Sickness, Salvation, and Splendor – Part 4, St. Croix

The complexity of complexion.

Morning was earlier than I had desired. There was a muffled and then gradually louder knock on the door as room service was trying to bring the breakfast I had requested and then forgot about. My breakfast was pretty dang simple because of all the things I wasn’t supposed to eat while on the medication. No dairy, no coffee, no fruit juice, and no yogurt. Boooooo. Today, like most mornings, my breakfast consisted of toast, a banana, and some tea with honey. Not great, but better than starting off the day with nothing. Looking at the balcony, we were approaching St. Croix and I wanted to get some photos before our actual arrival. I finished my breakfast fairly quickly then grabbed my cameras for some photos.

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After taking some photos, It was time to get around. Kim had planned an excursion for about 20 people to take a catamaran to Buck Island, not too far off the coast. In photos, it looked incredible. After a nice shower, I made sure to apply a lot of sunscreen and deet bug spray. I knew that while on Cipro, I should not be in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Having not had too much issue in Puerto Rico, I decided to continue with the plans I made way before being prescribed the nasty medicine, and just make sure to be liberal with the sunscreen.

Carnival Splendor docked in Fredriksted, St. Croix at roughly 8am that morning. Since we didn’t need to meet the driver until after 9, I took my time getting off the boat, making sure I had everything, including medicine. I also brought my green Knockaround Everglades sunglasses.

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Stepping off the ship was pretty easy, many people didn’t seem to be in a big hurry and I wound up off earlier than expected. This gave me a little bit of time to check the local shops for magnets and t-shirts before setting off on the excursion. Seeing as how it was Sunday, not a lot of places were open (yet) and my choices were mostly dive shops and tents set up along the waterfront. I stepped into one of the dive shops and picked up a magnet. They had a t-shirt I liked but it was either way too big or small. Dang it… Afterwards, I ran into Sheila and Randy. They were part of not only the Facebook group, but also the group going on the excursion. We hung out for a while waiting for others and bumped into Stacy, Amberly, Autumn, and some others going on another excursion. Kim made it out after that and we found our driver. There were still some people who hadn’t made it out quite yet and a couple were a little confused about exactly where to meet. Most eventually did make it and one seemed to be taking a little longer. Thankfully, because of Facebook, the last person knew to look for a guy wearing sunglasses (me) and it worked. She ran over just in time to join us. We all piled in 2 vans and headed for Christensted where the catamaran was docked.

The trip to Christensted was about 25 minutes. And for me, it was almost too long. You see, I’m a Virginia State Inspector and do safety inspections for motor vehicles. Imagine my discomfort hearing and feeling all the noises, pops, and bangs as our van made it’s way to our destination. I had to keep telling myself that I was in vacation mode and to just ignore it. It was feeling a little bit of bubble-guts and felt a little storm brewing in my abdomen. I took some medicine for that and fortunately after a little while, the ill feeling passed. I could then watch as we passed a Captain Morgan Rum distillery and one of the very few Home Depots in the Caribbean.

Christensted was pretty dead when we arrived. There were several boats docked in the harbor and one was our catamaran, the Jolly Roger. Our captain, Mike (Captain Mike he prefers), was out buying some breakfast and was walking back to the boat as we approached it. A pretty decent size, open catamaran, we had a good amount of room to pick where we could sit and enjoy the views as we crossed the channel to Buck Island. Captain Mike introduced us to his team, and made some announcements regarding safety and what to expect on our trip. After a few minutes we were off.

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After a short while we arrived at Buck Island National Park. Along the way Captain Mike had pointed our a few things and points of interest. Approaching Buck Island, the water was the most beautiful combination of blue-ish green. As it was a national park, there was no pier for the boat, so they had to set anchor in the very shallow area, just off shore. This made getting my camera and gear off the boat risky, but in the end not a very big deal. This just meant I had to go down the stairs then be handed my gear. Some of the others who didn’t go the sissy-route jumped off the catamaran into the gorgeous water. Once on the island I lathered on more sunscreen and set about taking pictures, then enjoying the awesome water.

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Our lovely tour organizer. She really did an awesome job putting the whole thing together.
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After a little over half an hour we had to get back on the catamaran to set off for the snorkeling part of our excursion. Once again, I awkwardly boarded the boat being careful with my gear. I made sure I was last so nobody would rush me or would I get in the way. It was about a ten minute trip to another side of the island where there was a massive reef. We were given another set of instructions before getting in the water. We were also given inflatable vests, goggles, flippers, and a snorkel. I honestly did need the vest as I the sinus infection that I had, had taken a lot out of my ability and I wasn’t feeling quite as strong as I usually did. Once in the water though, it became a serious issue.

