Currently we are camped at NAS/JRB, Belle Chasse, LA Temperature: 47 F, and foggy
This is fifth in a series of posts about our NCL cruise on the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. Read about our first day at sea here, about an evening onboard here, Cozumel here, and Belize here. Also, keep in mind that the link to the left for my photos on google will take you to many more images of our cruise and the ports we visited
Thursday morning the sunrise was somewhat muted by the rainclouds and fog hanging low in the sky around the island of Roatan. Until recently, I had never heard of Roatan, and when we booked this cruise I had to look it up. I read a bit about the island, the port, and then was delighted when friend Jeanne sent a quick email with pictures of, you guessed it, Roatan.
Jeanne and her sweetie Alan decided to escape the Vermont winter cold for a week on the north side of the island at a lovely boutique hotel. Photos were attached, and emails exchanged.
Jeanne told us which beaches to avoid and gave us the name of their driver, Alex. A few more emails were exchanged, and by the time we docked in Coxen Hole, on the south side of the island, arrangements had been finalized with Alex. If anyone is reading this blog and wants information about a personal driver for time in Roatan, drop an email to me and I’ll send his email address and phone number. Alex was a sweetheart and I highly recommend his services.
Once again, the timing was near perfect. With a rainy day ahead of us, we were really happy that we hadn’t booked any kind of excursion, trapped in a crowded bus with weather too rough for any kind of snorkeling.
As we approached the port along the southern side of Roatan, I was surprised to see jungle covered hills rising above the port. The approach was quite lovely.My first impression of the port at Coxen Hole was much better than the previous day in Belize. (See that post here). There was plenty of room for busses and taxi’s and the exit area was open and spacious.
As we emerged from the only open gate, Alex was waiting for us with a big sign with my name on it. His car is a nice newer model Toyota SUV with comfy seats and we were his only passengers. We originally negotiated for a simple ride out to the beach and then a later afternoon pick-up, but with the rainy day, we discussed shifting to a mini tour of the island. Alec is quite popular it seems, and his English was more than adequate for our day. For $50 US for both of us, Alex took us to a few sights on the south side of the island, before dropping us off at Sandy Beach on the north side.
Negotiating the narrow, winding roads, Alex drove slowly enough that we could enjoy the views and conversation. We stopped at a few historical sites, but in the rain everything seemed less than spectacular. Once at the top of highest hill on the island, the view opened up and through the light rain that was starting we could see the ship in the harbor below. The road only opens when ships are in port. At this view site are several covered stalls where local people were selling their wares. We took some photos, and explored the items for sale, finding some very well priced goodies to purchase. (Can’t believe I never got a photo of Alex!)
Even in the rain, the jungles were lush and beautiful and the ride to the next site was enjoyable. At the butterfly/flower garden we spent $10. each to enjoy a walking tour of the grounds by Joshua, a 13 year old boy who was very knowledgeable and well spoken. It was a bit of a touristy trappy kind of place, but Joshua made it fun and interesting.
Alex then took us to a more commercial area that was some sort of “official” tourist souvenir site, and we wandered around looking at lovely items for sale, with prices up to three times as much as similar items seen at the stalls on the hilltop. I was really glad that Alex took us to the hilltop first! After perusing the shop, we settled in for an espresso and hot chocolate while we waited for the rain to abate a bit. The sudden runoff was thick and brown and flowing in torrents down the rough roads.
Among the most interesting items made on the mainland in Honduras were carved chests, doors and tables, all worked by hand in Honduran mahogany. Raw mahogany is no longer exported from the country, but crafted items made from the tropical wood are allowed. According to our guide, people plant mahogany trees to attempt to replace the old growth mahogany from the rain forests.
Before lunchtime, we made our way to Sandy Beach and the Blue Bahia Grill, where the open air restaurant was nearly empty. With an agreement to pick us up at 2, Alex left us to have lunch, wander the beach, and possibly go for a snorkel. By then the rain was coming down in torrents, so we were especially happy to have a nice place to relax and enjoy the view through the plastic curtains that kept us dry.
Jeanne had warned us that West Bay and many of the larger beaches are thick with cruisers, and Alec agreed that we might enjoy the little Sandy Bay area. There were no shops, but there was our restaurant, and the attached hotel that was evidently a popular diver’s hotel, with a dive company in the courtyard.
Lunch was fantastic, where I tried the smoked beef brisket sandwich Jeanne recommended and Mo had a BLT that was huge and delicious. The rain let up a bit and we decided to walk the beach, sadly carrying along our useless snorkel gear. The water was just too rough to attempt any kind of swimming or snorkeling, even if it stopped raining. Not a snorkel day.
Just down the beach from the restaurant was the hotel where Jeanne and Alan were staying a few days prior. We walked up from the beach to check it out, and there wasn’t a soul in sight.
The owners were nowhere to be found, but all the doors were wide open, with the front desk computer open and running, jewelry sitting on a side table for sale, the restaurant closed but cash registers all exposed, and unoccupied rooms open for viewing.
The small infinity pool was gorgeous, and we sat in the lobby enjoying the view for awhile before we found a brochure to read about the hotel. Prices were notably absent, but the descriptions of the amenities were glowing, and from what we could see, were not the least bit exaggerated. Might be more than we would ever spend, but it surely would be a great place for a luxury vacation on Roatan.
Wandering back to the beach, the rain started in earnest and we asked our waitress at the Grill if we could wait inside for our driver. She said, “Sure!” and we settled into a table to watch the rain, share some conversation with her, and wait for Alec. Showing up just 15 minutes late, Alec was all apologies for a delayed flight for his previous passengers, and trundled us back to the ship in plenty of time for us to relax a bit before sailing.
The cruise port area is pleasant enough, but there was nothing for sale there to compare with our perfect previous purchases, so within a few minutes we went back to the ship and our waiting comfy stateroom with a view of the island. The port side was a good choice for this particular cruise, where we had good views of both Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya, morning sunrises for most of the cruise, and sunset on our last day returning northward.
A light supper salad sustained us for our evening meal since we knew that the late evening entertainment included a Chocolate Buffet. We ambled up to the Garden Café a few minutes early and were surprised to find a huge line of folks waiting for the doors to open. It was a perfect example of why people often say they can’t imagine going on a cruise. There were soooo many people!!! And all jammed up and lots of noise and all that chocolate.
The buffet was just OK, with a few ice sculptures, a little bit of chocolate carving here and there, and did I mention the people? I tried a couple of desserts, but they were also just ok, and Mo settled for a cup of good coffee while we watched all the activity around us.
There was more entertainment throughout the evening, but we passed on all of it and went back to the quiet and peace of our stateroom. Even with my ability to temporarily ignore crowd phobia, I was ready to get back home and away from all the raucous stuff.