Friday, June 7, 2013

See Puerto Rico from New York by ship

See Puerto Rico from New York by ship

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Brennan Linsley/AP

El Morro fortress, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For a novel way to visit San Juan or the Dominican Republic, take a cruise from the New York area — no airfare required.
Several cruise lines have itineraries from New York that call in San Juan. Royal Caribbean has cruises from Bayonne, N.J., that also visit Samana in the D.R.
Here are some of the options:
1. Set sail on the 3,000-passenger Carnival Splendor, round-trip from New York, on an eight-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that includes calls at Grand Turk, St. Thomas, and eight hours in San Juan (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Through October, fares from $489.
2. Book a nine-night Caribbean cruise, round-trip from New York, on the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem and spend time in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and San Juan (you’re there from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The cruises are October to April, fares from $649.
3. Cruise on the brand new, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway on a 12-night itinerary that sails round-trip from New York, and visit San Juan one evening, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Kitts. Fares from $1,299.
4. Embark from Bayonne on Royal Caribbean’s 3,114-passenger Explorer of the Seas on a nine-day itinerary and combine a day in San Juan (4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.) and Samana (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with visits to Labadee, Haiti and St. Thomas. Fares from $659.
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Surfing and Serenity on a Remote Philippine Island

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Jes Aznar for The New York Times
The entrance to Siargao Island's legendary Cloud 9 break.
We sat facing a weathered wood pagoda set in an emerald sea, the perfect swimming distance from a private beach lined with crooked coconut trees. Grilled mahi-mahi that arrived via a banca, a Filipino fishing boat, just an hour earlier was seasoned with calamansi (a citrus fruit native to the Philippines) and served with grilled eggplant and squash from the resort’s organic farm, accompanied by a bottle of crisp white wine. Steps from the restaurant pavilion was our villa with its huge bed swathed in a white mosquito net, an open shower surrounded by local shiny white pebbles, and swinging outdoor daybeds. The pummeling of an unforgettable surfing session hours before made the idea of crawling back to such luxurious digs even more appealing.
We were on Siargao (pronounced shar-GOW), a teardrop-shaped island that’s just one of the Philippines’s 7,000-plus, and the southernmost refuge for travelers before the less politically stable region of Mindanao. Even to Filipinos, the island, on the country’s Pacific-facing side, is not all that well known. Before the airport opened here in 2011, it was an overnight ferry ride from Cebu (which Magellan put on the map when he landed there in 1521). And it’s still not so easy to reach: the two-flight, roughly four-hour trip from Manila (including a layover in Cebu) has only the semblance of a schedule part of the year because of mercurial weather.
But the island is known to surfers, largely because of its fabled break, endearingly called Cloud 9. It stands in the firmament of the best rides on the global circuit, a fast and powerful monster because of the water that sweeps in from the Philippine Trench in the Pacific Ocean. In the fall the arrival of the habagat, a weather system fed by southwest winds and easterly currents, creates even more monumental tubes. Local lore credits a drug runner-turned-surfer with putting Cloud 9 on the radar — and in the decades since, it has drawn world pros for an international tournament hosted by companies like Billabong and Quiksilver. A small industry of hippie-style guesthouses, bars and surf schools has followed.
My interest in the island was already piqued — I have invariably found in my travels that surfers get to the best beaches first, before mass-market tourism arrives. And then came word of the opening of Dedon Island Resort, a gleaming nine-villa property. Stays there come with a full menu of adventure sports, from surfing to deep-sea fishing, and it has amenities like an outdoor cinema and a private chef using organic produce from its farm. But it also had a $1,600-a-night price tag for two attached (rates have since dropped a bit) and a Web site that used enigmatic terms like “outdoor living lab.” I wondered who was taking two small planes from the Filipino capital to spend that kind of money on an island that they most likely couldn’t place on a map.
To find out, we left from Siargao’s tiny airport and followed an international mix of young backpackers and surfer types off the prop plane to the waiting fleet of jeepneys — colorful and ubiquitous fixtures of Filipino roads that are part bus, part jalopy, part canvas of personal expression. Cobbled together from former United States army jeeps and random spare parts, they barrel along at alarming speeds with passengers hanging out the open doors and bags haphazardly perched on top.
Dedon’s, however, was unlike any jeepney I had seen. It was done up in mirror-like chrome and shining cream paint, kitted out with terry-cloth seats like beach loungers, piped-in lounge music, and snacks of dried coconut and pineapple. As we traveled, Marlo, a resident surfer who doubled as the resort greeter, pointed out huge carabao, Filipino water buffalo, plowing bright-green paddy fields on one side, and small thatched fishing huts suspended over the water’s edge on the other. School was letting out for the day and children waved to us from the back of their parents’ motorbikes as we crossed through a little village. Then, nothing but empty, white sand beaches flickering between clusters of sloping palms.
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Film Review: The Purge |

