On March 19th, 2011, a group of inquisitive travelers set sail from Miami, though the completely debunked Bermuda Triangle, and landed at Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Grand Cayman. Upon the return, a few of the survivors experienced the Jungle Queen in Fort Lauderdale and the essential happy hour at Mai Kai.
The voyage started innocently at the Howard Johnson’s at Miami Airport. This informal gathering featured a lively discussion at the hotel lobby bar followed by table dancing by the ladies in the impromptu Latino-disco night club.
The following morning, a shuttle ride brought the group to our home for the next five nights: Celebrity Century. She’s the smallest of the Celebrity fleet (Xpedition excluded) but her understated charm and quirky themes delighted everyone.
Our first night found us at the aptly-named Sunset Bar on the back of the ship watching for the “green flash” as Sol was consumed by the sea. Twyla jumped on a chair to see if she could see the sun over the horizon if she jumped high enough. Jeff led everyone in a toast, and announced that traveler Reed Esau had been voted President of the newly formed Independent Investigations Group in Denver. Then it was off to dinner.
Food aboard Celebrity was excellent with reasonable portions and an interesting menu. Escargot and frog’s legs rounded out various preparations of beef and chicken. After the meal, we returned to the deck to observe the Super Moon, which cast a glow upon us as well as on the ocean.
The next morning, we were in the conference room listening to lectures. Jeff led us off with a talk about the various ports we would be visiting and an explanation of what was in the “goody boxes.” The included towels sure came in handy later in the week, and Jeff enjoyed the Peggy Lawton cookies even if no one else did.
David Green gave a talk on how the patent process works and how the records can be useful for skeptics and misused by conspiracy theorists. Thermite in the World Trade Center? Not likely. And H1N1 is more than just a type of flu.
Next up was Dr. Jennifer Newport who led a discussion on what it means to be a skeptic. This would be a theme for the entire cruise, as many impromptu conversations centered around this concept. Why do we identify as skeptics and how did we get here?
After lunch, Adam Levenstein talked about Archaeology and the Mormons, pointing out some embarrassing facts about the Mormon’s “Book of Abraham.” Joseph Smith supposedly translated this work from “reformed Egyptian,” but it seems much more likely that he made up his tale from whole cloth. Or papyrus in this case.
And then we had a field trip to Michael’s Room to attend a talk by one of the ship’s acupuncturists. “Pricky,” as we’ll call him, said a few things of questionable veracity (Such as – The AMA regulates acupuncture). When some in our group asked him about these things, he got quite upset and started shouting. Finally, he lost his cool altogether and stormed off while intoning “you’re very disrespectful” over and over again. In fact, we weren’t disrespectful. It might be considered disrespectful to give people incorrect information and then charge them $150 to stick needles in them according to a map based on Chinese rivers made a little over 100 years ago. But hey, I could be biased.
And then… the first of many Sushi Thirties. Every evening at 5:30, unlimited sushi was available in the Windjammer cafe, and several of us at a bit more than our fill.
The next morning, we awoke in Jamaica near the famed James Bond pier which featured prominently in the ending of the movie Dr. No. After a bit of coordination, we loaded in a van and headed to Dunn’s River Falls, which the more intrepid of us climbed. Paperskater, undeterred by the declaration that we should climb the falls in an orderly fashion while holding hands, headed to the most difficult parts of the climb, with a few of us following. Amazingly, none of us died and we all made it to the top. One traveler said “This was a highlight of my life,” and that’s understandable as there are few places where you can embrace the scenery in such a direct way.
We had a break at Margaritaville where Starthinker and Twyla were fed alcohol by a man wandering around with liquor bottles, and Jeff, David Green and Thomas braved the twisty slide into the pool (complete with swim up bar.) Jeff regained his virginity during this process, but that’s a tale for another time.
Back on board, we sailed towards Grand Cayman while watching Dr. No in the conference room. Several of the crew created a “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ vibe that made it a very enjoyable event.
With the dawn came the stingrays… hundreds of them. We boarded the private tour vessel Sea Hunt for a trip to Stingray City, where we got up close and personal with the large, slimy beasts. Once again we were embracing the scenery, but this time the scenery embraced us back. No one was stung, but a couple of us were bit while we fed them pieces of squid.
After that, a few of us headed to Hell followed by drinks at the ubiquitous Hard Rock Cafe. Oh, what do we mean by Hell? Well, Hell is actually on Grand Cayman. You’ll get there soon enough. Twyla saw a recruiting station for Kentucky Fried Chicken as well.
The following day, we were back in the conference room. Jeff talked about women pirates, and the difference between “history” and “herstory.” Twyla Gill followed with a presentation on why we know vaccines don’t cause autism, and Reed Esau finished the morning by explaining the pathologies of “I don’t know.” This turned into a spirited discussion that was carried over into an evening recording session for Rational Alchemy.
And our last speaker was Naomi Baker, who explained what fracking was, and why it has nothing to do with Cylons. There were bad guys in this story though, the producers of the film Gasland, who seem at odds with the facts and data.
Finally, our photo contest proclaimed Thomas and Patrick co-winners. Thomas’s video of stingrays and an “unidentified beast” impressed half the audience, while Patrick’s artistic shot of the group watching the Super Moon entranced the others.
A final drink at the sunset bar provided farewells for many, but a few went up to Fort Lauderdale to experience the Jungle Cruise. While there isn’t much jungle anymore, we did get to see Stephen Spielberg’s yacht as well as Paul Allen’s “boat.” OK, it had a helicopter on it, but it was still tiny next to Spielberg’s vessel. We also stopped and watched some alligator wrestling and some sad monkeys in cages.
After that, we adjourned to the Mai Kai for some tiki drinks and appetizers. There’s no better way to end a trip, and there are no better people to travel with than SkepTourists. We’ll see you on the next one.