Monday, June 23, 2014

Ahoy, St. Croix!

The ocean water surrounding the island of St. Croix is the most beautiful shade of deep blue. The color doesn't even look real, almost as if swimming pool designers came and painted the ocean floor just the right shade of turquoise. But God creates lovelier things than I could ever come up with on my own.

It was an early morning. By the time I finished breakfast and was ready to explore for the day, the cruise ship had just docked at the island of St. Croix. It is one of the Virgin Islands and an unincorporated territory of the United States.

St. Croix was described by our tour guide as "the island of churches." Nearly every street seems to display old and beautiful church buildings with spires that stretch to the heavens. The oldest church I saw had been built 250 years before.

My family chose a snorkeling excursion for the day. We traveled thirty minutes across the island to a small town called Christiansted and another thirty minute boat ride to an even smaller island called Buck Island just under 2 miles off the coast of St. Croix. Eventually we arrived at a reef that has been designated as a national monument. The waters are strikingly clear. The captain explained that the waters around the reef are only 12 feet deep. More than 250 species of fish live in this area.

I am wary (and kind of terrified) of swimming in the ocean, so I chose to stay on the boat. I did this during my last cruise and had a perfectly enjoyable time sunbathing, taking pictures, and watching my family's antics as they snorkeled. This excursion was no exception.

Stretching out on the warm seats of the boat, I admired the sunlight glittering upon the waves. Buck Island is very small and covered in funny-looking cacti. There are a few sandy beaches on its edges. And the water is so very blue.

My parents and siblings kept their faces pressed underwater, looking out for schools of fish... and a 4-foot barracuda that apparently liked following our party around.

The group snorkeled for about an hour. In the middle of a smooth journey back to shore, we suddenly stopped in the middle of the ocean. Our small boat rocked gently from side to side and everyone waited to see what was going to happen.

As I peered over the edge of the boat, I saw a sleek gray figure gliding beneath the surface of the water and I had a moment of concern. Could there be sharks?

The truth was much more relieving: dolphins!

Three dolphins frolicked about our boat, seeming to thrive under the attention. They even leaped into the air and hit the water with a splash.

After the excursion, my mom, Amy, and I walked around the pier and stopped at all the little shops along the edge of the water. Although the ocean was beautiful, the air was sweltering hot and muggy. It was time to return to the ship to eat lunch, rest, and prepare for dinner.

It was the formal night of the cruise, so everyone dressed in their very best to gather for dinner. I chose to eat lobster brisque, steak filet, and strawberry cheesecake.

The men in my family refuse to take pictures, so each evening is a challenge convincing anyone to pose for photographs. Tonight Dad, Grandpa Frank, and Luke hurried to the sports bar to watch the Spurs game, so we had to improvise with sneak attack photography.

The Jewel of the Seas is back on the move. If I pause, I can feel the ship shifting gently beneath my feet; a perfect way to fall asleep tonight.

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