Saturday, November 04, 2006

Peabody of the Caribbean - Pt. 3

Wednesday, October 25 - George Town, Grand Cayman

Another morning, another port town. The difference here is that the water is shallow, we have to drop anchor and ride tenders (4 that are on our ship, they are slighter larger than the regular lifeboats, can hold 120 people each, and 1 from the port). There are no less than 6 cruise ships anchored in the harbor, pretty amazing sight. When we arrive in the ship's theater for instructions about our excursion, we are informed that it has been cancelled. Apparently due to the rough weather that we sailed thru, the beach resort we are supposed to go snorkeling at has decided the water is too rough. Dana, still less-than-thrilled with Mexico, says she is happy to stay on the ship. I said, no, we're here, this is supposedly NOT a third-world area, let's get off and walk around. (The excursion people on the ship told us we could sign up for a different excursion, we found out later that other folks went all the way to where they were supposed to snorkel, scuba, etc. only to be told that they were cancelled. We decided to take our refund and spend that money on booze, souveniers, etc. )

We were able to catch one of the early tenders off the ship, since we still had our excursion tickets in hand (doubled as your tender ticket, the folks with scheduled excursions got to go first, no one looked at our ticket closely enough to say "hey, that excursion is cancelled, go to the back of the line!"). Once on shore, it was apparent that George Town was very different than Cozumel, it looked like any American city. Banks everywhere, as we had heard, lots of money on this little island.

I noticed right away that they drive on the left-hand side of the road, it was messing with my head when I tried to cross the street, etc. The cars were mixed, some had right-hand steering wheels, some left. Since we had no set plans, we just walked around the main drag, spotted Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, said hey, let's go get a margarita. Stopped first in the store, the t-shirts were VERY expensive (more on that in a moment) so we went upstairs to the restaurant. The prices were kinda high, but we figured we were spending the money we would have otherwise spent on the excursion, so we said what the heck. It was getting on towards lunchtime, so we ordered the "Volcano Nachos" along with our 2 margaritas. We passed on the $13.50 "large" margaritas in a plastic bong, got a rather small one in a standard plastic cup for $7.50. They were tasty, we ordered another round. Well, when the bill came, we noticed that the menu prices had been in Cayman dollars, U.S. dollars was even more (.8 Cayman dollars to 1 USD, as opposed to 11 pesos to the USD in Cozumel). 1 order of nachos, 4 margaritas came to $50 USD. Ouch. We figured we'd eat a proper lunch back on the ship where it was paid for.

Wandered down the street, past the big wooden statue of a black pirate-looking dude, with a sign next to him proclaiming "Big Black Dick" of course all the women had to get their picture made next to this. Big Black Dick is a brand of rum apparently. Speaking of rum, we went to the Tortuga Rum store, bought rum cakes and a bottle of rum. Headed back to the ship for lunch and the afternoon by the pool.

Next - Montego Bay, Jamaica

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rock Hall gets another shot at the Stooges

Time for my annual rant - the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced today. R.E.M., Van Halen, The Stooges, Patti Smith, the Dave Clark Five, Chic, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Joe Tex, and The Ronettes are on the ballot.

R.E.M. and Van Halen are no-brainers, both original in their sound and HUGELY influential. Last year I ragged about Percy Sledge getting in the year before as a one-hit wonder, Grandmaster Flash is in the same category, the difference being that their one hit launched a whole genre, that is not only still around, but dominant. (Not that I like that, I'm just stating the facts here). Joe Tex??? I dunno, I like Joe Tex, "I Gotcha" is a great song, and I did "the bump" to "Ain't Gonna Bump No More With No Big Fat Woman" in high school, but I don't know that he is Hall of Fame material. Chic? As I said last year, the Commodores and Ohio Players should go in before they do.

Patti Smith I never "got". Her version of "Because the Night" is one of my favorite all time songs, but it was written by Springsteen. Dave Clark Five? Yeah, I can see that, they were a big part of the British Invasion, had lots of hits. The Ronettes are redundant, because Phil Spector is already in the Hall, and the Ronettes are nothing but the genius of Phil Spector.

