It’s what Jamaica’v it and (insert ‘Cozumel’ pun to similar sentiment when you think of one here)!

The day started out just like any other. It was 9:15 am and I was preparing for morning trivia. The ship was rocking a little more than usual, but it was still very tame compared to what I’ve experienced on others. I hadn’t been paying attention to the weather report at all and was completely caught off guard when the Captain came on the PA system and announced that there was a tropical storm “Gonzalo”, fast reaching hurricane status, that had decided our itinerary was quite a nice one and was approaching all of our ports in the order we were supposed to reach them. As a result we were detouring to Jamaica and then on to one of my favourite ports that I haven’t seen since early 2010: Cozumel, Mexico. It was like winning a competition I didn’t know I had entered. - A real one, not the kind where they ask to deposit a large some of money in a Nigerian bank account in order to claim your prize. I was excited! I hugged the tech. The guests were not excited. But then the ones that come to trivia at 9:15 in the morning are generally not.


Four and a half years ago when I was working for Carnival, our ship went to Jamaica for one whole day and I went “bobsledding” (on a roller coaster-type thing that looked like a bobsled but wasn’t one) and then I climbed the Dunn’s River Waterfalls. I wanted to experience something of “Jamaica” and I felt as though in trying to provide me with that, the local tour operators also robbed me of it. I wrote a column about it for Sunday Times Travel and Food. You can read it here. I vowed that if I ever went back to Jamaica I would do something less gimmicky. 

With only one day to do and see something different, my crew member friends and I all wanted to make the most of it and there was very little time to prepare. Some people used their precious internet time to google the port and nearby attractions. We came up with a whole lot of meeting times to plan what we would do, but we couldn’t even coordinate that. After much miscommunication and confusion a large group of us met on the gangway, most of us still with no idea what we were going to do with our day. “Dunns River Waterfalls” was the consensus. I’m a people person and wherever my friends go is pretty much where I want to be so I was open to the idea of following another stoned tour guide and another group of fat tourists in rented water shoes up that waterfall all over again. 

Gay boyfriend number 2 , Andrew (I have 4 of them now), wanted a beach day and we looked into going to Montego Bay instead. While we were exploring that as an option we met up with two other friends (one of which was another Andrew) and they convinced us to go rafting with them instead. At first I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision. I had been taken for a ride before (ha ha!). 

 A taxi driver took us up a river (not the Dunn’s one). There they put two people at a time on a gondola-type raft made of bamboo, together with a raft guide (like a Gondolier - but one who doesn’t sing) who takes you on an hour long ride down three miles of river in a tranquil forest. Unlike the Dunn’s waterfall, there was hardly anyone there. I haven’t experienced that much peace and quiet in months not to mention scenic tourist-free beauty (with the exception of the sail-through souvenir shops on the side of the river). It was incredible. The guide built the raft himself and had been doing this for 15 years. I have to say, having seen Japanese tourists on overpriced gondolas in the scorching heat of Venice in Summer, rafting in Jamaica seems to be a way more romantic experience (well, if you go with someone with the appropriate sexual orientation and some feelings for you anyway). 



One of the raft-through souvenir shops

After that we got the Taxi driver to take us to a beach but we didn't want to go to one that was too 'touristy'. It was a bit of an odd property. There was a construction being completed, it looked like a private house. It was surrounded by these odd cement gazebos, with mangrove forests stretching in each direction. It felt a more like we were trespassing on a building site than a public beach. There may have been a handful of other tourists on the beach and for each of us there was probably three or four vendors. They pretty much all approached us at the same time to sell us there wares and rent us beach chairs which was a little overwhelming. 




After we got settled, an old Rastafarian man approached me and, after offering me weed, I made the mistake of telling him I was from Africa. I was then serenaded with a prayer for the motherland. - A long one. It was awk-eristing! …but it was still a far more genuinely Jamaican experience than I ever got on that stupid “bobsled” so I can’t complain. Then, together with my friends, we swam out in the crystal blue warm Jamaican sea and spent about an hour on a sandbar, just the four of us.  

Jamaica = So much pot!

