Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Roatan

What a week!  Last week I turned 70 (not happy about that) and then the following week (Thanksgiving) my brother and his wife advised me that they planned on flying to Roatan to spend that week with me!  WOW!

We have not had too many visitors come to our island to spend time with us.  My daughter and her husband, my son, my two grandsons and a granddaughter all over a period of 16 years!  Our island is not difficult to get to but if you have any health issues, it is not the place for some people.  Unfortunately, my brother and his wife have had their share of health problems and I have had to discourage them from coming to Guanaja.  Why?  It would be very difficult just for them to get in and out of boats even in a calm sea.  The time they chose for this visit is the season of our Northers when the wind picks up, rain falls and we have a lot of surge.  So, mindful of that, they decided to go to Roatan.  I immediately made plans to meet with them for the week.

The first photo is my brother, Danny and his wife and the second is me and my wonderful sister-in-law, Marion.

They found a good deal on the hotel Clarion Suites at Pineapple Villas.  What a beautiful place that was!  Five four-story buildings with 4 separate pools and a large lagoon.  Two restaurants and a spa on the premises and shuttle service to and from the airport.  Hey, we are on!

They arrived in Roatan on November 24th and I arrived on the 25th.  They came from Arizona so it was an all day exercise.  I came from Guanaja, just about 15 miles away and it took me 6 hours by plane!  Lot of waiting in the airport.  First flight from Guanaja left late (but that is nothing new) and then it left late from Ceiba and finally arrived on Roatan.  I really hate sitting in airports for hours and hours.  The metal chairs are really uncomfortable and once you get in the waiting room there is nothing in there to eat or drink.  You can exit and buy food and beverages but then you have to go through the whole security thing again!  Ugh.  Anyway, I arrived and after another wait for the hotel shuttle I finally reached my destination.

It was a sunny day and the room they were given was gigantic.  Hey - bigger than my house!  A huge porch with a view of the pool:

Each of the 4 pools had special themes.  This one centered around a rock formation (real, not fake) with waterfalls and a huge iguana on top:

Since I arrived after noon we visited for a while and then went to lunch at Herby's Sports Bar.  They have great food with wonderful service.  We swam in the pool that evening and had a day trip planned on Tues. on a Glass Bottom Boat.

WestBay Tours offered a glass bottom boat ride which my sister-in-law scheduled for us on Tuesday morning.  They sent her an e-mail Mon. afternoon telling her to call them as the weather was starting to look like it might be bad and they wanted to know if we were still planning on going.  Unfortunately they did not answer their phone any of the half-dozen times we tried during the day.  We finally got them Tues. a.m. and they informed us that the boat had been moved from West Bay to Flower Bay and we were instructed to go there and be there by 11:00 a.m.  We did and no one showed up.  Boat was there but no crew.  Tried calling again and as before, no answer.  We finally reached them later in the day and they could give no reason as to why no one showed up.  I, personally, think that when she checked on where the boat was going to be she forgot to tell them there would be customers coming!  So, 1/2 of our day wasted.  We did manage to stop at a wonderful Bulk Gourmet Shop and find many items one normally cannot find on the islands or the mainland.  Since my husband's birthday is coming up I bought us two beautiful steaks and 6 hamburgers (the meat for hamburgers in this country leaves a lot to be desired).  We had a lunch at a crepe restaurant, did some more shopping and returned to the hotel.

Due to the storm that passed over the islands, our weather was less than perfect Wed. through Friday.  My sister-in-law and I took advantage of this and spent the afternoon at the Spa at the hotel having a massage, a facial and she a pedicure and manicure and for me a haircut.  That was a disaster!  I told the girl not to take too much off as my hair is already short and I did not want to look like a boy.  Well, she just went wild and sheared me!  But, as they say, the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is 2-3 weeks!  Can't glue it back on so I'll have to live with it.  The massage and facial were great and I highly recommend them.

We did manage to get in a trip to Anthony's Key on Thurs. for the Dolphin Beach Encounter.  Rain and wind still present but since we were going to get wet anyway, what the heck.  It was great and very educational.  Hey - I can even tell how to distinguish a male from a female dolphin (if they will roll over for me)!.

