Roatan, Bay Islands,

Trip Start Jan 13, 2008
Trip End Jan 20, 2008

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Okay, probably no on out here cares about that, but it was worth acknowledging.
Anyway, today we visit our first port, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras. But we don't disembark until later this afternoon, so we get to enjoy the ship this morning. I'm still committed to getting in my exercise, so Michael and I go up to deck 7 and walk. Four times around is one mile, and that about does it for us today. Time for ... you know what ... breakfast. Today, I really am going to eat light.  

Afterwards, we go up to the theatre and listen in on the seminar discussing all of the wonderful tours the ship offers. Michael wants to visit the Mayan ruins at one of our stops, and I would love to do the zip line and repelling, but something tells me that the rest of our group won't be too excited about this. Oh well, I guess I'll have to do it on another trip. Since Michael and I have done this cruise thing before, we know that you can arrange a tour on land for a fraction of the cost that they charge on the ship. There are some risks, however, but hey, we're the Globetrotters and we're risk takers (somewhat). We've marked down what interests us, but decide not to share it with the others and just play it by ear.

We hook up with Arlette and David, then Arlette and I leave the guys behind and go do a little shopping. Today, there are knock-off watches, scarves and handbags for sale. Everything $10. However, nothing really grabs our attention, not even for $10. We'll regret this later. Keep reading the travel journal and you'll find out why. Somehow we meet up with Ma-ma and Pa-pa and decide to have ... you know what ... LUNCH! It is shameful, all of this eating.  

Quick note: Throughout the ship there are these touchless hand sanitizer stations. You put your hand underneath the sensor and a stream of alcohol streams out. You must do this before being seated at any of the restaurants, plus these sanitizers are near the pool, at the bars, in the fitness center, in the disco, the casino, everywhere. I must say, I do appreciate the ship's efforts at disease control and prevention.
After lunch, we go up to the captain's bridge to watch the ship pull into port. There's a glass enclosed observation area that allows us to see the captain and his crew in action. Michael, the former sailor, explains all of the instrument panels and devices and who's doing what, as we all look on. "No flash photography and no tapping on the glass," the sign above reads. However, a little boy clad in his swim trunks and wrapped in a towel walks right up to glass and starts knocking on it hoping to get the attention of the captain and some other people who are on the deck. "Can you read this?" Michael asks nicely. As the little boy mouths the words on the sign, a look suddenly crosses his face that says, "Ooooops!" It was pretty funny. Needless to say, he stops knocking on the glass.
For a better look at our first port, we go up to the top deck and snap shots of the lush, green landscape. The reefs just below the ship are quite striking. I think I see a group of school children waiting at the bus stop just across the street from the long line of taxis waiting to take tourists to locations throughout the island. There's a dance and drum group down on the pier waiting to greet the ship's guests. Someone remarked that they're doing the money dance. Heck, if they keep dancing that hard, I won't mind giving them some money. Looks like they're earning every penny they get.
As we disembark, there's a scary pirate waiting at the end of the gangplank (well, sort of).
I could swear I saw this guy mixing drinks at the poolside bar earlier today. I guess all of the ship's crew wears at least two hats. "Arrrrrrrrrgggghhh," he says as we approach him. We greet him similarly, allow the photographer to snap our picture, and keep on walking. 

The local dancers grab us and we make an effort to shake our hips to the drumbeats right along with them. I must admit, these girls have got me beat. I can't even keep up.
We walk through the shopping area that's set up to appease the souvenir-hungry cruisers, and then make our way to the waiting taxis. Suddenly, we're approached by a guy offering a tour. He'll take us to the western side of the island to visit the botanical gardens and a few other points of interest. Sounds good. I bargain him down to $15 per person ($25 pp was his original offer). This tour would have cost $45 pp if purchased on board ship. We agree on the price and he guides us over to a waiting van. As he introduces Jennifer, our "tour guide," he barks orders at the driver and we pile into the van.
We quickly learn that Jennifer is an 18-year-old college student (their college is our high school), who is on break from school until February. As we drive through the small town, she points out some obscure buildings: That's the oldest bank in Roatan; there's the oldest supermarket in Roatan. Okay, okay, there's got to be more to the tour than this. 

