A Little Departure

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

Another snowstorm. Ho-hum. At least the temperature is high enough that it isn’t painful to go outside. Every winter we reach a low point and vow to move south. This year, that point came about 6 weeks earlier than usual. One of these years we’re actually going to take action…

Boston is remembering the 25th anniversary of the Great Blizzard of ’78. Everyone has been talking about where they were during the whole ordeal. I get dirty looks when I chime in to say that we lived on St. Thomas in ’78, and read about the whole thing in the San Juan Star

A little departure…

The end of the story is near. Before we get there, I wanted to share some video clips. Nothing fancy -– just some little things that contributed to the enjoyment.

Ryan finally got online and read the story-to-date. Now he calls all the time asking…

“Dad – When is the next chapter going to be up?”

“Not until you send me some pictures. Did you get them developed yet?”

“Naw. Nobody around here knows how to do black and white. I need to get back into school so I can use the lab.”

“Well, that’s the deal. I’ll write more when I get some pictures.”

Today, an envelope arrived with a few pictures inside. There’s always a way.


I think that Ryan’s appreciation of the trip is improving as the memories age. Maybe in his mind he can transport himself back on board, away from the bleak season. I do it all the time.

“I can’t believe you remember all that stuff.”

“Well, it’s been so long now that a lot of it is gone. I shouldn’t have waited.”

“Yeah, but when I read it, it all comes back to me. Chichen Itza was so cool.”


View from the top of the pyramid

It is getting harder to remember. Little snippets some and go. I forgot until now about the cocktail party on Wednesday night. It was the last formal night, and I ran up to the Navigator Club while Ryan finished getting ready for dinner. The room was absolutely packed with people in tuxes and gowns. I scoured the room looking for a seat.

Tucked into a corner, a young couple had sought shelter from the crowd. At their table were a couple of empty seats, the last in the whole place. The gentleman looked quite uncomfortable in his button-down shirt and corduroys. I suspect his discomfort stemmed not from being the only guy in the place not wearing a tux, but because for him, he was overdressed.

Still suffering my malaise, I was compelled to intrude.

“May I sit here?”

Two heads nodded.

We made our introductions. The man had a powerful grip, and I could tell he was being careful not to hurt me when we shook hands. The couple hailed from Pennsylvania. This was their first cruise, and they were clearly more than a little uncertain about their surroundings. I tried to be comforting, though try as I might, the conversation lagged. The man was pretty sure he’d been to New Hampshire once, to make a delivery of some sort.

A few minutes later the New Jersey crowd happened by, looking for someplace to sit. I spotted them and waved. Donna and Alison took the last two seats while the guys rounded up some drinks. The quiet refuge of the young couple was now completely violated.

Before too long, the table became one of the more conspicuous in the room. Loud conversation and laughter rose above the general din. One waitress had to dedicate her services to keep up with our demands. Soon enough the Pennsylvania couple joined in, unable to resist the fun – finally at ease with the lavishly costumed intruders.

Up on the dance floor, a little ceremony was held. Babette (ocngypz) was honored for her loyal repeat business.

I digress.

Man Overboard

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

The night was fitful for both of us. I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable, but it was just not possible. I turned on the TV just for the distraction. Ryan went out to settle on the verandah for some peace and quiet.


Eventually, sleep arrived. As consciousness began to intrude some time later, I fought it for as long as possible. The room was pitch black, and the TV was turned off.

I tiptoed to the shower so as not to wake Ryan, who must have waited until I finally dozed off before getting in to bed. When I emerged, light from the bathroom revealed that Ryan wasn’t in the room. I pulled the curtains open to invite him in from his refuge on the verandah. The sun was high in the sky, and the chairs were unoccupied.

I hadn’t looked at the clock until now. It was just after 11 a.m. Ryan was long gone, and I’d just wasted half a sea day. The pain had worsened.

The Mercury Daily was headlined “Happy Valentines Day”. An order card for the special, romantic (Adult cruise) “Breakfast for Dreamers” lay on the table. I could still partake for another hour, but romance was lacking at the moment. I debated about even having coffee.

