Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Dream Part Six - Mexican Chocolate Cats & Movies

Here we go again. Week six is over half way done. Spring Break has wound down, the median age of the pax is up, and the quality of the food is still right in the middle. The Dream, unaware of time and place, just keeps chuggin’ along.

Most of the JARs are eagerly anticipating the end of the contract, which is about two weeks away. As a matter of fact, all but one are leaving The Dream for other opportunities, or to simply take a much needed vacation. As for me, I am one of the many that is going back home to reality, but since I am not on the plane to San Diego just yet, lets focus on the week that was…

This week the gang and I went out and enjoyed all the best that Mexico has to offer. In Progresso we got off the boat and after our 4 mile bus ride down the pier into town we ended up at Ricky’s Mexican Cantina. Once there it was cold cerveza, ceviche and chicken nachos… even a celebratory shot of tequila… celebrating something we never quite decided on, but dammit it was gonna get celebrated anyway.

Now, I think there is a certain signal one gives out when you’ve had a few tasty Mexican beers and a swig of tequila… While I can’t tell you what it is, I can tell you that when it happens, all the street peddlers with their shirts, beads, shells, gum, bootleg DVDs, postres, helados, bracelets, evening gowns, encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, Ginzu knife sets, pocket fisherman, smokeless ashtrays, and peeing statues come out of nowhere. Out of all that I had to choose from, I decided on this handsome box of chocolate.

You can see by the cover that after some beer and tequila the selection was irresistible. Nothing says fine Mexican chocolate quite like a black cat and a white cat intertwined and smiling like they just peed in your hat, but they ain’t gonna tell you. Fortunately, the chocolate wafers inside did not resemble cat pee in a hat, and were instead quite refreshing.

After the chocolate, we settled our tabs and crossed the street to the beach. Once there it was your standard “get in the water, get out of the water, sun, get in the water, get out of the water, sun, etc…” The only difference between this and your otherwise normal everyday beach day was the fact that our resident singing Australian Peter decided to teach me how to bowl a cricket ball. Ironically, the ball itself was made out of cow hide, and was much like a baseball, if a little bit heavier.

The whole idea behind bowling this here cricket ball is to look foolish doing it. As a matter of fact, you really have to abandon all pretenses of looking normal if you want to do this right. Basically you step a few times then hop up on one leg, tucking the knee up with the other leg. While doing this you tuck the ball into your chest, then whip the ball down to your waist, then back up to your shoulder like one big wind up, finally releasing the ball like a hopping human catapult. Thing is, you have to do this wind up with a straight arm, otherwise the umpire or designated official will call you out, effectively embarrassing you in front of friends, family and loved ones.

The whole physical mechanics of doing this is much harder than it is visually silly. While most of my efforts effectively slung the ball to an early release and shattered the ozone, Peter could whip this heavy red ball quite fast. So we did this back and forth for a while, until Natalie and Lance (JAR Singer and Showband Bassist, respectively) decided it would be a funny idea to pants yours truly. And they did, and they saw my butt, which I think was immediate and effective retribution. But, just in case it wasn’t, I submit to you, my readers, Lance posing like a girl on the beach…

After more swimming and bowling, it was time to get back on the boat. Next up on our Mexican Beach hit list was Cozumel. Now, in case I haven’t mentioned this earlier, Cozumel doesn’t really have a beach to speak of within walking distance. There’s the Barracuda Hotel, which has more or less some old cement steps that go into the water… but really no place to hang out or sun. Peter was telling me, however, that there are several beaches within taxi distance. So Peter, Natalie, Dominic Dillan, Andrew, and myself (all JARs) decided that today we would pile in a cab and make our way to “Bob Marley Beach.”

At the time, all I knew about this beach was that it was located on the North shore of the island… isolated and beautiful. Peter and them had been before, and now I was going to experience it for myself. So we get in a cab, tell them where we wanted to go, and were on our way… and that’s when the trouble started.

Now, for those of you who live in sunny Southern California and have tasted the sweet nectar of Tijuana and points south, know about taxis. They almost never have a meter, and will take you anyplace you want to go… when you agree on a price ahead of time. When we all piled into the van, I wondered about the price, but didn’t say anything thinking Peter had taken care of it… nope.

We were five minutes out of town when the taxi driver admitted to us that he wasn’t quite sure where he was going. After pointing to a location on a laminated map, the cabbie told us that round trip was going to be a hundred dollars. Oops. Peter was expecting fifty, since that’s what he paid last time… The cabbie said the lowest he was going to go was eighty. Then Peter and him went back and forth haggling about the price as we are driving there… Now I’m no Donald Trump, but it would seem that the consumer’s buying power lessens significantly once they have already begun consuming the goods.

