Friday, January 21, 2022

Moths to a Flame - Part 10, St Kitts


Not much I can say about St Kitts, we didn’t get off the boat. The incessant rain squalls made going ashore a real test, even for the die-hards who were determined to ride the old sugar mill train around the island. With the huge Celebrity Equinox docked next to us, we had created a wind tunnel that occasional roared down the pier, blowing umbrellas back over the heads of tenacious passengers headed toward the security gate at least several hundred yards away. Every time the wind-lashed rain subsided, people would make a mad dash for shore but many got caught between the ships by gusts that could almost knock them over. They were all soaked to the skin, regardless of what rain gear they had on. Many had absolutely nothing but the ship’s courtesy umbrellas. Many passengers just gave up on the umbrellas and plodded forward anyway, dragging their useless, collapsed umbrellas behind them. They looked like they had been sprayed with fire hoses. Ilse and I put our feet up and watched dryly from several stories above.

Several stories above us, several Frigatebirds soar easily, effortlessly, sometimes hovering motionless directly overhead in the stiff wind between the ships. I’m surprised as the five or six birds are obviously using the weather to their advantage, but I can’t help but wonder what it is. We’ve seen them in every port we’ve visited and they usually stay with us until we are well out of port. English sailors called them Man-O-War birds. Most passengers on our boat simply call them  “birds.”  

It had been a gray, dismal morning as we approached St Kitts at daybreak. Heavy rain showers were scattered across the entire horizon and the weather after breakfast did not improve. Two men sitting on the huge concrete, anchoring pillar, in the harbor fifty yards behind our boat, sat huddled together against the foul weather, waiting for the ship’s lines to be thrown to them. I lost track of them for a few minutes in one of the rain squalls even though they were wearing yellow raincoats. There was no way to get on or off the pillar except by boat, and with the waves crashing constantly against their open, concrete, man-made island, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had on life vests. They were out there for over an hour and were drenched three times.

Getting to St. Kitts was different from the other overnight cruises. I watched our position during the evening and noticed the Captain was just killing time. The distance from Antigua to St. Kitts is less than sixty-five miles, so we sailed away from St Kitts for several hours before we turned and sailed back toward the island. The first time I looked we were thirty two-miles away, then thirty-eight miles, then after we turned around, we were down to thirty-three miles from our second-to-last island visit. Secure in the knowledge we were finally headed toward the right island, I went to bed.

Our balcony was protected by the Celebrity Equinox moored across the pier from us. Our sister ship was taking the brunt of the tropical storm force winds blasting the other side of the ship, but also oddly creating a strange wind tunnel between us that relentlessly rain-whipped the passengers who tried to walk on the pier. A great time to read and write, and occasionally tour the boat to see if we had missed anything.

Reviewing my notes from our visit to Antigua the day before, I decided – don’t ask me why – to add up the population of the five cruise ships simultaneously docked yesterday in St Johns. The cumbersome Seaview can carry five thousand, two hundred passengers, which is quite an impact on a town with a population of only twenty-two thousand people. The rather small Grandeur of the Seas carries another one thousand, ninety two and the even smaller Saga Spirit of Adventure, another boutique cruiser, only carries nine hundred and ninety nine. The smallest was the Azamara Quest, the pinnacle of boutique cruising. She only carries six hundred, ninety passengers. Add that to our capacity of two thousand, two hundred and thirty one and you have well over half the population of this port city, which is larger than most ports. If we had been full, as is usually the non-COVID case, there would have been almost eleven thousand oddly dressed tourists wandering around the town falling off sidewalks or taking tours to a short-lived, prepaid trip to nirvana of some sort. Just a different view of the cruising industry and why it has become so important to certain Caribbean countries.

Ilse stops in front of a painting of a tree in winter in one of the main foyers. She doesn’t have to say a word. I take a photo of the artwork which is mounted upside down. We wonder how many people notice the playful exercise in observation. Even better, while strolling forward toward the heliport, we met a steward, busy rearranging his cart after servicing a cabin. I stopped to look at a large color photograph of a young girl wistfully, almost tearfully looking back to her left, hanging next to his cart.“

"Do you know what she is looking at?” asked the young steward.

“No, not really,” I answered. “What do you think she is looking at?”

“I know what she is looking at,” he replied. “Go to the other side of the ship, in the same position as this and you will see the answer.”

Ilse and I walked across the next passage and down the corridor to the same position, exactly across from where we were. A photograph of a young man, obviously by the same photographer, looking back remorsefully to his right hangs in the exact spot. 

We wonder if there are more Easter Eggs, as they are called, on the ship. We are not impressed with the art available in the ship’s art auction, but then again, we don’t cruise to buy art, but we are always curious as to how the ship’s decorators pick their choices for display. Most of the ship’s artwork and photographs are generally bland and unobtrusive, but there are some nice art pieces in the stairwells and foyers.

The rains subsided by late afternoon and by the time we cast off had drifted away completely. Staying aboard has been a relaxing, if uneventful, day and we decided to go top-side to watch our departure. A huge refueling barge that has been alongside us most of the day, casts off and slowly lumbers away from the docks.

Laughter and even plans about visiting echo between the two huge Celebrity ships. Crew members are yelling greetings to one another across the narrow gap that separates us. Many crew members have crewed together, and we found out later, there are even family members serving on several different Celebrity ships. We watch one young girl, dressed as a room steward, standing, talking on a cell phone as she vigorously waves to someone on the other ship.

As we silently move away, Ilse mentions we didn’t get to see any mountain tops while we were here, they were shrouded in clouds our entire stay. As if they were required by the tourist industry, a rainbow appeared just for our departure. Ilse takes a marvelous photo of Nevis Peak, on the nearby island of Nevis that sums up our memory here. Perhaps, some time in the future...  

After dinner, Ilse and I headed toward one of the normally mellow lounges amid-ships, and found people dancing in the lounge and corridor, but there was no music! A host slipped a headset on Ilse and one on me and gestured to dance, which we immediately did. We love to dance and the music was great. Once we had the headsets on, everything made sense and everyone was having a ball. The music played disco-style with no breaks or interruptions and finally after about the third or fourth song, I took off my headset and asked what the different colors beaming from the earpads meant. He explained the control knobs on the head set and showed me the volume and music selection options. There were different colors, one for each of the several different stations available. I laughed out loud, but no one heard me, they were all still dancing. Even Ilse, who had her headset set on blue, listening to oldie Rock and Roll. Mine was set on red. I was listening to Rhythm and Blues. We had been dancing for ten minutes to different music! We probably looked like idiots, but it didn’t matter, we were having a great time.

1 comment:

Ilse. said...

Great blog! Love it.