After restacking the piles of stuff on the love seat, I decided to head out. The Do Not Disturb sign was thoughtfully hung on the door.

I chanced a cup of coffee. Out on the stern, the late morning was perfect. The seas were dead calm, and there was no one around. When my personal fog lifted, I tried to analyze the sensations coming from my midsection. I thought I could detect incredible hunger piercing through the steady sharp pain. “An odd combination,” I thought. It was high noon. Time for an experiment – I had to figure out what was ailing me…

Things were just warming up in the Café. I did a double take at the sight of an extensive Sushi bar – today’s lunch was themed Oriental. As great as it looked, I had other ideas.

The pool area was hopping, but there was no line at the grill. I marched up and grabbed a beer and a pizza. Hogging a table for four, I began the experiment. The pizza was gone in about two minutes — the beer shortly thereafter.

I waited. The hunger began to subside, and the other feelings continued unabated. No side effects. Overall, I noted an improvement. After a few minutes, I got another pizza and ate it.

Renewed, I went back to the room for my bathing suit. Ryan was there.

“How are you feeling?”

“About the same, but I figured it out.”

“What is it?”

“Kidney stone.”

“Ahhh! Daaaad!”

My family should be the subject of a medical study. I had my first kidney stone at the age of 18. Ryan waited until he was 19 and he has had three so far. My 17 year-old son Wells is precocious – he had his first of two at the age of 16. My mother has had them. For the last several months, my sister has seen every doctor and Chiropractor in New York, complaining of severe back pain. Finally someone checked for stones – she has a bunch. I stopped counting my own at #30.

“Yeah, well at least I can deal with it. And I can eat…”

“It’s good that we get a day to just chill.”

“So, what are you up to?”

“Just hanging out with some people. Can I borrow your MP3 player?”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

“Thanks – Well, I’m going to the spa and then back up by the pool. See ya.”

He was gone.

I spent some time poolside before getting up just to walk around for a while. Around 3:00, I ran in to Adrienne and Mike (MAAF) in the hallway. They were carrying face masks made at an earlier event in preparation for Halloween. As we stood and talked I felt a hand slowly run up my back. It paused and tickled the back of my neck – a tingle went up my spine.

I slowly turned, half expecting to see Kris — so intimate was the touch.

“Your tag was hanging out of your shirt.”

A foot below my eyelevel, an elderly lady smiled up at me. She rested her hand on my arm.

“Can you tell me where the arts and crafts event is?”

I smiled broadly but was temporarily muted. Adrienne directed the woman to the elevator with instructions to get off at deck 11 and go to the café.

I finished the afternoon with my book back at the pool. Just as I’d start to overheat, a waiter would saunter up with an ice-cold face cloth or a cup of lemon ice – more Adult Escape fringe benefits. I appreciated the touch. A couple of people would later tell me that the waiters on some other line used spray bottles to “mist” people in the heat. It would cut down on the laundry. As the sun began to wane, I finished up with some time in a whirlpool and forgot about everything for a while.

Tonight marked the last formal dinner of the trip. I was dressed and ready to go before Ryan returned from his daytime adventure.

“We have to wear the tux again?” Ryan looked concerned, and started rummaging through the piles of dirty clothing.

“It came with two shirts,” I said.

“Phew! Good thing.”

We performed the simulated strangling by bow tie, and the cummerbund ritual.

“I finally met up with that guy Chris today.” Chris is the son of Debby (debby21). Prior to the cruise Debby had posted her hope that the boys would get together and stave off boredom. We met Chris on the first day and hadn’t seen him since – apparently boredom was simply not an issue for either of these gentlemen.

“Great. How’s he liking the trip?”

“Oh, I’d say he’s liking it just fine. We might get together later on.”

champagne_tableAs we were leaving, I noticed that our “Welcome Aboard” bottle of champagne was still sitting in the bucket. Every day, Aldrin had freshened the bucket with ice and a crisp white towel.