Which leaves the Stooges. I don't know who these clowns are that vote, but how they can continue to leave out this band that was SO far ahead of their time is beyond me. They invented punk long before 1976, much like my favorite Krautrock band CAN invented drums'n'bass in the late 60s. I'm sure no one that votes for the Hall is reading this, but if you see one of them, tell them to quit screwin' around and get the Stooges in there.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Peabody of the Caribbean - Pt. 2

Tuesday, October 24 - Cozumel, Mexico

As you can see by the picture, not exactly the most lovely view upon awakening. That hideous building on the right, the orangey-pink one, is the "Barracuda Hotel". The ship's itinerary called for us to anchor here, and ride tenders to shore, but the captain makes some phone calls and we are able to dock. I did not realize until we got here that Cozumel was on an island, not on the mainland of Mexico. At the point at which the pier joins the island, there is a large gateway arch you must walk under, on either side are soldiers in full combat gear with large machine guns. How welcoming......

Another cloudy, rainy morning, once again, as we prepare to embark on our excursion, the bottom drops out. We are quickly hustled thru a brand-new looking shopping center, complete with lots of Corona t-shirt stores, nice shirt in the window that says "Will F**k for beer" (minus the asterisks). I agree with Dana, as she says "why is there a market for that?". We found out soon enough that the reason for some of the dumpiness, as well as the brand new shopping center, is that Hurricane Wilma wreaked havoc on Cozumel last year. The reason for the "tendering" indication in the itinerary is that the docks just re-opened 3 weeks ago.

On the other side of the shopping center, our bus awaits. We are taken to the village of Cedral, which is a collection of shacks (our guide says "these may look like no one lives here, but they come on the weekends"). So these are the city-dwellers' weekend homes. All have cisterns on the roof to collect rainwater.

There is a central "plaza" which consists of a giant carport so the buses have somewhere to drop the tourists even if it's raining. On one side are crappy little shops full of "authentic" Mexican jewelry etc. (made in China I'm sure), on the other is a Mayan temple (see picture) and a Catholic church, the oldest on the island we are told. Our guide is full of "el crappo" so you can't really believe anything she tells us.

After leaving Cedral, we drive down a highway to nowhere, nothing on either side but scrub brush, little palm-looking things that are grey with a little green on top. Our guide informs us that all of this was under water during the hurricane, come back in 5 years and this will all be lush. Occasionally on the beach side of the road you will see 8-foot tall Dos Equis and Sol bottles, indicating a driveway to a bar.

We stop at a "corner" of the island, absolutely gorgeous beach area. Our guide tells us there are no restrooms, as there used to be a restaurant here, but the hurricane swept it away. All that is here now is a Mexican blanket stand, and a lot of pieces of coral that washed up.

We head back to the town of Cozumel, nasty, nasty, nasty third world place, finally the bus drops us off on the main drag, in sight of the ship. We "run the gauntlet" thru all the people trying to drag you into their store. "Hey Amigo! Come see my store! You from cruise ship?" I stop in the Hard Rock and buy a t-shirt, good deal $20 USD, no tax. We can't take anymore of the hassling from the merchants, say "no mas" and head back to the ship. The soldiers are nowhere in sight, guess they don't care if you leave.

Tuesday night - Disaster strikes. We had signed up for the late seating in the dining room, which was 8:30, it was great because we could sunbathe until late afternoon and take our time getting ready for dinner. This night, however, we never made it to dinner. Around 7 PM or so, we encountered very rough seas, starting feeling sick. We took our non-drowsy Dramamine, Dana sent me out to see "what was going on". Big mistake. I go lurching down the long hallway, there are many room doors open to "air out" i.e. get rid of the vomit smell. I get to the "centrum" the huge sculpture suspended in the middle is swaying big time. Back to the room as soon as possible, holding on for dear life to the railing. When 8:30 arrives, I'm feeling better than Dana, attempt to go to dinner. I open the door, the hallway is tilted down at about a 20-degree angle, the cabin to the right has the door open, again the smell of vomit. "Forget this!" I say and crawl in the bed, done for the night. Our room steward shows up about 9, he says "oh no, you sick too? Lots of rock tonight. I'm not feeling so good myself" (read those lines in your best African accent). Rocking continues all night.

Next - Grand Cayman, Jamaica