We returned through the Caribbean locks of the Panama Canal in the dark, and docked the next day in Limon, Costa Rica. It’s an unremarkable, rather ugly port, and like Panama City it was hot and humid. Most passengers set off for the jungle interior to wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, but we couldn’t face six plus hours in buses, or the early morning crowds to get off the ship and onto the buses. Instead, we wandered around the town by ourselves, following the crews on shore leave. The crews are worth following because they know where the free Wi-Fi is, where to buy cold beer, and where the good but inexpensive restaurants are.
Filipino crew on shore leave always make a beeline for a Filipino restaurant, which knows they are coming and has prepared food. If you like Filipino food, follow them. If you want cold beer, follow the Bangladeshi crew from the British cruise ship. If you want to meet locals, just wander around a bit outside the main tourist drag, and someone will find you.
We were found by Alberto, a municipal office worker in a wheelchair who offered to take our photo by the Limon sign. He got to offering us a nice property at a good price quickly but was gracious enough to accept beers on behalf of his wife and daughter (he was a recovering alcoholic) and to take us to his wife’s restaurant, where she showed us how to cook Gallo Pinto chicken, a popular Costa Rican dish. Even in the town, you can feel the density of the jungle and wildlife around you; that press of dominating and slightly menacing nature closing in. There were sloths in the giant trees, beautiful flowers and butterflies, vibrant flashes of birds.
On to our last stop of the cruise: Grand Cayman Island, a former British colony. Back to a Caribbean vibe and look. It was a Sunday, and not much was going on in the small town except a charity run. Most of the runners seemed to be white ex-pat employees of various banks, including the Canadian Scotiabank. They looked sweaty and exhausted and unused to exercising in the heat. Again, we ignored the organized tours, took our snorkels and simply walked along the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach. We passed fish stalls and both five-star restaurants and crab shacks, taking our directions from local policemen in British Bobby style helmets. Some gentle snorkelling took us to the wreck of the freighter Cali which sank in shallow water in the harbour because when there was a small leak in the hold, the cargo of rice expanded in the sea water and split the hull open. It’s now an accessible place from which to observe the abundant sea life of the island shores. On the beach we chatted to a Canadian banker and his girlfriend who described life on the island as ‘pretty cool for a short time’. From a high deck on the ship we watched the unprotected, flat island recede as we sailed that evening. I would not like to be there during a hurricane.
Next, two nights and a day at sea as we sailed back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Time to enjoy the ship’s nightly entertainment and explore the ship some more.