Casa de Campo

This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Cruising with Teens

Our line, the one for the shuttle to Altos de Chavon, began moving forward. A dispatcher was counting heads as we filed toward the bus. She stopped the flow just when Kris and I reached the head of the line.

Before I could comment on our bad luck, we were signaled to proceed. Inside the bus, Kris plopped into a single empty seat. I thought I might have to stand for the trip, but then spotted a vacant seat in the rear corner. It was a tight squeeze to get in and I stepped on at least one foot in the process. The other occupants didn’t take my mental suggestion to slide over.

The dispatcher stuck her head in the door and verified that all seats were filled. Then she started sending more people on board, instructing them to fold out little jumper seats that filled the aisle.

The bus ahead of us departed, carrying Wells and Dan to their independent adventure at the Marina. Actually, the description of the Marina made it sound more interesting to me than our destination, but I was now hopelessly wedged into the back of the bus and at least ten people would have to move to let me out. Too late…

Always one to plan ahead, I started to think about the logistics of getting the boys out of the Dominican Republic after they missed the ship’s departure. Kris was seated several rows ahead, so we had no opportunity to share our concerns.

The bus pulled out of the fenced compound and on to a busy road. Conveyances of all sorts rushed by us in the opposite direction. Most were carrying more passengers than they were designed for. After a short distance, we passed some administrative buildings for the Casa de Campo resort. The bus turned onto a side road and paused briefly at a security gate before proceeding.

For several minutes, there wasn’t much to see outside. We slowed at intersecting roads and the driver blew the horn to warn of our presence. At one intersection, a Toyota pickup truck approached from the right. The rear of the truck was practically dragging on the ground, weighed down by a payload of workers. There had to be at least 20 men standing tightly packed in the pickup bed, and they swayed in unison as the truck navigated down the bumpy dirt road.

We went through at least two more manned checkpoints. Security was obviously a concern here. Soon, handsome villas appeared behind high fences. Some were massive, but even the more modest ones contributed to the air of big money. Here and there, new construction was evident. We crossed a path for golf carts and another for horses before pulling into a drop-off area.

Everyone except the driver had to get off the bus before I could get out of my seat. When I finally got outside Kris was waiting, but everyone else had disappeared.

“Which way did they go?”

“All different ways.”

Stone walls were punctured here and there by passages that led in various directions. None were marked, so we just picked one and started walking. The pathway was also stone and fairly rugged, lined with low walls, flowering plants and towering bushes.

Around a corner, we were confronted by a massive stone building. It looked like a castle, with turrets, crenels and iron gates. It was impenetrable, so we kept going until we came to an open square.

In the square, a man with a donkey was offering picture opportunities. The ancient looking Church of St. Stanislaus stood at the head of the square, and other coral/stone buildings surrounded it. Intricate pebble mosaics were woven into the plaza surface, and a collection of strange obelisks looked like they’d provide clues to solve the mystery in a Dan Brown novel. To the east was a precipitous drop to the Chavon River. A golf course spread out on a plateau on the north side of the river, and high mountains defined the horizon.

Stairs at the edge of the square descended to a viewing platform where we could see how some of the ‘town’ was built precariously on the edge of a cliff that plunged to the river below. Exotic flowers blossomed everywhere.



(This picture not resizable – pamphlet scan)

We explored the church, climbing stairs to the bell tower just as the sun began to set. We only had an hour or so before we had to get going. I was tempted to skip dinner on the ship and join the patrons of a small café next to the church. They were on a second floor balcony, at eye level with us in the bell tower, looking out over the magnificent view below.


Kris wanted to find the shops, but I was perfectly content to wander around and take pictures. I shadowed Kris as she explored the buildings. Alton de Chavon is nicely executed. There is nothing ‘in your face’ about it. Shops and restaurants are tucked away in nooks and crannies. You walk down alleys, through arched walkways and up or down stairs to find them.




