Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Dream Part Seven - Beaches And Caves

As I approach the end of week 7, I am reminded that most of my coworkers are nearing the end of week 29. Quite a difference when you consider they have been doing the same shows for almost six months, and I am only getting at two. Of course, when it’s all said and done, my cumulative total will be nine months of the same show… but the year and a half break in between helped work out the monotony.

Still, what a week it was… Our time off the boat this week was very well spent, and we saw much more of Cozumel and Belize than we had in the past. First off lets talk about Cozumel. Now, for the uninitiated, Cozumel on foot is nothing more than a conglomerate of booze and jewelry stores. There are a couple of places to get in the water, but nothing that smacks of the phrase “tropical paradise.” Also, you’ll recall that last week we tried to get over to a place called “Bob Marley Beach” over on the northern part of the island. Thwarted by a taxi cab driver who demanded more means for the way, we tucked our tails and settled for Playa Del Carmen… but this week we figured things out.

After the formality of Country Gold rehearsal Peter, Natalie, Domonic, and myself jumped off the ship (and since we were docked, the jump was well timed) and headed toward town. First item of business: renting a car. Now there are lots of countries that are represented by the automobiles they manufacture… Germany has Porsche, Italy has Ferrari, Hell even Korea has Kia… While Mexico can’t claim the El Camino or Nova (Spanish for no go… hahaha), it did at one time continue to manufacture the old body style Volkswagen Beetle. So it’s no wonder that there are more black and blue arms due to a rousing game of slug bug in Mexico than any other country in the world. And we got ourselves one.

A white convertible VW Bug… a testament to the Mexican perfection of German engineering. Our bug was loaded with features like door handles, seat belts, and a pretend hand brake. But the important thing was that it cranked and got us places. Plus it helped that with the top down and four passengers inside, she was still able to go 120 KpH!!!
So off we went, pointing our trusty bug north, in search of water, sand, and sun… About half an hour down the road we found it… The fabled Bob Marley Beach. Nothing more than a restaurant on the beach side of the road, and a grass hut covered gift shop on the other, the place was colored in traditional Rastafarian green, red, and yellow. Had Bob actually patronized this tropical beach, ordering up a frozen lemonade and a cheeseburger in paradise from the menu that is nothing more than a painted piece of wood? Doubtful… but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the afore mentioned food and drink.

Afterwards we went and looked at the gift shop across the street… only once there our eyes were immediately drawn to the two huge friggin’ pigs sleeping in the shade by the building. They looked so comfortable, sleeping and snorting… So comfortable that I thought I might want to cuddle with one…

Okay, so I decided to keep back just a little… pigs they might be, but I don’t want to wind up hugging the one with an attitude and track star abilities. Still, the pig and I held a moment together… then it was off to find a beach and jump in.

About ten minutes down the road we picked one… it was the same one we’ve been driving by the whole time, but it was away from the assorted mom and pop restaurant and watering hole. Still, it wasn’t desolate since there was a fair amount of trash washed ashore… Luckily for us that was during high tide, so when we got there the water had receded and the trash was a fair distance away from us and the water.

And how about the water… The waves were huge… really huge. It took a little doing to get out to sea past the shallow section of the beach. If you didn’t dive through the wave that was crashing over your head… way over your head, you’d lose about 30 or 40 feet as you tumble back to shore. Diving through the wave got you further, but also gave you two sensations… One being the brick wall the water feels like on your head, the other being the perplexing sensation of playing hide and seek with your swim trunks. In any case, once out past the crashing surf, Peter, Domonic and I body surfed huge waves all the way back to the shore… Okay, so Dominic and Peter body surfed… I just caught waves that threw me back… hard… towards the shore.

After some vigorous exercise playing in mother nature’s spin cycle, we ventured out of the ocean to soak up the sun’s warming rays. And dammit if we didn’t look good doing it…

Yeah, that’s how we roll… JARs 4 Life.

After watching Dom do some back flips on the beach we piled into the Bug and scouted some other points of interest. As we drove along the north coast, we found some craggy land bridges coming out of the ocean. And we went and stood on them… Good times… standing on the craggy rocky points. Wanna see?

At this point on the map of Cozumel we had reached the Northern most point, and are now hooking back South, as the tip of the island is not that far across. Coming back down the south side, we found a pleasant looking beach oasis, and stopped in for some more frozen lemonade (no drinking on a show day…).

