Island-hopping on the Crystal Serenity.
By Charlie Huisking
As I think I mentioned in a blog last year, each time the Crystal Serenity embarks from a port, Louis Armstrong's version of What a Wonderful World plays on the on-deck loudspeakers.
I now realize I'm not the only sucker for that unabashedly sentimental song. Yesterday, as the Serenity left Tortola, a lovely speck of green mountains and white beaches in the British Virgin Islands, Joanne, a young lawyer from Miami, rushed to the walkway that surrounds the pool deck.
"I haven't missed Louie, have I?" she asked.
A couple hundred other passengers were also there to listen, though I concede many of them might have been attracted by the free rum punches distributed at this, our final sail-away on this 10-day cruise. For me, the trip sure ended in spectacular fashion.
On Monday, the Serenity docked in St. Kitts, where 19 of us took a half-day sailing trip on a gorgeous, 79-foot-long catamaran with a crew of five.
Several of us sprawled out in the boat's netting, where we could stare up at the billowing sails and peer at the turquoise Caribbean waters inches below us.
We anchored in a tiny cove for about an hour, snorkeling along a coral reef brimming with colorful fish and staghorn coral.
That's me snorkeling in St. Kitts' stunningly blue water.
Tuesday's port was Tortola, a bustling yachting center in the British Virgin Islands. But as soon as we docked at 8 a.m., a friend and I raced to catch an inter-island ferry to nearby Virgin Gorda. That tiny island was in the news last week because many of the VIP guests at the wedding of Google co-founder Larry Page stayed at several Virgin Gorda resort hotels.
The Crystal Serenity docked in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
But I made the trip to explore The Baths, a spectacular stretch of giant boulders strewn along a white-sand beach and piled 50 feet high at some points. The rocks are believed to be remnants of a volcanic eruption eons ago. You have to climb down a 300-foot-long trail to get to The Baths. Then you can spend hours hiking through caves and glimmering pools of water formed by the giant rocks. Sometimes you are waist-deep in water; at other times you're crawling through openings on your hands and knees, or clutching ropes fastened to the rocks for your protection.
The Baths' giant boulders are believed to be volcanic remnants.
I had to turn back after 20 minutes, shocked to realize that either the crevices had gotten narrower since I made this trip 15 years ago, or, more disturbingly, my body wasn't as supple as it used to be.
However, my age of 56 never feels younger than on a Crystal cruise. Though my lawyer friend Joanne is in her 40s, and two couples from California we've been hanging out with are younger than I, many of the passengers are in their 70s and 80s, even early 90s. Somebody quipped that this passenger list is so old because the boat left from Miami, and many probably were bused over from their condos next door.
Even the ship's comedian joked about it last night. "If this ship goes down, America's Medicare and Social Security problems would be solved," he said.
Joking aside, seeing the shape many of them are in gives me hope. Looking out the window of the computer room now, at 7:30 in the morning, a dozen gray-haired women are power-walking. Older passengers are also biking, stretching and lining up for the treadmills in the health center.
Since cruising seems to keep you young at heart, I plan to make it part of my health-care regimen forever.