The next day on Roatán, one of Honduras’s Bay Islands, the ship docked next to a rusty old shipwreck in Mahogany Bay. We considered visiting the botanical gardens or taking the chairlift from the dock to a nearby beach. Instead, we chose the Gumbalimba Park adventure, which took us 35 minutes down the island in a no-frills local bus to the West Bay.
We spent an hour at the park, visiting a cave where we learned about a one-legged, one-eyed pirate named John Coxen, who hid his plunder in a hole — hence the name of Roatán’s main city, Coxen Hole. We also hiked through lush tropical forest with agouti, which are brown rabbits without the telltale bunny ears and fluffy tails (they’re often mistaken for rats), emerald hummingbirds, and black iguanas.
“Iguana used to be a popular dish,” said our guide, Ryan Agustos Washington. “We’re not allowed to eat it now because in 1987, they discovered that this variety, the black spiny-tailed iguana, is only found here on Roatán.”
Then we crossed a 237-foot rope bridge over a small lake to reach an area that contained scarlet macaws, Honduras’s national bird, and friendly white-faced capuchin monkeys. Here, we could let a monkey stand on our shoulders, providing we didn’t scream (“They’ll scream right back at you,” said Washington), run (“They’ll chase after you”), or carry anything loose on us that we cared about (“Remember, monkey don’t take no for an answer”).
“Don’t freak out if they put their tail around you,” Washington added. “They do this for balance.”
Our kids, who were spooked by these unfamiliar creatures, watched from afar while the rest of us took turns letting a monkey climb onto our shoulders. I could feel the monkey’s scratchy, claw-like feet on my bare shoulder, but the most unnerving part was the sensation of its wet tail, from the day’s many rain showers, wrapped around my neck. I resisted the urge to scream. Thankfully the monkey soon scurried over to another woman.
After two long day trips, my husband and the kids decided to have a relaxing day on the ship while I took off for a cave-tubing adventure in Belize’s limestone mountains. The trip took a busload of us from Belize City an hour and a half southwest through dry savannah to a rain forest region around Nohuch Che’en, or Caves Branch, Archeological Reserve. The park is home to a series of caves once used by the Maya for everything from food storage to human sacrifices. Several tubing companies run rafting trips through three of the area’s nine caverns.
With each of us carrying a tube on our shoulders, we hiked 20 minutes through a dense forest. We spent the next hour floating through 65-million-year-old caverns where clusters of bats clung to the ceiling and limestone formations twinkled under the glare of our headlamps. Stalactites reached down from the ceiling, and cracks overhead released trickles of water that dripped onto us as we passed underneath — a “Mayan blessing,” said our guide, Edmond Williams.
After our fun-filled shore adventures, we spent our final two days at sea relaxing by the pool and getting bamboo massages. Some of our most memorable moments were simple ones: watching Grace have a tea party with her baby doll on our balcony, trying to eat ice cream in the tropical heat before it melted onto our flip-flops, discovering tucked-away lounges and sunning areas around the ship, and chatting with fellow passengers.
The ship got socked in by fog on disembarkment day, meaning it couldn’t dock in Galveston until mid-afternoon. The delay caused us to miss our flight home, but it gave us one more day to stroll around the decks and practice Thai with the waitstaff.
“Khob khun ka (Thank you),” Grace said to Saensrira, as we prepared to leave the ship. “Pope gun mai ka (See you later).”
Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at email@example.com.