“Hey. We should take the champagne to dinner. I don’t think you and I are going to get around to drinking it ourselves.” I talked Ryan into carrying it.

We headed for the dining room, pausing to visit with the NJCruiser crowd in the Martini Bar. I wonder, Donna, did you all ever make it to dinner that night?

The dining room was bustling tonight for the Captain’s Gala Dinner. I handed the Celebrity champagne to Pablo and asked him to serve it to the table. Weeks later, I puzzled over a $12 beverage charge on this day’s tab. Indeed…

Ryan got up his nerve and tried the frog’s legs. They went nicely with his by-now standard shrimp cocktail.

I wanted to catch Maro’s napkin folding ritual on tape tonight. Neal helped in the conspiracy by leaving the table for a few minutes. He placed his napkin conspicuously on the back of the chair, and I waited patiently for Maro to swoop in and fold it into some magical shape. For the first time on the trip, he failed to do so. Thwarted.

I wasn’t about to miss the Irish Coffee show, however. When the time came, both Ryan and I ordered one. Ryan stuck around this time to see if we were making up fanciful stories about the process. He was not disappointed.

After dessert, I told Maro about the failed attempt to catch him folding a napkin. He stopped everything and proceeded to give us a demonstration. I taped the whole thing, and it lasted for more than 15 minutes. It was like our own private magic show. I’ll put some highlights together in a clip someday soon.

Ryan and I were the last to leave the table. Maro came over and held up his hand.

“Just for you, but no camera.”

He produced a pair of napkins. Amongst other things, he “dressed” himself as a woman in a bikini – highly detailed and just amazing. I am really sorry that I didn’t sneak my finger to the camera’s on-button. I made a mental note to up the tip – by a lot.

As we stood to leave, Babette (ocngypz) happened by. She had dined at the Captain’s table, and was positively glowing. I aimed the camera where she stood with Ryan.

I hinted at this picture some time ago, saying that it might launch a new career for Babette. I’m not sure just what career that might be – maybe Professional Rose Taster. Anyway, if you look closely, you might be able to catch an example of the elusive “Sparkle” that seems to be associated with the presence of men in tuxedos.


slotWe hit the casino for a little while. Side-by-side, Ryan and I fed the hungry machines. They did not reciprocate.

“This was a great day. It’s so nice to just relax,” said Ryan.

“What was your favorite thing to do – or not do?”

“You know…just sitting up on the deck in the breeze. The waiter brought me a bucket of Coronas.”

“A bucket?”


“You asked for a beer and he just brought you a bucket full of Coronas?”

“No. I asked for it that way.”

“How many beers in the bucket?”

“Just one. They use those champagne buckets — fill ‘em with ice and stick the beer in it. It keeps them really cold. The guy was happy to do it.”

“I looked around for you by the pool.”

“I was on the upper deck.”

“So was I. Right above the pool.”

“I was up one more level towards the front.”

“The topless deck?” I asked.

“That was up one more deck – I was right below that.”

“What, were you peeking?”

“Nah. I looked up there once.”

“Were there topless people up there?”

“Just guys. And a lot of old men kept walking around.”

Huh. I figured I’d have to check it out myself. Later, I took the camera. Here it is – the shocking truth about the topless deck:


“Can I take the tux off now?” Ryan asked.

“Well, you’re supposed to follow the dress code all evening. I know how you feel though.” I was ready to get casual myself. Horizontally. “I think I’m going to just go back to the room. I’m pretty sore.”

I put on my shorts and took a drink and a book out on to the verandah. Ryan changed into normal clothes, but I think he put on his suit jacket just to blend in.”

“I’m going out.”

“Good,” I thought. I had been the closest thing to a night owl from our cabin so far, which isn’t saying much. “Have fun.”

From the verandah I saw the mysterious streaking lights out over the water again. Around 2:00 a.m., I turned in. Ryan was still out.

At 3:00, I started to worry. Did he fall overboard?

