Tag-Archive for » Roatan «

Friday File: Caribbean Calling In Winter

In case the resident weather systems haven’t prompted you to look south — or anywhere — for a break from mid-winter, this is a good time to drool over some of the luscious, hot, picturesque, sandy, enticing places you can visit when you take a Caribbean cruise. And if that doesn’t tempt you to book one…well, maybe you’re just content to stay home and shovel!

Before departureIs there a more photographic rock formation than at Cabo San Lucas?

St. MaartenIt seems everybody has a boat in the popular port of St. Maarten

TulumGazing at the Gulf of Mexico from the Maya ruins of Tulum, Mexico

Cayman IslandsA watering hole called Paradise in the Grand Cayman Islands

Mahogany BayPrivacy is available at beautiful Mahogany Bay in Roatan, Honduras

CozumelThis pretty part of Cozumel is worth taking a drive to the north shore

In the news…

• Norwegian Edge: 2-year, $400-million refurbishing program for 9 ships
• Holland America’s new brand campaign called ‘Savour The Journey’
• Sea trials complete for Holland America’s new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam

Today at portsandbows.comRefurbishing the Carnival Inspiration

Holland America Maasdam
7 nights
April 19, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Friday File: Why Wildlife Is A Winner

Have you ever noticed that the best TV commercials, even the ones on Super Bowl Sunday, often feature animals? For whatever reason, any kind of wildlife captures our imaginations, or at least our camera lens, and that’s why among the thousands of pictures we’ve taken while on cruises, so many of them are of a creature who won’t pose, doesn’t consent to having its photo taken and can’t charge photographers for royalties…

Costa Rica-bird

Help us here, people…if we ever knew what kind of bird this was in Costa Rica, we’ve forgotten.


Cruising Alaska this summer? Watch for an Iditarod dog: They’re noisy, scrawny and friendly.

Hawaii-monk seal

Pride of America passengers may see one of these monk seal, protected on the beach at Lihue, Kauai.


This Coxen Hole cat in Roatan, Honduras, gave us this steely glare throughout lunch, then cleaned our plates.

SF-sea lions

Pier 39 in San Francisco always comes with more sea lions than you can imagine, barking and posing, of course.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian backtracks on food to rooms

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
July 19, 2015
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Anchorage
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Dolphins in Honduras a Trip


ROATAN, Honduras — In anticipation of my upcoming "Dolphin Encounter" I wasn't sure who would be more scared, me or the dolphin. Since only one of us swims, it was logical that my fear factor would far exceed that of Mika, the 12-year-old mammal zipping around contained waters at Anthony's Key, on this popular Honduran island in the Caribbean.

This was a shore excursion from the Crown Princess, and I was looking forward to it just like I looked forward to the small-aircraft journey to a glacier on Alaska's Mount McKinley — my fear of heights is exceeded only by my fear of water.

Obviously, I lived to tell about both.

Mika and I both had company in the water. She had her trainer, Edgardo Farach, and her daughter, 18-month-old Polly. I had…where did he go, anyway?

Once I became accustomed to Mika's tail touching my legs, I was more or less able to relax. I did say more or less, right?

Even though she's a female, Mika and I don't have a lot in common. She consumes 40 pounds of food a day, or a little more than some people on cruise ships. She weighs 400 pounds. Please!

She likes to have her face in the water, makes noises through a hole on the top of her head and eats raw fish. None of those things apply to me. She's 12 years old, already has three kids and is nursing Polly while pregnant with child number three. Not so much.

Besides, Mika really puts on a show.

Those of you who have been on dolphin encounters probably already know what I learned this week. Training her and the other dolphins who perform takes two years — although I did forget to ask Edgardo why that didn't apply to 18-month-old Polly, who was doing tricks 50 feet away from her mother. Fast learner, I guess.

Dolphins live longer in captivity, where they're pampered, and for females "longer" can mean as much as 48 years. Well, at least I have her beaten in that department.

