I wake up and check my phone, though I’m not sure why. We keep changing time zones, but without cell service my phone isn’t always updating itself properly. The lock screen says one time, but the phone clock itself has a different time on it.
Plus, it’s not like I missed any phone calls. There is, however, a notification on my phone that it’s been activated. I get all excited until I realize I have no dial tone, no phone service, and no real activation. Wayne’s phone is working fine, except for updating the time. So, his phone is currently showing a different time than mine and we have no clue which one is right or what time it is.
But we’re on vacation so it doesn’t matter.
We’ve arrived just off the coast of Belize overnight and are ready to leisurely head off the ship and meander around in the glorious warm sunshine, remembering fondly our family and friends back in freezing Pittsburgh. At breakfast on the Lido deck, all the buffets are mysteriously closed. We briefly wonder if our phone times are SO far off that we’ve missed every meal there is, but then remember that there is always something open on a cruise ship. Literally. There is pizza available 24 hours a day, and room service, plus that damned soft-serve ice cream cone machine. (My current personal ice cream cone count [ICCC]: 4. That number will most assuredly get much higher by the end of the week.)
But no… something has happened. The water shuttles have suspended operations. Most of the crew have gone missing. It’s approximately 9:45 a.m. local time (10:45 ship time… at least that’s our best guess). We’re told absolutely nothing, and a lot of folks are meandering around looking confused, bemused, or amused. Or all three. (Those are the folks I steer clear of.)
There is a brief announcement that also tells us nothing… except that the shuttles aren’t currently operating and most of the crew members have been told to report to various stations, whatever that means. Only a week ago, a young man on a different Carnival ship fell overboard and died, so we worry that some emergency has happened.
We never do find out what caused the turmoil, but at least there aren’t any newspaper stories about it once we’re back home, so it must not have been that bad. Eventually, crew members reappear on the Lido deck and breakfast resumes. I am just petty enough to pout that there are no scrambled eggs at the buffet, and I have sausage, bacon, and coffee for breakfast instead. My life is so rough. I suffer. I suffer.
We taxi to shore in a water shuttle and Wayne wheels and deals again, this time for a city tour on an air-conditioned van-bus thing. Oh sure, we could book an official Shore Excursion, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much more fun to haggle with the locals and whittle their price down to twice what they were willing to take if you’d started to walk away.
Besides, we did buy a big Shore Excursion for our stop in Grand Cayman. I’ve miraculously talked Wayne into another experience with live animals, which he hates. The first time we were in Honduras, I talked him into an excursion involving monkeys and parrots. The monkeys and I adored each other back then…
2008: Linda has a natural way with all of God’s creatures… except Wayne.
But one of the monkeys promptly climbed onto Wayne’s arm and then bit his finger.
2008: The last time Wayne touched a live animal voluntarily.
To this day I’m surprised he didn’t sue Carnival over that one. Anyway, I’m excited that we’re going to swim with adorable sting rays on Friday! Wayne’s going to love it!
Where was I? Oh yes, we’re in Belize. We’ve been to Belize several times before (we keep taking the same cruise over and over, like some infinitely better version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day), and some of the sights are familiar, like the second-floor bar we visited last time in order to use their Wi-Fi. (Note: Do not guzzle cheap liquor in the heat and then try to use foreign Wi-Fi on your cheap phone and then try to walk down the narrow, rickety wooden staircase. It’s a disaster.)
Since I am a proofreader by trade, I notice that some places haven’t changed in the 4 years since I’ve been here, despite upgrades to their signage:
This was the sign outside the Wet Lizard bar in 2014… So close, sooo close!
The Wet Lizard in 2018. New sign! But wait… still sooooo close…
Wayne wheels and deals again—it’s really his favorite pastime while on vacation—and gets us the city tour that includes a stop at a liquor store for some rum-tasting. I begin to see a pattern developing with this man. It is a pattern that will continue for most of the week.
We are sitting at the back of the bus. We find the bus driver funny and entertaining, despite the fact that the air conditioning seems to reach only the first 1 or 2 rows of seats. As I start sweating profusely, I remind myself that it’s about 10 degrees back home. This doesn’t help much. I keep sweating.
Belize is the only officially English-speaking country in Central America. We pass a call center that handles calls from all over the United States, and suddenly every tech support phone call I’ve ever made makes a lot more sense. Sadly, this happens because the minimum wage here is something like $1.75 an hour. So next time you call for tech support or customer service, just be nice to that poor guy at the other end of the phone. It’s not his fault. And that call center where he works is ugly.
At the rum factory, we each get about a thimble full of rum to taste. That’s plenty for me in this heat. Plus, I’ve always been a cheap date. It’s one of the reasons Wayne still loves me. There are also larger cups of various flavors of rum to sample for a buck apiece, so Wayne is standing at the back buying one after another. He’d have to buy 16 of them to equal the price of a single watered-down drink on the ship. I can almost see him doing the math in his head… well, until it’s obvious his head is getting a little fuzzy. Then, it’s all smiles and to hell with the math.
I take some photos in the little museum room off to the left as Wayne continues gulping plastic cups of every kind of rum they have. Dollar bills are flying everywhere, and I hear him say he’s trying to decide which ones to buy. I can hear him because he’s talking a little more loudly with each plastic cup.
Click… click… I’ll just stay over here taking photos where it’s safe.
I don’t quite know what happened here in the past, but it was roped off and looked antique so I took a picture of it.
These don’t look very sanitary, but they do look authentic.
If Wayne tears himself away from the plastic cups long enough, I’ll ask him what all of this means. It looks like an engineer’s dream.
We’re told to head back to the bus, just as Wayne settles on two bottles of rum to purchase. He’ll be allowed to take these onto the ship, but he’ll have to surrender them to storage until the end of the cruise. God forbid we should actually drink legally purchased rum on the ship when they can sell us cheaper rum for ten times the price.
But I digress. I’m outside now, having told the driver to wait for Wayne, who is inside paying for his two bottles of flavored rum. He’s sampled so many that he probably doesn’t remember which flavor he bought. The driver has no problem remembering Wayne—that tall guy with the straw hat who looks like the guy who starred in Cocoon. I stand outside the bus, waiting for Wayne and taking pictures of the local parking lot wildlife:
It was either this or a picture of a chicken.
Back at the terminals in Belize, we use the rest of our time in port to sit at a bar called Better Belize It. I grab a sugar-laden strawberry daiquiri and Wayne orders the Belize Special. He doesn’t know what’s in this drink, either, but at least it isn’t fluorescent blue like the one on the ship. These 2 drinks are a bargain at $18.
Side Note: Most of the bars have funny signs out front that say things like “Husband Day Care.” Oh, what those locals must think of us wacky Americans…
Perhaps it’s the effect of guzzling the strawberry daiquiri, but it feels weird to carry 2 large bottles of rum onto the ship proudly instead of in plastic water bottles hidden in Wayne’s cargo shorts. The bottles are tagged and sent away. Wayne gets a tear in his eye as he waves goodbye. We’ll be reunited with them the last night of the cruise, just in time to pack them in my suitcase.
We’ll eat an early dinner tonight and look forward to tomorrow’s port of call, Honduras, where we’ll soak up the sun on Carnival’s private beach before Wayne participates in the blackjack tournament on board the ship tomorrow evening. Four years ago to the day he won their blackjack tournament, so we’ll see if he can duplicate that amazing feat…
But last time he wasn’t plastered when he entered the tournament…
Next installment: Can an engineer still count to 21 if he’s drunk? Asking for a friend…