Su Lum: Cruising stops
February 11, 2004
A friend of mine wrote to ask me how it was that I wrote eight columns about my recent seven-day Caribbean cruise without saying a word about the ports of call, so here’s column nine.
Our first stop was Half Moon Cay (pronounced Key), an island owned by Holland America. There was a little faux village of thatched souvenir shops ” I don’t think anyone actually lives on the place ” but the main attraction was a beautiful beach with crystal-clear waters, great for scuba diving.
Bruce, my son-in-law, and his parents scuba dived and romped in the water for a few hours and enjoyed it. I have a tube in one ear and a perforated drum in the other so I can’t partake in head-underwater activities, and my daughter Hillery is so prone to sun poisoning she didn’t want to leave the boat to fry on the beach on the second day of the trip.
In retrospect, the should-have-done’s of travel, Hillery and I agreed that we should have taken our suits and towels and at least gone for a dip, but we didn’t.
The next stop was St. Maartens. There were three other ships in the harbor, meaning we walked a mile past them just to get to our starting point, where there was another faux souvenir village for those too faint of heart to proceed to the Dutch town of Bridgeport via vans or boat taxis. The heat was staggering; Hillery went back to our ship, and the rest of us proceeded by boat taxi.
Passing a small boat with two black men aboard, one of them raised his arm and pretended to be strafing us, reminding me of the many times I’ve wanted to have a machine gun mounted on my City Market cart during tourist season in Aspen.
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Bridgeport is a two-street town with traffic congestion taken to the nth degree, 2 mph tops but basically Stopped. You have to picture the situation. Four of these mother cruise ships descend simultaneously, expelling some 10,000 tourists for the same short duration and it’s a zoo of hawking vendors and tourists laden like pack animals.
This was a real island with real people living there, the two streets lined with shops not selling things unique to the area, but duty free jewelry, watches, electronic equipment, cigarettes and booze. It is a small, divided island; the other half is French-owned St. Martins. In retrospect, I should have taken a bus to the French side to check that out.
Third stop, St. Thomas. By then I was feeling I hadn’t been taking proper advantage of the excursions, so I signed up for a helicopter ride over the island. The ride was marvelous ” it was like being a dragonfly and the vistas were gorgeous. The down side was that the half-hour ride took over three hours due to the traffic.
Last stop, Nassau. Bruce swam with stingrays. I had signed up for an underwater trip, in something like a glass-bottom boat but with the windows on the side. An hour and a half. This excursion was canceled due to lack of interest, replaced by a three-and-a-half-hour boat and BUS tour. Reluctant but determined, I signed up for that.
The group broiled for a half hour for the tour people to get it together, got marched around a corner and, after 20 more minutes, I said screw this and went back to the ship. In retrospect, I’m not sorry.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who has little tolerance for waiting around. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. ]
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