Vent update for NCL-We just kept trying to get them to pay attention to our irritation about room assignment. They paid attention and really came through!
We took the northeastern route this time in Roatan, heading toward French Harbor. We have been unsuccessful trying to stay in the same room for the second cruise, so we moved Sunday to a room on the tenth deck (that’s the tenth floor for you landlubbers), and our bicycles moved with us. It is not quite as convenient but our steward Ahmad put them in a storage locker for us on Sunday and pulled them out today after breakfast as we got ready for the ride. We had to negotiate the elevators to get the bikes down to the fourth deck from which the gangway connected us to the pier, but it turned out to be no big deal.
Incidentally, we were at the pier this time around and we took the bikes ashore ourselves. The same Garifuna band and dancers greeted us on the pier and it was less crowded because there were fewer customers from other ships to compete with us. We took the required photo with the pirate and negotiated the rows of shops to get out of the port area and onto the streets. A tour guide in the port told us French Harbor was fifteen miles away and that there were hills. I reminded Marilyn that it was she who had recommended the route.
This time we stayed to the right and worked our way through the shops of Coxen Hole. These are second and third world entities with hawkers out front, few amenities, second quality merchandise, but very colorful and seemingly fun, with music playing everywhere and kids everywhere. We had to work through about a half mile of Main Street, including a challenging hill at the end before it reached Monkey Hill Road and then onto the highway leading past the airport to French Harbor.
Again for Roatan, this turned out to be not the kind of route favored by Marilyn—flat. But the hills were manageable and Marilyn has really been looking buff lately since her workout efforts on the ship’s gym for the past several days. I must admit that she really surprised me, making it up all but one or two of the most challenging hills. I mean the hills are not that high or long, but they come frequently, if not relentlessly.
With the comparison of Costa Maya and Belize City at hand, I realized how pleasant this countryside is. Trees and shade abound as the road weaves along the coast and occasionally moves inland to avoid coastal hills. The same black vultures/hawks circle above in groups of 1 to 5 and I can hear other birds in the forest, probably parrots, I would guess. As we passed the Roatan airport, I saw large white egrets in the ponds of the wastewater treatment plant nearby. This positioning of the plant near the airport is probably not a good idea if it attracts large birds like this. I know the dangers of bird-aircraft strike hazards.
We passed a multitude of bays, some with fishing boats docked, some with housing for locals surrounding them, and some with real estate signs indicating future or continuing development. We passed a bay with a harbor for another cruise ship and the taxis were lined up for half a mile ready to take passengers to the various dive sites around Roatan. We passed Lizard Lizzy’s on the outskirts of Coxen Hole—a place recommended in one of the blogs, but it looked closed this morning as we passed. We stopped for a water break at the top of one of the hills which Marilyn didn’t manage to ride through. The traffic wasn’t too bad, but I was a little worried because the two lane road was a little narrow and I know Marilyn prefers a lot of room to ride in.
The rate of development in Roatan is obvious from the real estate development signs, the trucks carrying building supplies, and the groups of workers at all of the building sites. I spied several new office buildings being furnished and filled with tenants on the outskirts of Coxen Hole and even more as we approached French Harbor. We also spotted several upscale houses on the way. One of them was really a mansion—broad and white in two stories with a circular driveway to the street. One of the bays on the water side of the road had police and security guards directing traffic—Mahogany Bay. I later learned this was a cruise development.
As we pulled into the outskirts of French Harbor, I spied an upscale building on the right side of the road with a sign indicating “The Bakery”. I read about this establishment in one of the tour blogs and thought this might be a good place to stop for coffee and a snack and make further plans. We turned in and locked the bikes and negotiated this two story building looking for a deli/bakery. The building included and upscale furniture store and the HSBC bank in addition to at least one real estate office. A large Texaco gasoline station (the only one I spotted in Roatan) lay across the street. The Bakery looked dark, but we spotted two customers inside and entered ourselves. Marilyn immediately spotted a bagel in the bakery goods case and I ordered one from the attendant. Across the way, another man worked at a cash register before he turned to watch us. Guessing that he was the owner, I asked if he was Jewish. He said no but that he was the owner and he was from NY City. We struck up an extended conversation about Roatan, about Honduras, about the local and national government and their histories, and about income taxes in the US. He was a fascinating guy, the likes of which I hadn’t met before.
He and his wife are software engineers who left the US several years ago when the economy went south and they began to worry about the future of the US economy. They originally found Roatan for the diving sites, but eventually decided to relocate to Roatan and set up a small business. He talked about the dependence of the Roatan economy on the cruise ships, about the Jackson family who dominate the island and owned most of it at one time. The patriarch was recently voted out of office as the Mayor. It was his personal residence that I had spotted earlier along the road. I began to remember all of the businesses with the Jackson name attached to them. Apparently, he was deemed to be somewhat corrupt and the population decided to replace him.
Our host was also effusive in his dislike for the US tax system, particularly the income tax. We spent at least an hour in the bakery, finishing our bagel and the two Coke Lights we had ordered, and discussing world matters. But after that time, Marilyn and I decided we must leave to get back to the ship.
We left the store, remounted the bikes, and headed back. I recommend this route to anyone wanting to learn about Roatan. We certainly enjoyed it and learned a lot. The riding is challenging but manageable. The scenery and wildlife are very pleasant to see. And the weather was perfect. Upon returning to the ship, we talked the ship’s crew into storing the bikes on the fourth deck where we stored them last week. We stopped in the Garden Café for a sumptuous late afternoon meal of fresh fruit, olives, cheese, and artichoke hearts, wonderful cold soup, along with a plateful of mussels and shrimp. We stopped to watch the ship undock push off from the dock and turn out to sea before we returned to the room to write this blog. An excellent day, If I do say so myself!