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Now a popular cruise ship stop, Tortola and neighboring Norman Island were once pirate hideouts. Photo by Gail Frederick on Flickr.

Now a popular cruise ship stop, Tortola and neighboring Norman Island were once pirate hideouts. Photo by Gail Frederick on Flickr.

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.

You can get here by chartering a boat or joining one of many day sails out of Road Town, Tortola, the BVI’s capital. Although Norman Island is uninhabited, the Pirates… Continue reading

Negril, Jamaica -- former pirates' lair. Photo by Shannon Kaiser, on Flickr.

Negril, Jamaica — former pirates’ lair. Photo by Shannon Kaiser, on Flickr.

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.jamaica-3

When the English captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the new colony’s governor invited the Caribbean pirates of… Continue reading

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jeff Gunn on Flickr.

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jeff Gunn on Flickr.

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

The view from atop Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by kevincure on flickr.

The view from atop Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by kevincure on flickr.

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

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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