Having won the Poker Cruise back in February while on our South American cruise, it had been a long wait for it to finally arrive. But it did give me a little time to practise my poker in the meantime. The cruise was based around a typical Caribbean cruise, visiting 4 interesting locations: Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Curacao and Aruba. Having never visited any of these places, it was perfect for us. It also sailed out of Miami, which we were keen to re-visit from 35 years ago! And it was on Carnival’s newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, which carries over 4000 passengers.
The cruise was supposedly a normal cruise but was literally packed with gamblers. Apart from more than 300 poker players on board to play in the tournament, there were a number of ‘elite’ gamblers (people who had previously lost a lot of money on Carnival ships!?) also on board. With 10 electronic poker tables in addition to all the regular casino offerings, this made for some crazy action.
Grand Turk We walked around locally and checked out the beach in both directions. There was a tourist promotion related to when John Glenn splashed down to earth near Grand Turk.
The snorkelling was amazing, featuring a cannon, an old anchor and lots of interesting brightly coloured fish. The water got deep very quickly, which enabled the ship to dock close to shore.
There was a massive Margaritaville establishment with swimming pools, swim up bars and a Flowrider Surfing machine. This created a lot of amusement for we observers, with lots of wipe-outs and the odd surfer temporarily losing part of their swimming costume. Good for Glenelg, S. Australia perhaps?
The Dominican Republic shares an island with the impoverished Haiti. There is poverty here too but it is counter-balanced by wealth, with resorts, golf courses and other tourist ventures.
We took two local buses to see the attractions. The first took us to a ‘traditional village’ which was stunning. Although it was built in the 1980′s it was made in the style of 17th century Spain. It featured cobblestones, an ‘old’ church, a huge amphitheatre and a range of ‘old’ buildings. They also had people dressed in traditional clothes who danced and played music.
It was lucky we went there first because the downtown area didn’t offer much. There were lots of souvenir stalls and a baseball walk of fame, but little else, other than desperate local salespeople hoping to make a few $$ from the tourists. Hopefully they did.
Yes, this is where the ‘Blue Curacao’ liqueur is made. The locals have painted up all the buildings around the port, so it presents well. There is a deep canal where another cruise ship was docked and a pontoon bridge that opens to let the ships pass through. When this is open you need to return across the canal by local ferry, which we did.
On the other side of the pontoon bridge there is an area called ‘old town’ which features lots of shops selling gear to the locals and tourists alike. There was also an interesting ‘floating market’ featuring local produce. We didn’t recognise this at first because it was on land next to the river. The store-holders however, arrive in their houseboats, which is where the floating part comes in. There were some nice restaurants and bars lining the canal too.
The locals are friendly and the influence of the Dutch is very strong.
Then it was back to the ship, ready for more poker at night.
Our final stop on the cruise was the island of Aruba. The island is idyllic from a swimming point of view with white sand and turquoise coloured, warm water. Resorts and expensive houses and units are everywhere, but the island itself offers little else.
We did a tour of the island on an old bus with a very funny local woman as our guide. She kept us entertained for a couple of hours as we visited the local attractions: a light-house, some of the rich peoples’ houses and an interesting pile of rocks with an overview of the nearby desert and the odd cactus. And some iguanas. Those who wished were then dropped off at the beach for an extra two hours. Very relaxing, and the icy cold local beers were refreshing and memorable.
Meanwhile, back on board, the poker games were fun and rewarding too. Unfortunately I crashed out of the two tournaments on board with bad beats. My most annoying was when, just short of the money, my AQ lost to KJ. I hit my Ace on the flop and my Queen on the river. My opponent hit neither, but the river Queen gave him a straight. That’s poker! However, I did make a solid profit in the cash games. A personal highlight was when my Royal Flush beat AAAKK, although the poor woman only had $53 to donate, so it wasn’t as lucrative as it might have been.
And Jenny played in the Main Event too! As I was unable to sell off my 2nd ticket, Jenny agreed to have a go. After a brief coaching session the night before the tournament, Jenny sat down to play her first poker game for real money. She did really well too, defeating 20 other players but finally busting out when her JJ ran into KK and didn’t improve.
All in all a wonderful eight days on board the Carnival Breeze, with interesting ports, smooth sailing, fine weather, good company and fun at the poker tables.