We were in waist-deep water and keeping our balance was not easy with the surge, but we managed.  The girl trainer worked with Maury the dolphin gave an educational talk.  I learned some facts about dolphins that I did not know before.  In total, there are 19 dolphins in a penned in area.  It is a good sized area but still does not compete with the freedom in their natural habitat.  I have mixed feelings about keeping the dolphins in penned areas or in captivity but see the educational advantages to humans.  Of course, on the other hand, the disadvantages to the mammal are considered and it is hard to weigh those things considering the dolphins are well cared for as they are and the fact that they might otherwise run into more danger in the ocean makes it hard to stay on one side or the other.  But, that is their home so I would tend to lean towards giving them freedom.  This is not going to happen as many places around the world have fish in aquariums and in large pools for people to view and for their education in order to help the creatures of the sea.  The handlers seemed to be well trained and well informed and I was glad to see that aspect.

There was an added plus to the experience.  Anthony's Key provided photographers to take photos which could be purchased at the gift shop (a really nice place I might add).  They would either send the photos via your e-mail or for an extra $10 put the photos along with stills of the area taken during better weather days on a thumb-drive.

Since the day of the dolphin encounter was Thanksgiving, we went back to the hotel, showered and dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner.  And what a feast that was!  Turkey, mashed potatoes and a great turkey gravy, toasted bread, scalloped corn, green beans and carrots, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes to die for!  Yumm.  And a big plus: pumpkin pie with real whipped cream topping!  No fuss, no muss, just sit down, order, eat and enjoy!  Now that's a Thanksgiving I could get use to.  The food was delicious and plentiful as you can see from this plate!

My visit at an end I prepared to leave on Friday morning, hopefully to return to Guanaja that same day.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30 a.m. and I was at the airport at about 10:30 a.m.  The weather from Wed. on was bad with rain and wind; a typical Norther as we call it.  Unfortunately rain many times on the islands and the Mainland cause the airports to close.  Such was the case on this day and off and on all day either the airport on Roatan was closed or in La Ceiba.  We finally took off at about 5:00 p.m. which meant there was no way I would catch a flight out to Guanaja.  I spent the night in La Ceiba and was back at the airport on Sat. morning at 7:00 a.m. for a 8:30 a.m. flight.  Little did I know but all day Friday and now, on Saturday, the winds were really blowing on Guanaja and all flights on Friday had been cancelled to the island.  We were not allowed to take off in the morning and I had to stay at the airport all day until at last, at 4:15 p.m., we were advised that planes could not  fly and land on Guanaja.  Another night in a hotel was anticipated, plus flights usually do not go to the island on Sunday so it appeared that I was looking for a departure on Monday!  With the back up the airline decided to fly on Sunday and we were informed while collecting our luggage that a flight was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning and we were advised to be at the airport at 9:00 a.m.    

To add insult to the whole 3 day experience, one pays an exit tax from the airport they depart from and when you make a transfer, as in La Ceiba, you are, effectively, "in transit".  I was told Friday night that the tax I paid in Roatan would be rolled over to Saturday.  Saturday I was told the same thing.  However, on the day of my departure, Sunday, I was told that since I paid the tax effectively on Friday constituting a 3 day trip, I had to pay the tax.  I went to the ticket counter and the gentleman there went to the tax office with me as he thought I had wrong information.  The people at the tax counter reaffirmed that "in transit" covered only 2 days and since I was there longer (even though it was through no fault of mine) I had to pay.  It doesn't cost much but it was the principal.  I looked at the airline agent and said "No, you will pay my tax as I have incurred two nights stay in a hotel, taxi fares and meals and I will not pay a tax as I am still in transit."  He agreed and paid the tax.  

We took off at about 9:30 a.m. and had a fairly easy flight to the island.  The landing, however, was tricky with strong cross winds still blowing.  We made an approach to the runway but had to pull up and go around again.  The second approach was successful and I was home.  There were a lot of people in the airport waiting to leave and as a result there were approximately 4 flights that day!  No wonder we on the island do not do a lot of "island hopping!"

My thanks to the wonderful staff at the Clarion Suites Hotel, to the great cab driver we had (Homer), to Anthony's Key for a thrilling experience and to the airlines for remaining cordial and helpful during this stressful return trip. Thanks to my brother and his lovely wife for flying those many miles to spend Thanksgiving with me and for the fun we had together.  Thanks too for the items they brought for me and for re-introducing me to Roatan.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Sharon! I'm glad you got to visit with your brother and sis-in-law. That hotel in Roatan actually sounds pretty decent! Too bad the islands are still plagued with the same issues as always: people with lackluster diligence to do their jobs (has your hair grown out yet?). It really is too bad there isn't direct air service from Roatan to Guanaja - I'm sure there's a market for it if done properly and efficien...ohhh, nevermind.

    Anyway, I'm glad you had a nice Thanksgiving and didn't (for once!) have to cook ;)