Wednesday, March 14, 2012

February travels part two; Caribbean Cruise

Sometime last winter, I had mentioned to Mike that I hoped someday I would visit a tropical place.  Our vacations seem to always involve travel to a foreign country where the exchange rate is to our advantage, on the off-season, with inclement weather, struggling to figure out the language and transportation system.  It is fun in its own way, but not exactly relaxing.

One night, he called me to the computer and asked how I felt about taking a cruise?  I said, "I don't know.  Are we the kind of people who go on cruises?"  He had seen an offer that seemed incredibly affordable and we decided to go for it.  I was excited to finally go on a tropical, relaxation-vacation.  But I was also anxious that it would be way too contrived and luxurious for me, and that I would regret it.

The ship was humongous!  That thing had a 12-story elevator and a water slide!  There were rooms with vaulted ceilings and balconies in that ship.  It was overwhelming at first.  But then, we were out on the sea.  For days.  And the ship suddenly seemed quite small.  I felt small.  All of my anxieties about life and the future seemed insignificant.

Yes, we were managed, and sometimes the pomp and circumstance was a bit much, but mostly, it was funny.  For seven days, I did not have to clean up after anyone else, and I was not only NOT required to cook, I was SERVED!  That alone is a huge value.

I did realize quickly that the reason they can offer a great deal on the cruise is by charging an arm and a leg for every single thing possible.  I managed to get on the internet for about 3 minutes, just long enough to tell everyone I would not be reachable for a week, and the charge was $22!  My first cocktail cost $13.25, and it was weak.  I only ordered 3 drinks all week.  If you know this going into it, you can actually just enjoy what they do give you for the low price of admission, which is great service, lots of food, basic beverages, and decent entertainment.

Our first stop was Jamaica.  It cost $38 for us to get from the ship to Montego Bay, and $5 each to spend time on the beach.  Everyone asks for tips, saying the money doesn't really go to the employees - they get by on gratuities.  We spent a few hours on the beach (me hiding under an umbrella because I have no melanin to speak of) and the water was a rich turquoise like I've never seen before.  Then we walked around town, finding that it was all tourist shops filled with Bob Marley knickknacks, pot leaf memorabilia, and rum.  We wanted to visit the "craft market" having heard that we would find locally made arts and crafts.  This market turned out to be a maze of small spaces packed together full of more knickknacks, carvings, jewelry, and t-shirts, owned by local people all desperate for customers.  We bought a few things -more than we wanted - and then tried to work our way out of the labrynth.  At each turn, someone was coaxing us to come to their booth.  "I don' charge fah lookin', mon!"  We were glad to head back to the ship soon after that, and after a nice, cold rum cocktail.  Neither of us has any inclination to return to Jamaica.

Next came Grand Cayman.  Again, gorgeous water, but the town was full of upscale, duty-free shops.  It was all jewelry and watches.  We were booked for an excursion to a sea turtle farm, which was educational and fun, and Anouk had a blast.  We held baby sea turtles and snorkeled in a huge man-made "lagoon" with turtles and exotic fish.  Also, we bought a 5th of Bombay Sapphire for only $13, though liquor has to be delivered to the ship and held until the cruise is over.

Our last stop was in Cozumel.  We had booked an excursion to the mainland, so we didn't experience Cozumel at all.  We headed straight for the Coba Mayan Ruins.  Most of our day was spent getting there and back, but our Mayan guide was very well-educated, and told us a lot about Mayan history and culture on the bus.  We had a nice, long hike through the jungle to the main pyramid.  (Anouk wasn't feeling well, so Mike hired a bike-cart to carry the two of them.)  Mike and I climbed the pyramid, which is taller and steeper than it looks.  The view from the top was outstanding.  We are already researching a trip back to that area sometime in the future.  There are so many amazing things to do in the Yucatan.  There are underground rivers to kayak and beautiful coral reefs.  Our guide made the trip more interesting by giving us extra information on the way in and out.  On a side note, he mentioned that guides are paid only $15 per day by the cruise line.  They also provide a snack, which turned out to be a tiny bag of chips, a small bottle of water, and a cookie.  For a 7-hour excursion that cost $150 per person.  How about that?

Of course, there was much more to the cruise than I've written here, but that about sums it up.  I'm still not sure that we are the kind of people who go on cruises, but it was a nice, relaxing week.  After getting back on land in New Orleans, Mike and Anouk were on their way home.  I had a greyhound bus ticket leaving at 9:25 that night to go to Lexington, KY.  But, I'll leave that for part 3.

1 comment:

  1. A cruise would definitely be a great way to relax away from all the stress from both home and at work. Great to hear that you guys had the time of your lives!