Jamacia and the last day at sea

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Excited about the day ahead we woke up to incredible weather. Docked at the port of Ocho Rios we walked to find our excursion, a 90 ft. yacht that was taking us to Dunn River Falls.









OCHO RIO JAMAICA

I almost never drink coffee and when I do it is light and sweet, really more about the sweet than the coffee. After reading through the available trips Newman and I decided that this one sounded good because they were serving Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee! On a tea cruise taking excursions for coffee?

Regardless of the 8-10 foot seas we enjoyed our cruise to the falls. The ocean is a beautiful, crystal clear blue/green. The crew is friendly and we have quickly learned the phrase of the day "ya man"!

Despite the number of people the falls are gorgeous. The brisk fresh mountain water rushes down to the ocean shore and you can feel the water temperature change as you approach the falls. We meet our guides, one of whom is filming our trek up the falls. Yes we are hiking up the falls while the water is rushing down.

It takes us about 1 hour to do the entire trip up and we have an absolute blast! At different points along the way I did some rock sliding and Newman and I dive backwards off the rocks. The foliage around us is incredible, the guides are fun and well versed on where we should and should not go and the entire experience is awesome.

After a fun filled day and another delicious dinner we sit on our balcony enjoying the ocean breeze.

Our final day on the ship wraps up the learning portion of the cruise. I teach my last two "tea" sessions which is followed by a graduation ceremony. The class presents me with a singing pirate as a token of their appreciation and everyone reflects on the fun they have had.

The entire experience has been a good time! Great food, good company, fun excursions and lots of relaxation. Even though this was a working trip the time away was a much needed escape.

Until next time, Beth

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Grand Cayman Island

Monday, January 26, 2009

We wake to the sun beaming in our sliding glass doors and get up to quickly grab breakfast before heading down to catch the tender. We run into Dawnya, April and Brian and ride to shore with them. We are going horseback riding on the beach but are going a bit early to explore.









We are greeted by pirates and trip vendors looking for customers. The port is well organized but nothing really to write home about. We venture a block or two into the "town" and it is a sea of shopping, mostly jewelry. It's National Hero's Day in Grand Cayman, a big deal based on the number of people gathered and all the pomp and circumstance in the street.

When we hook up with our tour guide Newman and I along with several other folks from the ship are driven to the north side of the island for a secluded ride. The horses are almost ready to go when we arrive so we mount up and head out. We ride onto the beach for a 5 mile trot along the shore.There are only a couple of people on the entire ride just white sandy beaches and the incredibly blue green Caribbean sea. We do encounter some locals para sailing. I say locals because these guys were catching some serious air, 6-8 foot jumps, they do this frequently.


















After the beautiful, leisurely ride we head back to port. Troy, our guide, is an island native and shares some interesting facts on the return trip. The Cayman Islands consist of 3 small islands south of the western tip of Cuba. The islands top 3 sources of revenue are banking #1, real estate development #2 and tourism #3. Only 40,000 indigenous people live on the small island, although it is the largest of the 3, with the bulk of the population being foreigners who come seeking employment.

Construction is everywhere and Troy points out that many VIP's either have homes or frequent the island, like Oprah. He also tells us the islands have no taxes of any kind and goes on to explain why establishing a business in this paradise is an economically good idea. "This is a great place for a tea company" he says. This guy is a great ambassador for the Cayman Islands!
We wander around for a little longer. Newman buys me a beautiful bracelet. We pick up some post cards and camera stuff and catch the tender back to the boat for a well needed lunch.

We meet some of the other tea cruisers at dinner and enjoy another scrumptious meal. The food on this ship is really good. Our wait staff is great, thanks Namesh. At dinner April suggests that we go ice skating and then climb the rock wall. I am game so we change and head to the on board ice rink. Yes ice rink!








