The Writing Excuses retreat had four days on which we could get off the ship for a variety of different outings — usually a choice of 2-3 per stop. I skipped the cruise company’s private peninsula in Haiti, and Grand Cayman, both of which were basically beach-and-diving-and-souvenirs locations. I did get off the ship at Falmouth, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico:

At Falmouth a busload of writers went with Mary Robinette Kowal to Good Hope Plantation for a tour and High Tea. This was apparently one of only 3 or so plantations to survive the slave revolt, because the owner treated his slaves well (to the point of building a school and a 300-bed hospital). It was also the site on which Mary based the house in Of Noble Family; she gave us her own tour after the main tour explaining how her novel’s house differed from the real one.

This is one of my few pictures without anyone in it who might object to having their picture taken; if I recall correctly, it’s part of the kitchen building, which apparently several famous chefs have used.

Our bus driver tried to teach us several phrases of Jamaican patois; unfortunately I’ve forgotten most of it besides irie and yeah, mon, both of which were reinforced by brief conversations with my Jamaican steward back on the ship.

At Cozumel another group of writers took a ferry from the docks next to Independence of the Seas over to mainland Mexico, where we boarded a bus for the Mayan ruins at Tulum This is a much smaller site than the more famous one at Chichen Itza, but involved a noticeably shorter bus ride. I might have been tempted to take the longer trip, except that this was the one that was exclusive to our tribe of writers.

To me the ruins were well worth the time to get there. Unfortunately the trip was marred by two tourist-trap events:

  • A mandatory 45-minute stop at a souvenir shop (it was supposed to be 20 minutes, but I cynically wonder whether it was actually designed as “until they spend enough money”).
  • Getting dumped back on the docks 3 miles from the ship, in Cozumel’s main shopping district. Most of us immediately took shared taxis or vans back to the ship, so only the taxi drivers benefited.

I don’t plan on ever visiting Cozumel again; if I develop an urge to see Chichen Itza, I’ll try to find some other way of getting there.

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