I can’t think of anywhere nicer to be in the summer than Nova Scotia; however, in February, the thought of a one-week cruise in the Caribbean holds a certain innate charm, one not to be found in a snow- and ice-encrusted Canadian province. Perusing the list of available cruises, we found that Norwegian Cruise line offered some great deals aboard their brand new Norwegian Get-away. With about 4,000 guests and 1600 crew members, this is really a floating resort at sea with numerous restaurants, shopping opportunities, and…George’s personal favourite…four waterslides—which a 61 year old should know better than to attempt, but did anyway. I left the challenging climbing wall for the younger passengers and children.
Dining ranged from varieties of Asian food, to Italian, to an Irish pub called “O’Sheehan’s” (a pun on “oceans”?) with plenty of Guinness and good pub food. With Norwegian’s new “prepaid” beverage package, I didn’t worry about that bane of cruisers: the $800 bar bill a couple can easily run up through a festive week.
Ports of call included the Honduras’s Roatan Island, with snorkelling on the Meso-American Barrier Reef, one of the longest in the northern hemisphere, and second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Surprisingly, English was widely spoken by natives of Roatan as a first language, a holdover from British possession in past centuries. Locals were friendly and helpful.
Roatan had a special charm for two reasons. We had snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef two years before and wanted to compare the two. Secondly, Honduras was George’s fiftieth country visited. A champagne toast sealed the event…whether there will ever be a 75th is the next question.
Next port of call was Mexico’s Costa Maya and a visit to the ancient Mayan city of Chachoben (“Place of the Red Corn”). With several good-sized pyramids and entertaining wild spider monkeys gliding and rustling through the forest canopy, this made for a great afternoon’s diversion. The city was founded in the 4th Century, with one pyramid built upon another until the site was mysteriously abandoned centuries ago. At one time, the Mayan nations numbered dozens of huge cities and hundreds of smaller ones connected by elevated and dead-straight road systems called sacbes.
Cozumel Island is a busy port with plenty of shopping but also with some of the best scuba- and skin-diving in the Caribbean. The sparkling turquoise waters beckon visitors to enjoy their caress, and the colourful fish to entertain you. The odd barracuda also cruised by, seemingly curious about our ship. Swimmers should avoid wearing shiny jewellery, since this might attract barracuda a little closer than one might like!
We were fortunate enough to be invited to visit the bridge by Chief Officer Robert Hammerin after enjoying dinner as guests at his table one evening. The spacious and spotless bridge looked more like the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise, with impressive arrays of computer screens monitoring every aspect of the safety and running of the ship. Virtually the entire ship (except the cabin interiors, of course!) is covered by a network of cameras, allowing analysis and management of any eventuality.
By the end of the week we were relaxed, somewhat bronzed, extremely well-fed and ready to head back to the exigencies of our work-a-day world in the Great White North. We decided this was not our goodbye to Norwegian…just a cheery “be back soon”!
Co-authored with Stella van der Lugt
All photos courtesy of Stella van der Lugt–All rights reserved.