Puerto Rico and The Philippines both came under the control of the United States in 1898. The Philippines became independent after World War II. Even after three hundred years of Spanish rule, English is the official language of The Philippines. On the other hand, most signs in San Juan, in a commonwealth and part of the United States, are in Spanish. The deck at the bow was opened to passengers, so Ruth, David and I went out to watch as we entered the huge San Juan harbor. It is guarded by three ancient forts. El Morro, the most well-known and impressive, looms 140 feet above the sea. Its 18 foot-thick walls were penetrated only once, in 1538 by a British force, and even they failed to take the entire fort.
David entered Milton Hershey School in 1954 and was assigned to farm-home Borderland in 1955. He and I met there in 1957. David, at the age of 11, was given two mules to plow a field. He says the mules knew everything they had to do. All he had to do was hook them up and they would walk up and down the field plowing until lunch time. They then stopped for him to feed and water them. They resumed plowing after lunch until five when they quit for the day. David just walked behind them, enjoying the summer day. Well for much the same reason, when we visit a new place, we like to take a “sheep tour” where someone else takes all the burdens of decisions, and we just walk along.
In San Juan, we were herded on to busses which took us to the Bacardi distillery. We were given our choice of rum drinks and then taken on a tour followed by another drink and back onto the bus. The bus took us back to the old town where we had forty-five minutes to walk around the San Cristobel Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site managed by the U.S. Park Service. Ruth and Alie returned to the ship while some shopped and Dave and I went off to buy me hearing aid batteries. Looking back with twenty-twenty hindsight, we would take a tour that skipped the distillery and spent more time in the old city and fortresses.
Fifty-percent of the crew come from Indonesia. In the late evening after leaving San Juan and after the regular entertainment, the Indonesian crew put on a show. They sang, did traditional dances including one that was sort of like an amusing play, and did a musical number shaking bamboo rattles of different pitches. For the latter, they involved several audience members including one elderly woman who took it very seriously and one fascinated little girl.
We were up early the next morning to take a bus tour around the island of St. Maartin/St. Martin. A 1648 agreement divided the 37 square mile island between the French (one “A”) and the Dutch (two “As”). They have lived together cooperatively ever since. But the French side – official language French – uses the Euro and the Dutch side – official language Dutch – uses the Guilder. Both sides speak English and accept dollars. We were on a small bus with an entertaining black guide from Dominica, Nelson Jones, whose first language was Spanish but who
spoke excellent English. We had forty-five minutes in a market in the French capital Marigot before returning to the ship on the Dutch side. David and Ruth walked around the Dutch Capital,
Phillipsburg, and then took a water taxi back to the ship. Alie and I actually plan to be back in December (a future blog), so we decided to call it a day. While David and Ruth continued their island adventure, we had lunch in a very nice Asian restaurant, and in true cruise fashion, ate too much.
We all relaxed on deck as the ship pulled out (except for Ruth who was off to Tai Chi). After a very pleasant long relaxed dinner, we went to hear comedienne Julie Barr. This trip was the first time I had gone off without extra hearing aid batteries, and I was really glad to have the new ones from San Juan. For four days, I missed many conversations and some of the entertainment (not always a bad thing). I would have hated to miss hearing Julie Barr. She was really funny. True professional that she is, when one lady who had obviously had too much to drink engaged her in a long conversation from the audience, Barr just incorporated it into her act.