travel writers tales home pagenewslinkscontact Jane Cassiesign up for travel writers tales newsletter
travel articles
sign up to receive our email newsletter
freelance travel writers
 

 

CONFESSIONS OF A NEOPHYTE CRUISER
By Margaret Deefholts
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)


(1. Marella Discovery 2)

I’m on a dock in Jamaica’s Montego Bay, gazing open-mouthed at the cruise ship which is to be my floating hotel for the next week. To a newbie cruiser like myself, the Marella Discovery 2 with its eleven decks seems like a mammoth sized vessel, but a fellow passenger hearing my gasp of amazement, says, “I’ve seen bigger!” and shrugs. I’m impressed, nonetheless.

I check in at the reception desk where several floors spiral dizzily above me and a buzz of conversation overlays piped-in muzak. Key in hand, I walk a seemingly endless corridor to my cabin. It’s cozy, but comfortable enough. My room attendant—young, vivacious and eager to please—is from Yugoslavia.


(2. My Mai Tai)

Having settled in, cocktail hour beckons, and my Mai Tai has just the right mix of spiced rum, and fruit juices (drinks are complimentary) and I relax in a lounge area where a pianist is playing popular stage-show tunes. I am surrounded by accents ranging from musical Welsh intonations to Irish brogues and London’s cockney slang. Not surprising; the Marella Discovery 2 originates in Britain where most of the passengers have embarked.


(3. Relaxing on Deck)


(4. Magic bubble blower on ship)

Food is the highlight of many cruises and this one is no exception. Hearty breakfast buffets and a pleasing variety of dinner and lunch selections are on offer in the ship’s several dining rooms. At the ‘Islands’ buffet, a lavish high tea includes light-as-air cream puffs, dainty salmon or egg-and-dill sandwiches, flaky pastries and, of course, warm scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Georgetown in the Cayman Islands is our first stop and a balmy sea breeze wafts over the tourist-thronged sea front. Souvenir shops with the usual tacky T-shirts, fridge magnets and key chains are easily ignored, but a boxed display of spiced rum-n-raisin cakes is irresistible. I stock up on a few to take home with me.


(5. Vintage Beauty, Havana, Cuba)


(6. Taxi, Havana, Cuba)

Cuba has long been on my bucket list. I stand on the sidewalk bordering a cobbled street in old Havana, and the scene before me is like a 50’s classic movie come to life: vintage tail-finned cars painted hot pink, pillar-box red and lime green crank and groan past me; yellow three-wheel auto-cars putter along the street and horse drawn buggies filled with bemused tourists clop by.


(7. Conversation in old Havana, Cuba)


(8. Havana plaza)

Using my Cuban convertible pesos, I board a hop-on-hop-off bus. The equivalent of US$10 earns me a ninety-minute commentated ride around the city and outskirts of Havana. Along the Malecón, the ocean pounds the seawall, throwing shawls of spray over the sidewalk; beyond the city centre, we pass residential buildings painted canary yellow, ice-cream pink or sky blue. These were once palatial homes, but today they wear a look of faded glory with peeling paint, crumbling pilasters and mildewed walls. Communist Cuba provides a basic living wage to all its citizens—house renos, however, are an unaffordable luxury.


(9. Restaurant in Old Town Havana, Cuba)


(10. Street in Old Town Havana, Cuba)

In the mellow tropical evening, I linger in the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, stroll past street musicians strumming guitars, and dodge kids kicking a football. As dusk falls I walk through a narrow cobbled lane, to catch bursts of laughter and applause from a bistro where a cabaret performance is in progress. I glance at my watch and in the navy-blue night, as street lights dance on rippled waters at the quay, I reluctantly head back to the ship.

Tonight is an event that, as an inexperienced cruiser, I am hopelessly unprepared for. It’s the Captain’s Night where everyone goes formal: the women in splendid evening gowns, all a-glitter with jewelry, the men, penguin-like in black ties and dinner jackets. I slink into the dining room wearing a cotton blouse and flower-printed skirt—the only alternative to jeans and T-shirts among my travel outfits. The waiter showing me to my requested single table is too well trained to smirk.


(11. Mariachi band, Cozumel, Mexico)


(12. All Dressed Up, Cozumel, Mexico)

Cozumel greets us with a mariachi band going full blast on the quay. We are docked beside a gargantuan Norwegian cruise ship, that makes the Marella look shrimp-sized. It is hot, the sun reflecting blindingly off the sidewalks, the air languid and dusty. On the tourist shopping drag, I am lured into buying a Mexican handcrafted bracelet.


(13. View of Montego Bay, Jamaica)

Our final stop is Montego Bay, and a bus tour of the town and surrounding areas takes me along undulating heat-shimmered roads, and past houses dozing in the afternoon sun. From high on a hilltop, the azure Caribbean sea unfurls to the horizon.

A day later, I’m back in Vancouver under a weepy sky. Time to check out another tropical cruise. Panama maybe.

___________________________

IF YOU GO:

More information:
Marella Discovery 2: https://www.tui.co.uk/cruise/ships/marella-discovery-2/ Sunwing Vacations: https://www.sunwing.ca/

PHOTOS by Margaret Deefholts

1. Marella Discovery 2
2. My Mai Tai
3. Relaxing on Deck
4. Magic bubble blower on ship
5. Vintage Beauty, Havana, Cuba
6. Taxi, Havana, Cuba
7. Conversation in old Havana, Cuba
8. Havana plaza
9. Restaurant in Old Town Havana, Cuba
10. Street in Old Town Havana, Cuba
11. Mariachi band, Cozumel, Mexico
12. All Dressed Up, Cozumel, Mexico
13. View of Montego Bay, Jamaica

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com

 


travel articles by travel writers featuring destinations in Canada, Europe, the Caribbean Islands, South America, Mexico, Australia, India, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands and throughout the United States
travel writers tales mission
partnership process
editorial line up
publishing partners
contributing writers
writers guidelines
travel articles
travel articles archive
travel themes - types of travel
travel blog
travel photos albums and slide shows
travel videos - podcast
helpful travel tipstravel writers tales home page

 

freelance travel writers Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts

All material used by Travel Writers' Tales is with the permission of the writers and photographers who, under national and international copyright law,
retain the sole and exclusive rights to their work. The contents of this site, whether in whole or in part may not be downloaded,
copied or used in any manner without the explicit permission of Travel Writers' Tales Editors, Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts,
and the written consent of contributing writers and photographers. © Travel Writers' Tales