Chapter 17 – Caribbean Cruising

It was Superbowl Sunday (2/3/2008) and Bonnie and I were hosting our First Annual Superbowl Party at my apartment. The place was full of good food, good drinks, and a ton of our friends. It had only been a month since my last day at TI and I was still enjoying the freedom of being unemployed and not officially having any sort of plan for the future.

At the end of the first quarter, Bonnie received an email from an acquaintance asking if she was available to teach pottery lessons on Princess Cruise Lines for a couple of months. Apparently, one of the primary teachers had backed out due to a scheduling conflict and they were in need of a substitute. Fortunately for me, it just so happened that she was allowed to bring an Assistant with her.

And just like that, I had a plan for the future. I was going to teach pottery lessons on a cruise ship. All expenses paid, light work days, and free excursions.

All in, we ended up spending about five weeks in the Caribbean (Aruba,
Cartagena Colombia, Panama Canal, Colon Panama, Limon, Costa Rica, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Puntarenas Costa Rica) a week in Mexico (Huatulco, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas), and a week on the West Coast (San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver). As we were able to stop at each port several times, we quickly learned what the best spots were and how to avoid the tourist traps.

In Aruba, we quickly learned not to waste time anywhere other than on the beach or in the ocean. There isn’t anything else to do or see on the six-mile long island. The beaches have amazing sand and the water is the clearest, most beautiful water that either of us had ever seen. As this was our first stop on the cruise, we made a stop at a seaside cliff where both locals and tourists would build small rock cairns (stacks) and make wishes. Bonnie and I both wished “to always love and be loved.”

In Ocho Rios Jamaica, guard your wallet. It’s one huge tourist trap. Walking up the Dunn River Falls is gorgeous, but without regulation or precaution. And be prepared to get gringo-taxed to death. I recommend staying away from the falls and instead taking a tubing trip down the rainforest river.

In Cartagena Colombia, enjoy the city. It is reminiscent of most any Latin-American city with the cathedrals and mercados. The same goes for Panama.

It’s all about the rainforest in Costa Rica! The beaches are rather rocky, but there are some great waves for serious surfers. We spent most of our time in the rainforest – Ziplining, rafting, and kayaking. Keep an eye out for the alligators and the little white-faced monkeys.

The Panama Canal is a true feat of engineering! Study up on the actual history of the canal and all the resources, lives, and years it took to build it.

The cliff divers in Acapulco were amazing! Huatulco was just starting to get built up when we were there, so I’m sure it’s changed a ton. In Cabo, the more time you spend on the water deep sea fishing, the better.

As we were technically crew, were able to take all of our excursions for free, so long as they had room for us. So, regardless of the port we were at, Bonnie and I were the first ones off the boat and the last ones back on. We spent all of our time doing the most adventurous things we could find, which was in stark contrast to the majority of the other passengers. While there were a few young couples and decent amount of middle aged folks, the majority of the passengers had grey hair.

Not to knock old people, but it was rather sad to see these people who had saved up their entire lives for retirement, only to be unable to fully experience these adventures due to a lack of mobility and strength. While Bonnie and I were ziplining in Costa Rica, the old folks were shopping for trinkets in the tourist traps. While we were tubing in Jamaica or snorkeling in Aruba, they were shopping for knick-knacks in the tourist traps. And while we were soaking in the mud volcano in Colombia, they were… I could go on and on.

It was at that time that Bonnie and I agreed we were going to live our adventures now and put off working and saving money for when were old and had a hard time doing anything other than sitting at a desk.

This was a really great time for Bonnie and I as a couple since we spent most every moment together. Though we had only been dating about seven months, we had already been spending all of our free time together. But now, we were working together, eating every meal together, exercising together, going on excursions together, and sharing a tiny officer’s cabin with bunk beds. You’d think we would get tired of each other, but we didn’t. If anything, we fell more and more in love with each other.

In short, we loved our time on living on the cruise ship. Eating extravagant 5-course meals every night, exploring beautiful islands every day, it was definitely a life of privilege. We enjoyed it so much that we ended up doing it again in Alaska the following summer, spending four weeks on a separate tour through the Inside Passage of Alaska (Whittier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan).

As we look back on these days at sea, we feel as though it was a much simpler time in our lives. We had no obligations or responsibilities, money was no object, and we both young and beautiful.

It almost sounds like it was all a dream…