We are back in Stockholm, after a 7-day cruise in the Caribbean with my dad and his wife. It was fabulous and freaky!
The sun and humidity were a welcome change from dark and chilly Stockholm: even though I’d been getting excited about ice skating, it was sooooooo nice to sit around outside wearing barely any clothing. We had pretty good weather the entire trip, except for one rainy afternoon in the Yucatan and a gray sea day on our way home.
Our excursions were memorable, despite being brief and filled with tourist traps. We had a hot afternoon bike ride on Grand Cayman and got to hold some baby sea turtles at a turtle farm. One stop included “Hell,” a small town with a post office, school, and no churches; the main attraction may have been the now “beached” coral reef, but our guide got $20 for making sure he herded us into a hellish t-shirt and bauble shop (yes, there was a t-shirt we could have bought that read “I’ve been to Hell and back”).
The next day started with a nausea-inducing boat ride to get to shore so we could take a bus ride to Tulum — the Mayan ruins were fascinating. Unfortunately, we had less than an hour and a half there. However we did have a 20-minute stop at a roadside tchotchke stand, scheduled by our tour operator. But his guide gave us a fascinating lecture on the Tulum plaza, which included a description of the typical Mayan farming practice of planting corn, beans and squash in the same row, the same as his grandfather did: the corn makes for a trellis for the beans, and the three together make for a nutritious diet. (He didn’t mention the phosphorous and nitrogen benefits that I assume went along with planting all three at once.)
For our third excursion, we took a lovely bike ride along a boardwalk in a small fishing town, to get to a beach where we boarded sea kayaks and took a little trip under our own power. Our guide told us that the fish are gone, and the town is now a tourist destination, just south of the 7-year-old Puerta Costa Maya. Built to serve cruise ships, the port is a small mall of bars and tourist shops that you could stay in without ever getting into the “real world.” One attraction was one of the omnipresent “dolphinaria” where you can “meet” dolphins and ride them. I confess that spooks me. We went tide pooling instead, and when the rains came, we returned to the ship, played a little bocce ball on the top deck’s grass lawn, and sat on the deck above the pool level.
In retrospect, we may not have taken full advantage of the leisure time aboard the ship and offshore. By the time we made it to Routan, Honduras, I was ready for a break. Instead, we joined midday excursion by bus to a private reserve on the other side of the island. The high point was getting to hold the tiny monkeys living there. And finally getting to swim in the ocean, sort of — the protected beach, just meters away from a steep dropoff, made for some shallow waters. But I had some swim goggles, so we could peer into the grasses just below the surface and search for fish.
Out last day on board was spent like the rest of our time on the ship: watching satellite news, gripped by the Egyptian protests and Mubarak’s resignation; drinking espresso from the special bar (we had to pay for those good coffees instead of the free nut-flavored stuff in the ship’s restaurants); swimming in the pool or reading.
We ate so much food — at one point, at what became almost our regular table for dinner, the waiters brought us so many extra plates “just to taste” that we could have fed a fifth person, easily. Instead the four of us ate it all — fruity cheesecakes, beef entrees, shrimp cocktails… the works.
I feel like I haven’t chronicled half the things we did. Did I mention the basketball court at the back of the ship? And the gym? Or the Everglades tour we took in the rain the last morning, after disembarking from the boat? (The herons, egrets, and other birds were so beautiful, and the alligators too, despite the cold.)
When we got home on Sunday evening, the earth was still rolling and pitching a bit under my feet, and I can’t tell if it’s residual sea legs or the aftermath of about 24 hours of travel to get home! And enough snow had fallen in Stockholm on Friday to stop the buses.
In the end, Matt and I agreed that we would consider cruising again, but not for a while. And maybe next time, we will sit by the pool a bit more, with parapluy (umbrella) drinks in hand.