We docked just after 8am alongisde another cruise ship. In fact, we docked with two other cruise ships at port. But the one we parked alongside was from Italy and considerably larger than our own ship. It didn’t dawn on me until later that, like I said, this ship is from Italy. Italy, on the other side of the Atlantic. our ship left from New Orleans and still took 3+ days to get to Cozumel, crossing the Gulf. How long were these people at sea to get to Cozumel? Crikey that’s some leisure living.

Anyhow at the end of the pier Nico and Ian were waiting for us. This was actually the point of the trip. To see these two, and deliver Martina to them for transport en route to Australia.

Wow. The last time I saw Ian was early October when he departed from Queens, NY en route to California on a motorcycle tour. From there he made his way to Holbox and met up with Nico whose been waiting tables out there. The idea was to get Martina to them and flying was simply not an option – too expensive, too much hassle, and clearly nowhere near as much fun as we’ve had here. Holbox is located around the other side of the peninsula, closer to where we were in Progreso yesterday, but nonetheless they met us here. We rented a jeep, and quickly got out of town and went scoping for some waves.

We found some good strong waves, salty water, and fresh beach. We were pretty much all alone on the east side of the island. Granted the water was so strong that we couldn’t go too far out but we spent some time here, had some beers at a local stand, a picnic on the beach with some food that we brought from the ship, and then headed back into town to find some snorkeling equipment and a proper meal.

While heading back we stopped to inspect these two geysers that were spraying water a good 20 feet into the air. Near them were these pools of water that vibrated and filled with air-pressurized water every time the waves hit the rocks, a little bit of water finding its way through the rocks and to the surface. Amazing.

When in Cozumel, eat here! It away from the market area a little, and it’s a total dive restaurant, but it’s so good. The lady-owner cooks everything behind the counter and it’s all really fresh, I mean she doesn’t cut a tomato until you order it. Fresh! And cheap. We all ate bountifully for around $20! I recommend the coconut water!

Before Angie and I headed back to our home for the next 36 hours and we split ways with Martina, there’s another part to this story that lacks a visual counterpart. We went snorkeling! We had around 2 hours before we had to retrieve Martina’s bags from the ship, so we grabbed some gear and hit some beach just south of the ships. We found some access to the water where only 4 other people were scuba-diving. The water is amazing, the fish are amazing, the reef is incredible. Groupers, yellowtails, I think I saw a barracuda even. And this pool of really tiny yellow fish that were totally friendly and playful. Some people back on the boat reported seeing seahorse, 3′ wide starfish, and such. I’m not a skillful swimmer at sea so I wasn’t able to head too far out; any opportunity I get to go back I’d love to take a s.c.u.b.a. class, they sounded affordable and you don’t have to head too far out (just 150 feet from shore) to see some incredible sights.

Home for the next 36 hours. By the time we were headed back to the ship, another ship had docked at one of the other piers, for a total of four ships at Cozumel! Cozumel’s wikipedia entry currently says that there was a third pier before a hurricane in 2005 took it out; should they rebuild it, there could potentially be six cruise ships docked at any point, accounting for anywhere upwards of 20,000 people!

As for the cruise experience, it was something else. There was Maja in the dining hall; Ananais in the piano bar; Rob the Pianoman; and countless countless others that really made the experience worthwhile. Martina, Angie and I clearly had the advantage too, as we were always one step ahead of the pack, and went about things the unorthodox path in order to maximize our experience. Twice even we were asked by others on the boat, “Are you artists?” because it was clear we went about things a different way. We were the first ones off and the last ones back on.

We found out the ship had a crew of roughly 900 people, many of whom go unseen for days on end, and workers are committed to six month contracts. They work long hours and really commit their lives to making sure ours is taken care of. It’s an odd position to be placed in, but it’s people – you talk to them, hear their stories, and they really make it worthwhile. They come from all over – Bosnia, India, Phillipines, Russia, USA – and they’re all crammed into their own deck and at sea for months. It’s an incredibly weird construct that humans have come up with, the cruise ship. With advances in technology you can stay connected to the world via the Internet (for a pretty penny) and there’s now satellite television round the clock; some people ride these things continually, live on them for months out of the year. It’s a world unto itself.

The final day at sea flew by, as we zipped back across the Gulf doing nearly 24-26 knots (en route to Mexico we spent most of our time around 16 knots by comparison). Angie and I were a little silent without Martina and mostly spent the day on the pool deck reading and recovering before we arrived back in New Orleans the next morning, bright and early debarkation began at 7am! Whoop whoop.

Re-entering the Missisissippi delta at night. Some land can be seen intersecting the moonlight, with lights on the horizon from small towns or oil refineries or the like. Welcome home.

(Next: back in New Orleans, some Prospect 1 art, back to it)