Friday, March 20, 2009

Santiago - La Romana

February 10, 2009 - La Romana

and Santo Domingo

One of the ports we were really excited about was Dominican Republic and visiting Santo Domingo. Prior to boarding the cruises we pre booked a shore excursion to Santo Domingo thru Princess.

Now for those of you who know us know we NEVER book ship sponsored excursions. After our first visit here two weeks prior we did a bit of research and realized that the trip to SD (Santo Domingo) would take approximate 2 hours to get to each way and taxis were $150. The ship was offering a tour on a bus, with guide, many sites and lunch for $99 each.

Bernie had always wanted to see SD the first city in the Western Hemisphere and tons of history. For me I could care less -- but I was excited because I was looking forward to seeing the architecture, the people and getting some great photo shots.

We got off the ship early! Found our bus, a large greyhound type bus that was pretty much already full. We found seats right at the back!

Our view from our seats

We are off, and thankfully we had a pit stop to use the facilities. But because we were about 40 we had a long queue, man I envy the men at times like this.

We get into SD and we stop beside a few site where the guide talks about what we are looking at. WHAT we don't even get to get off the bus. So I quickly take shots thru the window. What? I can't hear the guide.... is he speaking English? Yup... we look at each other hoping for a miraculous translation. Bernie looks frustrated, I know he was really looking forward to this trip and he is such a history buff he is missing out. The problem appears to be the sound system on the bus, if it is too high he gets feedback, but turned down we can't hear it at the back.

Thankfully we get to get off the bus!

What a lovely city! I love it! I love it! I want to live here! But what oh the guide is calling us over - "have to stay with the group". Now remember we are a group of 40 or so.

Thankfully I have a good zoom and I can get some shots while we stand in a group beside something and he talks and talks, but darn it I still can't hear him. Again we are at the back of the group. Sure I could of pushed myself to the front of the group, but the group consists on many older people - at least mentally old, because man those people could move when they wanted to, like the food lineup. I swear I was going to get taken DOWN if I pushed forward.

We head towards the church. The first church in the Western Hemisphere we know because we read up about it prior. Not because we heard the guide!

Upon entering the church I am pulled aside by one of the attendants at the church. Apparently my skort is too short! So I am given a sarong and I wrap it around my waist. Kind of surprised, been a long time since I've been told "your skirt is too short", feels like Catholic school all over again.

The architecture is beautiful

We are out of there! Again I just hold back while Bernie took in the tour and I took pictures.

We start walking, hate being told what to do! We walk along the narrow streets and the rain starts and we are quickly ushered into a store. Sure sounds good until we realize this is the "designated store" yup the store gives a kick back to the tour guide on all sales. When we try to leave and go to a different store the guide yells out "no not that store, come back here". Again those who know me know I won't take that lightly. I purposely wander to other stores and check out and chat with many of the vendors. Now sure I know about these "designated stores" I was not born yesterday, but I always make sure not to partake in them. In fact when we were researching this tour I made sure that there was NO shopping on this tour. Nothing worse than paying for tour that makes you shop!

Our designated store, the art work

lots of tacky stuff - sorry if you bought anything there

Bernie waiting for the "designated store stop" to end

We start walking and pass this lovely square with restaurants all along. The rains have stopped so the waiters are cleaning up.

Beautiful streets

Vickie in her "short skort"

We encounter a group of school kids and handed out some Canadian pencils

We head down the street to stop at a restaurant that is going to be our lunch stop. But there are two people missing. Our group is so large that the guide misses two people who were at the back of the group at the last stop and got lost on the way to the restaurant. Needless to say the guide got a talking to from the man and woman when they caught up. Good thing they found us, imagine being left in SD!
Lunch was a disaster, mainly because the restaurant had our section already set up, but it was for outside and a cloud had come in and it was pouring rain. No place for 40 people to sit! We had to wait around in the lobby for over a half hour.
And because we are late leaving the restaurant parts of the tour have to be cut back and rushed thru.

The next museum was lovely... just wished we could of seen more of it.

What a cutie

We all board the bus and since we are both bus drivers for the city it is hard to be a passenger but to see this huge bus do a U turn on a six lane road tying up traffic in all directions and even ended up causing two cars to have an accident because they weren't looking. Oh my, oh my.
Now we are about a two hour drive away from the ship. The ship has told us to be back on board at 4:45 and it is 2:30 now! Can we do it. Well darn it if the driver isn't going to do it hell or high water. We were so nervous about the drive back that we put in our IPODS and read our books and didn't look up because occasionally when we did look up he was passing cars on a busy two lane road! ARGH.
We made it, we are back at the ship at 4:20! We are so relieved we made it back in one piece. Now we are a little upset about the tour, but feel we need to sleep on it or two nights before we head to the excursions desk to discuss.
Tonight is a Horizon Court night as we know from the previous cruise that lobster claws and prawns are on the menu and we had a feast. Nice way to end a night.
As a follow up we visited the excursions desk on the last day to discuss. Bernie maintained composure and explain our concerns about the overcrowded bus, lack of hearing anything, the rushed afternoon because of the late lunch, the lost couple that thankfully found us and then the expediated drive back to the ship. The excursions' rep commented that there were others that complained too and he would get back to us. Later that day they phoned to say they will refund us 30% of the trip, which we were happy to receive but were not expecting.

No comments:

Post a Comment