The last thing I remember it was 3:45 and Ryan was missing. A later investigation revealed that he bought a round of drinks in the Navigator Club at 3:16 a.m.

Progreso and Chichen Itza

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

Someone punched me hard in the stomach. Really hard. The pain had me doubled over.

I opened my eyes to darkness. It still hurt, and I tossed around trying to stretch the feeling away. It would not leave.

The digits on the clock slowly came into focus; 4:20 a.m. I got up, walked around and then began to feel nauseous. “What the heck?” I wondered, waiting for the feeling to pass. In a few minutes it was gone, but the pain remained.

Was I seasick? The ship felt perfectly still, as it had for the entire trip. Where were we? Ah, Mexico. Did I drink the water? No. Ice cubes? Just one drink… Oh, oh.

Eventually I crawled back into bed and finally fought my way back to sleep. It was probably only a matter of minutes before the alarm went off at 6:30.

Our destination for this day had been uncertain. The original itinerary included Progreso, but in the weeks preceding the cruise the port was closed due to hurricane damage. The itinerary was then altered to Costa Maya, but in the days before the trip conflicting information started trickling in. Our ticket books included material for both ports. It was only when I booked the excursions onboard that it became clear that Progreso was ready for us.

Ryan popped out of bed, showered and dressed. “Want some coffee? I’ll go get it for you.”

“No, you go ahead. I really don’t feel well. Do you feel o.k.?” I knew that we had consumed the same food and drink the day before.

“I feel great. What’s the matter?”

“I feel like somebody punched me in the gut.”

“Do you feel sick?”

“Not really. It just hurts.”

“Do you still want to go on the trip today?”

“Yeah, I’m not going to miss this chance. I’ll be fine.”

Ryan left to fuel himself. I took my time getting up.

The sun was trying to burst through the curtains. I took a quick peek outside and saw land on the horizon several miles away. The sun was very hot so I closed the curtains again, restoring semi-darkness in the cabin. We should be coming onto port soon, but the ship seemed very still.

Ryan and the sound of a trumpet entered the room at the same time, from opposite sides. I thought it strange that a passenger would be practicing trumpet out on their verandah. Ryan opened the curtains and stepped out, and I followed. Land was still miles off, but now I saw that we were actually alongside a concrete pier. A Mariachi band was warming up below us. Toward the stern the pier widened and held a couple of buildings and a parking lot. A narrow strip of pavement headed off toward the mainland.

I had read but temporarily forgotten that the dock at Progreso stretched four miles out into the sea. I assume that the water is too shallow to accommodate large ships any closer to shore.


I went for the video camera as the band quit warming up and started playing, joined by a group of dancers whirling around a May-pole. The lens fogged up immediately.

We had only a couple of minutes before we were due to meet in Rendezvous square for the excursion. I had lost track of time, and we were not ready. By the time we got downstairs, the group was already lining up.

“I can’t believe it,” said Ryan.

“What’s the matter?”

“I forgot my camera.”

“You definitely want to have it for this,” I offered. “Run back and get it. I’ll walk slowly.”

The group began to move out. I found that the continuing pain in my midsection forced me to walk slowly anyway, and Ryan was back at my side before I’d gone 100 feet.

“That was quick.”

“Shouldn’t we have gotten some water?”

Excellent idea, but too late.

“I really hope they give us some.”

We followed the group down the stairs and out onto the pier where we stood in line for a few minutes watching the band and the dancers. The sun was scorching and the light colored concrete amplified the brightness. A few stragglers brought up the rear before we were marched toward the parking lot a few hundred feet away.

A couple of shops were opening in the buildings next to the parking lot, although most of the space appeared to be vacant. In the lot, a few cab drivers appealed for passengers, apparently confident that someone would abandon the prepaid excursion to ride with them. Since the cruise line was sponsoring a complimentary shuttle into town, I wondered what these guys were thinking.

A row of modern buses waited. Ryan led the way to one of them, and we entered the cool dark interior with relief. A cardboard lunch box occupied each seat.

