dominican Republic
The name La Romana comes from a balance that was used to weigh products for export. It is the 7th largest city in the nation. It is the capital of La Romana, Province. Its population is about 130,000, but 215,000 in the metropolitan area.
The port area is pretty much a mess compared to others we have visited in the Caribbean and services for cruise ship visitors are poor. Also the excursion office on our ship was overwhelmed today selling tickets for shuttle buses. It appears that this port has only recently been used by cruise lines.
Meda discovered a nearby craft village where artists were creating and selling. We watched a man carving and painting large parrots too large for a suitcase. It reminded us of buying two matching horses heads from an artist at Baggio in the mountains of the Philippines. Son Christian has them now.
MSC is bringing its latest ship the Seaside to Miami for its maiden voyage in 2018. We are signed up for the February sailing.
Regards Meda and Bob