I also learned that by the time her latest child arrives, she'll have been pregnant for a year and for all but the last four months of it will continue to hunt stray fish, race through the water at speeds up to 25 miles an hour and "walk" on her tail with Polly by her side.

Mika and I do have one thing in common. They say if she was released into the wilds, she would probably die of starvation.

Me, too, Mika.

After 45 minutes in the water with her, I became quite fond of Mika. I miss having her around, though not as much as Princess Cruises and Edgardo are going to miss her when Mika's on maternity leave, because cruise ship passengers spend $135 to get to knew the dolphins at Anthony's Key.

On the other hand, Mika's just adding to a future pool of performers.

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Copenhagen (return): Alesund, Geiranger, Fiam, Bergen
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Roatan — Two Ways to Get Burned

ROATAN, Honduras — Not long after the Norwegian Epic was backed into place and properly secured to one of two piers on the crystal-clear waters of this Honduran island, we opened the curtain and walked onto the balcony for our first look at a place we had seen described as “a dumpy town.”

This photo was our first glimpse of Roatan. Hardly looks dumpy, does it?

It was 8 a.m. and the sound of bongo drums and maracas 12 floors below was our wake-up call that tourism starts early in Roatan. It begins when the ship docks, as it does everywhere cruise ships dock, and we’d decided to ad-lib our way through eight hours on an island that’s 144 square miles — 36 long and four wide, and 36 miles from mainland Honduras.

In the midst of the rainy season, it was a gorgeous day, sunny and somewhere in the 80s. It was easy to get burned. That was to become a Freudian turn of phrase.

We were looking for a local tour that would give us a feel of the island and not a specific location. We found it, first for $30 each, which was reduced to $25 when eight others joined us in a mini-van. They were going to the beach and after they were dropped off, Rafael the tour pitchman assured us, we would be driven to both sides of the island with a guide who spoke English.

Sounded great.

Then, at the beach, we discovered Rafael had neglected to tell Joshua (left), the unpaid “I-live-on-tips” tour guide who has been trying to make a career of this since he was 15, three years ago. Since 80% of his clientele would be left behind if he took us for a ride, Joshua was reluctant to provide what we had paid for, and said so in two languages. It was understandable. Joshua Carter, a nice young man, really is paid ONLY in tips.

After much haranguing, he agreed to an abbreviated tour. The point here is that, even when you’re cautious about making tour arrangements with the locals — and we were, sometimes you still get burned. Mark that…one for cruise company shore excursions.

In the end, Joshua’s shortened tour was fine because we did get a taste of the island and its people. English is Roatan’s first language and Spanish is second, but its English sounds heavily influenced by what to our ears was a Jamaican accent. Again, difficulty in understanding a tour guide doesn’t usually happen on shore excursions, which are pricier.

The mini-van was another story. It has seen better days, it had no seat belts, it was air-conditioned by Mother Nature and there were times when it strongly resisted climbing a hill of average incline, of which there are many. At one point, the mini-van over-heated and had to be topped up with water from a Coke bottle, the kind of situation that also can come with taking local tours. The good news was when the engine over-heated, we could see the ship…a long walk away.

Roatan is a paradise for beach people, and for swimmers and snorkelers and divers. Since we don’t fit any of those demographics, we did the next best thing, and found a seafood restaurant. Well, restaurant is a stretch. It had no name (“Fry Fish?”), four tables and a cat that jumped on yours once your meal was finished, to work on the scraps.

The fish (snapper) was excellent, as were the shrimp, and the $22 bill was reasonable. The tour had cost us $63 (yes, we tipped) and we met only friendly people on an island that depends first and foremost on tourism. When the day ended, at the “restaurant” we were just a short walk from the pier, where we bumped into Rafael the tour pitchman. We explained what happened and he, like Joshua, pleaded innocent. He also played the religious card — “I have 350 Mormons coming here next month and your business is important” — and promised he’d make it up to us.

On our next visit.

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