I’m not a cruise kind of person. I’ve been on two and found that after you’ve eaten yourself up two to three sizes, and enjoyed every drink involving fruit on a stick and an umbrella, that the ocean, however beautiful, becomes a bit monotonous after days of watching it rise and fall.
My last trip went from Miami to Key West and then on to Cozumel. Not realizing when we booked the trip that it was Spring Break added a whole new dimension to the experience. Hundreds of college students armed with daddy’s credit cards and killer bodies arrived at the dock ready to P A R T Y.
After finding our stateroom and unpacking we shoved off and were on our way. There were two pools on board, one upstairs, clothing optional, and the main pool on the upper deck. We never dipped our toe in either. Kids were everywhere and alcohol was flowing like lava from St. Helens. You had to get on deck early in the a.m. when everyone was sleeping off the night before in order to snag a lawn chair. Crazy. Food seemed to appear from nowhere. Breakfast would have just gone down the pipes when a mid-morning buffet would show up to herald in lunch to be provided shortly thereafter in several locations. I bellied up to the bar more times than a drunk sailor on leave. Yum. For a self-confessed “foodie” this was close to piggie heaven.
We got off the boat in Key West and explored. For those of you that have been there, you know it has many charms. The locals are extremely friendly and many gather every night on the beach to share Mai Tai’s and toast the sun going down. The downtown area is geared toward the tourists with a plethora of quaint shops and eateries catering to every taste and pocket-book. I could have just stayed there. Lovely place to visit. I sat on Hemingway’s fence and looked in the garden. Would have liked to have taken the tour, as his life and works fascinate me, but we’d run out of time.
Back on the ship we headed out to sea and towards Cozumel, a small scruffy little town located on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, with beautiful sun washed beaches and clear azure waters mainly known for snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing. Docking in Cozumel we were greeted with a sea of willing taxi drivers offering a lift to town. The town itself, offered up mainly bars and shops carrying locally made goods such as blankets and baskets as well as the usual peppering of blatantly touristy goods like shot glasses with Cozumel splashed across them. The bars were packed to capacity with half-naked college kids, most of them we saw green as unripe tomatoes lying in deck chairs the following day.
After tiring of shopping we hailed a cab. The driver, speaking very broken English, was very gregarious and talked our ears off switching from Spanish to English as the spirit moved him. At one point he asked if we’d mind if he stopped at his brother’s house to pick up his lunch, or we think that’s what he asked. He gestured to the right as if to point in the direction of his house. After agreeing, why I don’t know, we ended up sitting in the driveway with the meter off for a half an hour while he apparently “ate” his lunch with his brother. Silly. Fortunately he left the air conditioner and the fan on or we would have been puddles on the floor by the time he got back. In his defense he did bring us a delicious carnitas burrito hot enough to break a sweat on a snowman.
Before going back on board ship we took a day to explore the extraordinary beaches. Locals bring horses down on the sand that you can rent. The animals wore no saddles only blankets tossed across their muscled backs, and bridles on their heads. Paying the rental you were handed the reins, they crossed themselves and off you went. What an experience, tearing through the shallow waves along the beach, sun on your face, and hair flying behind you in the wind, your only grip on these powerful animals the squeeze of your legs on their sides. It was truly the best part of the trip for me, other than the food naturally.
People were parasailing along the beach. That, truly, can be hysterical to watch. One rather well cushioned woman in particular, wearing a large floppy hot pink hat and matching cover-up and clutching what appeared to be her purse, was being dragged along the sand by a harness her feet digging two grooves behind her. Reaching the water, after some hit and miss attempts at liftoff both above and below the water, she finally became airborne looking every inch like a jar of Pepto Bismol soaring through the air. I can only imagine what the landing might have been like. Hope she made it.
Here’s a great recipe for carnitas.
1 3-1/2 lb. boneless pork butt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried marjoram
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 28 oz. can of salsa verde
Mix herbs and salt and massage into meat. Cover and marinate overnight.
Place sliced onions on bottom of sprayed 6-quart crock pot. Add marinated meat and top with salsa verde. Sprinkle jalapeno peppers overall and cook on low for 9-10 hours. Shred meat with fork and return to sauce. Cook 1/2 hour longer on low.
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 white onion, sliced thin
8 pickled jalapeno chilli slices
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
Mix all salsa ingredients in bowl. Pour over freshly squeeze orange juice. Mix gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve with warmed flour tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole – oh and a Cadillac margarita for good measure.