Aboard the Silver Spirit, Day 7: Friday, November 19
I never did quite figure out why the staff invited me for dinner last night (Thursday). They didn’t probe my views on the cruise, so I concluded they merely took pity on me since I’m the only male solo traveler (other than Scottie, who has a visual impairment and dines in his cabin). Since they weren’t doing any probing, I did, trying to get them to tell juicy war stories about the cruise world. This didn’t work out so well, as C.D. Mike responded with a lengthy discussion of how the cruise line he was with at the time handled the 9/11 emergency and losses suffered by passengers and crew, etc., which set a maudlin tone and put a bit of a damper on the evening. It was nice of them to ask me, but I would have been better off dining with passengers.
. . .
Today (Friday) we are docked in Road Town, Tortola , British Virgin Islands, afloat next to a huge German liner, the Aria Luna (as I learned last night, in Cruise-ese the correct expression is “We’re in with the Luna”), an ugly ship with a blue and yellow color scheme and a huge pair of smiling lips painted on its bow.
Tortola is the most populated of the BVIs, and Road Town has to be its most prosperous town. The hillsides above the town are filled with large, pretty homes, and the commercial district is lined with bank after bank after bank, along with handsome colonial buildings sporting names such as “BCQX International” and “ATC Trustees (B.V.I.) Ltd.”. For the life of me, can’t figure out what business they’re in.
Walked off the ship to do my day’s exploring when I realized: you idiot, you’re on the wrong island! The places you want to see aren’t on Tortola; they’re on Virgin Gorda. Hopped over to the ferry terminal for the 40-minute ride to V.G., entertained on the way by a Nicholas Cage movie about an MIT professor with knowledge of impending disasters before they occur. Just when it was getting interesting, we arrive. (Never did get the title, but I was really getting into it.)
I hired a taxi driver to take me around the island, first to the famous Little Dix Bay resort, then to the island’s No. 1 attraction, The Baths, then give me a quick drive around Spanishtown, the island’s nerve center (kidding).
Little Dix, now owned and operated by Rosewood Hotels (owners of such prestige properties as the Bel-Air in L.A., the Carlyle in NY, the Lanesborough in London), was one of the original Rockresorts along with Mauna Kea and Kapalua Bay in Hawaii and Caneel Bay in the Caribbean. At one time…especially back in the 70s…it was a go-to destination for the rich and famous. Not anymore. Like its former sisters, it is graced with a huge, gorgeous half-moon beach and lovely grounds. But the hotel’s physical assets are a mess. Rooms are old and cheap-looking. The spa and physical fitness and sports facilities are second-rate. The restaurants are uninspired (and empty). In short, the place is worn out.
On to The Baths. The Baths, you ask? I’d never heard of them either, but there were 200 people (including 40 Spiriteers) in line to see the place when I arrived. The Baths are a collection of, I’m guessing, about 100 enormous boulders that have been eaten away by wind and water and now sit as hulking pitted sentries a few feet offshore. They supposedly trap water in some unique way and then allow it to pour over the heads of the people underneath. It requires a walk of 500 or so steps down a steep hill to get there, where you see something that’s okay at best. At the bottom you are also given the option of going through a rock tunnel—crawling at times—and walking through treehouses to see beautiful Devil’s Bay. That one will have to exist as beautiful in my imagination. All in all, a waste of time.
My driver, Ivan, was eager to show me his native island, and since I had 45 minutes until the ferry back, I consented, riding with a forced smile as he drove me around a woeful town and a generally scraggly island. It was so sad I tipped him an extra $10.
On the Joe ratings, Virgin Gorda gets a lowly X. Rating withheld for Tortola since I never gave it a fair viewing. (As far as I know, they don’t have any luxury resorts here, so the issue might be moot.)
On the ferry ride back, the Nick Cage movie had re-reeled and I got to watch the next 45 minutes, but we landed with the good part still ahead. Back on Tortola I walked through Road Town meandering through a outdoor Caribbean barbecue and craft show in a public park, realizing as I strolled back to the Spirit that this would be the last time I would touch foreign soil on this trip. Next stop Ft. Lauderdale.
Returned to the ship for lunch at the Pool Grill, my favorite haunt these days. Limited menu of good burgers and delicious grilled dogs, plus pizza and salads and things they call “Tongue Twisters”. Among the latter is the Guacamole Tumbler, a martini glass filled with shredded lettuce, guacamole and crabmeat with lime mayo…mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. Today, being in an all-crab mood, I’m having the GT along with a Thai Crab Burger with Asian slaw and spicy dip.
They have another great restaurant-concept here called Hot Rocks, where you cook your own entrée (steak, veal chops, fish) on these hot rocks they provide at your outdoor table on a deck above the Pool Grill. Supposed to be fun, but (a) it’s not something that would be fun to do alone and (b) it’s booked for the entire cruise except the next tuxedo night, so I’ve been hoping to glom on with some other people who have reservations and who have an empty chair. No luck so far. When, as frequently happens, I subtly or not so subtly join people at their tables at cocktail hour, one of the first questions I ask is: been to Hot Rocks?, and the answer I inevitably get is, Yeah, we were there last night. Oh well, I’ll live. (Anyway, I’ve looked at the “raw materials” they provide and the N.Y. steaks are 100% marble-less, so maybe I’m not missing anything of note.)
Formal night, and I sit with John and Sandy from Linton in the north of England. John’s in the furniture business, which must be doing okay since I noticed that one of Sandy’s fingers is graced by a brand new Crown of Light diamond ring. (I know it’s not the 3.01 stone because I bought that one for Lynn, but this one’s right up there in the same league.) After dinner, he and I head off to the Casino. Amazing. Seven nights here and this is the first time I’ve placed a wager in the Casino. Passed by it once or twice, but never bothered to go in. About thirty slots, all or most of which sit unused. No craps table. Three blackjack tables, one roulette, and—saving grace—a Three Card Poker table. Which, of course, becomes my game of choice under the circumstances. My dealer, Olga, has a cold Russian demeanor, a look that as much as says she just as soon slit your throat as deal another hand of this stupid game. But deal she does. My luck ebbs back and forth, up and down, and I end up $60 in the red. I still have $140 of my $200 stake. They’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to get that.