I took lots of pictures, and the camera’s batteries soon gave out. It looked like Kris was getting serious about something in a jewelry shop. I didn’t want to get involved, and went looking for someplace carrying more practical goods. Finally, down an alley and through a tunnel, I found one. It reminded me of a mom and pop store in Maine somewhere, with creaky wooden floors and a huge variety of goods stuffed into a small space. I quickly found a pack of 4 AA batteries, and received change from my five-dollar bill in DR coins and currency. I guess that means they weren’t very expensive.


Outside, the last few streaks of the sunset were quickly giving way to darkness. On the other side of a small parking area stood a grand fountain surrounded, oddly it seemed to me, by dozens of cats who completely ignored my presence.

It was already nearing time to find the bus for the return trip. Kris was not far from where I had left her, but she now had some extra baggage.

“Find something?”

“Yeah, a few little things.”

I didn’t ask for details. “We’d better find the bus – let’s go this way.”

I led her back toward the fountain area, though we were compelled to detour through a couple of shops. Finally we arrived at the fountain.

“Here. I know you must be going through pet withdrawal, so I saved this part for last.”

As I was waiting for ‘cat woman’, a couple approached. They were looking for the 5000-seat amphitheater where the big Kandela show was to be held. Though highly recommended, we chose not to sign up for the show. Hearing from shipmates who did go, we probably made a mistake.

The couple was from California, as I learned in a nice chat. I couldn’t help them find the theater — I didn’t even know where I was, for that matter. Then I remembered that I had a copy of the map given out on the ship, so I handed it to them.

“Here, take this somewhere with some light.”

They were reluctant to accept the piece of paper from me, as though it were too valuable a possession to give to perfect strangers.

“Please, I insist. I can’t see it anyway. Didn’t bring my glasses.”

The man took it and thanked me profusely. Kris was finished with the felines, so we excused ourselves and started walking down a service road that I reasoned must lead to the shuttle area. After walking 50 feet, I realized that the stone edifice on our left was the entrance to the theater. I looked back for the lost couple, but they had vanished from view. I hope they didn’t stray too far in their search.

We stumbled down the dimly lit cobbled road. A small group came up behind us as we encountered a fork in the road. They were laughing and carrying on – obviously they’d had a few.

“Which way now?” asked Kris. There were no signs or other clues, and the foliage was so thick that the view in every direction was obscured.

The other group marched merrily to the left, so we tried going right. Around the corner stood a shuttle bus.

“I wonder where those other people are going to end up,” I said as we climbed aboard. We never saw them again – maybe they live there.

We settled into empty seats, next to each other this time. The bus left before it was completely filled. As we got rolling I glanced across the aisle, where another couple sat.

The man said, “Hey Chestah, how ya doin’?” I couldn’t recall where or how we met, but the four of us yakked it up all the way back to this ship. If that was you on the other side of the aisle, speak up…

The warmth of the night and the sight of the Millennium all lit up made me want to linger outside for a while before boarding. We kept an eye out for the boys as each shuttle bus emptied. No sign…

Kris seemed anxious to get going, so at 8:00 we boarded to get ready for dinner. Kris called cabin 8119, and let it ring for a while before hanging up.

“Where are they? I knew this would happen.”

“They’ll be here…I hope.”

At 8:20, we agreed to head for the dining room. Maybe they’d be there waiting for us.

Our tablemates were already seated when we arrived. There were 4 empty chairs. Albert rushed over to seat us.

“Where are the boys?” asked Kent.

Before I could answer, Albert tapped me gently on the shoulder and pointed to the boys who were threading their way through the dining room.

Wells and Dan marched up to the table. I could tell right away that something was amiss, because Wells started talking a blue streak and Dan was pretty subdued – exactly the opposite of each boy’s normal demeanor. That and various other clues indicated to me that the boys were – there are many words for this – stewed.

I held my breath throughout the dinner, hoping that they weren’t so far gone as to lose their manners — or their meals. They held up pretty well. Seems they had walked around the Marina a bit before settling at an outdoor café, and the rest is history. During the remainder if the cruise, we would run in to people who they met and befriended that night. It must have been some party…

Nickie, Betsy, Kent and David told tales of their night at the Captain’s table. It seems that everyone including their butler, stateroom attendant, travel agent and bartender tried to claim credit for getting them invited. Betsy seemed to think that I had something to do with it, but I’m not one to take credit, even when it is due… It was a first for all of them, and a fun night by the sound of it. Kent was thrilled to finally have someone buy him some wine.

