San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Cruising the sea on the Holland America MS Westerdam on the Olivia Leadership and Equality Cruise. 

Today began so powerfully and ended so perfectly, that I felt like I had to pinch myself before I went to bed.

As we cruised toward San Juan, Puerto Rico, we attended a panel called Global Equality: A Discussion of LGBT Equality in Developing Countries. I won’t lie. The news around the world is grim.

But the work that is going on combatting the horrors is equal parts unreal and inspirational. Marcela Sanchez, Activist and Leader, Colombia Diversa, is literally changing the face of equality and lesbian rights in Columbia. In some ways, they are ahead of the US. And Elizabeth Birch, President, Elizabeth Birch Company, LLC & Global Out is making incredible strides shaking up the status quo in the corporate universe all around the world.

Claire Lucas too, Senior Advisor for Public-Private Partnerships, USAID, left us all feeling both informed and impassioned in a way that I know, at least for myself, will serve as a call to action not to be ignored.

By 1:00, we made our way off the ship and out into San Juan. With no plans to speak of, we wondered if perhaps a tour or excursion would have been a better way to tackle this fascinating city.

But, instead, we ducked into the Hilton and got some tips from the extremely helpful front desk who pointed us to the Old Town and the Fort and a restaurant not to be missed for dinner that evening.

We hiked up the steep sidewalks, reminding me of San Francisco or Seattle, the to the other side of the island where gorgeous views of the sea awaited us. First, we stop by the San Cristóbal Castle to our right, where we stumbled upon a bevy of extras shooting a made for TV movie with John Malkovitch called CrossBones.

Although we did not see Malkovitch himself, we did get to meet Andy Dylan, a double for one of the leads who played Treach in 12 years as a slave. Then we made our way to the left where we visited San Felipe El Morro Castle.

The cemetery and ocean vistas were awe-inspiring and well worth the hike. Slowly we made our way back into Old Town with a stop for a Medalla Light at NoNo’s, said to be Lady Gaga’s favourite haunt when she’s in town.

After our beers, we wandered a few shops, browsed tables of local crafts, photographed the brightly coloured homes and gorgeous architecture before finally arriving at Mojito’s, our dining destination. We took the front desk clerk’s advice and ordered the Mofongo (plantain stuffed with meat, seafood, or veggies) and the steak with onions. It was delicious. I felt like we owed the guy a beer our next trip into the city.

Back on the ship by 9:30 all aboard, we grabbed our sweatshirts and got a seat for comedienne Judy Gold’s show. A little skewed for the older set and a little slow starting, it was definitely good for a few laughs, mostly at her aging mother’s expense.

All in all another fantastic day. Not that we would have expected anything less. And because it had been such a big day, we decided to forgo the dancing. There’s still a lot of cruising left to do!