All cruise ships have a Promenade deck, labelled with the number of loops needed to make a mile. Our balcony stateroom on last October’s Caribbean cruise looked out on part of it. We watched passengers lope by. “How did you get there?” I asked.
“Up and down some stairs,” said my informant, puffing. An investigation took me along our hallway to where two heavy doors could be opened in the daylight hours onto that deck. Eureka! From then on, when heading out, I’d walk that way. Sometimes the wind was so strong I could barely open the outer door. No effort was needed to work up a sweat, however! Despite the cooling effect of the wind or sea breezes, heat and humidity greeted me as I left the air-conditioned interior of the ship. We watched in disbelief as some ran many laps each day in the heat. “You’re brave,” I said tactfully to a tottering older man as he jogged by one more time.
“Crazy, you mean,” he said.
“Well, yes,” I agreed as he disappeared. However, many of our fellow passengers were Floridians, used to these tropical conditions. Still, all of us, returning from a shore excursion, gratefully accepted a freezing cold washcloth from a crew member standing beside the ship.
The ship had three swimming pools, all too small for serious swimming of laps, but pleasant and cool places to relax. Since we were usually cutting through the waves and troughs at right angles, the ship dipped up and down slightly. At times, the effect on the water in those pools kept people out. For good reason, each pool has a second barrier surrounding it: the water would slosh impressively out of the pool at one end, and then roll back with equal force.
Wherever we were on the ship, we watched for wildlife. Dolphins appeared a few times, and once a humpback whale spouted and splashed in the distance. On one occasion I went onto our balcony to update my diary. I saw something that might have been nothing, wrote five words, and looked around again. Dolphins for sure! Several leapt in unison as perhaps a dozen raced towards the ship’s bow. We had really good views of flying fish. These small oddities look like birds flying close to the water’s moving surface, but they’d suddenly disappear into one of those crests. Perhaps they flew as far as 10 metres, wings out-stretched. In Barbados, our tour guide told us we had to follow the local custom and have them for lunch. They were delicious! Walking back to the ship, we saw a dead one floating near the dock, its transparent wings each the same size as its body – less than 30 cm long. Often (real) birds accompanied us. Graceful frigate birds used their talons to take up their quarry; white terns dove deep into the water before popping back out; brown boobies scooped up their prey, which included fool-hardy flying fish, and flew a short distance before settling on the water to enjoy their catch.
At our substitute port of Puerto Rico we toured a tropical rain forest, enjoying its colour, sounds and immense growth. “Bamboo grows two inches (five cm) every 48 hours,” our bus driver told us. Vegetation is cut back constantly to keep roads and properties open. “What bird is singing?” I asked once. “That, madam, is a frog!” Oops… Still, I recognized many plants, short days and warm rain from my days of growing up in sub-tropical Queensland, Australia. Seasons don’t change much in the tropics – but nature is definitely the boss.