OK, this is our third island. We had done some research before leaving home, but the first couple stops just didn’t come together as hoped. It’s time to get serious about vacation.
Our research told as that Antigua was an excellent choice for a day on the beach. I’m not really a sand ‘n’ surf kind of guy, but when in Rome, right? Not wanting to repeat our earlier mistakes, we booked a beach trip through the cruise ship. A bit more expensive, but really, not much.
The research held up just fine. We wound up on the beach at Runaway Bay, with snowy white sand, turquoise water and gently rolling surf. Add to that a friendly bartender, and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent day.
Just as it was really starting to warm up, a man came around with a wheelbarrow full of fresh coconuts. First, he’d hack the top off with a giant machete so you could drink the coconut water out. Coconut water is like nature’s Gatorade: refreshing and full of potassium. A few minutes later, when you’ve had a chance to finish the water, he’d come back around and split the coconut open, carve off a small piece of the shell to use as a spoon, and serve up the coconut jelly inside. A drink and a snack, fresh off the tree and delivered to your beach chair. Not bad.
Is the day warmed up, I headed into the cool shade of the beach bar while my wife soaked up the sun and saltwater. I enjoyed some people watching (not to mention some wife-in-a-bikini watching) with an icy cold glass of rum and fruit.
We caught our ride back into town, and it was still early in the afternoon. We went back on the boat, showered, changed, and went back ashore for some casual wandering. We finally got to sample some local cuisine, stopping first at Roti King (for roti and ginger beer) and later Mama Lolly’s (for roti and fruit smoothies). We bought another bottle of local rum and called it a day.
It should be noted at this point that we’d never really gotten a clear answer on how much booze we could bring home from the islands. While we had technically left the country, we’d never had to deal with customs or passports or anything up to this point. We knew we could buy pretty much all we wanted in Puerto Rico, as that was essentially a state, but the islands fell under different jurisdictions. We didn’t want to come up short, but neither did we want to lose anything coming home. Our best guess was two, maybe three bottles a piece. We were hitting five islands, so one bottle on each island seemed reasonable.
I haven’t written much about the boat the last few days, because there’s not too much to tell. We had settled into a bit of a routine: a light breakfast, go ashore for the day, come back to the boat, shower and change, grab the saltiest food we could find to replenish our sodium after sweating a gallon, then I’d lie down in the AC while my wife hit the pool, dinner, then a quick dip into the pool before heading to bed. There were a few shows on board that were fun, several more that weren’t as appealing. Overall, it was like a really nice hotel: nothing to complain about, but not really a feature of the trip.
We were only too aware that this particular hotel was floating. Our first few days at sea were rough: imagine if you will 137,000 tons of hotel bouncing (not gently rolling, bouncing) on the waves. I found it disorienting but bearable, unfortunately, my wife is not the hardy seafaring type. We went through a lot of Dramamine on this cruise.
We later learned that this was unusual for a cruise ship, and nearly unheard of for one this size. Several members of the crew commented that they had never noticed this boat moving before this trip, and had gone to the captain to see if there was anything to be done about it. For the waiters in the dining room, it was challenging; for the skaters in the ice show, it was almost unbearable.
Somewhere around the halfway point, the seas calmed and the boat leveled out significantly. One unexpected consequence was that we had finally started to master walking around on the rocking boat, and now we could barely walk on dry land. Frequently, I would find myself swerving to compensate for the rocking of the boat, only to realize I was still in town. Another really cool consequence was the wave pools. We whiled away a couple evenings in the bar on Deck 14 watching the pool water slosh around with the rocking of the boat, as the water was too rough to go swimming.
Next episode: Follow your nose, it always knows.