In 2006, my husband, Dave, and I did back-to-back cruises in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico out of Galveston. The itinerary included Costa Maya, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel. As we planned, we decided we didn’t want this vacation to be just another typical tourist experience.
While we both love to snorkel and do beach activities, as well as touring and learning about the culture of our ports of call, this time we decided to do something totally different. We decided to make our cruises more about others than about ourselves.
We arranged a private tour for our first stop in Roatan that took us to the typical tourist stops, but we asked the tour driver to take us to an orphanage, so we could learn firsthand about some of the lives of the children on that beautiful island.
Before leaving home, we had packed an extra suitcase with clothing, flip flops, toys, games and school supplies for the orphanage (this was before the airlines began charging a baggage fee). Thinking we would make a short stop and leave our supplies, we were pleasantly surprised when we visited.
A short stop turned into a visit of over an hour. In addition to meeting with the director and his wife, we met many of the adorable (and very polite) children who ranged in age from about 5 to 17. We had an extensive tour of the property and got a glimpse of the vision for outreach to the children and families of the island. We saw the medical clinic, the supply pantry, the baseball field, and the worship center under construction. All in all, it was a beautiful day and one that will not be forgotten.
The following week on the 2nd leg of our back-to-back cruises, we were joined by four of our friends from Colorado. They, too, had brought extra suitcases filled with school supplies, etc. Again, our tour operator took us to the orphanage, and our friends also got to experience the island in a very different way. We spent at least an hour there again sharing our lives with the director, his wife and the wonderful children of Roatan.
We consider ourselves to be very blessed to have experienced 17 wonderful Princess cruises taking us to exotic destinations. Cruising is a wonderful way to vacation. But cruising is also a wonderful way to dig beneath the surface of a port or country and to become involved in the lives of other people.
Yes, we are church-going people, and maybe that was a part of our initial motivation for what we did in Roatan. That being said, we Americans tend to be pretty provincial in our outlook on this amazing world. We tend to be too focused on our own desires, and often overlook the beauty of the people and differing cultures on this planet.
After our visit to Roatan, we began to look at cruising much differently. We now realize that when we cruise we are given a window on the world. We can choose to look just outside that window at areas that cater to tourists, or we can choose to look at the rich tapestry of people and places in the ports where Princess calls. As loyal Princess cruisers, we choose the latter way and encourage others to do the same.