Prior to my recent visit to Virginia Beach, Virginia, I hadn’t been there in decades. The last time I was there, back in the early ’80s, I was participating in a brainstorming session for an NPR radio series and we were holed up for an entire weekend in a hotel room with tantalizing views of the beach outside, but with no way to even get a whiff of fresh air.
Why they bothered to fly us all the way to Virginia Beach and ensconce us in a waterfront hotel, I’ll never know. The series, which was about the “Future,” never even got made.
It was torture, because the beach at Virginia Beach is truly beautiful, the boardwalk and waterside seafood restaurants beckon, and there are any number of activities to enjoy — including historical sights, parks, and a… Continue reading
If space allowed, I would add a subhead to the above headline:
“If you’re anything like me.”
Yes, as much as I’ve traveled, I often mess up on one particular day of each overseas trip — the day I arrive. I’m betting I’m not the only one.
There are excuses, of course.
Often having flown overnight to make my overseas destination, I’m tired and often a bit disoriented when I get there.
And sometimes, in the rush to get things done before a trip abroad, I forget to do the most elemental homework on my destination — such as checking the currency exchange rate.
When my wife and I arrived in St. Lucia last month for the start of a Caribbean cruise, we found the exchange window at the airport closed, so we ended up in the town of Rodney Bay with no East Caribbean… Continue reading
Third in a Series:
The British Virgins are known for their calm, clear waters, with tropical breezes ideal for sailing. But those same waters were once infested with pirates, including some of the most notorious. Here, Blackbeard, Drake and others preyed on passing ships laden with riches bound for Spain.
Legend has it that Robert Louis Stevenson modeled fictional Treasure Island after Norman Island, where local fishermen reputedly found treasure buried in its sea caves. Today the caves off Treasure Point are favored by divers and snorkelers, no doubt hoping for a glimpse of a piece of eight themselves.
Second in a Series:
Long before it was the land of reggae, Jamaica was pirate central, and Port Royal was its capital.
Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Calico Jack and Henry Morgan all liked to prowl the brothels and taverns here when they weren’t out scourging the high seas.
Dubbed “the wickedest city in the world” before being swallowed up by an earthquake in 1692 — much of the old town lies beneath the water now — Port Royal today is a small, pleasant fishing village a few miles from Kingston on Jamaica’s southeastern shores. But enough remains that you can still relive the days of its vile past, when some of the most infamous characters of the age stalked its streets.
When the English captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the new colony’s governor invited the Caribbean pirates of… Continue reading
Sure, the Caribbean pirates of yore were a cutthroat crew: They plundered, pillaged, and sent many a scurvy dog to Davy Jones’ Locker — then squandered their booty on rum and loose women.
But nearly two centuries after their last victims walked the proverbial plank, those swashbuckling scoundrels still command rock-star power.
Maybe it’s the devil-may-care attitudes flaunted by fictional pirates like Treasure Island’s Long John Silver, Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow — hoisting their Jolly Rogers on the mainmast, unfurling their cryptic treasure maps, sporting their earrings and puffy shirts in an otherwise overstarched age.
Maybe it’s the colorful monikers of real-life pirate captains — Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, Black Sam Bellamy — whose crimes reflected little of the Hollywood image.
Whatever the reason, if you’re hooked on the… Continue reading
In our last post, we looked at the case of the ten foreign tourists who climbed Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, and angered the locals by stripping naked when they reached the summit. One of them posted photos to his Facebook page.
The local people believe that the mountain spirits caused a fatal earthquake a few days later to show their displeasure with the act.
Four of the ten were caught, jailed for three days, paid U.S. $1,300 fines and were deported back to their home countries.
I argued that as guests in other countries, foreign tourists should respect local customs (as long as they aren’t destructive) no matter how superstitious, backward, or unnecessarily draconian they may seem to visitors.
Just Youthful High Jinks?
Some other writers have argued that the… Continue reading
You may have heard the story: Ten foreign tourists — a group of Canadians and Europeans — climbed Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia (on the island of Borneo), on May 30 and celebrated by stripping naked at the summit.
At 13,400 feet, Kinabalu is the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. The region is also a World Heritage Site and considered sacred by the local people, known as the Kadazan Dusun.
By coincidence, bad timing, or otherwise, the Kinabalu area suffered a destructive 5.9 earthquake on June 5, killing 18 people — mostly youngsters on a hiking trip.
Angering the Mountain Spirits
The local people in Sabah do not consider it coincidence. They believe the nudity (and urination that was also reported) angered the mountain and nearby forest spirits and prompted the… Continue reading
Sixth in a Series:
On the final full day of our recent Caribbean cruise with Island Windjammers, the Sagitta anchored off the dock at Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique.
Like Guadeloupe, where we had spent the previous two days, Martinique is an overseas department of France, so I had a chance to practice my rusty French from high school and college. It’s amazing what flows out when you actually want or need something, such as a map of the city or a bottle of wine.
Leah, the operations manager aboard the Sagitta, had tasked us all with bringing back a bottle of wine from shore for a wine and cheese party to be held during cocktail hour that afternoon. It was the first time all week she had actually asked us to do anything, so just about everyone gladly… Continue reading
Fifth in a Series:
When Windjammer Barefoot Cruises — known for their casual, relaxed, small-ship sailing cruises of the Caribbean — went defunct back in 2007, many of their long-time regular passengers felt adrift. There simply was nothing comparable to turn to.
So, like any truly dedicated cruisers, they started their own company, offering much the same casual sailing experience. Georgia-based Island Windjammers, run by company president Liz Harvey, rounded up some of the old Barefoot crew and, in late 2009, launched with the 12-passenger schooner Diamant, which sailed the Grenadines in the far southern Caribbean.
Success has followed in its wake. The 24-passenger, 120-foot-long motorsailer Sagitta — our ship for our week-long cruise through the southern Caribbean — followed in 2013, and the 30-passenger tall ship Vela is set for its first shakedown… Continue reading
Fourth in a Series:
After leaving Dominica aboard our Island Windjammers cruise through the French West Indies, we reached Guadeloupe early in the morning of our fourth day out.
Rather than visiting Guadeloupe’s main island, our sailing ship, the 24-passenger Sagitta, anchored off idyllic Terre-de-Haut, one of two small inhabited islands of the Iles des Saintes (Islands of the Saints), which Columbus named because he first saw them on All Saints Day.
The islands (also sometimes called Les Saintes) are part of Guadeloupe, which in turn is an overseas department of France — meaning it’s not a territory but part of France itself.
Being up on deck with our cups of coffee as we sailed through the island chain was a treat. The Iles des Saintes are truly the undiscovered Caribbean, visited only by small ships: yachts, sailboats, ferries… Continue reading