I was sent across the country from my normal west coast home
for several months on a job-related project. Always trying to
make the most of any given situation, I signed up for Parrothead
Cruise 2006 to the eastern Caribbean leaving from Ft. Lauderdale
since I was on the correct side of the country. Planning was
a breeze with all the informative bulletins keeping us up to
date. Excitement started to swell when fellow cruisers started
posting their bios for all to read as well as helpful hints
for the trip.
Travel day finally arrived, and after a half-day at work which
included a bon voyage lunch with friends at the Billy Goat Tavern
it was time to leave for Dulles Airport. A limo had been arranged
for me. The driver picked up my luggage before picking me up
at work so I didn’t have to be bothered. A quick trip
to Dulles and through security left me with time on my hands.
So I purchased a quick airport massage and foot reflexology
treatment allowing me to arrive refreshed at my airport gate.
My favorite story for this day was encountering college girls
who were headed to the Bahamas. There were six of them all in
matching gauchos, sorority sweatshirts, and white ray-bans.
They were so young and cute and fun to listen as they discussed
the seriousness of their plans for the Spring Break week ahead
of them. I tried very hard not to listen to them and finally
had to move when one of them said in all sincerity that she
just didn’t know if she could ever believe in true love
anymore since Nick and Jessica split up. I made my excuses about
phone reception and walked away before I laughed aloud.
An uneventful plane ride later found me at the Ft Lauderdale
Courtyard Marriott Airport and Cruiseport where the party had
started without me five hours previously. Within minutes there
was a Corona placed in my hands, a magnetic dolphin bracelet
on my wrist, pirate earrings on my ears, beer spilled down my
right leg and I had been kidnapped into a conga line full of
smiling faces while Jack Mosley worked hard playing for us.
In other words, I felt right at home once again. The earrings
and the most current Jack Mosley CD remain as memories of the
evening, but the magnetic bracelet gave its life at the seaport
the following day when it fell from my wrist and crashed into
multiple pieces losing its beautiful onyx stones across the
Organized chaos was the term for the morning as multiple cruises
attempted to leave the hotel and arrive at the seaports timely.
We were very fortunate in that our group had the forethought
to arrange its own busses. We had a separate hallway for easier
exiting, a designated room for luggage storage, and time for
a filling breakfast provided buffet(t) style. After a quick
bus ride we arrived at the seaport where we identified our luggage,
handed it over to porters, and queued up in three separate lines.
Soon we were on the ship where we were left to our own devices
until the 2pm Welcome Aboard Rendezvous Party in the Victoria
Lounge where we registered, received our credentials, and supported
the Chinese auction which raised funds for Breast Cancer Research
that this cruise is supporting.
Since I did not have time to get a pedicure before leaving
DC I stopped by the spa to get a manicure and pedicure to make
me feel “dressed” for the cruise. I’ve never
had one on a moving ship before. This one came complete with
panoramic windows full of the ocean view and a fabulous sunset.
I was relaxed enough to enjoy a very nice dinner with some LA
and OC Parrotheads in the beautifully furnished Golden Olympian
Dining Room. One LA Parrothead showed up at our table in full
pirate costume letting me know I was with the fun group. By
the end of dinner, the time had come for the Duval Crawl. The
group went from one lounge to another to determine where they
all were and to sample the wares.
Since I have a huge window and a door to a private balcony I
pulled back the curtains in my room before retiring allowing
me to awaken to a view of blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and
a deep blue ocean beneath. I had ordered a room service breakfast
the night before so I was able to stay in and enjoy the experience
all morning. Eventually I ventured out to do a little shopping,
get a hair cut, and join the other Parrotheads camped out at
the Pool Invasion party at the Versailles Pool complete with
swimming, sunning, limbo contests, and conga lines. Jim Asbell
played for four hours as we enjoyed ourselves and the music.
It finally dawned on me why I like Parrothead groups so much
– they are incredibly comfortable in their own skins.
