Monday, January 3, 2011

Well, At Least We're Not In A Mexican Jail...

I think the title pretty much sums up our week. Not our favorite so far. 

We started our week with a day at sea and then our first stop was in Belize City, Belize. Kelly was really excited for our Central American ports of call because of the rich Mayan history that she finds so intriguing. She had hoped to stop at one of the Mayan ruins in Belize but work schedule did not allow for it, so she was resigned to see them in one of the other ports. We did have time for a quick trolley tour through the city. Belize is very poor and we were grateful for the company of a local to keep us in the right spots. 

One of the highlights of the day was drinking Coke with real sugar out of a glass bottle. There’s something nice about experiencing something the way it was originally intended. 

Kelly disagrees when it comes to Coke products. She likes her Diet Coke out of a soda fountain with plenty of Phenylalanine thankyouverymuch. In a pinch she’ll settle for a can or bottle of the stuff.

The next day we were in Guatemala. We hired a local cab driver to show us around for the day. He took us to a series of waterfalls in the rainforest where a woman had set up a shack and wanted to charge us ten bucks apiece to look at the falls. We thought that was crazy and decided to close our eyes and save ourselves a twenty. We asked the driver if he would show us around the city instead.

We were intrigued by the many, many street vendors and handmade homes on the sides of hills and the children pulling burros and selling wood logs off of the animals’ backs. Ron and I don’t have a lot of “stuff” and haven’t celebrated Christmas with gifts to each other in a few years now, but seeing places like these the week after Christmas with Americans who have given and received so much excess just days prior is a really sobering experience. It wasn’t sad though. For as little as many of these people have, they seem happy and whole and quite a refreshing change from some of the whining we heard from kids around the ship who didn’t get exactly what they wanted from Santa this year. And that’s not to say that one way of life is better than the other. It’s just very interesting to see another side of the human experience.

After the drive through the city, we were starving and asked our driver to take us to a place to get local food. At Los Delfines, we ate lunch right on the water. We enjoyed shrimp and garlic bread and Gallo – the local beer.

Between the ship and the city we were able to stop into a market set up for cruise guests. Tons of local crafts and merchandise was sold there and all of it was really cheap. Kelly reluctantly splurged a whopping ten dollars on a burlap messenger bag which has possibly become her favorite purchase of the last ten years. It really is an awesome bag. We’re sure you will see pictures of it next week since she rarely goes anywhere without it.

As the ship pulled away from the pier, the locals came out to see us off. Dancers performed native dances, drummers provided sail away music, taxi drivers pulled up with flashing lights and blaring horns, the police came out and waved their rifles (um yeah, dudes with large guns where everywhere in this place. We were not about to start any trouble here), the workers in the adjacent shipping yard honked the horns on their forklifts and everyone generally hollered and made a bunch of noise. It was really cool and I’d say it was probably the best part of the whole week.

On Thursday we were in Roatan, Honduras. We were given the suggestion to head outside of the cruise terminal to pick up a tour from an independent tour company because the cost was a fraction of the price from them as opposed to anything within the terminal. We are always happy to save some money, so we gladly headed on out. We were pleased to find another couple wanting to take the same tour and share the cost with us, plus they gave us a crew discount – score! Not long into the tour (which we found out later was supposed to have a tour guide narrating, not just a van driver who zoomed by all the sights without a word and found great pleasure in nearly nicking every cyclist on the road) after stopping at an iguana farm (read: gated off area full of creepy, giant, greenish lizards that they wanted to charge $8 pp to see – no thanks) and a dilapidated market (read: some huts with people hocking magnets made in China and overpriced bottled water), the van broke down. There was much smoking, hissing, chugging and squirting of questionable looking fluids in 90 degree heat and 98% humidity before the driver decided to call for someone to pick us up. He failed to mention that he called a taxi service who expected to get paid when he dropped us off. After fighting with the Independent Tours people (yes, there was actually yelling involved, not to mention much waving of arms and threats aimed in our direction), we got our money back (thrown in Ron’s face) and had to run back into the terminal with the taxi driver chasing us demanding that we pay him for the ride and “show some gratuity” since he didn’t leave us on the side of the road (Um…Ok).

I believe we went directly to this bar...

…and had three beers each (Salva Vida – pretty good!) before we stopped grumbling about the crappy tour.

Then we took the Magical Flying Beach Chair (ski lift over water and sand instead of snow) down to the beach and walked around soaking up the sun for a bit.

