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Sailing with Charlie: Cruise Ship Visitors

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The cruise ship season is in full swing in the BVI and we often see several monolithic monsters in the harbor disgorging upward of 10,000 visitors. Many of these sheeple will take day sails on large cattlemarans, while others will wander around the town aimlessly, disrupting traffic and rubber-necking in local shops whilst keeping their hands tightly guarding their wallets. To be honest, cruise ship passengers are not loved by the local population but we all grin and bear it.

Conversely, local island governments love cruise ship visitors; they pay a hefty landing tax and give taxi drivers (a large voting bloc) jobs. Then they explain that these very visitors will return and rent expensive charter yachts for a week’s vacation. Charlie is one of those charter yacht captains who treat these speculations with doubtful reservation.

‘Grin and bear it’ is the operative phrase of course. On those ships providing ‘economy cruises’ guests disembark wearing ill fitting tent-like attire, whether it be T-shirts and shorts, or voluminous Mother Hubbard type dresses designed to cover up misshapen bodies not helped by the prodigious amounts of food and drink served onboard.  Charlie remembers being told of eight meals served daily: early morning tea, breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, late-night supper and midnight buffet. These often obese visitors waddle off the ship with the added difficulty of malfunctioning leg and hip joints burdened by all that excess weight.

It begs the question: Does the enjoyment of almost continuous eating outweigh (pun intended) all the physical discomforts?

Sailing With Charlie: Cruise Ship Visitors; Graphics by Christine Taylor
Graphics by Christine Taylor

On the more sumptuous ships like the P & O line’s Queen Mary passengers are more elegantly dressed and more discerning in their dietary requirements. Body shapes appear more normal. Women wear elegant attire while men are often seen wearing Panama hats, blazers, open-necked shirts with cravats and pressed slacks. However, the questions posed to the welcoming committee are often quite humorous and sometimes elicit comical responses from the concierges.

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Example: “Where are all the natives?”

Answer: (tongue in cheek) “Just behind that building. You’ll see them dressed topless with grass skirts, bones through their noses and armed with dangerous spears. Proceed with caution!”

Example 2: “Do the islands go all the way to the bottom?”

Answer: “Those floating by don’t; those stationary ones do.”

Example 3: “Should we bring our life jackets for the Safari tour?”

Answer: “It’s optional but those open air buses don’t often capsize or sink.”

Example 4: Are we in the Bermuda Triangle?”

Answer: “No, this is the port of Road Town.”

Example 5: Visitor: “You’re not from here; I can understand you.”

Occasionally there will be an inquiry concerning island holidays and chartering a yacht. Charlie is somewhat apprehensive about being approached by erstwhile cruise ship passengers. He can get along with just about anyone for a week, but he’s not sure if his budget would run to two chefs, two shifts, and an extra wheelbarrow full of food.


Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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