The discussion about wine made me realize that we hadn’t seen our sommelier since the first night. Just then, an unfamiliar face in a red jacket appeared at the table. He apologized for the disruption in wine service. Apparently our original sommelier had been badly cut on the first night, and was, as the new guy put it, “…eliminated from the rest of the cruise.” Our new sommelier was a young man from Poland, and he quickly recognized our table as a prime business opportunity. For the remainder of the week he was very attentive and entertaining, and I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve forgotten his name.

This dinner was notable for the fact that the boys politely refused the wine. I should have taken the opportunity to buy something a little more upscale for Kris and me.

Our table was once again the last to be vacated. We went out on the promenade and had a little discussion with the boys. Their transgression was minor, all things considered – I had no need to activate the emergency plan to evacuate them from the Dominican Republic. We just asked them to ‘take it easy’.

The ‘midnight’ buffet had already started in time for the sail away at 11:00. I suggested to the boys that they catch the comedian in the Cosmos at 12:15. Kris and I planned to go, based on the strong recommendation of Edwin at the CC party.

“I dunno, we’re pretty tired,” said Wells.

“Yeah, I really think I need to sleep,” agreed Dan.

“We are going to the beach tomorrow, right?” asked Wells.

“Yeah, we’ll do that and a bunch of other stuff. Try not to sleep too late. We should be able to get off the ship by about 10:30.”

We all headed up to the pool deck and the party. The boys disappeared into the crowd, while Kris and I stayed around the edges. I spotted a waiter rolling a cart loaded with beer out of a back room, and hailed him. I ordered two beers that did not have twist-off caps, and the waiter realized he had no opener. He left me to stand guard over the beer cart while he disappeared for a few minutes. I was worried that I might be attacked by a thirsty mob. When he returned with an opener, I had a nice neat line of customers waiting for him – chaos averted. He didn’t tip me.

The party revved up pretty well. Kris wanted to get good seats for the comedian, so after a while she suggested we make our way to the Cosmos. My watch indicated that it was only 11:30. A little on the early side, but I said nothing.

One other couple had staked out a table when we arrived. We ordered and finished a round of drinks. Kris kept looking at her watch. Ancient disco tunes blasted from the speakers.

“Are you sure this is the right night?” she asked.

“Absolutely.” I had to shout my responses to be heard.

“And it’s supposed to start at 12:15?”

“Yup.”

“Well, where is everybody?”

“Outside.”

“But it’s almost ten after.”

“No it isn’t.” I looked at my watch. “It’s 11:45. Half an hour to go. Your watch is messed up.” No wonder she was in such a hurry all night – her watch was 23 minutes fast.

We endured another 30 minutes of ‘classics’. In the last 15 minutes, people started to filter in from the pool deck. A big group was still doing the conga line thing when they entered. Many were wearing decorations from the party – palm fronds, grass skirts, leis – that sort of thing.

“Do you see the boys anywhere?” asked Kris.

“No. I don’t know if they’re ready to see anything like this,” I said, pointing to the oddly decorated group on the dance floor.

The show started a few minutes late, and by then the room was absolutely packed. It was worth the wait. Thien Fu had a lot of funny material and his excellent juggling skills were an integral part of the comedy. He told us he was scheduled to be on David Letterman on St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, we forgot to tune in.

We never did see the boys again that night, and turned in after the show. I was sore from laughing and it felt great to collapse into bed.

“Well, that turned out to be an OK day. We practically got an extra sea day, but it was nice to get off the ship for a couple of hours,” I said to Kris.

“Do you think the boys are having a good time?”

Hmmm. Maybe too good, but what the heck – it was vacation. “Well, have we seen much of them?”

“No.”

“Then they’re having a good time. Otherwise they’d be hanging around telling us over and over that they weren’t having a good time.”

“You think?”

“Therefore I am…”

If the conversation continued, I don’t remember it. The rest of the night was sweet dreams…

Next: San Juan

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