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The Purge is the kind of high-concept mumbo jumbo that most people would dismiss out of sheer absurdity but, if done right, could function in a delightfully bashit crazy topical manner to render permissible its ridiculous concepts as a legitimately scary what-if scenario. I’m in a huge Twilight Zonething lately, so I was ready for a potentially on-the-nose story about the possibility for escalating violence in America’s socio-political environment mixed with some allegorically thrilling elements, so it was a huge disappointment to me that The Purge barely delivered on anything intelligently close to that.
Through cleverly Verhoven-esque public service announcement exposition we find out the movie takes place in a future fascistic America when unemployment and crime are at an all time low due to the new US government corporatocracy’s policy of letting all crime—including murder—be legal for an annual twelve-hour period. James Sandin—played by Ethan Hawke in a role in a movie about as far away from Before Midnight as you could possibly get—is an upper class home security developer who lives in a wealthy neighborhood with his wife Mary (Queen Cers…I meant Lena Headey) and two children, Charlie and Zoey.
The family and the neighborhood ready themselves for The Purge behind their new security system, and before you know it the idiot son lets a bloody screaming stranger in the house for no good reason.  Also, the daughter’s boyfriend is in the house and masked killers who look like the Harvard rowing team and their Amish dates show up threatening the Sandins’ lives if they do not hand the stranger over to them.
Yes, the “lower class” man did call for help and claimed people were after him so the son felt the need to help him out of the goodness of his heart, but presumably The Purge has happened for some time now and it goes unsaid why the son suddenly grew a conscience. It’s a jumbled mess for the Sandins and an equally jumbled mess for the audience as well because the perspective is constantly changing about whom we should care about. People in my audience actually cheered when the 99%-ers were about to kill the homeless guy I suppose because he’s the quote-unquote “intruder,” but what does that say about the filmmaker’s dramatic intentions? This film also has absolutely no idea how to build and sustain tension. The editing in sequences where we are supposed to be on the edge of our seats either cuts away and alleviates any built up anticipation or abruptly goes into an incomprehensible shaky-cam confrontation without anyone knowing the stakes. Also, this movie has got to be the frontrunner to win the contest for the most amount of shots of people about to kill someone only to be killed by someone else off-screen.
It’s dumb, very dumb, and merely place-sets the really interesting concept that for one night the “Haves” can filter their prejudices and achieve a level of catharsis by “purging” the country of all its problems with the “Have-nots” without delving into it in a truly meaningful way. You may say that maybe the filmmakers didn’t want it to be anything more, yet the details they pepper throughout makes it seem as though they think they have gotten to some underlying truth about society. But simply mentioning the 99% versus the 1% and then letting the rich people fire guns at the poor people doesn’t really say much other than the obvious point that rich people don’t like poor people all that much, and would rather see them go away. It’s no spoiler to say that in the end they learn the moral of the story is that killing is not right, but did we have to go through all this other unintelligent bullshit just to make it to that simple truth?
Rating: D
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San Juan

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San JuanCapital city

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