Over the next five minutes Peter and company tried to talk him down, but it wasn’t going to work… so we decided to hit Playa Mia instead. Closer than Bob Marley, Playa Mia is a place where turistos can purchase admission with an “all you can drink” bracelet. There are lots of things to do there like jet ski, rock climb, volleyball, etc… all for a nominal fee. And Since we’re crew, we got in para gratis and had lunch, then swam in the bath water temperatured ocean and laid out in the sizzling hot sun.

After a couple of hours, it was back to Cozumel where we hit the usual coffee bar, relaxed, then walked back to the tender station to get back on board. Along the way I window shopped for some new boots… I think I’ll be coming back with a new pair… More on that next week.

Belize was, as it is and always will be, Unbelizeable. Today we walked down to the Princess Casino, where I gave the Country twenty-five dollars. Or, you could say I bought two Belikin beers at twelve fifty a piece… I’ll leave it up to you. After the casino, we found a French bakery. The doughnuts were exquisite, and while Peter, Natalie, and Frederico finished their doughnuts, I decided to stack some Belizean currency

Yeah, I know what your thinking… “You mean he can sing, dance, act, AND stack one dollar Belizean coins?” Why, yes, I can… for hiring information, visit

Then it was back to The Wet Lizard for a strawberry banana daiquiri. Now, I’ve been to this place several times, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why I keep coming back. The service is at best slow and forgetful, and you never get the drink you ordered. My strawberry banana daiquiri had no banana in it… sigh… Next week we’re going to the Smokey Mermaid… another Belizean “adjective-noun” bar. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

And now for a lesson in wine purchasing…

That night Tracey and I dined out at The Four Seasons Restaurant, located on the scenic Deck 9 Midship. The service… impeccable. The food… surprising and good. The conversation… sparkling. Now, a few weeks prior Tracey had taken me out for dinner and bought us a very nice bottle of wine… A Jordan Cabernet. So I thought I would return the favor, and this time I bought a Camus Cabernet. The wine came, the bottle said Camus Cabernet, and we drank the wine… enjoying every sip.

The meal arrived and was eaten, and as we were enjoying desert when my bill for the wine came… Now, the Camus Cabernet was an eighty dollar bottle of wine… this I knew. When I received my bill, and it said ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS AND TWENTY FIVE CENTS, I was startled. Well, turns out that in the wine menu there is a “Unique Bottles” section… unique because they excelled in math and science in high school, or because they came from Mars, or maybe because each grape was hand squeezed by Marcel Mercot and Maurice Chevaliet while arm wrestling high atop the Eiffel Tower.

Well, turns out there are two Camus Cabs on the menu… and I got the gifted and talented one. After a long conversation with the bar manager, I was as we say in the states… screwed. So, I signed for it, and now the bottle, cork, and serving towel sits proudly in my room, and will travel home with me where I will never… ever… ever throw it away. Ever. I think iced tea is a highly underrated drink, by the way…

That night I played poker with the fellas (and Natalie, who is an honorary dude in the most flattering sense) and we all had a good laugh about the bottle, and even though I started the game a little lethargic, was able to beat out my buddies in a little Texas Hold ‘Em and effectively narrow the spread of regular and premium unleaded wine. All’s well that ends well…

And the news gets better… Remember way back in Week One of my literary journey where I mentioned the STYLE video we shot? If not, go back and read it… then come back here… For the rest of you… we won! Well, we tied for First Place with the Norwegian Dawn… so we won… basically… really. Anyway we all get a hundred smackers for our time and efforts (read: pretending to be drunk and disorderly). That money is going to go to my boot purchase in Cozumel… sweet.

Which brings me to the film presentation for this blog. Thanks to the power of the internet, I am able to share with you moving pictures accompanied with sound. So, I invite you to enjoy our award winning Style video. See if you can spot all the contraband in the cabin… examples of being unSTYLEish… and what would be considered STYLEish. If you can tell the difference, you are half way there to becoming NCL material! Here we go…

Pretty neat, huh? This was all shot my first week on board, and I am proud to say that all the folks involved are really good friends of mine… I would like to thank them, and the academy, for this honor.

For my next trick I submit to you the following… On the evening of March 13th I was invited to a hall party in the room stweard department, and had a great time singing and throwing back a few Coronas. Around an hour into the night, I had someone's camera in my hand...

For those of you who have left your camera or phone in my hands, you pretty much know what to expect... for the rest of you, here's what happens.

And that pretty much sums up the week that was… My tattoo this week is tough yet delicate… like me. I leave you with that.

Your pal,

Michael Lamendola

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