“That’s the problem with Americans – you’re all just too adventurous.”
Brent, my dad, my sister, and I had just spent the better part of the afternoon making our way to the Grand Turk lighthouse, at the far end of a 7-mile stretch of island that is in the early stages of recovery after being decimated by Hurricane Ike in September 2008. After hitching a ride into town from a local bar owner, we walked the remaining four miles, past reconstructed houses and abandoned salt pans, wild donkeys and turquoise coastline. Though it was a mild trek down a paved road, the thermometer was swelling and our water bottle levels were steadily dropping.
We arrived at the lighthouse at 3:30 PM. The boat, 8 miles to the southwest, was scheduled to depart at 6:30. After befriending some communal horses and taking in the glorious coastal views, we knew we had to get moving if we were going to make it back on board in time. We’d anticipated a more developed town, with water to purchase and cabs to hail, but the hurricane had rid the island of much of its infrastructure.
Half a mile down the road, though, just after Brent and I had taken a short detour to a farm and filled our bottles with questionably clean water, a mini-van came ambling into view. My sister stuck out her thumb, and sure enough, the large taxi pulled to a halt, and the driver invited us to join her island tour with a New York couple from our boat.
“You all are lucky,” she told us. “Very few cabs make it out this way these days. Someone should have warned you not to walk so far. That’s the problem with Americans…”
And so, without further ado, a quick rundown of the 2009 Perkiss Family Cruise – our nine days on a massive boat swelling with 3000 other adventurers.
1. The walls of old San Juan (and the surprise storms that we encountered as we followed them around the harbor).
2. The Grand Turk lighthouse.
3. The replica of the liberty bell in Emancipation Square and the oldest synagogue on American territory in St. Thomas.
4. Watching my rather stoic grandfather’s face light up as he spoke of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing and recalled his work with NASA as a General Electric engineer on the Apollo mission.
5. Treadmill two-a-days.
6. Nightly chocolates on my pillow.
7. Tequila shots with my 18-year-old cousin and 50-year-old uncles (I had to prove that I wasn’t quite as serious and responsible as my entire family seems to think I am).
8. Our Bermudan cab driver who told me the story of how his son-in-law proposed to his daughter at mile 17 of the NY marathon.
9. Finding out that my 15-year-old cousin was reading Wuthering Heights for fun (getting to know my 15-year-old cousin as an actual person outside of her role in the family).
1. Blistering in the Bermuda sun (lesson learned: when sunblock says ‘for use on face,’ it’s not so effective on the rest of your body).
2. The commodification and extreme-tourism of the islands.
3. Nine days on a cruiseboat, witnessing the worst of American stereotypes in all their glory (gluttonous buffets, overly-entitled passengers, far-too-long elevator lines side-by-side empty stairwells).
4. Discovering that one of our bags never made it into the van en route back to Philly.
1. Bingo bonanzas.
2. Reading by the pool.
3. Romantic comedies under the stars.
4. Nightly marathon family dinners commencing at 8 PM.
5. Rough seas (sure made those treadmill two-a-days interesting!).
6. Playing dress-up.
7. Core work and push-ups.
8. Dissertation distractions and job applications.
9. Tomato salad. Tomato salad. Tomato salad.
10. The simultaneous overstimulation and sensory deprivation of life on a cruise ship.
All in all, a sometimes-fun, sometimes-tolerable, and sometimes-painful trip – but most important, one that met all of my grandmother’s expectations of having our entire family together.
And we are oh so glad to be home.
Next up, Germany – seven days and counting…