A cruise ship with an ice rink the size of a tennis court and a high wall to practise rock climbing are not things I expected on a cruise. But they were there. Even more incredible was surfing on artificial five-foot waves — with a warning that ladies should not wear bikinis as these could be blown off by the force of the water.
Yes, these were some of the features on the largest cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean. We touched many island ports that had a history of rivalries going back to over 500 years. Labadee (Haiti), Puerto Rico, St Martin, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cosumul (Mexico). Out of all these I was most impressed by St Martin. This is the only island in the world divided between two sovereign powers. Ownership of the island is split
between the Dutch and the French. Yet no rift exists. There are no physical borders or checkpoints dividing the two.
The Caribbean is a laid-back part of the world. 'Go easy' is the attitude and ‘no problem’ the most often used expression. Except for the hurricane season, tourists come in droves to enjoy the beaches and water sports here. The world’s biggest rum distilleries are located in Puerto Rico. The biggest tequila distilleries are in Mexico. So the spirits are always high here.
On the Bacardi rum factory tour, you can sample any amount of rum-based cocktails on display. Indian businessmen are doing well here in the gems and jewellery trade. Although I was the only Indian passenger, I felt quite at home as most of the dining staff were from Mumbai and Goa.
On board the ship, I befriended an old soldier of World War II vintage like myself. From his wheelchair, he praised Indian troops who he said had saved his unit many a time from the Germans. At the farewell dinner, he made a special effort to stand up. He then raised his glass and proposed a toast to the brave Indian soldier. My chest expanded by several inches in utter pride.