Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Dream - Greetings From The Cayman Islands!

Originally mailed May 4, 2005.

How are y'all doing?
At the moment I am somewhere outside of Grand Cayman, having left about an hour ago. Next stop, after a day at sea, is Columbia, and then the Panama Canal. Once we pass through, we'll be on our way to Alaska, where I will be for the next four months.

So, what's new... Well, what can I say about the Caribbean... Hot? Definitely. Muggy? You bet. Worth visiting? Jury is still out on that one... I have learned a little about the business of cruise ships since boarding NCL (Which stands for No Cash Left when you talk to certain people on board). I figured that all these ports, like Cozumel, Belize, Cancun, Grand Cayman... I thought that they were like grocery stores. You park in front, get out, and go in. Nope! There are better places to park your ship than others. It seems from my experiences thus far that NCL takes the "park out as far as you can and walk in" approach to ports of call. Let me explain...

Turns out (and nobody ran this by me) that there are several different places to park your boat at each place, and some places charge you a bit more to dock than others. So, consider the nicer place to port valet parking, and where we ported... You ever try and find a yellow zone in downtown San Diego on a Saturday night? Yeah... That'd be it. Now as a passenger you have the option of purchasing tours at all of these destinations. You can go see ruins, snorkel... good stuff! But since we have just now gotten all three shows down to where they don't need constant attention, we haven't had a chance to try the tours out yet (in the fall, when we get back...) So, come with me on a poor man's journey into the Caribbean!

After careful examination of the city that is within walking distance of the ship, I have discovered that only two things exist here.

1. Jewelry, mostly Tanzanite. Not sure what Tanzanite is, but they got it.
2. Vanilla Alcohol

They also have tourist junk and food, but so does everywhere else! Still, Cozumel is beautiful once you get out of the city.

Just outside this beach area, I came across what looked like an airport that was also or is also an aircraft base. Now, coming from Texas, I know how easily a mascot can strike fear into an opponent... Like the Mart Farmers. Still, if I were in a dogfight with a Fat Cozumelian Duck Bandito, I think I would surrender... Well, would you?

Still, I was able to eat in Cozumel, and the Langosta was muy fabuloso!

Only got an hour here, as we were tendering in. (From the bottom of the ship to the ocean floor is about five feet in places close in, so we use boats to get the passengers back and forth here, and actually in most of the places in the Caribbean.) The beach was sandy and white, and the water was a deep blue...

This picture was taken as I was leaving the ship on the tender. It was also the only picture I took in Cancun. But I can tell you that the beach was kinda small, and on either side was nothing really. Almost like a tourist oasis in the middle of "Real Cancun." There were the usual assortment of tourist shops, expensive themed restaurants and the like. I was fortunate to find a taco stand, where I enjoyed a Chorizo Torta and an orange soda (Why I capitalize the sandwich and not the soda? I don't know, just came out that way). Then I got back on the boat.

After that day, the weather got extremely hot. In the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean, it felt like you were standing in a sauna, and there was no breeze at all! This carried through for several days.

In a word, Unbelizable! (Interestingly, that was not used on a single T shirt there... I think I may have found an untapped market.) Well, the day that I was there was the most stagnant and hot day I have ever experienced. It beat the worst days in August back in Texas. It was just plain hot. We found sanctuary in an indoor shopping mall, with... wait for it... Jewelry, Alcohol, and tourist stuff! Yay! Well, it was cool, so we weren't complaining. After leaving there we found ourselves in the back parking lot, Some folks there told us that if we went one way, we'd go to a flea market... go that way and you'll hit downtown. Well, shoot, if you had the choice between a transistor radio and a velvet Elvis at one side of town, and the Arts District, Financial buzz, and culture of Downtown... Which would you choose?

I pet this thing. Some guy, who also had a snake around his neck, invited me to play with this thing. I forget what it was, but he domesticated it, along with 15 other species of things. So far my hand is hanging on.

Downtown Belize. Not bad from the picture. Behind me are lots of shops selling clothes, shoes, and stuff. You ever leave a pair of shoes in the back of your car on a hot day? You ever leave a hundred pairs of shoes in a small room on a hot day? Overall Belize was loud and kinda dirty. Probably not the best place in the world to visit. One guy walked up to us and offered us water from his bottle for a small donation, in the middle of traffic! Unbelizable...

Grand Cayman:
Its like Cozumel, except the stuff they sell is expensive and nice. They give out samples of Rum Cake everywhere you go, and they drive on the other side of the road (Someone should tell them that before someone gets hurt). This place wasn't so bad to visit, but again, unless you're looking to buy something like jewelry or cigars, taking a tour or excursion would be a better bet.

We were one of four ships visiting that day (ours is hard to see, it's behind the one on the right. Our bow sticks out a little past the one in the foreground.)

So, that's what I have learned about the Caribbean thus far. When I come back in the fall, I'll go cave tubing in Belize (Unbelizeable!) and hopefully go and see some ruins and stuff...

Shiplife is great. Right now we are on day 3 of a 16 day cruise through the Panama Canal, which we will get to on Saturday. And yes, even in a 16 day cruise, we still only do our three shows twice each. That averages out to roughly 3.5 hours of honest work a week. Its weird. We did Country Gold last night, and today is our first of five days off before our next show. So, what does yours truly do? Write the next great American novel? Solve intricate mathematical equations? Discover ways of communicating with stuttering whales? (Little known fact, over 30% of whales have some sort of speech impediment, leaving them to be bullied by other fish in their school... you know how kids can be...) No, no, none of those things will do... I can't be bothered... I am sleeping. Man, you draw those curtains on your portholes, and you can sleep and never wake up! One morning, I woke up on my own at 1:20 in the afternoon. Never woke up beforehand, and I went to bed around midnight.

Still get confused when I come down the stairs to Deck 5. I come down, turn right, sigh, turn left go to my room. I feel like Odie... Have to turn around three times before I can go to bed (5 points, what's the reference?). Sometimes I walk clear to the other end of the ship before I realize the numbers on the doors are going in the wrong direction.

Food on board is getting better. I went to one of the restaurants last week. I can go whenever I want, and they're all inclusive, but until then I guess I never thought about it. Food is good there! Had some Calamari, an Italian white bean soup, and osso bucco.

Oh, and my room steward can make my towels look like animals with my sunglasses! Check it out!

Oh, and when I was in New Orleans last time, I snuck out to the New Orleans Jazz Festival! Oh my God, it was so cool! They held it over at the Race Track. Think of the Del Mar Race Track, but kinda opened up. Put about ten stages, pavilions, lots of food and stuff. Everything was there. Jazz, Blues, Tower of Power, Second Line, Gospel, Funk, Zydeco, Country Swing... Holy Crap what a lot of good music! I was only able to spend about two hours there, but I heard so much great stuff... Dan: Heard one band, called (Not making this up) Bonearama. Think funk brass lead by four trombones.

Oh, and on my way back from the fest, I saw this on the street... I didn't arrange this in any way, and I feel it sort of encapsulates New Orleans...

Well, not much else to say right now. I'm going to try and get recordings from the shows and E mail them to y'all that have asked... They are better than the last shows on the Silver Cloud.
Thanks for all the kind wishes from y'all! Its good to hear from all my pals. Keep in touch!
Your Pal,

Michael Lamendola
Unbelizable is my new band

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