Our Christmas gift to each other was a seven day cruise on Carnival Magic to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico at the end of January.
In Montego Bay, we took a city tour which included a drive around town, a pit stop at an exclusive golf course, a shopping trip at the local gee-gaw store and a brief time at the beach.
My impression of the city was a mix of chaos and hope. On the surface, I saw way too much trash, dirt and disorder, but also, I couldn't help noticing the pride in the voice of our guide as she talked about her town specifically and her country in general. Always quick to acknowledge the shortcomings, she was just as eager to point to the successes.
On a personal level, I came away from the gee-gaw store with a great apron, a jar of jerk sauce, a bag of coffee, a bottle of rum cream and the plan for a dinner party.
At the beach, the daiquiri was disappointing, but the fish was good and the music was fantastic.
Does this gal look like she's having fun?
In Georgetown, we took a public bus to the botanic gardens which are located several miles out of town. Cayman was much cleaner, much better organized, and seemed much safer than Montego Bay. In all fairness, it is important to note that Jamaica is an independent nation while Grand Cayman is still part of Great Britain. One would expect to find some significant differences.
Just as much fun was the bus ride. As I mentioned, this was a public bus, but when we expressed concern about getting back to the ship on time, the driver went inside the visitor center to let the folks know they should call him when we were ready to return to Georgetown so that he could pick us up. We were not to worry; He promised we would be back long before the ship sailed.
They called. He came to get us. We were back in plenty of time.
In Cozumel, we treated ourselves to a buggy ride through town. Our driver Raul was the best part of the treat. He took us from one end of town to the other with a constant line of chatter - mostly Spanish, some English. He told us about his job, his wife, his twelve children, and his horse. The horse was new on the job and Raul wasn't sure he was going to make the grade for permanent work. However, Raul said, for him it was a win-win situation. If the horse worked out, he would be fed. If he didn't work out, he would be food for Raul's family.
He also had an excuse for the twelve children. It was, he explained, the fault of his wife. She was just too hot; he couldn't keep his hands off her. As luck would have it, we met the wife later that day. She didn't look all that hot to me, but it was obvious that he adored her. Makes you wonder just what it is that makes a woman hot!
At one point on the tour, the rain poured down in bucketfuls. Raul took the opportunity to give us his spiel about how much better satisfied we would be if we agreed to take the longer tour. We quickly realized we were outgunned. This guy could convince you of anything. We made the deal.
Cozumel was the perfect example of the tourist trap. In order to access the town, cruise ship passengers had to pass through a very long, narrow building which was absolutely packed with duty free goods. Never has temptation pressed in so tightly. The streets were lined with ATM machines, all spitting out American dollars. We had negotiated with Raul in pesos, but we had to actually go to a bank to get enough to pay him. The ATMs did not deal in Mexican money.
As we left Cozumel, we were almost caught in a traffic jam. Three cruise ships were all scheduled for evening departure. It made quite a light show from our balcony.
Would I like to go on another cruise? Maybe. But not for a while. The food was excellent, the service was faultless, and the stops were interesting, but we could only eat so much, after a while the service became cloying, and the stops were not long enough to permit any kind of extended exploration.
The ship itself was a wonder. Just out of the box brand new with all kinds of bells and whistles. And so big you couldn't see from one end of the boat to the other. We did enjoy the dancing. With several venues on board, we were always within walking distance of great dance music. Another cruise? I'll have to think about it.