"Jack Sparrow: Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom."*
Our recent cruise was restful, recreational and a great learning experience. We ate, we drank (a little) and read (a lot). We met some very interesting people along the way - an underwater photographer looked remarkably like Johnny Depp, something the snorkeling crew played up, especially when it came time to buy the pictures.
The Shore Excursions Ain't What They Used To Be. Some years ago we went on a snorkeling venture, an outing organized by our home resort in Playa Del Carmen. To make a long story short, it was a bit unstructured. The equipment was old and tired (my personal flotation device was missing three of four buckles), the crew confused.... We lost the dive leader seconds after leaving the boat, picked our way through coral in four foot swells and, upon returning were dropped off in water over our heads.
This time -
beautiful snorkeling boat, great crew and a photographer with a spooky resemblance to Johnny Depp. We brought our own masks and snorkels, but the fins were in good shape. Even in healthy seas the boat was stable. The water was clear, the fish abundant and the crew right there to keep us focused. Oh - getting into the water, and then back aboard, were unnecessarily interesting; the choke point at the bottom of the stairway was also the gear collection zone. Silly.
However, once through that transition the beer, and margaritas (which contained actual tequila) smoothed my ruffled, Carib-drenched feathers. A beach stop, a few more restoratives.... I'm not a dancer, but enjoyed watching the merriment as youth, tequila and the Village People led to a spirited line dance on the fore-deck, interrupted only by a wave that knocked down half the revelers . Nearing the dock, Captain Jack left us aboard a zodiac, standing up in the bow like he was riding a dolphin.
Not the unstructured outing we were used to. Professional, value for the money, crisp. We returned to shore reluctantly, had a crappy meal at Senor Frogs and returned to the boat.
It's not an every vacation vacation. The all-inclusive resorts may be a better overall value. But.... On our fourth day aboard we got up after a great night's sleep, had a little coffee on the balcony and left for breakfast. We ate entirely acceptable eggs and fruit and watched out the stern windows as the bridge crew backed us into a parking space along the dock in Cozumel. Like we were a Hugo.
Pat and I spent day after day looking for something fun to share and then doing it. Being on a ship wasn't confining, it was freeing. Every day, every mile - a new horizon, a new port.... a good book, a boat drink and my best friend to share it with.
We got home in time to pick up our dogs, too.
*Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Pirates of the Caribbean:Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003