The Caribbean Issue

December 10, 2008 -

John Heald

A friend of mine returned recently from a vacation in Jamaica. “So how was it?” I asked, expecting to hear about the food, the hotel, the beach and how many times he’d had smoked a palm tree. But no. Instead he told me he’d seen Meryl Streep, Steven Segal and something called Jay Z……..which I think is a tropical bird

Yep………the Caribbean…it brings out the stars. Columbus said it first. When he reached the Caribbean in 1492 (he was looking for India, but the West Indies got in the way), he wrote this in his journal: “I saw so many islands that bugger me I hardly knew to which I should go first.” …….OK, I added the “bugger me” bit but you can understand how he felt.

Today, first-time visitors face the same problem: they may have a better idea of which continent they’re on, but they’re often no more certain about which dot of land to make for. It’s no wonder. One of the great attractions of the Caribbean is its diversity, but for the uninitiated, that can turn into a drawback. Too many islands, too many hotels, too many options — it’s just baffling….actually, no it’s not….. Why take a cruise and see two, three or more islands without having to pack and fly between each one …… simple really.

As I prepare to return to the Caribbean for the first time since 2005, I thought I might list some of my “must do” events and activities during your cruise. Some of these include specific excursions available from our ships and some are things you should just …………. well do. So, here in no particular order are some of the things that I look back on with fond memories and some of which I look forward to doing again soon.

Visit Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
Men and women with beards will point out that it is 5½ miles long, but there is little need for early-morning towels on sun lounges as there is room enough for all of Germany and you along this enormous crescent of white sand. It’s on the western shore of Grand Cayman, home to most of the island’s luxury resorts and hotels, so there is no shortage of things to do. Remember that if you are not specific your cab driver will take you to a hotel/resort where you will have to pay at least $10 to enter. Therefore…………either take our excursion to a private area of the beach which includes lunch or ask for Seven Mile Public Beach where there is no entrance fee. Remember, there is little or no snorkeling here as Seven Mile Beach rests on a huge sandbar. You can take a snorkel and mask with you if you have a foot fetish as that’s all you will see………..other people’s feet.

Swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman
Stingray City trips will take you to a sandbar where you can feed and stroke up dozens of southern stingrays. You know, the old stingray got a bad rap after one of them defended itself against The Crocodile Hunter whom I know we all miss very much. But, I have been promoting this location for many, many years and nothing like that has ever happened. After all, these creatures are not stupid. They know tourists are coming and they are bringing food. Feeding these creatures is simply extraordinary. You place the food between your thumb and forefinger and then the stingray will suck the food out of your hand. They also love to taste the salt on your skin from the water and will on occasion start sucking on your thigh……..you will therefore see some people getting back into the boats with hickies the size of Texas on their legs. Seriously………..this is a must do and not just for the creatures themselves. You will be standing in the middle of the ocean…….yep….standing……in the bluest water lapping gently around you. Young or old…………you have to do this. Once again, ask your cruise director or the dedicated shore excursion team to tell you more.

Snorkel…………….anywhere in the Caribbean.
The sea is a deep blue and crystal clear, with thousands of fish lazing around – happy in the knowledge that they’ve struck it lucky. They get entertained by the amateur snorkelers (can you be a professional?) who float round the place, pointing and trying to speak to each other in bubbles – “Lkkkk is mpror fsh.” But what a view. I remember the first time I took Heidi snorkeling in Trunk Bay on the Island of St.John’s U.S.V.I …….. goodness me……that was in 1996. Anyway, his was the first time she had snorkeled and the look on her face when she spotted all the fish was priceless. We spent a sublime half-hour drifting past schools of trumpet fish, barracuda and multifarious, multicolored tropical things whose names I couldn’t tell you. Eventually, we waded back to shore and flopped down on the sand to spend time taking in the extraordinary view.

Travel beneath the waves – take an Atlantis submarine tour in St. Thomas, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and many other locations
The subs, which are specially designed for underwater sightseeing, descend to 120 feet then spend 45 minutes among the coral, fish and sunken wrecks. This is a special treat for non-swimmers and children ………just don’t get drunk the night before like my mate Alan did. ……because if you want to vomit………….there are no bathrooms and absolutely no escape……his poor wife’s purse. This is something you will never forget …….. how many people can actually say that they went beneath the Caribbean waves in a submarine?