It is nice being around people who do not feel they have to
impress or who are still questioning themselves. Parrotheads
are comfortable just being. It’s very relaxing and enjoyable
to be around. I don’t know that words or even pictures
can capture the sense of camaraderie (is that the word or is
there a better one?) of these normally hard working people who
gather from time to time to raise money for charity, catch up
with each other, and blow off a little steam to Jimmy Buffett–style
Monday started with a stroll about the boat that ended at the
Tapestry Room checking out the great silent auction items for
our charity. As I am finally starting to feel relaxed, after
a quick visit on the Lido deck with the Parrotheads, a quick
lunch of watching the water roll by and a happy 50th birthday
to Scott Sperber, an LA Parrothead, it was time for a short
nap in my room. How nice to set the television to Parrothead
Cruise Radio and drift off. I awoke from my nap when the cruise
director encouraged us to go the deck to see the fort of San
Juan as we approached. A short time later we docked and I enjoyed
an evening out on the town topped off by a concert of flamenco
guitar and dancers. The music was beautiful and educational
as Juan Carlos showed the difference between Spanish guitar,
flamenco guitar, and popular guitar. He also showed us the difference
between Spanish, Paraguay, and other countries from Latin America.
It was amazing to watch one guitar create so many different
Tuesday’s wake-up was set for 7 am – much too early
for this sleepy Parrothead. However, it was worth it because
we knew a great day waited for us. We docked in St. Thomas early.
After getting our wrist band, our “ticky” and our
water, it was time to go to our “taxis” for the
ride to Magen’s Bay. A taxi is an interesting name for
the vehicles we rode. These ingenious folks had taken fronts
of Fords and matched them with the bodies of Dodge trucks and
created 26-seat open-air “limos.”
Magen’s Bay is simply beautiful – a soon to be
very over-used word. The day quickly accelerated. Jimmy’s
music was playing from big speakers. The caterer’s were
firing up the grills, and the bartenders were hard at work.
After staking out my own little salty piece of land I was off
to the gift shop to rent a chair and a raft. Once the high finances
were behind me, I jumped on the raft and headed out to explore
the bay. The day passed too quickly with good food, laughter
of new friends, Jimmy music, and live music.
While paddling along, I discovered another reason it is cool
to hang with Parrotheads is that they are so big and so big-hearted
and always ready for a party. In Fort Lauderdale, the local
Parrothead club hosted/attended our bon voyage party with local
Parrotheads in attendance. Today, the Virgin Islands Parrothead
Club was hosting/attending the picnic and beach bash with their
club members in attendance. I talked with a guy who had moved
to St. Thomas 35 years ago. He is an architect. He had that
burned out island look about him, but he was also totally at
peace. So begs the age old question – burn out at work
or burn out on an island or figure out a way to balance the
After my best attempts of sun block had failed and a roller
coaster ride up and down the hill and back to the ship, it was
time for a shower and a nap. A couple of hours later, I awoke
to the all ashore that is going ashore announcement to discover
that a day of sun and water makes one hungry. Rather than dressing
for the formal dining room, I headed for Emilie’s buffet
where I carb-loaded while wearing jeans and a tee. Some of my
formal dining partners found me as they had the same idea. Afterwards,
they headed for the disco where the ship was playing a tribute
to Jimmy, while I headed for my appointed massage and facial.
The sunburn ruled the back massage out, but the lady placed
several cooling aloe ointments on it and spent the rest of the
time performing the facial and foot and leg massages. Too relaxed
to join the group for the midnight Jim Morris concert, I called
it a night.
If it’s Wednesday, we must be in Antigua. Despite my sun
burned shoulders and back I was looking forward to another day
on the water. This time, I was on the MS Excellence Catamaran.
The water is the deepest turquoise I’ve ever seen. The
views are indescribable. It is a beautiful place where I hope
to return often.
We left the safe waters of the islands and went out into the
rockin’ and rollin’ Atlantic headed to Emerald Cay
-- whose name tells you all you need to know about the beautiful
color of the water. Here we dropped anchor for snorkeling. After
an hour or so, it was off to Green Island (next to Bird Island
and in the shadow of Montserrat) for a lunch of grilled chicken
and snapper, rice and coleslaw and some beach time. Too soon,
it was time to head back to the ship. However, rather than being
sad, we congaed and danced our way back into port.
Another day in the sun equated to another shower and nap. I
turned on Parrothead Cruise Radio again which is a special station
complete with Buffett and Parrothead music and was quickly asleep
Thursday equaled Tortola. I believe that Tortola is my favorite
island thus far. It is so beautiful. (There’s that over-used
word again.) I separated from the Parrotheads for the day and
took a great open-air limo ride of the city given by Crabby.