Cozumel was equally, um… what do you call something that’s the opposite of a let-down? While the ocean front is lined with souvenir shops and overpriced bars and restaurants, there is character in the back streets that is quirky and charming and I’ve really missed it. My friend Jesy has a friend who lives there who acted as our own personal tour-guide for the day. First, she took us to a quiet non-touristy beach then she drove us round the back of the island and we stopped at her shop for burritos for lunch (number one on Trip Advisor). 





Then she took us to the No Name bar which every crew member who has ever stopped at Cozumel will know. The walls are lined with name-badges and autographs from crew members the world over. There’s a pool with a swim up bar and a pier that you can jump off of into the ocean. It was mentioned many times in the 'Sharon Spam' of my Carnival contracts and is the location of many memories with many friends and still the best milkshakes in the world (Choco-caramel, yum!). Jumping off that pier again was quite surreal. 

2009


2014
  
Although Rodrigo was named after a resident of Cozumel, it was in fact his first time there. (You can read that story on the information page of his Facebook page). If plan A of how to spend my one day on the island hadn’t been so awesome I would have been sad that I hadn’t gone back to that poolside bar with the name I can’t pronounce to see if there were any creepy scuba diving instructors around with crazy blue eyes. Oh well, next time…


In other news:


I had the Bronchitis! 
On ships there is something called the ‘Nora virus’ which is basically Gastro but is associated with its tendency for outbreaks among people who live in confined spaces. As a result there is a large focus on hand washing and hand-sanitising (or “washy washy” as its come to be known) which is good, except people who have lived on board for too long become complete and total utter germ-aphobes. Bronchitus is nothing like Gastro, but it’s still makes you diseased and therefore something of an outcast. Coughing is not supposed to be done into your hand but your elbow because you use your hands and you could give it to everyone! If you dare make that mistake expect to be scorned. No amount of hand-sanitiser will make you clean again. You would swear I had the Ebola virus (although if you’re from Africa and you’re around Americans you’re not allowed to make jokes like that). Anyway, 3.5 weeks, 2.5 bottles of cough syrup and one course of antibiotics (that seemed to make no difference whatsoever) later, I am now feeling a lot better.


I had a Koeksister!
That’s right, we celebrated South African Heritage Day on board. We had a special party with Steak (no boerewors), beer (American), Coleslaw and Potato salad (because no one else in the world consumes these things), topped off with a cake with a South African flag on it. - Oh and the koeksisters - which was definitely the most exciting thing. I didn’t realise how many South Africans there were on this ship, but there’s way too many. I’m trying to be a minority here, people! Then we moved to the crew bar where a lot of other crew members came to party with us but only because of the free beer, definitely not because of the music. - It was local but it was not lekker. It was kak. So many South Africans and they chose the one with the worst taste in music to DJ.


I watched Frozen in 3D
That was a while ago but it was still very exciting. If you are going to live in a cupboard behind a theatre it’s nice that you get to go there and watch Disney movies in 3D. That’s what I did with a recent night off after all day duty. I’m not sure if it was psychological or if the AC was just turned up way too high, but afterwards I was frozen. Maybe that’s when I started to come down with the bronchitis?


Kayleigh left us
The only other cruise staff girl, and pretty much my only female (anatomically speaking) ship friend left me and went on vacation. She was supposed to be replaced by a Katie (yay, it rhymes) but she didn’t come and so for the past week, in a team of 6, I’ve been the rose among the thorns …okay well there are pansies in the mix as well obviously, but I’ve been the only girl with girl parts. Bye, Kayleigh! You are missed. 




We still have no key ring light thingies!
I think they’ve discontinued them. I’m so sad. I’ve now had to come up with a spiel for our frisbees instead, but it’s not as good.


My mom’s coming to cruise
She won’t drive on the highway but she’s coming half way around the world to see me. Yay!


20 Cruises down, 11 to go
Days until Isabel comes = 14

               
               



            

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Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler. She is currently taking a break from her seafaring adventures to explore some more landlocked locations from her homebase in Johannesburg, South Africa. She likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading 'travel blogs' by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like '15 ways to travel the world for cheap', specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writers have ever left their bedrooms. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

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Practical travel tips and destination guides 
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My thoughts on travel mascots, photographing 
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True stories about trying to find trolls in 
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