March 21, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Our last stop on this incredible voyage.
We arrived in Ponce, Puerto Rico around 8am this morning. We took the ship's shuttle into the center of the city. We were dropped at a large central plaza, Plaza las Delicias (Plaza of Delights) near the former fire station, Parque de Bombas, which now is a visitor's information center.
The plaza was quite pretty – many benches, fountains and several interesting statues, including Senor Munoz Rivera, who helped Puerto Rico join the U.S.
We were instantly impressed with the cleanliness of the city – no trash, streets swept clean and neatly painted buildings.
Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico with a population of about 200,000. It's well known for its pre-Lenten carnival and we noticed vendors and several stores selling beautiful masks. The masks are made of papier-mache and are very colorful and each is unique in its design. We debated for quite a while whether to purchase one, but finally talked ourselves out of it. The main reason is we have quite a few things to carry off the ship and we knew the mask would not survive in one of our pieces of luggage that will be off-loaded Tuesday night.
Because it's Sunday, not a lot of places were open, but we enjoyed walking around and seeing the activities that were taking place. The downtown was jammed with bicycle riders – there was some type of biking competition taking place and it appeared a lot of people were participating.
We peeked inside the cathedral, the Iglesia Nossa Senora de Guadalupe. It was quite beautiful. The first church that stood on this site was subjected to repeated earthquakes and then a fire. This new cathedral was built in 1919. Mass was taking place, so we stayed in the back of the church and enjoyed the ceremony. There was a large attendance.
Across the street from the plaza is Casa Alcaldia, the city hall. For the first time in over two months, we saw the American flag flying – it was a great sight.
Carrying on a conversation and checking prices in the stores was pretty easy since English is one of the two official languages, Spanish being the other, and because the U. S. dollar is the currency.
It was just about lunch time, and luckily for us, Ed called and said they were at a restaurant nearby and invited us to join he and Patsy. The food was delicious. Although the ship's food has been absolutely wonderful, it's nice to have an opportunity to try something new once in a while.
We must have started a trend, because within 30 minutes, the restaurant was packed – and a lot of the patrons were fellow passengers.
We had pretty well seen all there was to see in the downtown district and with so many places closed, as usual on a Sunday, we took a taxi back to the ship. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and were impressed with Ponce and its people.
Sadly, this is the last journal posting, as we will be at sea Monday and Tuesday as we head back to our port of embarkation – Fort Lauderdale. The time has just flown by and we will miss the new friends we've made and the many opportunities to see so many places and learn about the fantastic world we live in.
Thank you to those of you who have made comments about the photos and the trip journal.
Stay tuned – we'll let you know when we are off on a new adventure.
< January, 27, 2010