After enjoying our frosty beverage it was back into the ocean to let the waves take us to the mat for twelve rounds. Again Peter and Domonic body surfed, and I got beat to Hell. But it was great! At this point we had to start thinking about getting back to the ship. Fortunately for us, we had made a giant U along the North part of the island, and were now directly West of the city. So we piled back into the Bug, with yours truly at the wheel, and drove back to town. Before leaving… I had to make sure that the bug could respond properly to revving the engine and popping the clutch… It did. And it was good.

Back in Cozumel we had one last errand to run before getting back on board. We had to buy shirts… but not just any shirts… the “I Love To Fart” shirts that so many of you have complimented me on. Yes, I have excellent taste in clothing, and my friends are beginning to develop a keen eye themselves. So now Peter, Natalie, Frederico, and I have a matching set. And we took a picture to commemorate it. So now, I give to you, four people who genuinely love to fart.

As we said goodbye to Cozumel, we also had to bid a fond farewell to our four fendered friend. here’s the Cozumelian Dream Team…

Good times… good times… how could they get any better? Belize it or not, they can, and did…

This cruise marks the end of Frederico’s tenure with the Shore Ex department on board The Dream. While we are sad to see our friend leave, if only a week before us, he did give us one helluva time in Belize.

Our day started with a 1 pm meeting on Deck 4 so we can board the tender for shore. This time the Belizean Dream Team consisted of Peter, Natalie, Michela (Cruise Staff), Federico, Domonic and I. Now, since Frederico deals with the locals at all the ports, he builds a working relationship with some, and a friendship with others. So, a buddy of his meets us at the tender port, and we follow him to a van waiting just outside the port buildings.

At this point, Frederico doesn’t know what is planned either, so we all hop into the van and drive out of town and into the Belizean countryside. After half an hour we arrive at a dirt road, where waiting for us were two Land Rovers… and not the ones you see poking around in the states… I mean off road Land Rovers.

So Freddie took the wheel of one, and Peter took the wheel of the other, and off we went down an old gravel road, past a limestone quarry, around a mountain, and into the jungle on a beat up old dirt road with lots of pot holes, bumps, and other things that Pete and Fred aimed the Rovers at. Then we drove into a clearing with a couple of wood and leaf pavilions, a rope bridge, and a river.

Once assembled, we meet our tour guides. They hand us wearable flashlights, and we make our way into the jungle. After learning about some trees and plants that can cure everything from snake bites to diarrhea (and if you eat to much, it’ll give you constipation… and that ain’t no sh!+) we ended up at some natural caves.

Full of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, bats, and spiders, we got a private tour of some genuine Belizean caverns.

We walked, crouched, and crawled through some really awesome caverns… some expansive and large, others small and claustrophobic. Here are some pictures of our spelunking trip.

After our adventure it was back to base camp for some fruit and rum punch. Then, after we were well nourished, we ran down the hill to the river. We played in the water, swimming upstream and floating down, enjoying more fruit and punch. But, since we are employees of NCL, every day must end on the ship… So we piled back into the Rovers, this time with Domonic and myself at the helm. Again, it was pot hole target practice, with the yelling and screaming matching the mud being slung on the windshield.

Back in the smelly metropolis of Belize, there was time for a trip to the Wet Lizard for some cold Belikin Beer. Thus ended two consecutive best days ever… oh yeah, you better Belize it.

Of course, it would be rude to forget our dear friend Progresso… Our laid back Mexican friend is always consistent with its plentiful supply of sun and surf. While in port, Peter and I got a massage on the beach from a transplanted English woman. Not the best massage we’ve ever had, but for $10 we got a half hour that include a thorough chakra cleansing… oh brother…

Still, the sun was warm, the ocean cool, the cerveza cold, and the company fantastic. And did I mention the Nachos?

Finally, as I end my progressive gloat of The Caribbean, I show you how Peter and I are constantly striving to lower our tan lines.

And that pretty much is what my world was like during week 7 of my Dream. The shows are the same as they were last week, as well as last month, last year…

Oh, there was this one guy in the gym… Don’t ask me why he said the following things to me… but he did… Anyway, he was probably 17 or 18 years old, working out with free weights, and said:

Guy: Man, working out on the ship is hard.

Dola: Yeah, but it’ll work you core out with all the balancing (yeah, I work out…)

Guy: Cool… Hey check out my fists.


Dola: Whoa… you got that from working out?

Guy: Nah, I punched a metal door.

Dola: Oh, I see.

Guy: Yeah, I’ve got anger issues.

And that’s all I got. Talk to y’all next week… my final on board The Dream.

Your Pal,

Michael Lamendola

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