As I’ve explained more than once, there are folks out there who believe I’m cheap. I prefer the terms “frugal” or “spending-challenged,” but the fact is I prefer to spend my money on experiences and memories more than stuff.
There are times, though, when my frugal-ness gets me into a bit of trouble, and it happened last week in Mahuahaul, Mexico, a beachside village just outside the port of Costa Maya, the first stop for me, my wife and 3,598 other folks — mostly from other countries like New Jersey — on a seven-day cruise that would eventually take us to Isla Roatan, Belize and Cozumel.
Well, almost. A sign in the little village of Mahuahaul stopped me in my tracks: “Margaritas, 2 for $5.” We’ve all heard that admonition — “don’t drink the water” — about such places, but two frozen margaritas for just cinco bucks? Totally worth the risk.
Mi nuevo amigo hands us a couple of red frozen drinks that are allegedly some kind of margarita. They’re not exactly smooth with chunks of ice. Last time I checked, ice was made by freezing water, but that could just be an American thing.
“Um, this ice, is it safe to drink?” I ask.
“Um, sure,” mi amigo responds.
Good enough for me. And life is well. For a few more hours. Then I discover what the term “Montezuma’s Revenge” means. To my surprise it is not about the Georgia town whose public high school graduated folks like me into otherwise normal society. It’s far worse.
That night, I wore a path in the carpet of the ship’s cabin between my side of the bed and the bathroom. The next morning, we were slated to go snorkeling on the reef off Isla Roatan. Naturally, my wife insisted that it would be ridiculous for us to go. Naturally, I looked at the money we paid in advance for the excursion and said, “Oh, no, we’re going even if it kills me.”
And it nearly did. The catamaran taking us to the reef bounced high and plunged low over the waves for more than a half-hour on the way to the reef. Mr. Montezuma got a kick out of that and sent me to try to use the men’s room in the bottom of the catamaran. If you’ve ever had to use a potty in a bathroom the size of a kitchen cabinet that’s 145 degrees inside while bouncing on a trampoline, you know how well this went.
Fortunately, other than the 27 sea lice (baby jellyfish) stings, the snorkeling was the easy part. I could just lie there atop the water and stare down at Nemo and Dory and Nemo and Dory until it was time to do the whole trip back to the island — this time with lunch and free rum drinks, both of which I had to pass on while I lay prone on the bow all the way back.
With a trip to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich in Belize being the next day’s excursion, my wife insisted we see the ship’s doctor. I explain to her that, No. 1, this probably costs too much money, and, two, I’d seen “The Love Boat,” and the ship’s doctor was probably too busy chasing a B-list female celebrity around the boat anyway. Like Stephanie Zimbalist. No, Judy Landers.
However, when she said it was free, I gave it a shot. They decided I had either gastroenteritis, the plague or something in between. Just in case, I was quarantined to my cabin for 24 hours. They even temporarily disabled the card that allowed me to escape the boat.
I can now say I’ve seen Belize … but only from a distance of about 5 miles. The only ruins I saw were in the mirror. My wife got to go ashore shopping for a bit. I now have a shirt. Yes, my wife went to Belize, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.
A day later, I was feeling better and was able to enjoy Cozumel. I still didn’t feel like practicing one of my favorite cruise talents — gluttony — nor did I partake in much of the booze I smuggled on board. (Unless that’s illegal, in which case make that the booze I did not smuggle on board.) I may be the first person to take a seven-day cruise and lose five pounds.
So, Mr. Montezuma, wherever you might be today, I sincerely apologize for whatever European folks did to made you so hellbent on getting revenge. But I think you can rest easy now.
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