Friday, June 19, 2009

Home From the Cold - A Caribbean Cruise

Hey, peoples. Hope all is well with you out there and that you're taking the necessary precations against contracting the H1N1 virus. Here in Bim we've got four cases, thankfully mild. Check out the GIS' website here to find out what's happening with the virus and how government is responding. I wish they would do some research on the four patients and cross-check where they've been in the last two weeks or so, but I guess that's wishful thinking....

Anyhoo, a while back I introduced you to a relative of mine, nicknamed Kal-F, who has returned to live in Barbados after many years in Canada.

In this particular segment of his adventures, he is relating his experiences on a cruise around the Caribbean with some relatives. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.:) Hope you enjoy.

A Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Destiny

Day One

Barb, who has arrived from Toronto just two days ago has already packed her duffle bag while I do some last minute mowing around the house so that the height of the grass will not overwhelm me when I get back. I get up around 6:00 a.m. and mow the grass for about two and a half hours. It takes me another hour to pack my suitcase, put the house plants where they can get some light, and pump up the front tire of the car which has been slowly leaking air for the past two weeks.

I am glad that I picked up that bicyle pump from Canadian Tire in Toronto two years ago. Overnight the tire goes completely flat and the service station is too far away to drive on it. Would you believe I have gotten it fixed twice already! The tire still has good treads on it and with the price of tires down here, I would like to get at least another year's use of it.

By 10:00 a.m. Barb's chorus (more like a plaintive wail) begins: Are we ready to go yet? This refrain will be repeated until we actually get the car out of the driveway and pointed toward the south of the island. Last minute checks: windows closed, curtains drawn, water turned off.

By 11:00 a.m. we're on our way. The plan is to check in (check-in time is between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), get our cabin, for me to drive the car back home and then take the bus back to Bridgetown, the capital city. We have plenty of time; the ship doesn't leave until 11:00 p.m. We first drive to my sister Pam to drop off her boarding pass which I have downloaded from the computer. She is still packing. Her daughter Shelley and son-in-law Robert are already on the ship. Shelley is always two hours early for everything. She certainly doesn't get that from Pam, who has never heard of the word punctuality.

We arrive at the port a few minutes before noon. I drop off Barb and the suitcases and exit the port compound to look for a parking space: I find one near Pelican Village, a local arts and crafts centre just outside the port and run into Judy whom I had not seen since 1980 when I spent a year in Barbados. She and her husband had beautifully renovated a house in Sunset Crest, a vocation village near Holetown, one of four towns on the island and where 80 British men and 10 African men, plundered from a Portuguese slave ship, had landed in 1627.

Judy's happy experience in Sunset Crest was not to last long, however. There were too many break-ins (a situation which I am told has been subsequently cleaned up). Judy has still retained her youthful looks, though much to my surprise and disappointment, has taken up smoking. (It looks like women aren't smarter than men after all). Judy and I chat for a little while. I explain my identity as I am sure that she doesn't remember who I am. After all, the last time she saw me there was hair (lots of it) on my head and my beard was black, not grizzly as it is now, a fact that makes strangers (mostly young men) on the street in Barbados address me as 'daddy': Would you like a car wash, daddy? By 'daddy' they mean 'old man', 'very old man'.

Judy and I promise to catch up now that I know where she works and I return to the port to go through Customs. There is a little hike to the ship and half-way there, Barb starts her plaintive wail: I don't see why we can't get a porter; after all , it would help the local economy. When I left home that morning I wasn't thinking much about the local economy but after she has mentioned it numerous times, I start to think that she is probably right but by now there are no porters in sight and we're almost at the ship's entrance: we have only two suitcases between us and mine, the heavier of the two, has wheels.

The check in goes quickly and soon we're on board on the third deck at the information desk awaiting our passport checks and the key cards to our cabin. Within 45 minutes we're comfortably esconsed in our second deck cabin which has a window and at the moment is on the port side of the ship. We quickly unpack and soon head up to the restaurant on deck nine to have lunch.

The restaurant is a big expansive room with an extension on deck ten so that one could look over the entire city of Bridgetown, which from the perspective of twelve stories up actually looks attractive. Service in the restaurant is buffet style and there is a wide variety of food. One nice thing about the Carnival Destiny is that smoking is not allowed indoors except in the casinos and seeing that that is one place that I will hardly frequent, I am happy.

Forty-five minutes later we're back in the cabin and realize that it is actually freezing; the air conditioning is noticeably cold and it looks like there is no way that we can adjust it. Barb decides to go exploring and I prepare to go back to shore to drive the car back home. As I leave the ship I feel a bit of raspiness in my throat and wonder if I'm coming down with something or if it's just the air conditioning. I hope and pray that I don't come down with something to put a damper on the trip. I return to the car and notice that the front tire again needs air and once again have to bring out the handy bicycle pump.

In a few minutes I'm on the Spring Garden highway heading north for St. Lucy, the most northerly parish on the island and the name that invariably evokes the response: You mean you live that far! (It's actually only 35 minutes away from Bridgetown, though you should bring along a lunch with you if you attempt it in rush hour).

On the way I take a detour to Warrens Shopping Centre a mile and a half to the east and the Glinko Biloba that I took this morning surprisingly kicks in to tell my memory to tell me that I should get some film and maybe a pack of dominoes. As soon as I enter SuperCentre Supermarket I run into Debbie, the travel agent who booked my cruise last January. We chat for about ten minutes and I don't have the heart to tell her that I am about to go on another cruise seeing that I didn't book with her this time. That won't happen again though. Her service was much better than what I received this time from my sister's travel agency. Debbie has to get to the bank and I have to get moving. We say goodbye and she promises to keep in touch. I pick up the film but forget to inquire where I can get dominoes. Must remember to increase my Glinko Biloba dosage.

As soon as I back the car into my garage, Michael, my next door neighbour, hails me, surprised that I am still on the island. I explain what the plan is and that the boat doesn't leave until 10 p.m. He kindly offers to drive me to Bridgetown saying that it would give him an excuse not to work in his garden where he has been labouring since dawn (since quitting his job six months ago he has become a full- time farmer). I accept his offer but tell him that he can drop me in Speightstown, only 15 minutes away, and I would take the bus from there to Bridgetown.

On the bus to Bridgetown my throat continues to feel raspy and I wonder where I will be able to find cough medicine at this hour. Most stores close up at 5:00 p.m. and it is now approaching 6 o'clock. Luckily when I get off the bus, a supermarket, a short walk from the port, is still open. I get the cough syrup and head for the ship.

Day Two on Monday.

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