Vacation, Part Two - the Islands

Yesterday I told you about the first two ports we visited on our cruise the last week in October – Cozumel and Grand Cayman. As I said, both of those places play a part in my new book, Into the Deep, so I was able to do some research.

The other two ports we visited had nothing to do with this book. Belize is an interesting place. The cruise ships have to anchor far off the coast, and the passengers “tender” in, which means they loaded us onto smaller boats for a 10-minute ride to the shore. Surrounded by a large coral reef, Belize is a popular place for scuba divers. Since we weren’t diving this trip, we tendered in and walked around. Actually, we didn’t do much walking because Belize City isn’t a very nice place for foot traffic. The cruise pier is enclosed by a high wall, and right outside the gate people lined up, shouting to get the attention of vacationers. Some of those were selling things, and some of them were begging. But there were a lot of them. The cruise director cautioned against venturing into the city on our own, and since there were only two of us and many dozens of them, we decided his advice was worth heeding. So we stayed inside the guarded walls and checked out the tourist shops. Left a little money there, too. Did you know that you can buy many prescription medications over-the-counter in both Belize and Mexico? I have to admit, I was tempted to get a bottle of Amoxicillin for my ear infection, but in the end I couldn’t do it. I was raised by a pharmacist, and I just couldn’t make myself buy drugs that haven’t been approved by the FDA. (My daddy will be proud of me!)

I did see something in one of the shops that stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t help it – I had to take a picture. Look closely. Do you see what it is? Yep. That’s a crucifix in a shot glass. O---kay.

The last port on our trip was our favorite. This is only the second time we’ve been in Isla Roatan, Honduras. Yes, Honduras. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? And I admit, with the civil unrest going on in Honduras in the days before our visit, I half-way expected the ship’s captain to reroute us and avoid Roatan. I’m so glad that didn’t happen.

Like Belize, Roatan is a poor place, and much of the island is not very clean, by American standards. Many of the homes are little more than shacks, either with dirt floors or on stilts. The island is stunningly beautiful, hilly and covered with dense forest all the way up to the shore. The people have worked very hard to create an island paradise for visitors in an effort to attract tourism. I think they’ve done a terrific job. There were several beautiful resorts that we wouldn’t mind visiting. The cruise pier has been built up with a colorful building and shops since our last visit. We boarded a bus and drove to the other side of the island to get on a sailboat, and took a ninety-minute sail around the island. Then we snorkeled for an hour at a stunning reef. The waters were as crystal clear as we remembered from diving there a few years ago, and the reef is mature, with a huge variety of coral. We enjoyed lunch on the sailboat (the Jolly Roger), then sailed back to the ship. My husband and I walked outside the walled, guarded pier area to do a little shopping, and did our part to support the local economy. I bought a beautiful handmade wooden salad set. The thing we love about Isla Roatan is that the natural beauty of the island is unspoiled, even though they are trying to turn the place into a popular tourist destination. We hope it stays unspoiled.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the fun things we did onboard the Carnival Legend.