Oh look, that shipwreck is the "Alexander." It's been here since 1960. And there's another, the "Talon," which ran aground in 1981. There's Barefoot Cay private villas, and of course the Governor's mansion. If we keep going on like this I'm pretty sure we'll all fall asleep. I'm also sure the others are thinking this tour is a complete waste of time, so to make it more interesting I begin asking questions. Apparently, Arlette was getting the same sense, so we both asked Jennifer a bit about the culture in Roatan.
Where do the locals live? ... In the hills to avoid the hurricanes. The Americans who move here like to live on the beach. Idiots!
What's the main religion here? ... Well, there's Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness and a few others.
How big is the island? ... 36 miles long with 36 cays (or keys as we say). Honduras has three main islands.
What's the speed limit? ... There is no speed limit or traffic signals. Arlette and I were tickled by this, and a bit concerned.
Do people get hit by cars often? ... Not really. But sometimes on Saturdays.
Why is that? ... Because that's when the men go out drinking (of course).
Are there flights to the States from the airport? ... Yes. To Miami.
And finally, we arrive at our destination. Hmmmmm, this doesn't look like a botanical garden.
It's a place called The View, and while the view is quite nice, the only things here are a few vendors selling trinkets out of huts, and a restaurant. 

We all get out to stretch our legs and Michael pulls the driver aside for a little chat. Turns out that the dispatcher (the guy I negotiated with) didn't explain to him or to Jennifer that we were to go to the western side of the island. Instead, we're on the eastern side and because the ship sails in a few hours, there's no time to correct the error. Now what do we do to rectify this problem?
We pile back into the van, and I swear the tension in there was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Needless to say, it was a pretty quiet ride back. Once we arrive at the taxi area, the dispatcher approaches us and immediately the driver explains the problem, which results in a little quarrel among the three amigos-the dispatcher, the driver and Jennifer. We don't want to be ugly Americans, but we also don't want to pay for a tour that we didn't get. It really doesn't matter to us whose fault it was, but we were all pretty certain that Jennifer is the innocent one among the three, so Michael assures her that we will take care of her. He pulls the dispatcher aside for a conference; then does the same with the driver. The result: We pay the driver $50 and give Jennifer a $15 tip. The cost of the tour would have been $90 based on the price quoted. The lesson: sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

As the sun set on Roatan, we walked through the Main Street Mall to pick up some souvenirs for family. Soon we were followed by a group of beautiful Honduran children. Several of the boys tried to convince us that they were rappers, so we let them show us their skills. It was quite funny to hear these boys imitate the American rap stars.
Back on board ship, we shower, then to go ... you know where ... DINNER.
Instead of a show, we follow the sounds of music at the aft deck and find ourselves in the middle of a '70s party. Hey, why didn't we get an invitation? Turns out that we're on a party cruise with a bunch of wild and crazy Cajuns who do this every two years when their favorite band, the Nik'l Beer Band, is invited on board.

Somehow, we wind up standing on the level just below the band (and the speakers), seemingly the center of attention, but with a great view of all the dancers on the deck below. There's a guy in a wheelchair getting his groove on, a woman in a pink wig shaking her thang, and a totally drunk guy who keeps bumping into everyone, but seems to be dancing with no one in particular. Then there's this middle-aged couple who are tearing it up. I swear, they could give the contestants on "Dancing With the Stars" a run for their money.

The band is playing some pretty good music to help the people get their boogie on. Then the leader says that they've received a request to play a "gay" song, but they can only play one. So now, everyone's wondering who the "gay" lover is. Then all of a sudden they break out playing "Let's Get It On" by Marvin GAY ... and the crowd goes wild!! It is too funny. I have to start dancing now.

Later, they play this woodpecker song. I can't even get into the scenario behind that one, but trust me, it was pretty funny. After a few more jams, including the second line song, the band calls it a night, much to the dismay of the partiers. What a fun party. Now it's definitely time to call it a night.

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