My parents have a thing for cruises. And when I say "thing" I mean we did a family cruise every New Year from the time I was about 10 until um, last year. And lest you think I hit 30 and somehow got out of going on a yearly vacation with my mommy, New Years 2008 my brother and I managed to convince my mom, kicking and screaming, to skip the cruise and just go to one island, and then somehow we convinced her again for 2009 and had IC join us. Both times it was Aruba. They have direct flights, good hotel deals, solid food and POKER (IC and I both love the Texas Hold 'Em. I'd say we fell in love over one-on-one poker games at his apartment. My other specialty blog is a poker blog). But Aruba is just too crowded and condensed for how we envision our wedding. Love the island, would go back every New Years till the end of time, don't want to get married there.
In the 20 or so years of cruising, I've seen every single Caribbean/Central American island/country under the sun. I can now confirm something I suspected all along: cruising is just about the worst way to get a feel for a location.
Sure, I remember some places vividly. My grandmother, brother and I walking around in the pouring rain on the teeny tiny island of Isle de Saintes. The fact that only four people live on the creepy Devil's Island. The imcomprehensible amount of bugs on the Amazon river that would go crunch, crunch under our feet by the dozens. The public beach in Barbados where we were the only people on the beach, something I loved and everyone else hated. The tour guide saying "Christopher Columbus discovered Dominica in 1493 and pretty much nothing has changed since then" and me thinking "yeah, that seems about right."
But ask me to tell you the difference between St. Martin and Martinique and I get fuzzy. St. Lucia vs. St. Bart's, no idea. I can recall the port of St. Thomas, but that's only because every single cruise stops there but have no rememberance of St. John or St. Croix, Tortola or Tobago. I mean, I can tell you the things that everyone knows about places they've never been to, like St. Martin has a French side and a Dutch side and St. Bart's is the playground of the superrich, but I couldn't tell you what restaurant you must check out, what resort is the one to stay at or which beach is the most unforgettable. And these things, ultimately, are what I love about travel--the discoveries. The cruise ship would pull in, we'd briefly check out the chotckes sold at the dock and then we'd pile into a cab and have the driver take us to the nearest beach. We'd lounge there for x number of hours and then head back to the ship for lunch and a nap. I'd been to all these islands but I'd never been to all these islands.
Which brings me to my current location, Turks & Caicos. I've been here before, I'm sure of it, though not to Provo where I am now. But I have no special recollection of the place and so it is brand new. The water is as unbelieveable as they say. This photo does it no justice:
I saw two places today, Windsong and Alexandra, both pretty magnificent, but both with plusses and minuses, and plan to see four more tomorrow. You can follow along in my flickr set, though my connection is ridiculously slow so uploading pictures is difficult and having the internet in drip, drip, drops is making me a bit crazy.
But I think this is it, I think this is where we'll be married. The island has a laid-back vibe, unlike say Grand Cayman, but not too laid-back, like, say Jamaica (ok, maybe I can speak about the islands a bit but that's because I was in Grand Cayman last year and Jamaica has the laid-back reputation the world over). The people are super friendly. I've only had one meal so far, at Conch Shack, a Provo institution, and it was pretty good. And they have poker, which was a complete surprise, though I'm told I won't get to play any during my wedding weekend. I say we'll see.