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St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale

After a brief morning hike on St. John, my cruise companions and I reboarded the ferry for another quick trip on the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea.

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Back on St. Thomas, we stopped at the ultracasual Leatherback Brewing Co. for lunch.  I ordered a chicken pate (pronounced pâté), a yummy Caribbean version of the meat pie, made with bell pepper, onion, and celery and wrapped in curried pastry.  And when I told the friendly bartender that I’m not a beer person, he poured me a flight of three samples, from which I selected the light and refreshing ginger-lime hard seltzer.

Later that evening, back aboard Nieuw Statendam, we were sitting in one of our old favorite spots, the Rolling Stone Rock Room, listening to the band’s guitarist “Matt from Wales” cover U2‘s “With or Without You”, when he was interrupted by an announcement from “Captain Eric”.  A medical emergency affecting a passenger required the ship to change course to Puerto Rico.  A little later, we stood on our balconies and watched as we sailed alongside the island territory until we stopped at San Juan for the unfortunate passenger to disembark.

The next day was a sea day, a welcome rest after several fun-filled days of port calls.  In the morning, I logged a few thousand steps on the outdoor jogging track and then played some surprisingly loose video poker at the casino.  In the afternoon, we gathered at the Ocean Bar for Christmas cookies and conversation.

The next day, the ship made our cruise’s last call, at Half Moon Cay, Holland America‘s private island in the Bahamas, where we rented a beach villa, as we’d done on our last cruise.

I once again spent a relaxing day catching up on reading, snacking on shrimp cocktail and fresh fruit, and wading in the clear turquoise water.

After a lovely final day of our cruise, we reboarded Nieuw Statendam, listened to live classical music at the Lincoln Center Stage, and played one last game of 7 Wonders.

The next morning, we woke up back at Fort Lauderdale — where a few of us had one last group adventure before going our separate ways at the airport in Miami.

Everglades Holiday Park covers 29 acres of wetlands in south Florida.  It’s the home base of Animal Planet’s “Gator Boys“.  Live shows feature rescued reptiles like Godzilla.

But the centerpiece of our visit was a 45-minute airboat ride.  We spotted alligators, a magnificent blue heron, and lots of lilypads as we enjoyed one last morning on sparkling blue water.

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