Those inflatable vests always seem to leak one way or another. The one I was given was no different. As soon as I got in the water, I knew it was going to be an issue. Rather than hold others up by going back, I decided to see if I could just go. This was a mistake. I can normally swim without issue, but because of the health problems I had, keeping up was difficult, especially while trying to avoid the federally protected coral, watching out for others, and stopping every 30 seconds to re-inflate my vest. I couldn’t do it and had to signal the guide to come and get me. He had with him a safety ring that he tied around his wrist. I put one arm around the ring and stuck behind him. I could now enjoy the rest of the snorkeling, though embarrassed that it had come to me limping along like that. It paid off though because the reef was amazing. There were so many fish, and so many coral. It was also a maze and if I had tried to continue on without the ring, I would have been in danger. We spent about thirty minutes out there and afterwards were given the option to go back to the boat or continue to a more active part of the reef that meant more swimming. I decided to tuck my tail between my legs and head back to the boat. I didn’t want to slow others down.

I got back on the catamaran and told Captain Mike my vest was trash. I apologized for not mentioning it earlier, but he apologized for even having it, before he threw it out. I then made my way over to the front of the boat where I just relaxed and took it easy. It was wonderful to feel the movement of the boat and hear the water lapping up against the sides and little else. One of the others was still on the boat and not feeling well from partying a little too much the night before. Some of the others nicely tended to her for a while before the others started making their way back on.

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Once everybody was back on, we began our way back to Christensted with the use of the sail and no engines. It was so peaceful as the catamaran glided silently through the water. An osprey flew overhead a few times. We all reflected on how beautiful it was, the sea life, and then started asking about the rum punch. It wasn’t long before Captain Mike brought out the big Gatorade container in which he started making the punch. He used a lot of each ingredient and did not go skimpy with the rum at all. Between slightly less than 2o of us (and less with those who didn’t drink) some of us enjoyed a good amount of the stuff, myself included. I took cup after cup of rum punch with Kim, Shelia, and Randy. Kim discovered her camera had stopped working properly and I tried to see if I could fix it, but being buzzed on rum punch and missing my electronics tool set, I couldn’t do anything. Fortunately her memory card was unharmed as it worked in another persons camera. The crew of the Jolly Roger, then started offering stuff for purchase. Seeing as how I didn’t have a t-shirt for St. Croix yet, I bought one in a heartbeat! It was a cool retro-looking graphic of the boat.

After a while they fired up the engines and we pulled back into Christensted. We all got off the boat and took a group photo. Then we all boarded our taxis for the ride back to Fredriksted and the port. We were slightly behind, but had a still had a fair amount of time before needing to be back on the ship. We reflected on the way back and everyone thanked Kim for putting the whole thing together.

Once back on the ship, everyone was tired and we all pretty much headed back on-board. I took a shower before watching as the lines were released and we sailed away from St. Croix. As we pulled away, I took some photos and had conversation with Linda and her husband in the neighboring balcony cabin for a while. I grabbed some food, then took a much-needed nap afterwards. It lasted a couple of hours.

That night was important for two things. First off it was elegant (formal) night. Secondly, a group of us had planned on doing an 80’s party that night in the nightclub. I had my gear for both. After waking up I felt a little sore and noticed I had gotten a lot of sun. Crap. I lathered myself up with aloe in hopes it would do me some good and then started getting dressed for dinner. Afterwards everyone was walking around in their outfits and everyone seemed to enjoy looking at one another. I wore black slacks, a black vest, white shirt, and my disco-ball tie. Everyone loved the tie and some took photos with me. When dinner came around, I found that I had been placed at a table away from everyone else which wasn’t good and then became a little awkward. It was a very large table and nobody showed up for the longest time. Eventually two other guys came and sat down. We had good conversation, but I was a little disappointed there weren’t more people (or anybody else I knew for that matter). Dining service took forever that night and it seemed we had a different waiter every time one came by. I drank a lot of water and could feel a sore throat coming-on. After the main courses, I didn’t even feel good enough to enjoy another round of warm chocolate melting cake. I headed off and looked for those who were going to the 80’s party. Eventually I bumped into a couple and told them I may not make it because I was then feeling pretty awful. I was hoping they would reschedule it and told them to call the cabin if they wanted.

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After that, I headed to my cabin, disrobed and passed out for what wound up being the night. So much for 80’s night. I was supposed to dress up like Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice. I had the 80’s wig and all. Alas, it was not meant to be. That was Day 2.

The next day I would realize just how much Cipro does have an effect on me. Sun poisoning.

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