Saturday, January 26, 2008

Anthony's Key Resort, Roatan, Honduras

Recently, I took my family on a cruise vacation to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We had a great time! Of course. Now, I want to tell you about some of the great things we did, just in case you decide to follow in our footsteps. Our cruise left from Galveston, Texas, aboard the Voyager of the Seas, which was once the largest cruise ship that sailed the seven seas. It has a rock climbing wall and an ice rink, not to mention the indoor mall that spreads across three or four decks. As impressive as all that might be, I was more enthralled with what we did once we reached the other sea ports.

Our three destinations were Cozumel, an island off the coast of Mexico, Progresso, Mexico, which is in the Yucatan Peninsula and is where you want to go if you want to see one of the wonders of the world, Chichen Itza, and finally, Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. Today, I only want to discuss the small paradise we found in Roatan.

Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t terribly keen on visiting Honduras. I’ve either been to, flown over, or sailed past every country in South America. Heck, one time I ate breakfast in Argentina, ate lunch in Bolivia, and ate supper in Peru, all in one day, mind you. So, I approached Roatan with a very pronounced “been there done that” attitude. HOWEVER, once our ship rounded the corner of Roatan, I repented for my laissez-faire attitude. Suddenly I went from a complacent posture to one of great interest. Now, I’ve seen the jungle before, so the romance of a jungle adventure has long since been reckoned within me. But now, as I watched the lush flora and the varying depths of deep, rich, brilliant, light, and free green colors bursting through the dense foliage, mixed with absurdly purple flowers and plants, I was eager with anticipation. I had never been so excited by an arrival in a foreign country.

Now, let me qualify my assessment by backtracking slightly. The villas that were perched along the sea, and the beautiful courtyards that ran the length of the white, sandy beaches displayed the best that money can buy. Even the humble town of Coxen Hole where we docked for the day was inviting. But one must appreciate that once one has pushed past the wealth of a developing country, one has to embrace the quality of life in which the inhabitants dwell. My wife and kids all remarked how intimidated they were by “running the gauntlet” from the cruise ship to our destination. We were greeted by a host of eager and excited street venders, and I kept a close watch on my family and my pack. It turns out that the island is friendly and the town is reasonably safe, but I have to admit, the first few minutes were rather exhilarating.

I hesitate to share this little secret, but my wife discovered the best place in the Western Caribbean to spend a quiet day. We booked a private island resort operated by Fins and Flippers, who are associated with Anthony’s Key Resort, and it was the best decision we made during the short cruise. We were greeted at the dock by a very helpful ferry Captain and his crew of one, who hurriedly shuttled us across the bay to our private island, where the resort manager, Cindy, greeted us from the dock, reminiscent of Fantasy Island. She escorted us on a simple tour of the facilities and left us to wander her island at our leisure. The compound was marvelous. The grounds were manicured with precision, and the landscape was carefully balanced with fruit trees, palms, flowers, and colorful bushes. Once past the gift shop, we entered the courtyard where we were greeted by an incredibly clean and perfectly arranged patio that overlooked the most inviting pool I’d ever seen. The water was a perfect temperature to match the 83 degree day. The kids immediately launched themselves into the pool while my wife and I relaxed on the comfortable deck chairs. What struck me most was the fact that we were the only people present on this island. Talk about peaceful…

After an hour at the pool, we journeyed to the beach, which lay only a few yards away. The sea was gentle, which was perfect for snorkeling and playing at the water’s edge. I began an expedition into the water and I walked a hundred yards into the sea, but the depth was only knee deep. In fact, in order to snorkel, we had to walk out on the pier to find water deep enough to swim in. Once we dropped from the pier, we scrambled through four feet of water for another 8 or 9 yards, and then the depth grew to 10 feet. And the water was so crystal clear and beautiful.

Roatan is host to the second largest coral reef, and the abundance of sea life was apparent in a matter of seconds. We were enthralled by the fish and the sea life, and my kids kept finding humongous conch shells. I began exploring the canyons that ran through the coral with my 9 year old daughter and we had a grand time pointing out the beautiful treasures that surrounded us. Suddenly, we found ourselves on the edge of a 150 foot drop off, and you could almost see to the bottom as the light green and turquoise waters gave way to the royal blues and inky indigo depths of the open waters. We explored the edge of the drop off as long as we dared before we returned to the relative safety of the shallow waters surrounding the island, which was hastened after I swam too close to a brain coral and left my DNA markers in the water. I had no desire to see if my neon sign drew the attention of any undesirable sea creatures. Remarkably, we were never more than 40 or 50 feet from the peer.

Once we had our fill of snorkeling, we returned to the courtyard and feasted upon the wonderful foods offered to us at the grill. We sampled an incredible bean and cheese dip, a conch salad, a few enormous hotdogs, and made a meal of the quesadillas stuffed with chicken and whatever onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms we desired.

All in all, it was a perfect day. The kids laughed and played until they were forced from the water, and we read our books and relaxed under the cool shade of the patio trees. At the end of the day, we begrudgingly returned to the luxury of our cruise ship. And, if you recognize the luxury of a cruise ship, you might understand how inviting our island retreat was. Through the course of the day, not more than 15 people shared our privacy, and the peace was never breached. (One note of caution, we didn’t apply sunscreen often enough, so my daughter ended up with an equator-strength sunburn.) Please, please, don’t find this little paradise, because I want it all to myself when I return.


Dave said...

You Inmans are bad for me (my in-laws too). I have never been interested in cruises, and my whole life I really thought there's no way I'd ever go on one.

Now, I'm three months away from an Alaskan cruise, but I was willing to accept that because this would be in mountains instead of beaches. But after hearing about my in-laws cruises (Mayan ruins on a cruise-how cool is that?!), and hearing about yours....well...I don't want to complete this sentence.

Travis said...

My friend, I'm sorry to's all over but for the crying. Once a spark becomes a flame it can be quickly snuffed out. However, once you feed that flame, it grows into a roaring beast that demands satisfaction. But promise me you'll explore this little sample of Heaven, and I promise you it will change your life. Going to the beach is such a cliché. Going to a Caribbean beach with all the water sports that's anything but average. In fact, on our next cruise, I think I'm gonna try parasailing.

Alison said...

Now THAT'S just mean, Buster, because I really want to try parasailing! I mean, really, if Peggy from our church can do it, surely I can do it (no offense, Peggy). I've always wanted to see really clear, blue ocean water in person.

And we're already talking about our next cruise assuming we like this one...New England and Canada while the leaves are changing in fall months.

Dave said...

However, once you feed that flame,

Travis, I'm glad you said that. I think I'll go ahead and call the cruise line and cancel our cruise. Thanks for the advice.

Travis said...

That's a trip I really want to make. But, I'm torn between Galapagos and a Panama Canal trip. Just not enough time before I get fully retired to travel the world. Sigh.

Travis said...

Oh Dave,
I dare you.

Dave said...

Only a dare? It's a good think you didn't double dog dare me.