Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cruise 2013 Part Two

Once on board, typical of these cruises, we were  thrust into a virtual melting pot of humans yearning for the drink of the day. From bib overall wearing farm folk (no...seriously) to the brightly attired Hindus trailing what seemed like hoards of unrestrained little Hindus (some wearing  leashes...really) or packs of giggling adolescent young women clutching their cellphones to instantly respond to text messages from the girl right next to them.

Most cruisers would agree that Carnival is kind of the "poor mans" cruise line. Don't get me wrong, they have a pretty good all around cruise experience but, probably because of their competitive pricing, kind of attract a certain segment of the cruising public. More beer drinking than wine drinking going on if you know what I mean.

On this particular cruise, there seemed to be a lot of groups of "plus size" women aboard sans men. There's something a little unnerving about watching very overweight 40 somethings dancing on the Lido Deck in two piece bathing suits my daughter might look cute in, with big old rolls testing out Newton’s "action-reaction" principle. Yeah, I know I'm going to be getting some cards and emails but I just don't know if I should admire them for their courage or laugh at their lack of fashion sense.

Of course, game day came on the first sea-day and once everyone was in place to watch the Jumbo-tron on the Lido Deck....... it rained. A cloud burst washed over the ship as we headed south to our first stop in Progreso, Mexico.  Just as quickly as it began it was over and the chicken wings and beer flowed throughout the rest of the night (and ensuing blackout) only to see the 49'ers make an amazing come-back and throw it all away in the final moments of the game.

The rest of the time, the Jumbo-tron is used as a subliminal device to transmit the hypnotic Carnival message to go downstairs and order up another cruise. The viewing area is a large bowl of seating all pointed at the screen. Except for the occasional Miami NBC affiliate television programs and movies, there is a continuous loop showing Carnival ships gliding through placid Caribbean waters silhouetted against beautiful sunsets and equally beautiful, scantily clad people prancing around majestic white sand beaches having the time of their lives. You can see the post-hypnotic suggestion taking hold as one after another make their way below to the Carnival kiosk to sign on the dotted line.

First stop is the port of Progreso. It's a neat place but, interestingly, more a major fishing town and import/export center than cruise line tourist trap. We seemed to be the exception than the rule for the towns folk who primarily service the fishing industry and serve as a vacation destination for the locals from the three states of  Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. There isn't even a shopping tour of Progreso. Progreso is one of the gateways to the Mayan Temple of Chichen Itza.    Mérida is the capitol of Yucatán, among the 12th of the most populous Mexican metropolitan areas and has the bulk of the shopping and histrionics.

Of course, personally Mayan Templed out from other cruises, we opted to do something physical because that's how we roll.....well, yeah maybe not. We decided to try something new. Last time it was Segways, this year it is kayaking. Yes, Dianna and I power stroking our way through a nature preserve wetland in a place called Laguna Rosada.

It all sounded good on paper but once off the ship, things took (as is typical of our vacations) an odd turn. Herded onto our classic third-world non-air conditioned bus with our non-English speaking bus driver Gilberto and our very perky guide Graciela.

Graciela is typical of the many tour guides we have come across. Very knowledgeable and energetic but having to make do with a non-event venue and trying really hard to make it fun (sorry, no pictures for fear our phones and the Rocks in my Sandals camera might get it turned out both a wise and prophetic precaution). The "wetland" was little more than a tideland that, as it turns out, runs out of water during low tide. Guess when we arrived.

Joined by safety man Rueben, we were given a quick safety brief, novice paddling instructions and the mandatory life vests which turned out to be completely unnecessary. Once loaded and launched off into the unforgiving wind and tide, we almost immediately beached on a sand bar. Try as we might, Dianna and I could not get off that sucker only digging the equivalent of a Panama Canal in the silt below us. Guide Graciela happily came by to inform us there may be times one of us (well, me) would  have to exit the craft to pull on the convenient handle at the bow and, like Hugh Jackman in the opening scene of Les Miserables, pull the kayak to deeper waters (she actually said to me with a well practiced twinkle in her eye in her clipped Latin accent, "Remember..we're on an adventure, no?"), get in without tossing your partner into the brine (would not have heard the end of that one) and continue the tour while Rueben and Graciela paddled happily about in their single passenger kayaks. A well-disciplined squadron of naval ships we were not. The untrained eye might not even conclude we were together. Hey..we were all over the place and a hazard to navigation if there had been anybody else out there.

