Sunday, March 18, 2012

Western Caribbean Cruise - Roatan, Honduras


Tropical lushness
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After an beautiful and calm overnight sail from Cozumel, here we are, approaching Roatan. It is a verdant island, all green and lush, with homes dotting the hillsides. Some of these homes are palatial. They do not necessarily belong to the locals, just sayin'.

The sea here is absolutely fabulous and clear. You can see all the way to the bottom, and I keep hearing “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” going through my head as I look over the railing, straight down though the crystal turquoise to the fish swimming around in the coral way below. Wow.

The water was very clear.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Today, we've decided to get off the ship and wander about. We are greeted by the ever-present “special moments” ship's photographers who seem to be by the gangway all the time, snapping your photo as you arrive at your fabulous destination-du-jour. The photos will be displayed in the photographer's lobby on the Promenade Deck, where you'll also find a most excellent specialty Italian restaurant. There's a modest but worthwhile additional fee to eat there, which is a recommended “at least once” treat to enjoy on the cruise. Back to the pictures. Photos are taken of you at embarkation (where you'll look really happy but awfully tired from the flight), at each destination, on formal nights, at various activities. Obviously, the photographers want to sell their portraits. But here's a little hint: Don't buy them separately, because, oh, say, on Thursday, there'll be a special sale. That would be because, as I said, the photographers want to sell the pictures! But do keep track of yours so you can select your favorites to purchase. The charge, of course, will be added to your tab. Along with your bar purchases, selections at the ship's store, massages, haircuts, mani-pedis, off-ship excursions, and so forth. So, do keep checking your tab to make sure you aren't spending over your own sort-of-preset limit. We want to avoid unpleasant surprises, yes?

The welcoming committee.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We had our photo taken, watched the welcoming local musical group and dancers for a while...very exotic...and noticed an internet cafe just outside the gates. There were actually a number of internet cafes, at least one on every block. Not the most trust-inducing places, if you ask me, but if you must log on, you must log on. Or something.

Looks trustworthy, eh?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We shopped for hand-made, local souvenirs (sarongs, pine baskets, bracelets) to help out the local artisans. Can I just say, the poverty I saw was appalling. In such a lovely place, rich in natural beauty, with plenty to eat, it's hard to imagine why there would be policemen dressed in camouflage and carrying automatic weapons everywhere, in twos and threes. 

Makes you want to adopt a family, doesn't it?
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
But it's easy to see that the people are exploited and poor. The smell of sewage and rotting things permeates the air, and there's a hollow look in the eyes. The look of despair and anger and bitterness. I understand that it's all completely different in the areas where the huge resort complexes are, on the other side of the island. You know, where these people work. For practically free.

(Steamy camera lens.)
Doing our bit for local economy.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
It was hot in Cozumel, but it is stinking hot and humid here. My camera lens kept fogging up. Quick! A cold drink! And, indeed, it was possible to purchase a local beer and sit on a little dock overlooking the beautiful sea and lovely scenery for very little money. If you stay in the designated tourist areas, you'll be fine. Truly, the folks appreciate your patronage and will do everything possible to help you and your cash to separate. But do stay in the designated tourist areas. If you wander off (as I did), you may not feel comfortable with the looks you'll get. Half a block off the beaten path was all it took to make me turn around and go back. Things may have changed and improved, safe.

This is the grocery store.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I'd love to see Roatan again and explore the other parts of the island. It truly is beautiful, with amazing snorkeling and diving and lush vegetation. Cozumel was in a foreign land, but Roatan felt like a different world entirely. It's exotic. If you're looking for a place to go on your next good-will mission, you might consider Roatan.

We returned to the ship, where we were welcomed by the crew, went for a quick swim, and prepared for dinner and a show. You get used to the service very quickly, I noticed. At least, I sure did. The way the ship's crew caters to you is just like having servants or something. At least, I imagine so, as I wouldn't actually know. “Yes, madame.” (That's “madame” pronounced the French way, not “madam” or “ma'am.”) “Madame desires [fill in the blank]?” “Please, madame is not eating enough. Would madame like something different?” [Not eating enough?! Are they kidding?! I'm using the stairs instead of the elevators in hopes of not gaining 50 lbs.!] The service is really a “wow” experience. I could get used to this, but I'd better not.

Do I look relaxed yet?
The sarong was a gift from Karen when she
and Bob went to Bora Bora. I take it on every
trip, until I get to see Bora Bora myself.
Flip flops? Aruba trip gift from Cathy K.
Shell necklace? Gift from Hawaii.
Coral bracelets? Gift to self from a woman
combing the beach for tiny bits in Aruba.
Photo by Harry. All rights reserved.
Part of the fun of cruising, I may have mentioned once or twice already, is the nightly entertainment. The revues are excellent and not like local theater or high school musicals at all. It's really more like Vegas, and it's all included in your fare! The auditorium is always full, and you do have to show up a little early if you want a prime seating location.

Wait staff come by every few minutes to make sure you are provided with your libation of choice. Alcohol is not included, don't forget, and that bar tab to your room can add up pretty quickly. Sodas are also not included, but you can purchase a “soda card” at the beginning of the cruise that'll cover all the soda you can drink, if that's what you want to do. Coffee, tea, and juices are all included. I became an avid juicer.

So, on board, we met Ms. Marian Kelly, a truly hilarious and self-deprecating (the best kind) comedienne. She made us roar with laughter, whether she was on-stage or sharing our table in the dining room. Marian was always “on.” Especially fun for us at her first show was a sarcastic bit about high-school cheerleaders and their “Go, team!” attitude, which she said she couldn't stand and made her sick. Well, Cathy and I were both, you may have guessed, high-school cheerleaders. So, every time she would mention the “Go, team!” bit, Cathy and I would shout, “Go, team!” in echo. Naturally, it cracked everybody up, and Marian used it to her advantage in her routine. Every time we would pass her on the ship, we would smile and cheer “Go, team!” as we passed her. She loved it, and so did we, and so did the others nearby. So, it was a whole lot of entertainment for everybody, and we made a friend.

If you're curious about Marian's sketches, you can check her out on YouTube, where you'll find quite a few bits. You'll roar with laughter, too.

About a year ago, a tornado ripped through the town where Marian lives. It destroyed every home on the other side of the street from hers, and it caused a lot of damage to hers, as well. She was home at the time and took shelter in her crawl space. Thank God she was not harmed. We love you, Marian. Go, team!

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