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Not all cruises turn sour

Ranger Rich

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The monkey stared at the man and his monkey eyes did not blink, a cool and uncaring gaze, as is the way with all monkeys, I think, and then he accepted the purple grape from the human hand with his own nimble fingers and his expression did not change as he tossed the grape over his hairy monkey shoulder and into the jungle, disgusted by such a mundane offering, and then the man reached into his pocket and the hairy one perked up, awaiting the real treat, a piece of candy, and at last the monkey was happy.

That description sets us off today on a travel tale, my recent cruise to the southern Caribbean islands of Grenada, where the monkey lives, and Barbados and Curaçao and other sunny places.

As a bonus it is, many might believe, the worst sentence ever written.

But I do not care because in my mind, what remains of it, I am still basking in the golden rays of the sun and digging my feet into the white sand and drinking many tumblers of rum punch with those cute little umbrellas.

One day in St. Maarten I had so many tumblers I started calling the drink pum runch and we all laughed.

Anyway, when you hear of a cruise these days you think of those poor souls aboard the crippled Carnival Triumph, five days adrift on their lifeless ship, pooping in plastic bags because there was no working plumbing before they were tug-boated into Mobile, Ala. — if you think that's any better.

Our cruise was not like that at all. My wife and I, along with Barb and Greg, had plumbing and food and so much laughter that those muscles just beneath the ears began to ache.

Take the very first day, in St. Thomas, as we wedged ourselves into a public taxi-van for a ride to the beach. I was last aboard the battered van and had to squeeze my frame past the first two rows of seats, heading for an open spot in the very back, and for some reason I announced to the rest of the passengers, "I'm trying to be graceful here ... let me know how I'm doing." But as I started the word "doing" my foot slipped off the metal wheel well and I did a spectacular full face-plant into the lap of a startled 350-pound man in Row 2, my face buried in his crotch region, and it took me a full five seconds to pull myself back up and everyone in the van was staring at me.

Just like that monkey.

And then, slowly, Greg began to laugh. He tried to stifle it but it grew like a tropical storm and his eyes watered and his laughter filled the van and for another week or more both of us were caught in unpredictable and uncontrollable laughing fits at the memory.

There were other moments just as funny amid the maniacal wave-crashing day in a speedboat, tours of rum factories, a golf outing on Antigua and snorkeling with green sea turtles in Barbados.

Take Barb, for example. (Or as my wife called her during a long day of too many pum runches, "Bert.")

Barb, or Bert, sat with us in the Celebrity cruise ship dining room one evening and noticed the place card that introduced our servers, Tangtan of Malaysia and Cam of South Africa, and she held the card close to her eyes and announced,

"Oh, he has an American name, too. He goes by Walter."

My wife took the card, read it, looked at Bert and said, "Well, then the other guy is the assistant Walter," and the laughter began to well up because the word on the card was "waiter" and not "Walter."

Tangtan, who stood by the table for all of this, fueled the laughing fire with a grin and these calm words: "Take your time. There is no hurry. I will wait. That is why they call us Walter."

Maybe you had to be there. Midway through another blustery Colorado winter, I was so glad we were.

Rich Tosches also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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