February 15, 2019

Feb 14, Ponce, PR

I have been to San Juan, PR  numerous times but never before to Ponce. We arrive on time. This is a near empty commercial port. Cranes and infrastructure to handle lots of container cargo, but no ships, no cargo, no containers.  The economy of Puerto Rico is so distraught that there is zero container trade at this port. There is one small oil tanker berthed nearby.

A handful of tents have been setup to house local vendors, no cruise terminal located here. On the plus side, the tour busses are only a few steps from the gangway. Very few ships call here. The Serenade was here in November, and another cruise ship last month. 

An ambulance is awaiting as we arrive. It is amazing how conscious of this I am after taking a ride from the ship in one myself 16 months ago. Temperatures are in upper 70's, the skies partly cloudy as we arrive, but showers are expected. 

Ponce as a community is trying very hard to make cruise passengers welcome. A band played in the town square, many store fronts sported "Welcome Serenade Passsengers". The police presence is strong, probably 50 uniformed officers around the square. Half are dedicated to directing traffic. They tell each tour bus exactly where to park. Venturing from the area of thier presence doesn't look like a good idea.

My tour was as described, a tour of a museum, a mansion built in the 1930 by the family of what is now Don Q distillery, and 45 minutes to roam and shop the downtown area. What was unique was that there were two guides on the bus in addition to the driver. The driver had difficulty navigating the narrow streets, at one point as he was making a left turn downhill onto a very narrow street he wedged the bus between a light pole and a parked car. The tour guides went knocking on doors to find the car owner to move the car. If they hadn't been successful, we might have been there for hours as the bus was unable to move forward or back. The damage to the bus was minimal, the car escaped unscathed.

Yes, I did get wet during the 15 minute shower that would better be described as a downpour. I didn't melt, and I did dry within 30 minutes.

The head waiter greeted me on entry to the dining room and again thanked me for bringing the issue of the nearby table to his attention. Tonight was not a problem. As with all back to back cruises, the menu this week is exactly the same as last week. Again the best choice was the four cheese ravioli. I was in and out of the dining room in about 45 minutes.

One of the nice things that JJ does every night for all guests in the Concierge Lounge is hand out a one page fact sheet that she puts together for the next days port. This is when I learn our port tomorrow is not as expected in St Kitts, but instead we will be docking at the commercial pier in Frigate Bay, about a 10 minute shuttle ride from Port Zante where we usually dock.  I expect I will remain on the ship.

The seas are less than 3 feet as we cruise at 17 knots towards St Kitts with an expected clearance by 8:00 AM