“Here’s your lunch,” I said, putting the boxes into the overhead storage bin.

“When do we eat?”

“Whenever you feel like it, I guess.”

We settled in, although I found it impossible to get comfortable. The bus departed in a few minutes, traveling down the four-lane road that occupied the width of the pier. About halfway to shore, the bus shifted to the left side of the road. In places, the right lanes were gone, washed out by the tide. I wondered if this happened during the most recent hurricane, but somehow the damage did not look recent.

A couple of decrepit industrial buildings marked our approach to the mainland. We passed through a small security checkpoint and entered the city. The bus navigated narrow, crowded streets for a while before settling on a highway that led toward the interior. The road was buffered by a flat grassy strip, scrub trees and in most places, by walls.

Walls were everywhere. In places, settled areas could be seen stretching off into the distance. Each narrow lot held a simple structure separated from its neighbor by a wall. Walls outlined vacant lots. Stubs of walls intersected with main walls that seemed to go on forever. Many were incomplete or just tumbling down. Where there wasn’t a wall, a pile of construction material lay waiting to be turned into one. It was striking.

Later I would speak to someone who told of the terrible hurricane damage visible on the trip. “I didn’t really see much at all,” I offered.

“What about all those walls that were falling down?”

I’m quite sure the vast majority of the walls looked the same after the hurricane as they had before. In fact, I had only seen one unmistakable sign of the hurricane – a corrugated steel roof on an industrial building partially peeled back by the wind. The guide told us that the real problem with the storm was water – it had rained torrents for 36 hours. Indeed, standing water could be seen in places that were probably parched by the sun in normal times. I’d say that Progreso was lucky in this one.

During the ride, our guides fed us information about “Chicken Pizza”. That joke got old fairly quickly. We were offered the opportunity to order a personalized Mayan calendar, shown some pictures, given the rules and warned to drink lots of water. We had none.

After two hours we pulled in to sort of a resort town, populated by shopping strips, restaurants and motels all adorned with images and names from nearby Chichen Itza. The buses stopped at one of the shopping areas for a 15-minute break.

As we got off the bus, a man carrying a load of wares on his back appeared on the opposite side of the road. He whistled frantically and waved some of his goods at the passengers, pacing back and forth like an expectant father. Some invisible barrier kept him on the opposite side of the street though. I figured that there must be some kind of rule keeping itinerant vendors off of the commercial property we were visiting.

Ryan got busy with his camera and I wandered inside. Narrow doorways interconnected a series of small shops crammed with goods. Of particular interest to me was the restroom that the guide said was ‘in the back’. Finally I found an exit in the rear of one of the shops.

The very pleasant landscaped courtyard was kind of a surprise. A canopy of high trees offered shelter from the heat. Down a pathway I came to a huge outdoor restaurant where the staff was setting up for a big crowd. It was tempting to sit down and order something just to take in the atmosphere. I stuck to my business. The pain had not subsided, and I was not really interested in eating anything at all.

Back out front, I found Ryan. He had secured a couple of bottles of water, and they really hit the spot. The street vendors had multiplied and become bolder. They were holding their line just behind the busses. Two girls under the age of ten shouted in piercing voices, “Fidolla, fidolla, fidolla, fidolla”. They did not seem to pause for breath, and the sound became very unpleasant. The adults in the group chimed in with whistles and chants of their own, but the girls drowned them out. A couple of people approached the hoard to take pictures, but I didn’t see anyone brave enough to make a purchase. To this day I can still hear those girls. I wonder if they ever make a sale.

When we finally boarded the bus, the chant became even more frantic. “Twodolla, twodolla, twodolla. Hey! Twodolla!!!”

The bus backed out carefully. In just a couple of minutes, we entered the gates at Chichen Itza.

“O.K. everybody. What time are we supposed to be back to the bus?” asked the guide.

“Two o’clock!’ forty or so voices replied in semi-unison.

“When you get back, we will have some beer to go with your lunches! Don’t be late!”