TAD, MARCIA & NAMESH
I have to sign a waiver before receiving skates? Being a Florida native I have been on skates only a few times and that was while living in New York a long...time ago. I figure that it wont be any worse on my body than the horse was so I sign the waiver, strap on the skates and hit the ice.
TENTATIVELY GETTING STARTED
DAWNYA & APRIL HAVE SOME MOVES
STRIKE A POSE
After ice skating we head up to the rock climbing wall. I must be crazy! You have to understand April is very motivating! Anyway the doors open onto the top deck and we are almost blown away. It's so windy the rock wall is closed...thank goodness.
Newman and I are off to bed excited about tomorrow and the next port of call Ocho Rios Jamaica!
Until next time, Beth

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First Day at Sea and Training

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The day starts with a cup of tea and breakfast, via room service, on our balcony. The weather is fabulous and I am wishing that I could sit here and not move! Knowing that is just not possible I prep myself and my materials and I am off for my morning session on marketing.
We catch the last 15 minutes of Lady Dawnya's presentation which is great. Not having had the opportunity to hear her speak previously I am throughly impressed.




I quickly find that this is a great group, enthusiastic and not short on ideas or the confidence to share them, exactely the way I like it! We spend 2 solid hours talking about gathering customer data and venues to look for marketing opporutunities.
















After a delicious lunch and tea break we are back for this afternoons tea tasting and slide presentation, which includes some of my travels to China's tea gardens.

We cup Bi Lo Chun from East West Mountain, Dragon Well from Hangzhou, Guo Lu and Keemun from Anhui Province. Agian the group does not disappoint, they are throughly engaged and interested in cupping and quality evaluation techniques. I discuss my experiences and relationships with growers and the various tea growing regions cooridinating with the afternoons teas. I share my Lu Yu sightings and my visit to the National Tea Museum in Zhejiang Province.



MY AFTERNOON TEA BREAK





LADY DAWNYA & APRIL READY FOR THE TASTING

We talk about quality issues in the US and the fact that while we have come a long way in the last 10 years we have so much further to go. Many US wholesale buyers still purchase marginal quality teas for a variety of reasons; lack of knowledge, lack of experience and a misunderstanding about price versus quality. Yes you can buy one gunpowder tea for less than another but that does not mean you are getting a better value or a good deal. Just as prices vary do does quality.

We wrap up for the day and everyone is all smiles anxious to arrive at our first port of call, Grand Cayman, tomorrow. The ship is due to arrive around 9 am. Newman and I have preplanned an excursion in Grand Cayman which will start tendoring to shore first thing.
We skip getting dressed, it's formal night, and opt for a quite dinner in our cabin and another wonderful nights sleep with the ocean breezes.
Until next time, Beth

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Ready, Set, Sail on the 2009 Tea Cruise

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We set sail on the 2009 Tea Cruise aboard Royal Caribbeans Navigator of the Seas bound for the western Caribbeans Grand Cayman and Jamaica islands. As this years speaker I look forward to meeting my fellow tea cruisers, the training sessions and traveling to new places. The best part is that I only have to unpack once, one of the best features of cruising.

After a delightful ride to Ft. Lauderdale, thanks Barbara and Skylar Limo service, we were quickly on board for a nice buffet lunch and a walk around the ship.

Much larger than the last ship we sailed on, I am estimating, this vessel must accommodate upward to 3000 guests. Well appointed the ship is clean with tons of amenities the first one I visit, of course, is the spa. I make appointments on the spot while Newman tours the gym, both feature great views.



Our stateroom is great we have a nice sitting area as well as a sleeping nook and best of all a balcony overlooking the ocean! There is a small gift bag on our door from Lady Dawnya of Tea Events who is hosting the cruise. Included an agenda for our 2 "working" days at sea, an invitation to meet the rest of the tea cruisers for dinner and bon voyage bubbles which I promptly blow from our balcony.


OUR SPACIOUS STATEROOM










BLOWING BUBBLES

We are scheduled to set sail at 5 so after the emergency drill we unpack, relax and enjoy a cup of tea on our balcony. Both Newman and I are ready for this trip and the much needed time away with a nice change of scenery.

THE VIEW AS WE SET SAIL FROM FT. LAUDERDALE









We head to dinner and are greeted at the dining room entrance by Lady Dawnya and her husband Brian who escorts us to the table where we meet the other tea cruisers; April from Kansas, Tad & Marcia from Naples, FL, Debby & Michele from Arkansas, Lourie & Kit from North Carolina and Rosetta from San Fransisco.

After enjoying a yummy dinner I am back in the stateroom preparing for the following days training and with the ocean breezes blowing an incredible nights sleep.

Until next time, Beth

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