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The Tandem Travelers are a traveling writing team made up of Maralyn D. Hill and
Brenda C. Hill -
Holland America Cruise in Caribbean
Story by Norman E. Hill with photos by Maralyn D. Hill
'The Tandem Travelers'
Cole Porter’s salute to cruising was sung in his epic musical, “Anything Goes.” His timeless lyrics are, “Oh, there’s nothing like travel, to help you unravel…” And so, our own cruise in late March, aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, did indeed provide us a chance to unravel from some responsibilities and cares.
For seven days, we enjoyed the cruise advantages of only beginning and end unpacking, daily servings of food and drink, and beds automatically made. Although we’ve cruised numerous times, including at least six on Holland America, we never tire of the experience.
This time, we took advantage of two island tours, first to Grand Cayman, and the second to Mahogany Bay on Roatan Island, off the Honduras coast.
Grand Cayman is the largest of three islands that comprise the Cayman Island chain. Georgetown is the capital city of this British colony. The name “Cayman” originated with the reptile caymen, cousin to alligators and crocodiles that has dwelled in various parts of the Caribbean and Central and South America. For some time, these predators have been killed off in the Cayman Islands.
Grand Cayman was first sighted by Columbus in his final 1503 voyage. Apparently, he was confused by offshore movements of the sizable turtle population and mistook them for rocks. Initially owned by Spain, the islands, along with Jamaica, were taken for Great Britain by Cromwell’s army in 1655. Indigo and cotton, utilizing slave labor from Africa, were planted, although the soil was never as fertile as in nearby Jamaica.
Slavery was abolished in 1835, as it was throughout the British Empire. Today, the population of about 55,000 is a mixture of black and white descendants. Tourism and fishing are Grand Cayman’s main industries.
One notable stop on our tour was the Pedro St. James Historic Site. This is the remains of an historic plantation house, first built in 1780 by the Eden family. It also served for years as the de facto site of government, where magistrates and later the first elected parliament met. Remnants of the original stone architecture are preserved today by the Cayman government.
Roatan Island is one of several islands, about 40 miles north of mainland Honduras. About 70,000 people live on the island, out of the total Honduras population of 7.8 million. Until 1861, Roatan was owned by Great Britain as a part of Belize (originally named British Honduras). Then, it became part of Spanish Honduras in 1861. Today, English and Spanish are both spoken, with a form of creole English as the more or less official language.
The population is a mixture of black and white, partly because many escaped slaves from the Honduras and Belize mainland escaped to Roatan.
Our interesting island tour was highlighted by a short sea voyage on a semi-
On previous cruises, we had also enjoyed a tour, starting from Costa Maya, Mexico. This explored the pyramid ruins of Mayan temples. Today, it is known that only a small fraction of Mayan cities and temples in Mexico and Central America have been recaptured from the jungle. Mayan descendants still live in this part of Latin America. Hopefully, one day, reasons for the incredibly abrupt disappearance of this people and their culture will be uncovered.
Cruises always feature an astonishing array of good food and this Holland America
cruise was no exception.
Besides the main dining room, our dinners and one lunch were further expanded by upscale dining in three restaurants, the Tamarind, Pinnacle Grill and LeCirque, served in the Pinnacle Grille. Tamarind provides a mixture of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Asian food. For dinner, I enjoyed Chicken Pho soup, potstickers as an appetizer, beef tenderloin with an excellent sauce and finally tempura ice cream. Next day, our lunch at the same restaurant featured very good Dim Sum dumplings and a simply outstanding coconut ice cream.
At the Pinnacle Grill, we enjoyed more upscale dining. My entrée of Colorado lamp chops was simply excellent. I was fortunate to sample some of Maralyn’s Dungeness crabs, which were also very good. For dessert, my baked Alaska was set aflame at our table, which contributed even further to our dinner’s ambiance.
Our dining pleasure continued the next night, with Le Cirque selections at the Pinnacle Grill. I particularly enjoyed butternut squash soup with huckleberry compote.
During our final formal dinner in the main dining room, we enjoyed a longstanding cruise tradition. Dessert of baked Alaska was brought in by the entire dining room staff to the cheers of all guests.
Our week went by far too rapidly. We know, whether for business functions or our own pleasure and unraveling, that we’ll cruise often in the not so distant future.