Clever. The lure of cold beer ought to ensure timeliness.

While one guide was our main entertainer on the bus, another (Carlos) specialized in Mayan culture and would be our educator at Chichen Itza. Our buses were the first in the parking lot, so their front row location would be easy to spot later on. We donned wrist bands for entry, and marched through one of two modern buildings to the entry gate.

pyramid_fullA short way down a wide dirt path, we entered a broad grassy clearing. Slightly to the right a stunning sight stopped me in my tracks — the Pyramid of Kukulcán rose high above everything else.

“Cooool!” Ryan thrust his backpack my way before swinging his camera up for a shot. “Awesome!”

For a moment, the nagging pain was forgotten, and I felt a little lump in my throat. It was indeed awesome. And I was relieved that Ryan seemed to think so, too.pyramis_corner

Carlos encouraged the awestruck to continue moving. He led us to the shade of a large tree where we could enjoy the view without getting sunburned. He began his lecture, and it was obvious that he had a wealth of knowledge to share. He held up pictures and artist’s renderings of the site. Unfortunately, 3”x5” images are difficult to see from 20 feet away. I resolved to buy the book.

We left the Great Pyramid and headed to the ball court. The ball court at Chichén Itzá is 545 feet long and 225 feet wide. The acoustics are such that almost any sound, even a whisper, can be heard from one end to the other. We were told that attempts to understand this phenomenon have failed.


ballfieldCarlos described the scene. Midway along each of the long sidewalls, carved stone hoops about 20 feet above the ground served as the goals. The game was played with a large and heavy rubber ball, and the players apparently could not use their hands – opinions vary, but theories indicate the game was played using elbows, knees, hips, and thighs. The final score must have always been about the same – 1 to 0.

Under one goal we studied a huge carving which depicts a decapitated player. Some theorize that the game’s winners were beheaded – an honor. A skull adorns an image of the ball.player

Around the corner we came to a long wall covered top to bottom with images of sculls. They continued around the corner and marched off into the distance.


Some of the smaller temples had carvings that still had some coloration. In its day, Chichen Itza was apparently blazing with colors – not the sun-washed stone-faced uniformity visible today.

We walked down a road paved with a mix of crushed white material that is said to glow in the darkness of night. The entire central section of the site is built on a man-made plateau, and the walls marking its extremes were clearly visible through the woods next to the road.

At length we came to a huge round sinkhole. The vertical walls dropped straight down to bright green water about 60 feet below. A few simple stone structures teetered an the edge of the abyss – this is where the condemned spent their last moments before being sacrificed to the depths.

Nearby stood a refreshment stand. Our group was asked if we wanted to take a break. I thought the answer was obvious, but someone said “No” loudly enough that Carlos marched off back toward the main plaza. A couple of people, myself included, went for water instead.

I bought two bottles and watched as the group went over the rise up the road. Ryan seemed to be fascinated with the sacrificial sinkhole, and he was climbing all over the edge looking for good picture angles. I waited for a good long while before calling him.

“Just a few more minutes,” he answered. “There are some great shots here.”

I waited for a good ten minutes before he finished. We polished off the water, and headed back to the main site. We caught up with the group just as Carlos was dismissing everyone for a period of free exploration. We were to meet at 1:00 for a tour of the “old city”.

Ryan wanted to climb the Great Pyramid. I watched some people do it before deciding to pass on the opportunity myself. Going up looked strenuous but manageable. Coming down however was a different story. The stairs are very steep, and many people came down on their butts, too disoriented to stand.

warning_signWhile Ryan climbed, I wandered around. At the base of one of the staircases was a passage to the interior of the pyramid. I entered, went around a couple of corners and was confronted by a steep staircase leading up. It was surprisingly hot inside. Partway up I was met by a bunch of kids running down. Apparently I was going the wrong way on a one-way street, so I abandoned the journey. I have since seen pictures of the interior room at the top of the stairs, filled with artifacts.