As Graciela and Rueben herded us around the preserve in between squishing slimy silt between my toes and me pulling us off the latest sand bar (seriously..... as we sloughed around, we passed fisherman standing in the middle of these "ponds" in ankle-deep water), we got to see exotic sea birds and a couple of flying fish hurtling about. One in particular was the Cormorant which the Chinese capture and train to catch fish. The fisherman launch the birds from their boats and once caught, the birds disgorge them into their owners hands and go back for more. The birds are restrained from swallowing their catch by a band around their necks but they dutifully retrieve fish after fish until called off.
NOT us

A word about two-person kayaking. I am now convinced it is a "sport" secretly designed by the Devil himself (or herself.....hey, I have an open mind) to test or undermine what seem to be solid married and committed couples, to the brink of divorce and break up. We almost immediately ran into troubled waters when we couldn't get our ( paddling coordinated. Things got out of hand quickly with Dianna finally deciding to stop paddling altogether as we rolled left and right seemingly incapable of holding a straight course leaving me to my own devices. I thought this might make a great "reality" show on Fox.

But we had something the others didn't have (we were the oldest couple there). Bringing forth those couples communication 101 skills we had been so diligently honing all of our 38 years of dating. That's right, I did exactly whatever Dianna told me to do and we successfully navigated our way around and got back to the starting point without a hitch. Well, until I debarked to help Dianna out of the front seat.

See.... for all the lack of water everywhere else in the park, in my haste, I found the only spot at the landing that had a huge drop-off much deeper than I anticipated and I went in right up to my sunglasses. Of course I was the only one cavalier enough not to allow Rueben to retrieve my loved one. So I had the honor of being the only one dripping wet for the trip back to the port.  Oh guessed it, I didn't listen to Dianna in bringing that all important change of clothes suggested by the tour description in the pamphlet either. After having huffed and puffed through two hours of kayaking (or pulling off sand bars) we were ready to depart for the ship but not before having two shots of Tequila first to toast our accomplishment.

Re-boarding our venerable bus (I was looking for the DOT number...couldn't find it), Gilberto began the long and arduous ride back to the port and ship. Turns out the harbor (like the tidelands), is very shallow so they had to dredge out the shipping lane at the deepest point but several miles from the nearest strip of land. So the Mexican government (I'm sure involving some misguided stimulus program) decided to build this really long causeway to the pier. This thing goes on for several miles. And the speed limit is 25 miles per hour so if you have say....a full bladder from slamming down water and Tequila, you can imagine my relief (literally) when we got back to the tourist trap entrance to the pier.  Yeah....I didn't listen to Dianna (or Tonia's voice in my head for that matter) telling me to go at the conveniently located bathroom at the kayak landing.

As some of you may know, cruise lines are institutions ruled by the clock. They have very specific rules about being on-time to insure they get from place-to-place in the requisite time alloted. So there is always a warning from the cruise staff that, if you're not on board by the last sound of the horn, you will be rewarded by the best photo-op, a shot of the ship pulling away from the dock. It's up to you to make other arrangements to meet the ship at it's next stop.
Hmmmm, "Keep off Propellers" has there been
a rash of people standing on the ship's propellers?

So it was, that at the appointed hour of 4 p.m. and several pulls of the ship's horn, we still hadn't slacked the lines for departure. Minutes ticked by and we could easily see harbor and ship staff huddled together at the gangway gesturing at the causeway and at each other and a lot of radio chatter from the handheld radios everyone had.

Finally, the subject of all the ruckus, a lone off-white Mexican cab, came careening up onto the pier and slid to a stop at the bottom of the gangway. The back door was flung open and a young couple, with beach and shopping bags in hand, stepped out onto the quay to the jeering and applause of all the passengers leaning over the port rails.

Not to be outdone, the young woman, like a rock star, stepped out of the car, did her best Miley Cyrus two-handed wave back at the crowd. Then, almost on cue, tripped on her flip flop mounting the gangway as they returned to the safety of the ship. Lucky Bastards, I say.

Stay tuned for Part 3....

1 comment:

  1. I liked the part about the fat ladies. Also, as the owner of a two person inflatable kayak, I have learned to always put Cathie in the front. At first she insisted on riding in the back and it wasn't until after several outings I discovered that she wasn't paddling. So now she required to ride in the front so I can make sure she's not shirking her responsibilities. It would have been better to get two one person kayaks that way if she didn't want to paddle, she didn't have to.