Monday, April 26, 2010
The Cruzan Snorkel
...Sounds like a Robert Ludlum thriller, with an underwater missile crisis maybe. Or a crypto-Christian tome by yet another Dan Brown clone (the Rosy Cruzan assassins!). But actually it's why tropics lovers head for St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands--to find some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean, on a friendly, commercially prosperous island, well-served by its big distilleries cooking the most excellent local rum (branded Cruzan also), and conglomerate Captain Morgan rum too, as well as a giant oil refinery employing over a thousand local people. Any apparent poverty on St. Croix looks to be more a matter of "soon come" indifference than actual suffering poor.
But my impressions could be wrong, of course--casual observations from a quick week in muggy paradise--considering St. Croix's complex history... From Columbus coming ashore in 1493, to the later massacre of the Arawak Indians; from the flags of eight rival colonial powers waving fitfully for a century, to 200 years then of calm Danish rule; from thousands of slaves forcibly transported to work cane fields and cotton plantations, to freedom finally gained 12 years before America's Civil War.
And today, 160 years later, the island holds some 55,000 inhabitants spread over just 80 square miles... with air so steamy wet that one wakes up already damp and proceeds through the day thoroughly drenched, whether from sudden rain or hammering sun. No wonder the bays and beaches are well-attended, the rum drinks consumed in quantity, and the shade breezes sought by all. And thank God for air-conditioning!
Good friends were offered a luxury condo for a week's use, and Sandra and I were invited to join them. A red-eye flight connecting through Miami and San Juan delivered us ready for something tall and cool or hot and sandy, and preferably both. The veranda'ed condo with its multiple ceiling fans was spacious and handsomely appointed, perched atop a slope of the Carambola Golf Resort; landlocked but still not far from the sea. And we did the tourist thing merrily--many fire-heat hours of driving, mapping, gawking, snapping, shopping, dining and, above all, consuming iced beverages. Plus hanging out at the beach for wades, dips, swims and--chosen by some--snorkelling's surface skims too.
Thinking of grandkids, and their parents, and perhaps ourselves, we bought inexpensive items only: t-shirts, postcards and one colorful poster, V.I.-version reggae CDs, and Cruzan rum in bottles sized from 50 ml up to the slightly daunting full liter. Ironically, U.S.V.I. regulations allow as much as $1600 in goods and six large bottles of liquor to be brought back duty free, but we gathered in only a tiny fraction of that, determined to live large on a small budget. (This in serious contrast to 40 years ago when I tried to bring back a case of Ol' Oak dark rum from Trinidad/Tobago, only to be smacked with a huge tariff fee when we passed through trade-protected Puerto Rico.)
Anyway, blog snob that I am, I don't consider a sunburn-style vacation to hold much interest for others, so I will now exit, pursued by a bare... beach bunny (as if any chance) while chanting this silly bit of ditty to "nice up de dance" (as a reggae-mon might say):
From the Nord of the Danes to the South of the Seuss,
Folks are 40-proof faithful to the servers of booze.
If you're Cruzan for rum mixed with tropic fruit juice,
Crunch the sand of St. Croix in your snorkelling shoes;
Lose your travelers' blues, and just... bust... loose!
(with thanks to Ellen and Bob)