On Day 5, we woke up incredibly early for our big excursion on St Maarten. Actually, we woke up an hour too early, because someone‘s phone synced to island time while in USVI and someone didn’t notice, which meant that two someones were up and swimsuited and sunscreened and complaining about how room service never showed up, when those someones could have had another hour of sleep. Sigh. We skipped the official Royal Caribbean excursions because a brave and incredibly organized Sea Monkey named Christina set up a private trip for 40 of us through the local St Maarten company Captain Alan’s Tours. This way, we ensured that everyone on our excursion was a Sea Monkey, so we could be weird and dorky and nobody was going to give us any uncomfortable side-eye.
We took up three boats with our gang, and Dave and I were lucky enough to ride with the Sea Monkey good luck talisman – the Yoda backpack.
|Yoda backpack meets museum Yoda.
Photo courtesy Jeff “Oboewan” Kahan
Our boat was also the only one with an iPod dock, so we got to rock out and sing along to Skullcrusher Mountain as the boat bounced through the waves. We were soaked and hoarse by the time we anchored at the first snorkeling stop at Tintamarre. The bottom there was sandy and speckled with small patches of sea grasses, and we were told to look for turtles. Every few minutes someone would yell “TURTLE!” and 40 people would flipper and flail their way over for a look. Poor turtles.
Our second stop was at a breathtakingly beautiful reef. The choppiness of the water got to me a little and I felt pretty seasick, but I refused to let it stop me from enjoying the beauty of what was just beneath those waves. Dave took my hand and we floated together with the current, pointing out fish and coral and sea urchins to each other as we went. It was an hour I will never, ever forget.
Lunch was fabulous salami and cheese sandwiches, eaten in the calm, waist-deep water off the beach of Pinel island. The sun, the sea birds, the naked leathery old guy standing on the shore, balls-to-the-breeze without a care in the world… another memorable spot to spend our Valentine’s day.
|You totally just zoomed in to look for naked guys, didn’t you.|
Back on the ship, not nearly as sunburned as we could have been, we were treated to a wonderful night of comedy. First was Joseph Scrimshaw, whose self-deprecating style and sharp insights on geek life really resonate with me. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you laugh in the moment, and makes you think about it for the rest of the night. He should be a lot more famous than he currently is, if you ask me. Then we enjoyed the brilliant wits and fart jokes of Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett from Rifftrax as they mocked short educational films with the help of some guest stars.
Sea Monkeys once again put their talents on display for the world to enjoy on Open Mic night in the Pharaoh’s Lounge. The place was packed at the beginning, but the crowd thinned considerably as we crept past midnight. It’s too bad, really, because some really great stuff happened right near the end of the show. Ned’s comedy routine with his “You may be a Redneck Jedi” observations, Angela’s poem about only knowing Star Wars through pop-culture references, and Leslie’s amazing rendition of Tatooine Blues on an invisible keyboard are only a few of the acts that blew the crowd away. Much of the show is available on YouTube: check out this playlist if you’d like to see what sort of amazing things this group can pull together.
My favorite part, though, was my husband’s performance.
The best part is how he pointedly did not dedicate this breakup song to me. I think he needs to play in public more often so he can be a super famous musician and we can travel the country together for a while, but I can’t convince him he’s good enough. Oh well, no rockstar-wife life for me.
|Grumpy Cat did not approve of my tardiness.|
|Island of St. Thomas behind us|
|Chickens cannot read.|
But that’s how cruises go: a day here and a day there and never enough time to really enjoy the places you visit. Luckily we were on a JoCo cruise and had more fun lined up for us that evening, or I probably would have moped as I watched the twinkling lights of St Thomas fade into the distance.
That afternoon, Wil Wheaton spent an hour in the Bull and Bear Pub, doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session. He was expecting maybe a dozen people, but we packed the joint because everyone loves to hear him talk about things he’s passionate about. He answered questions about homebrewing, acting, and tabletop games. I asked him a question about writing, and he was helpful with his response. I’m glad I found the time to make it to that event.
While we were at that AMA, a band of tiny pirates – kids from the daycare – stormed the Promenade with a song and dance routine. Wil stopped talking and everyone in the Bull and Bear turned to see what was going on. As Sea Monkeys are unable to resist all things pirate-y, we encouraged the kids with a hearty “Arrr!!”
|Eek! Tiny pirates!|
The evening’s entertainment was a spectacular live-band karaoke experiment. Jonathan Coulton and his rock ensemble played a dozen of JoCo’s songs while randomly-selected Sea Monkeys got to take the stage with them and sing like live rock stars! I could not in a million years have found enough courage to put my name in for such a thing, but the people who did perform were amazing. Some forgot the words, and some were visibly shaking in their sequins, but they were all rock stars for a few minutes and will never, ever forget it.
Edited on March 6, 2013 to add the stuff about Wil Wheaton’s AMA. I couldn’t remember what day it happened, but it’s in the right spot now.
|Alice and Molly teaching the class the “Stormy G”|
|Leslie singing “Tatooine Blues”|
|The crew of the Maltose Falcon|
The game, of course, was not the point. Watching these celebrity-type people get tipsy and silly and ridiculous like the rest of us was a huge highlight of this cruise for a lot of us.
If you’ve got half an hour to kill, check out the videos on youtube. This is the second crew, with Captain Roderick. Probably full of curse words.
Last year, our Bahamas sunburns were bad enough to make us red and uncomfortable for days. Apparently sunscreen loses potency with age, even though it may not have an official expiration date printed on the bottle. Lesson learned. This time, before heading out on the tender boats to Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island, we coated ourselves in layer after layer of new spray-on SPF-70 stuff. Then we painted our faces with SPF-100 sunblock sticks, which went on with the scent and texture of neutral Chapstick. Complete that ensemble with floppy hats and sun-blocking t-shirts, and you get a couple of pasty nerds looking ridiculous but safe from the Yellow Face that burns us, Precious.
|Protecting our nerd-flesh from the Day-Star|
Because we were such a huge group, there weren’t enough beach cabanas, Tiki huts, and clamshells available for everyone to get one. At first, they tried to have a first-come-first-get signup on a website, but we shade-lovers crashed it so hard. For plan B, they picked names at random, which I think was fair. We were lucky enough to get a clam-shell in the shade lottery, so we spent a good part of the day just lounging on the beach reading our books and listening to the waves and the loud Caribbean roosters in the trees. Incidentally, the tropical chickens put this song into my head for most of the week:
|Dragons, chess pieces, nekkid mermaids: not castles.
Although I suppose maybe the rook would count…
|Just a few of the spectacular fezzes on display at the party.
Photo credit: Steve Petrucelli
|Hey, no hurling on the shell, dude, ok? Just waxed it.|
|The Promenade is 4 stories high. ON A BOAT.|
|Fellas… fellas… has your hippo got the butt?|
|The entire hotel was pink. Inside and out.|