Eat Jerk Chicken in Ocho Rios
Close to wear our ships’ dock is The Jerk Center……..it looks like a circle of huts with a big hole in the middle and that’s because it is a circle of huts with a big hole in the middle. It is not a five-star restaurant. There are no linen cloths on the tables and no silver service. This though is the place to eat jerk chicken. It is very tourist friendly and the people who own it have been serving our passengers for many years. It may look slightly intimidating…….but really it is as friendly a place as you can imagine. The food is cheap and…..is absolutely brilliant. So, next time you are in Ocho Rios, buy a box of jerk chicken and wash it down with a Red Stripe Beer or a bottle of local soda called Ting………this place is irie mon.

Zip-wire in Jamaica and on other Islands
OK, I haven’t done this as me and heights go together like Judge Judy and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. However, everyone I have spoken to tells me it is just astonishing. The excursion takes you through the forest canopy, 30-50 feet above the ground, on 500-foot runs of cable. Children must be eight or older; helmets, hairnets, gloves and harnesses are provided as is toilet paper. Again, speak to the excursion staff onboard who will fill you in with the rest of the details.

X CARET – Mexico (from Cozumel)
Taking a tour from the ship to this secret of the Yucatán peninsula is a day you will never forget. Immerse yourself in a secluded hideaway of beaches and enclaves tangled with mangroves and streams. Near by are numerous freshwater sinkholes and caverns offering swimming and snorkeling through underground rivers and of course swimming with the dolphins …….although their most famous Dolphin, Dan Marino, has now retired. Not too many people venture here but I promise you………more should as it is astonishing.

Bathe in light in Puerto Rico
I love San Juan and while many of our guests bugger off and go shopping, some head on our kayak tour to Mosquito Bay in Vieques. It is full of tiny bioluminescent organisms, which dart away from moving objects leaving phosphorescent blue-white trails like microscopic underwater glow-worms. Magical for all ages and honestly it will leave you breathless.

Seeing the Pitons in St.Lucia
Now, I’d read quite a bit about St. Lucia and when I went there during the Carnival Triumph’s Millennium cruise I knew I had to see them. Here are the basic facts: the island is famous for the Pitons – twin volcanic peaks that rise up high above the sea to form a unique landmark. I remember we had an excursion where you could climb them – but as most people were onboard for a fun-filled vacation, and not to film an army-recruitment video, I don’t think this was particular tour was so popular.

Ride the Flow Rider in Grand Turk
There is no doubt about it; Grand Turk is THE hottest property in the Caribbean. The beaches are exquisite and the shopping is brilliant. A short distance from the pier is the giant Flow Rider. Now, you don’t have to be a world champion surfer like Gerry Cahill to give this ago but give it a go you must. The backdrop to your family photos of you all doing this is the ship itself……..it’s a stunning location and an attraction that really is just brilliant. Of course, it’s even more fun to try it after you have had a few cocktails at Margaritaville which is right next door.

Gaze at the Caribbean Stars
Even when Mars is shining brilliantly in the southeast quadrant of the night sky, there is now so much light pollution in where you and I probably live that you’d be hard-pressed to spot an O.J. Simpson in a prison’s guard’s searchlight. Not so in the Caribbean and from the deck of a “Fun Ship.” I remember once when it was that it was providing enough light read by? Everyone was telling me about it (I think I was on the Carnival Glory at the time.) I went outside and there it was a reddish bullet hole in the inky black velvet drape of night. And that was just the start. On the opposite side of the sky was the Plough, pointing me to the equally visible North Star. And right overhead, like a dribble of saliva, was the edge of the Milky Way. It was like a Pink Floyd gig and I was out there for hours, smoking a cigar and thinking, like you do at times such as this, about the meaninglessness of life and how nothing really matters. Before giant movie screens, waterslides and all the other iconic features on our ships today, people would always walk on deck at night and gaze at the stars. They are so bright and ooze romance. So, at least once, take a walk on the deck at night and reach for the stars.