Back outside, I turned around just in time to see Ryan descending the stairs. I ran to get some distance before taking what is now my favorite photograph (supplanting the one I took of the burning Angelina Lauro in 1979). I had this picture  made into a poster – one for Ryan and one for Kris.


We met Carlos at the rendezvous point and headed down into another section of Chichen Itza. This was the “old” part, filled with stunning architecture. Carlos went a little too fast for me, and I soon lagged behind. In turn, I went a little too fast for Ryan. I left him as he was crouching on the ground for the perfect picture angle. We all knew to be back at the bus by 2:00, so I figured that operating at our individual paces would be best.

observatoryI looked at the observatory building for a long time, from all different angles. It looks remarkably like a modern observatory, with a huge domed tower in the center. The building features some of the only curves in a very angular place.

I timed my arrival at the bus perfectly. Almost everyone was already there. You know how these tours go – there’s always somebody who doesn’t get back on time and delays everything. “Hah! It won’t be me,” I thought as I clambered aboard the bus. The guide was filling cups with beer for the embarking passengers.

I fought my way back to our seats. My midsection hurt like the dickens, but I felt a little hunger. The lunchbox contained a roll, a can of tuna, a fruit cup, a piece of anonymous cake and a cookie. The cookie went nicely with the beer, but the rest of it just didn’t appeal to me.

At about 2:10, a couple ran up to the bus.

“Sorry we’re so late.”

“O.K. Everybody here?” asked the guide.

I stood and walked to the front of the bus.

“My son is missing. Will they let me back in to find him?” I asked.

“Of course,” answered the guide.

Holding my aching gut, I trotted back up to the gate. A huge line of people waited for admission. I went around the side and explained the situation to the man at the gate. He let me in.

People were pouring out at a steady rate. As I walked I searched through the crowd for Ryan. A couple of hundred feet into the park, I spotted him sauntering along.

“Come on! The bus is waiting for us!”

“What time is it?”


“I thought we were leaving at 2:30. I decided to come up here because I couldn’t find anybody.”

This was no time for small talk. I set the hurried pace. In the end, I was the last person to get on the bus – 18 minutes late. Oh the shame…

“Wow, what an awesome place. I’ve never really seen any ruins or anything. I’m really glad we did that…”

I felt relief.

In contrast to the return from Passion Island, the trip back to Progreso was peaceful. I set up the MP3 player with two sets of headphones, and we both dozed off listening to Bob Marley.

At dinner that night, Ryan ordered an Irish Coffee to go with dessert. I realized that Kris and I had overlooked this tradition of ours during the entire Galaxy trip. Although I had managed to eat dinner I didn’t want to push my luck, so I passed on the chance.

A few minutes later, Ryan excused himself from the table for a few minutes. As soon as he was out of sight, two women rolled a cart up to the table. The cocktail waitress asked, “Where is Mr. Ryan? We are here to make his Irish Coffee.”

“That’s fine. He’ll be back in a few minutes. You can just leave it for him,” I answered.

The waitress gave me kind of a funny look. “Are you sure?”

I nodded.

What happened next made me doubly regret not having ordered Irish Coffee with Kris on the Galaxy trip. The second woman proceeded to make a concoction fit for a king in a ceremony so elaborate it made me feel guilty. Flaming whiskey was poured back and forth between little silver pitchers before being cascaded into the glass. Then, the coffee was gently added so that the flames floated on top of the rising black liquid. Finally, fresh cream was poured on top over the backside of a long spoon, extinguishing the flame.

When Ryan returned, everyone at the table was still marveling over the show. An ordinary-looking Irish Coffee sat at Ryan’s place.

“You should have seen how they made that.” Everyone piped in with a description. I don’t think Ryan believed any of it (the video below was made the following evening).

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

We were both exhausted from the long day. Ryan went off to scope out the activities for a little while before turning in. I went to an internet station and sent an email to Kris. It began with this line:

“Montezuma’s younger brother has taken revenge.”

As it turned out, I was not even close.

Tomorrow’s day at sea would be a welcome break.

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