After Costa Rica, following a day cruising through the Panama Canal, our Semester at Sea voyage made one final stop before docking for good in Fort Lauderdale. Originally, we were slated to visit Havana, Cuba, but when our travel license didn’t come through in time, that changed to Santa Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala. Well, one week before we arrived there, the state department deemed it unsafe for Americans to go to Guat due to gang activity, so we changed courses again, and that’s how we wound up on vacation in Roatan. Under water.
Roatan is an island off the Caribbean side of Honduras—most known for its all-inclusive vacations and chill beachfront backpacker resorts—but it’s much more Caribbean than Central American (in my opinion). These days, it serves as a major cruise hub, so as you can imagine, much of the island panders to mass amounts of tourists. If you recall, SVV and I had been to Roatan three years prior for vacation. We didn’t have the best of luck with things, as out of our 16 days in Honduras and Guatemala, we only had one without violent downpours (the last, naturally). I can’t say this time was any different. I’m beginning to think Roatan has just one weather setting, and that’s “hurricane-like rains and winds.” (I can’t really complain, though, given that up until China, we had zero rain on the first two months of our voyage.)
Still, we knew the ship would migrate toward the central party hub at West End, so we decided to go anywhere but there. An extensive TripAdvisor search told us that Barefoot Cay was the best place for what we were seeking—quiet, great diving, nice accommodations—so we grabbed our pals Layne and Brian, hailed a cab from the port, and made our way toward French Harbour.
Once there, we headed straight to the bar—it’s one of those “complimentary (and strong) cocktails upon arrival” kind of resorts (aka my kind of place)—and lounged by the pool while our room was prepared. The rain had abated for awhile, but you could tell it wasn’t holding back for long.
Our accommodation was a two-bedroom bungalow with kitchen and living room, part of “the Lofts” complex above the dive shop. We wound up going to the local supermarket and cooking pizza that night in an effort to save money, before watching a movie on my laptop and all falling asleep just after 8pm. (I’m sorry, y’all, but working on a ship is exhausting.)
The dive shop and Lofts are on a separate island—a private four-acre cay, accessible by free water taxi that goes back and forth all day—as the pool, restaurant and other little cottages.
Also on that island is a palapa from which you can swim, snorkel or kayak. Kayak and snorkel gear rentals are free for all guests; unfortunately, we didn’t get to do either of these activities! (Gee, thanks, rain.)
When it was clear we wouldn’t be catching any rays that first afternoon, we headed out to the end of the palapa, and despite the constant drizzle, the guys attempted to jump in. There’s a wreck just off shore that you can snorkel, but alas, visibility that day wasn’t great. They quickly gave up.
Luckily, the one thing Roatan is really known for is the one thing you can do under torrential downpours: dive. So dive we did. (Or dove we did? I always get confused on that one.)
On our second day, SVV and I headed out on the first dive of the morning to find only one other person from the resort would be diving with us. (We were there during the shoulder season.) He looked vaguely familiar, and once we got to talking, we figured out why: It was Ben, saxist for the jazz-funk band Galactic. I had seen them play when I was still a student up at Sewanee, SVV had attended a half dozen or so shows of theirs in San Francisco, and we’d seen them together at Bonnaroo some years ago. Ben couldn’t have been a friendlier, nicer guy, and he was down with his fiance getting his open water certification. She came along with us on the second dive.
The diving was phenomenal despite the conditions on top, and I promise to post more pictures in an upcoming Photo Friday. Unfortunately for us, we only had two brief days at Barefoot—and one all-too-short evening—before it was time to taxi back to the port, reload the ship, and set sail for the final stop of our four-month adventure.