Day 1 |
Oct 02, 2013

La Romana, Dominican Republic

By Chris Cutler, Naturalist

Co-ordinates: N 18º25’, W 68º58’
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 21ºC, 70ºF
Wind: 10 km/h

Silver Explorer was docked a short distance up the Rio Dulce at the recently renovated Casa de Campo International Tourist Port in La Romana. We’d arrived after a successful repositioning trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like avian migrants fleeing the impending colder weather of the Northern Hemisphere’s change-of-seasons, we’d come south as human ‘snowbirds’. Another migrant, a merlin (small falcon), found refuge on the ship
during a rainsquall as it too made its way south for the winter. The bird even paid a visit to the outside of Captain Maggie’s cabin during the reposition (see photos), preening itself as the Captain looked on from inches away.

The third-largest city in the country, La Romana is a ‘company town’, largely owned by the Central Romana Corporation and employing many of the locals in tourism and in the duty-free zone. La Romana had the only sugar mill in the D.R. that was not taken over by former dictator Rafael Trujillo. At dawn, I went out for a stroll. As part of a legacy stretching back to the late 19th century, and having produced some of the best players in the world, basebolistas were warming up for practice at a nearby field. A colony of ball-shaped nests hung in a tree nearby. These were from village weavers, a type of finch native to Africa that is believed to have arrived here on 18th-century slave ships and now naturalized throughout the island of Hispaniola.

Embarking guests began arriving midday and were warmly welcomed onboard with cold drinks before getting settled into their suites. We gathered in The Theatre for a mandatory safety drill and then enjoyed a sailing-away cocktail by the Pool Bar on Deck 6. The ship’s officers put the vessel in reverse along the short distance to the mouth of the river, executed an elegant turn, and Silver Explorer was officially on her way for the start of our West Indies Expedition.

A bit later we gathered in The Theatre where Expedition Leader Robin West introduced us to some of the heads-of-department as well as the expedition staff. We enjoyed our first delicious dinner under the guidance of Executive Chef Grant and then settled in for our first night at sea.