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  A dream sail in Barbados, swimming with sea turtles—and the t-shirt in Aruba I decided not to buy.     By Charlie Huisking   I’ve just returned from the best shore excursion I’ve ever had in the Caribbean: a five-hour sail on a catamaran out of Bridgetown, Barbados. Only about 20 guests from the […]

December 13, 2006


 
A dream sail in Barbados, swimming with sea turtles—and the t-shirt in Aruba I decided not to buy.  
 
By Charlie Huisking
 
I’ve just returned from the best shore excursion I’ve ever had in the
Caribbean: a five-hour sail on a catamaran out of Bridgetown, Barbados. Only about 20 guests from the Crystal Serenity signed up for the trip on the Spirit of Barbados. So we had plenty of room to spread out, while a four-member crew poured the rum punch and passed around homemade banana bread.
 


First, we made a snorkeling stop in a protected area for sea turtles. At one point during the swim, I was surrounded by eight of the lumbering, gentle creatures. We made a second stop along a coral reef, where hundreds of yellow-and-black-striped Sergeant Majors darted back and forth as if they were negotiating a 5 p.m. traffic jam.
Then we anchored off shore of the Sandy Lane hotel, the exclusive resort where Tiger Woods was married a couple of years ago.
 
Back on board the catamaran, the crew had prepared a lunch buffet of steak, chicken, shrimp, yellow rice and salad, topped off by cheesecake, chocolate cake and, of course, more rum punch.
 
 Barbados was the fourth port on out 10-day Crystal Serenity voyage. Our first stop was Aruba, an arid, cactus-filled island that is best known to Americans these days as the place where college student Natalee Holloway disappeared. As it happened, one of the guest lecturers on this trip is Clint Van Zandt, the former FBI profiler and hostage negotiator, who has been a frequent television commentator on the Holloway case.
 
While wandering around the shops near the port, I came upon Carlos n’ Charley’s, the bar where Holloway was last seen before she disappeared. Since my sister always brings me t-shirts from every city she visits, I considered a Carlos n’Charley’s t-shirt as her Christmas present. But better judgment prevailed.
 
The next day, on lovely Bonaire, we snorkeled in turquoise-colored water along reefs teeming with more varieties of fish than I’d ever seen, from rainbow-hued parrotfish to a school of tiny fish that were half yellow, half Van Wezel-purple.
 
Yesterday, we hopped in a minivan for a tour of the rainforests of Grenada, an island that is still struggling to recover from a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan two years ago. Tomorrow, we visit Antigua, before spending two more days at sea on the way back to Miami.
 
We’ve met some great people on this trip, including two women from Sarasota whom I chatted up while walking my morning mile on the promenade deck, and Denise, an exhuberant Australian with a Dame Edna laugh. Many of these passengers are fiercely loyal Crystal cruisers. More than half of the 800 on board have taken at least one Crystal trip, and some have logged 30, 40 and even 100 voyages.
 
One 12-year-old who introduced himself in the fitness center told me he’d already been on 13 Crystal voyages, “to all of the continents.” I resisted the urge to knock him off his treadmill.