On Friday (New Year’s Eve) we were in Cozumel, Mexico. Kelly had been looking forward to Mexico since before she came on board the Eurodam. If you know Kelly, then you know her love of salsa and tacos. Almost nothing makes her happier than Mexican food made by Mexicans – bonus for it actually being in Mexico! Plus, since she didn’t get to see her Mayan ruins in Belize (or Guatemala or Honduras), she had hoped to see them in Mexico. Both of us worked in the morning but Kelly was sure to be done and ready in time to catch the tour of the ruins. Ron however got stuck a little later than we had originally anticipated. We missed the tour we planned on taking (no money lost there thank goodness!) so we thought that we would have fun renting a scooter and driving over. Why we thought this was a good idea, we will never know. Neither of us have any business on any recreational vehicle that requires one iota of balance or coordination. We would not be surprised if we toppled an ATV going 3 miles an hour. Anyhow, we were swept up in the idea of zipping around the city on our own accord and when the salesman (con-artist) showed us a brand new blue scooter (old, rickety, rusty heap of worn out metal) and offered us a pretty decent price for the day, we decided to give it a go. We strapped on our helmets (one of which didn’t actually strap – just sat atop my head and left me to hope I wouldn’t be in need of its services) and tried to roll off on our new toy. Ok, we didn’t get 10 feet before losing our balance. Try again. Not a few feet more and we fell to the side. Kelly jumped off and backed away having decided that she wanted to live through the day more than she wanted to see Mayan ruins. Ron conceded shortly after and tried to return the bike to the “salesman” who was standing by the side of the road smirking at our feeble attempts. After a half an hour of raised voices, hands waving in the air, and numerous other unpleasantries, Ron finally got half of our money back from the guy. This was shortly followed by Kelly chasing the guy down the street yelling “Scam Artist” and him saying that we were gonna get beat up by his guys “In front of Senior Frogs? Oh please. I’m shaking.” Sigh. We finally gave up and decided to take our money to an establishment we can support… Margaritaville. As touristy as it is, Margaritaville always gets two fins up from us.

Ron had to return to the ship early as he was the King of New Year’s Eve (read: was in charge of running everything without actually getting to enjoy it). That morning he and most of the Entertainment staff got up early and blew up thousands of balloons.

Kelly would like to note that she thought the process of it was the dumbest ever as the staff was told to blow up all of the balloons and then try to get them all from the stage to the net which ended up being, sadly, most efficiently by picking them up by hand. Kelly had to leave the premises, having lost a few brain cells witnessing the process.

Ron would like to note that although the balloon process wasn’t the smoothest he was told that this New Year’s Eve’s events went the smoothest that many people had seen in years.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves… That evening had two cast production shows followed by the New Year’s show. Kelly got all dressed up in what she refers to as her “pretty pink party dress” and came to the second show. It should be noted, for those that don’t know Kelly that well, that she is what is 100% a “morning person.” She goes to bed early and gets up early. So this was great attempt by Kelly to try and party it up into 2011. The second show finished at 10:30 PM and by 11 and Kelly was falling asleep in her seat. She gave up and went to bed. Ron coordinated the transformation of the Mainstage into the NYE 2011 party zone. Being that we’re on Holland America the ship had Rene Froger sing as a special guest. For those of you saying “Who the heck is Rene Froger?” he is a famous singer from Holland. It can also be noted that everyone on the ship who is not from Holland, ie: 99% of the people, didn’t know who he was either. He did, however, sing well and the crowd seemed to like him. The Captain rang in the New Year on the ship’s bell, balloons dropped, and the crowd sang Auld Lang Syne. The ship’s party band was ready to play into the wee hours but being that the average age of cruisers is well above 55, Ron had to call the festivities around 1AM since the crowd went from 1500 to about 15.

The next day was at sea and was pretty smooth to much appreciation of those who were able to stay awake and celebrate the New Year in the traditional drunken style. Back to Fort Lauderdale yesterday and that about sums up our week. Since our friends Ben and Kristen Brewer are aboard this upcoming week, we expect it to be much more fun than last. See ya when we return from Grand Cayman and Jamaica!


Erin Ranallo said...

You guys rock! Love your blog and living vicariously through you.

Have been to the Mayan Ruins in Honduras. Got a t-shirt which was then subsequently stolen.

I'd encourage you guys to get in to scuba diving...if you like to swim. Roatan has some of the best diving in the world and the Caribbean too.

Anonymous said...

I didn't play the Where on the Eurodam Game but i did find it entertaining and eductational. Love both your posts - like being here with ya'll!!

We were in Turks in May last year - for a once in a lifetime family trip to Beaches. Stayed on Provenciales in Grace bay and had a great time so love the pix you guys are posting!

AJ just turned 8 last month - yeah Kel EIGHT!!! In 2nd grade and doing pretty well - but then he is a boy and all lol.

Glad you guys are living the adventure! Keep the posts coming - happy 2011~