Assessing Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines –
I’ve always been a big fan of cruise ships as a means of angling travel. Though I do far more fly-in and lodge-based trips for pleasure or story assignments, I love the idea of throwing my bags in a cabin, heading out for the high seas, and letting other well-trained folks do the work for me. As an aside, I do know that many of my colleagues are anti-cruise ship, go-it-alone, wilderness junkies- but not me! There are many wonderful islands like Bonaire and Roatan that are visited by cruise ships, where the props of the ship’s engines or the thousand or more people unleashed on the port-of-call have absolutely no impact on the fishing habitat. This is even true for Key West harbor, where despite the huge number of ships docking there, the world’s best large permit fishing is mere miles west of the Harbor! There are ports-of-call like Belize where the ships lay offshore on anchor and tenders transfer all the passengers. This arrangement minimizes the impact of the ships on the habitat even more.
There’s a big caveat as to meaningful and enriching activities onboard many cruise lines during a day at sea while en route to a flats fishing destination. Most traveling anglers are a fairly sophisticated group who will find the inevitable bingo, gold-by-the-inch sales, poolside hairy chest and dating game competitions, ridiculous. Our ship – the Carnival Valor – reached an all-time activity low-point when (without asking) red, white, and blue cruise passenger teams were created along with daily competitive games drummed up through the loud speaker.
For the time being, it’s likely that your days at sea on most of the more modestly priced cruise lines are best spent avoiding these mindless activities. Things change for the better on the mid-priced cruise lines like Holland America. On a southern Caribbean itinerary that we enjoyed two years ago, the ship offered hands-on cooking classes, art lectures on the Dutch masters, as well as music ensemble performances tastefully tucked away from any hubbub. Based on other cruises we’ve taken, it’s safe to expect that the highest priced cruise lines have much more tasteful activities and venues.
Caribbean Flats in the Wake of a Tropical Storm –
Our itinerary on the Valor was ideal for shallow water anglers: Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel. All of these ports of call have fishable and viable flats. Although we chose July as a cruising weather month that was statistically more storm-free than August or September, the odds did not play in our favor. Just a week prior to the cruise, a robust tropical storm began a westward track 集運教學香港 across the Caribbean Sea towards and into the Yucatan peninsula area, our intended fishing grounds. On the actual boarding day of the cruise, the ship’s captain decided to stick with the itinerary, but it was clear to me that our path would take us into the freshly churned wake of the storm.
Although our first evening and the next day at sea gave us a tiny bit of breathing room, our actual turn from the western tip of Cuba into the Yucatan channel took us into the turbulence of the storm’s back end. Of course, the Valor is a huge and able ship, so safety was never an issue. As we headed southeast towards Grand Cayman, the squally effects of the storm were over by the time we sat down to dinner while the sun set on our first day at sea.
According to the weather channels on our cabin’s television, the aforementioned storm was forecast to become a hurricane after it crossed the Yucatan and fed on the warm Gulf waters. My concern about the weather as it affected the upcoming flats fishing was not what the storm would bring, but rather what it had left behind.