Cane Garden Bay is as beautiful as Jimmy sings about as are
Apple, Carrot, and Long Bays. I definitely see me coming back
and spending some time here. By the way, Tortola is Spanish
for brown dove, not tortoise as I assumed. Too soon, it was
time to head back to the ship and say goodbye to Tortola. It
is simply beautiful and has stolen my heart, I say goodbye to
this island with much regret. After a shower and nap, it was
time to get ready for toga party. A note of explanation is needed
here. It was listed only as a casual night because we’ve
been in port all day. However, the Parrotheads had taken it
upon themselves to determine that casual night means toga night.
So 450 Parrotheads in their best toga wear strolled, congaed,
and Junkanoo’d their way through the decks of unsuspecting
diners and other guests. It was quite a show. I don’t
think I can even begin to describe the spectacle of togas, feathers,
headdresses, fish nets, seashells, etc. Everything from Allen’s
authentic toga costume of John Belushi fame (complete with Belushi
button…rest in peace, John) to the most outrageous mermaid
shimmer set and, of course pirates everywhere could be seen
A conga line of hundreds of Parrotheads entering the formal
dining room was quite a sight. To their credit, the non Parrotheads
stood and applauded and clapped in time to our kazoos, casino
tub drums, and shouts of Toga! Toga! Toga!
In a moment of charity some LA and OC Parrothead guys offered
to have their moustaches and facial hair shaved for the good
of fund-raising. Some of these guys hadn’t seen their
lips since puberty. One LA Parrothead topped this by saying
for X amount he would also shave his head. It all occurred today
at the Lido deck pool. First though, I attended the Songwriters
Showcase which was a 3-hour event with the entertainers who
had been playing all week, (Jim Morris, Jim Asbell, John Frinzi,
and KD Moore) playing their original music and talking about
how they created their songs…sort of like VH1 Unplugged.
It was very casual and fun and the stories were even better
than the songs.
Once over, I headed for the party, which was in full swing
on the Lido deck when I arrived. There were even two security
guards bearing down and looking very serious. I’m unsure
what or whom they thought they were protecting. As I approached
the encouraging crowd, I saw Linda (the lady I “saved”
at Magen’s Bay earlier in the week—another story
for another time) busily clippering, scissoring, and shaving
Mr. LA Parrothead’s scalp. The moustache and other facial
hair were already gone. To his credit, he kept giving the Hawaiian
high sign to the group throughout the event. At one point, he
had several bikinied women taking shavers to his head. Two pairs
of clippers, 4 pairs of scissors, and 12 disposable shavers
gave their all for this endeavor, but in the end, the deed was
done and $800 had been raised for Breast Cancer Research. Someone
gave him a Rasta hat complete with long braids and beads. Ladies
and gentlemen, the prior pirate turned a Bob Marley.
This was our second formal night in the Golden Olympian Dining
Room. How very strange to see the guys at my table and those
around it without their moustaches and facial hair. Some looked
better, some looked younger, but no one looked more different
than Mr. LA Parrothead when he walked into the room (to a standing
ovation) with his shiny white head which is home to more than
a few abrasions compliments of the event.
After dinner and a change into jeans, I headed to the Victoria
Lounge for the Jim Morris and Big Bamboo Band midnight show,
which was being simulcast on radiojimmydreamz.com. I thought
I had seen it all; however, tonight I experienced flying rubber
chickens on the dance floor. (Don’t ask; you have to experience
it.) Dawn came much too soon.
Another beautiful day in paradise beckoned. We arrived in Nassau
at noon. I did some power shopping at the straw market, had
lunch at Señor Frogs complete with a banana daiquiri,
and headed back to the boat for a seaweed wrap and massage.
When I was asked by the technician which group I was with I
answered “the Parrotheads” and she replied “oh…the
happy group”. The afternoon was for packing…no napping
today. Dinner was bittersweet. The service staff sang goodbye
to us with specially written words to the tune of leaving on
a jet plane, “you’re leaving our fun ship….”
you get the idea. They gave us pictures of the ship in a tropical
setting to take home with us. It will be a permanent reminder
of some good times.
Sunday will have us back in the upper 48 and flying
in all directions. Has it been eight days already? Thanks for
coming along on my sea cruise with me. Hope you had a good time.
I sure did.
Sheila aka Hurricane, Trouble, Diva She and Southern Comfort
P.S. A week has passed since this trip. I miss the people more
than I would have imagined. I attended this cruise alone but
never felt lonely in this group. They were gracious, kind, funny,
and all that I expected and more. They have ruined one thing
for me though -- I cannot imagine ever taking a cruise without