Life aboard a cruise ship is a mixed bag of transient pleasures.
On one hand, it is transient because you are pressing across an unfathomable sea at a pace just slightly faster than a swift bicycle ride, largely oblivious to the notion that however unlikely, the failure of this monument of nautical technology could result in your own peril. Having such things pointed out to you, in obsessive detail, is not uncommon when traveling with an imaginative ten-year old.
On the other hand, transience comes in the form of an experience that often seems as trivial as spending a few hours at a well-stocked hotel. You eat a little too much. You drink expensive cocktails and overpriced beer. You swim in a body of tepid freshwater floating in a literal sea of saltwater. You take in some off-off-off-Broadway entertainment. You eat more. You bask in the sunshine and then get play dress up to promenade down the faux promenade. Then you got to sleep and repeat for six more days.
Among this transient adventure, mixed amidst the carefully plotted pleasures are a trio of carefully plotted destinations.
At three ports, passengers are invited to debark from the ship. The gleaming white hull cozies up to an impossible concrete pier. A pair of steel gangs tongue solid land. The velvet rope is dropped. Your card is scanned. You identification is confirmed. And then you wander casually, touristy, into a completely foreign country wearing nothing but flip-flops and a bathing suit, carrying your camera in one hand and a your passport in the other.
To see it as anything but imperialistically surreal takes a special kind of mental filter with which I’m apparently not equipped.
In Roatán, Honduras we took passage on a cramped minibus and toured the pot-holed streets leading to a beach resort where we ate and snorkeled and fended off dozens of folks attempting to sell us monkey photos or braided hair or cigars.
In Costa Maya we walked down the kilometer-long concrete pier to faux Mexican village whose sole existence seemed to hinge on the regular arrival of giant white ships who each day would barf out their hungry american passengers to buy diamonds and have their feet nibbled by fish or to swim with dolphins so they could pay twenty-five dollars for a photograph of the moment.
We bought little and soaked in the atmosphere in a manner that could be considered barely more than a light misting of cultural integration. We were there, if only temporarily, if only long enough to capture some photos and record some video. Cruise ghosts in the Caribbean sunshine.