Taking the Caribbean Home with you…well…………..if you can cook that is
I wanted to share this recipe with you as it’s my favorite and I always ask Heidi to cook this as many times as possible. It’s a Dutch Antilles recipe from Aruba and as we are talking Caribbean today I thought I would share this one with you……….actually, Heidi will because I have no idea about how to cook it…………..here she is

Hello Everyone.
Just wanted to say thank you first for all the lovely comments on our anniversary. Five years married to John, do I get a medal? This is one of his favorite recopies. It’s really simple and I hope I explain it well enough. This will serve four

Chicken thighs and drumsticks are far moister and have much more flavour than chicken breasts, especially when marinating them in a recipe like this. If you are cooking for a lot of people then it is worth pre-cooking the chicken pieces in a moderate oven (180C/Gas 4) for 20 minutes in the marinade, then finishing them off on the barbecue.

75 ml dark rum
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chili sauce
1 tbsp molasses
4 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
1 ripe pineapple
3 tbsp honey

1 Mix together the rum, chili powder, chili sauce and molasses in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and leave to marinate for two hours.
2 Cut the unpeeled pineapple into eight wedges. Throwaway the tough core and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the honey and leave for 1 hour.
3 Cook the chicken over medium-hot coals for 35-40 minutes, turning and basting with extra marinade occasionally.
4 Add the pineapple, rind side down, to the barbecue 25 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
I hope this translates from Dutch to English and, of course, if you want it like John eats it, serve it with fries.

Enjoy
Heidi

So, there you have it. There is, of course, so much more I could write about the Caribbean and indeed I will in future blogs. If you have any specific questions about what to do please let me know and I (with the help from my colleagues) will let you know what we suggest. Just mark your comments “please reply.”

Just to whet your appetite even more about Carnival Caribbean cruising, have a look a photos taken yesterday by the photo manager of the Carnival Splendor. It is, of course, three Carnival ships sitting proudly alongside the Havenside Pier. The ships are the Carnival Splendor, Carnival Glory and Carnival Freedom. That’s 9,000-plus happy and fun-filled Carnival guests enjoying all that St. Thomas has to offer.

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As I sit here, the Caribbean could not be further away. The rain is beating down on windowpanes, a cold wind is whistling through the lifeless trees and the whole world, it seems, is carpeted in an endless sea of dullness. On every one of the 187 TV channels there are economists with beards telling us how the economy is falling quicker then Paris Hilton’s underwear.

To make matters worse, it grew a tiny bit light barely an hour ago……. and in 30 minutes it’ll be dark again. And last night at a dinner party we went to I had to listen to a group of people most of which we had never met before already talk about their New Year’s resolutions…………I wintered to take the bone that was left over from my lamb chop and stab each of them with it.

Good grief isn’t there enough doom and gloom in the world without already deciding what else to give up………….I mean……imagine this for a moment. You’ve reached for your cigarettes but with a heart stopping moment of pure, unbridled despair you’ve remembered that you made a pact with yourself on New Year’s Eve to give up. You decide to have a beer instead but, this being January, you’ve given that up too. Just to see if you can do without for a month.

Food? Oh, dear, no. This is the time of year when you are on a diet so instead of a nice bacon sandwich with loads of ketchup followed by a huge dollop of Spotted Dick, your lunch will be a bag of dust garnished with some lightly grated celery and various other weeds.

And, of course, you can’t sit down in front of the television this afternoon and watch The Miami Heat pulverize The Lakers because you also decided, in a moment of Christmas madness, that you ought to get fit.

As a result, this afternoon you must squeeze your stomach into a silly T-shirt and, despite the rain, run around the neighborhood, looking ridiculous. One thing’s for sure, though. You won’t be running into me on your jog, in the same way you won’t be finding me in the fruit ’n vegetable section of the local organic health food shop.

I do not make New Year resolutions because I simply cannot see the point of deliberately choosing the gloomiest month of the year to make my life a little bit less pleasant.

Nobody ever says: “Right. This year I’m going to have more rumpy pumpy, eat more chocolate and drive a little bit faster.”

Why not? Because nobody ever lies on their deathbed thinking: “Thank goodness I never ate that rib eye steak and bought that Aston Martin.” As we grow old, we tend to regret the things we haven’t done rather than the things we have. Unless you sailed on RCI.

The fact is that our lives are short and I can’t see why vast numbers of people waste a twelfth of them by spending January beating themselves with twigs. I therefore recommend you to try to make every day a fun day. To laugh as much as is possible. To combat the miserable, wet weather by eating, drinking and being merry……..and joining me on a Caribbean cruise.

All you need to achieve this is to give up giving things up.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.