Cruise Day 0

December 22, 2007
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

I call this Day "0" (that's a zero) because we arrived in SD a day before our cruise left. We all thought it was a good idea to have some lee-way in the timing. (ie: not having a schedule so tight that nothing could go wrong.)

We got to the airport on time and after paying a $10 fee each to ENTER the country.... Wha? (Turns out there's a $20 fee to LEAVE the country. More on that later.)... we went in search of luggage.

This is our first view of Santo Domingo:

Bienvenidos! Donde esta mis maletas?
(Welcome! Where is my luggage?)

Could have been worse: it was only one bag that had snorkeling apparatus. The "helpful" people at the counter said to wait for the next Atlanta flight which should arrive in "10 minutes". I'll do the conversion for you: 10 Dominican airport minutes = 10 American football minutes. An hour later, next flight comes in... no bag, and even more people to get in the missing luggage line.

We took a taxi to the Marriott hotel. Sounds easy, doesn't it? We were accosted upon exiting the airport by several taxi services. One group started loading our luggage. (You're supposed to negotiate prices BEFORE they touch your luggage... but we didn't move fast enough.) So, we "negotiated" a price... we pretty much paid what they asked for, since we were at their mercy.

Notice the lack of driving in your own lane. These are not a people who pay attention to traffic "laws." You'd think there'd be anger involved with all the cutting off. Not so... I cut you off and receive a gentle toot and a friendly wave.

Since it was now past dinner time, we ate in the Marriott and stumbled to bed.

Next morning - we're all ready to go sight-seeing. We step out of the Hotel and see this:

Nothing in our sheltered American experience has prepared us for lines of people stretching several blocks, with one end of the street barricaded with armed guards. Er...

Paul and Carrie went back in the hotel, but Mama and Papa G. and I decided to go on... we wanted to get to the Plaza Cultura on the next block, unfortunately on the other side of the barricade.

We asked the hotel people what was going on and was it safe. Turns out that every year on the 23rd, presidential hopefuls hand out food to the people. Bags of food and live piglets and chickens, as it turned out. The hotel guys escorted us down the middle of the street and through the armed barricade.

The Cultural Plaza was very telling about Santo Domingo... neglected, but with potential for beauty. The only part of the Plaza that showed any signs of recent work and thought was right outside the Museum of Modern Art.

We left the Plaza and headed back to the Marriott. The color of our skin let us pass right through the barricade and down the middle of the street again. The guys from the hotel were laughing and taking our picture as we headed toward them. I asked them if it looked funny, because I certainly could see the irony, and it would have been a picture I'd have taken if given the chance. I asked the guy to email the pic to me and he did! We were clearly not from around here.

All of this left us with a fairly bad taste in our mouths about Santo Domingo. The city redeemed itself later, but not until Day 8.

No comments: