Cruise in the Caribbean

at the port
Réal, Paul, and Ken ready to board

Rhymes with booze, incompatible with lose

Having just finished my breakfast in the Lido Deck restaurant, I stepped into the elevator and pressed the button to return to our stateroom on the Upper Promenade deck, expecting the doors to close with the usual quiet and reassuring whoosh. I heard instead an insistent "beep, beep, beep" while a red button flashed accusingly, "Overload!"

How rude — I was the only one in the elevator!

My friends Réal and Ken and I just got back from a one-week cruise in the Caribbean aboard Holland America's ms Westerdam. Oh my, we had fun!

First the good news: Three of us got on board and shared a stateroom; no blood was shed; and no one was cast overboard (not that it wasn't seriously considered from time to time). Now the bad news: The cruise ended.

bloody Mary's

This was my first cruise, and I now understand why people like it so much. It's like staying in a five-star hotel that also takes you from place to place without having to repack your suitcase. A cabin steward tidies your room every morning while you are out and comes back in the evening to turn down your covers and leave a bit of chocolate and a breakfast menu on your two fluffed pillows. In the dining room, a wine steward helps you select an appropriate wine for your dinner, and a maître d' watches over the table stewards as they bring one delectable course after another, always checking that each one meets with your approval, but only after each person at the table has had a taste. Everywhere else, deck stewards make sure you want for nothing and ensure a steady flow of libations. What's not to like?

life-boat drill

But I'm getting ahead of our story. Before leaving port in Fort Lauderdale, we were made to participate in a mandatory lifeboat drill, for which we donned our life jackets and reported to the assembly point at our designated lifeboat where attendance was taken. That accomplished, all lines were let go and we made for our first stop, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. ("Cay" seems to be pronounced "key".) Our first night out turned out to be somewhat exciting — the swells in the Atlantic were large enough to slosh water out of the pool on the top deck, forcing cancellation of the first night's dance party on deck.

When we awoke the next morning, however, the ship was anchored in calm waters under blue skies. The lifeboats were lowered to take us ashore for a day at the beach.

tender service to Half Moon Cay
Tender service to Half Moon Cay
Ken, Paul, and Real head for the beach
Ken, Paul, and Réal head for the beach
Westerdam at anchor at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

After a brief broil in the sun with a cool drink (who can even remember), it was time for lunch, then back on board for the trip to Key West, Florida, for Mardi Gras.

Queen's LoungeAccording to the ship's log, the ship docked in Key West at 4:32pm. Since we had been in a foreign country (the Bahamas), we had to go through immigration and customs before disembarking. Immigration officers came on board, and the ship organized a very efficient procedure to have everyone report to the Queen's Lounge for the necessary passport check. Alas, some half-dozen of our shipmates failed to show up when called, so the other 1800 of us were forced to remain on board until they could be located and inspected. We were not happy revelers. We did the only sensible thing: we had dinner on board before heading into town to catch a few beads on Duval Street.

Temple of the seven dolls
Temple of the seven dolls. It functioned as an observatory, and the windows are aligned with the sun's rays at the solstices. Seven dolls were found buried in the temple, each with an infirmity, such as hare-lip or hunchback.

At 4:00am, the ship left port again, headed for Progreso, Mexico. The main attraction at Progreso was the Mayan ruins, and we took a guided tour to Dzibilchaltun. I was quite surprised at how the Yucatan was at that point, having expected mountainous jungles and finding flat land and scrub brush. Dzibilchaltun sign We knew that none of us would ever be able to remember or pronounce the name of the place, so we took a picture of the sign as an aide-mémoire.

When we docked back in Fort Lauderdale, the Westerdam was berthed next to the Carnival Liberty.


Carnival Liberty in port at Fort Lauderdale

Detail.

I'm not sure what to make of this. It seems a rather harsh way to deal with those who don't pay their bar bill.

When I got home and checked email, I found a message from Bob in Twain Harte with a picture of weather there. Twain Harte weather Like I said, What's not to like about a cruise in the Caribbean?

For more pictures of our most excellent Caribbean adventure, check out the slideshow (sidebar).