I have always said you can learn so much by travelling. I have a friend who
maintains that all you learn from travelling is how another set of taps work. We have
shared a few laughs about the variety of systems delivering water to a bathtub, and have
both been stumped more than once by a tap system. We have also shared stories about
how extremely hot water seems even hotter when it hits the more sensitive areas of your
body unexpectedly. He is convinced there is not much to be gained from travel; I hold the
opposite opinion and value travel.
There is something to be learned from every trip, and at times that may simply be
learning how to travel—that is the lesson I took away from Mahogany Bay on the Island
of Roatan. It was our first cruise and to that point my knowledge of Cruising was limited
to what I had seen of Love Boat and those characters seldom went ashore. My travel had
usually been with a focus—to attend an event, often for work, or to see something
specific; I had developed a practice of focusing on food production or marketing. That
meant visiting a farm or a market place and if possible both.
Now we were on a cruise ship and stopping at Mahogany Bay, a stop that is
entirely about tourism. There is nothing that allows you to see the rest of the island or to
learn about the history of the people. It is about getting you to spend some money in the
bars and shops, and that is okay—if you know that from the outset.
Only through my later research did I learn that the port of Mahogany Bay is
owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. It was developed to accommodate two post Panama size
ships at the same time. That can be an influx of as many as 8,000 people at the port
located on Dixon Cove. The cove is on the southern coastline of the Island of Roatan,
which measures 48 by 5 miles. So having two cruise ships docking at the same time, and
dropping that many tourists who want to spend money is a big deal.
I don’t know how often it happens but on the day we were there, there were two
Carnival Cruise ships in harbour, disembarking enough tourists to fill the market place as
well as most chairs in the bars and restaurants. We chose to work up an appetite with a
hike on the nature trail, where the sign saying 700 ft. of uneven trail did not mean the
length of the hike but rather the difference in elevation along the trail. Seven hundred feet
may not sound like much but when it is spread over a path made up of slippery rocks—in
a country with no building code that requires uniform steps or railings, it qualifies as an
adventure. Suffice it to say the trail was not intended for those with mobility issues.
We spent some time in a market place featuring an assortment of items carved out
of mahogany wood, and for a while, we watched an artist at work—before finding empty
seats in one of the beachside bars. One of the things I have learned about travelling is: do
the shopping first, then the refreshments. If you do it the other way around sometimes
your judgment is clouded and you end up with a severe case of ‘buyer’s remorse’ in the
The food offered was typical pub grub with a bit of local spin in the naming but
standard fare. I did the research on Salva Vida, a Honduras beer, which proved well
beyond adequate and cemented its place as my favourite Honduras beer. Loosely
translated the name means Life Saving, and while it was a good beer I would not rate it
that high, but perhaps I was just not in a desperate enough situation. The value of life
saving may be better determined by the condition of the recipient. It was a good beer; I
will attest to that.
As the day drew to a close, we made our way back to the ship, through the market
place offering one last chance to purchase a mahogany knickknack of some sort. We
escaped through the gauntlet of merchants unscathed, and retired to our cabin.
It is unlikely that I will be back to Mahogany Bay, and to my friend’s chagrin I
did not have the opportunity to learn about a new set of taps or to find hot and cold
fixtures connected opposite to the sides we are used to. What I did learn is that when
travelling, sometimes you just spend a day relaxing and you don’t get to uncover any
‘under-stories’ about the country. You just get to enjoy a day at the beach and a walk
through the foliage and that is okay too.