“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace
One of the blessings of traveling to other countries is the realization of how lucky we are living in the United States. Things we take for granted are luxuries in many countries and yet, the people are happy and feel fortunate for what they have. We truly do occupy a tiny place in the world.
During our last cruise, Dan and I visited La Romana, DR. We’d been to the Dominican Republic before, but to a different part of the country (Amber Cove) and, to be honest, we didn’t venture far from the port. But during this visit, we took two excursions: one was a trolley ride around the city, where we saw life as it is today, followed by a bus tour through Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village located just minutes from the city.
It was a stark contrast!
The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest Caribbean country. It’s just two hours south of Miami and features an intriguing history and a rich culture. In both Amber Cove and La Romana, we found the people to be very warm and friendly. They really take pride in sharing their country.
The city of La Romana is a hub for a growing tourist industry with several nearby local resort spots, such as the beachfront Bayahibe, Dominicus, Casa de Campo, and the growing number of golf resorts that surround the area. There were several things that stood out during our trolley ride through “downtown.” One is how rich their history is (confirmed when we took the bus tour through Altos de Chavón). Our guide pointed out historic building after building, as he shared how the buildings have now all been repurposed for today’s needs.
Another very interesting observation was transportation within the city. Many, if not most, of the residents use moped-type scooters to get around. We saw dad driving the family through the busy streets, with mom, son and daughter sitting very steadily on the back. We witnessed one elderly gentleman with a large box porched capriciously on the back, a mother and daughter returning from shopping with groceries in tow, and a lady decked out in full bling zipping through the roads. With the price of petrol in the city, it certainly makes good sense, and everyone seems to take it in stride.
One of the most shocking observations was the city’s power lines! Our guide told us that the power sector in the Dominican Republic has always been a bottleneck to the country's economic growth. A prolonged electricity crisis and ineffective remedial measures have led to a vicious cycle of regular blackouts, high operating costs of the distribution companies, large losses including electricity theft through illegal connections, high retail tariffs to cover these inefficiencies, low bill collection rates, a significant fiscal burden for the government through direct and indirect subsidies, and very high costs for consumers as many of them have to rely on expensive alternative self-generated electricity.
As an Electrician, Dan was both mesmerized and curious about the number of lines that were connected to the main transformers. He asked our guide about it, who responded that everyone just ties their lines into one another! In several spots, there are so many lines tied in that the entire group of them sagged really low in the middle. It was like black spaghetti gone wild!
While we were touring Altos de Chavón, we visited the Amber World Museum. It was fascinating to see how amber is mined from volcanic rock and then brought to life. There is a shop in the museum, of course, that offers lots of beautiful amber jewelry pieces!
I loved seeing the sculptures that adorn the roads of the city near the cruise port. It’s like the residents take whatever is available and create beautiful art pieces … twigs, branches, driftwood, straw and even discarded aluminum and pieces of medal. I thought it was really amazing how the residents take whatever is at hand and transform it into something beautiful to adorn their roadways!
If you cruise to La Romana, there are a number of excursions available: everything from high adventure (zip lining, swimming with the dolphins, kayaking, horseback riding, and ATV’ing for example), to quieter Eco Tours, Beach visits, cultural tours, and shopping. There’s something for everyone and we hope you’ll step out and check the port out soon!
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