Cruisin’ in the Caribbean


A uniform store in Belize City, Belize. (Photo credit to my dad)

Melanie Schlesser, Staff Writer

This summer, I took a cruise with my family. We went to Honduras, Mexico, and Belize. While the ports were full of fun activities that we did, such as holding a sloth in Honduras, visiting Mayan ruins, and swimming with a dolphin in Mexico, the ports also provided a glimpse into the cultural differences between those three countries and the United States.

    Firstly, the architecture was different from the architecture here at home. The buildings, generally, were smaller. This was especially in Honduras, considering the island we were on was very hilly. Buildings were also fairly dilapidated compared to the buildings back home. It really highlighted the financial situations of the countries as a whole. While the buildings weren’t as nice as here at home, the turquoise water in each country blew anything in America out of the water, pun intended.

    Secondly, these countries don’t have the infrastructure that we have here. Their water supply usually tended to rely on rain barrels. This resulted in a plumbing system much different than ours. This is going to sound gross purely because it isn’t how it is here at home, but you couldn’t flush used toilet paper because the system couldn’t take it. Instead, you put it in a garbage can.

    Next, an obvious difference was the currency. In Mexico, the exchange rate was usually around $18-19 pesos to $1 USD. I bought a shirt where I swam with dolphins and it was over $600 pesos. Honestly I panicked when I saw the receipt cleaning my room before I remembered it was in pesos. On the bright side I also got a nice keychain for $1 USD. Another instance where my family and I saw the currency rate is in Belize. In Belize owning a car is a luxury, used cars from the US costing about $30,000 USD. Gas is another monster with the fact that it was about $11 USD per gallon.

    Finally, a positive difference was the food. In Mexico, our tour guide Gus-Gus stopped at a roadside stand, which we saw tons of both to and from the port and Mayan ruins. At the stand he treated us to honey pineapple and a corn tamale. The corn tamale tasted vaguely like cornbread and the honey pineapple was delicious. I’m not a fan of pineapple usually, but I loved honey pineapple. Unfortunately, honey pineapple isn’t exported to the U.S. I would have brought some home if bringing back produce wasn’t illegal. While at the Mayan ruins, some of my family members bought a couple tacos from a local vendor. Those were pretty good, too. In Belize, those same family members tried a local dish called conch nuggets. I didn’t partake, but my family said they were good.

    Some of the differences were miscellaneous. One difference I saw came from climate. It was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit everyday we were in port, so many locals tended to wear shorts. Another difference was that there seemed to be a lot of smoking. Smoking in the U.S. seems to not be as common these days, but there were a lot of smokers in ports. Also, a lot of the people we met were extremely friendly. Our tour guides were kind and knowledgeable, especially our tour guide in Belize, Cardinal, and our tour guide from Honduras, Carla.

    Overall, the cruise was really fun. It was great spending time with my family and having all of these cool experiences. One of the best parts was, honestly, the free food and ice cream on the cruise ship. And while it did get rough being around my family on a ship for 24 hours for a week with nowhere to go, I don’t regret going. I got to experience different cultures and see what life was outside of the U.S. This cruise has made me want to travel more to see more different cultures and the world as a whole. It’s something that will stick with me for many years. It also kind of ruined my life because I have a taste for honey pineapple that will never go away. Other than that, I highly recommend going out of the country and seeing what you can. It broadens horizons and it’s just plain fun.