Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cruising Away in Margaritaville

Norwegian Cruise Line was already our preferred cruise line even before this earth-shattering and historic partnership.  Photo by Emily Michot, Miami Herald Staff

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am slightly more than just a casual Jimmy Buffett fan.  I’ve seen him in concert 39 times in venues extending from Honolulu to Boston and Miami.  I’ve edited part of his book “Where Is Joe Merchant” at his personal request.  I dedicated my first book “Somewhere South of Miami” to him.  I maintain a “Buffett Altar” on a window landing on the steps to the second floor of my house.  On it I keep all of his books, menus swiped from his restaurants, a carving of a shark, a stack of napkins that say “Margaritaville” on them, and other things that rabid Parrotheads would keep as a normal part of their abnormal lives. 

The only altar I pray at is this one on a landing by the steps to the second floor of my house

My Buffett altar also contains an "autographed picture of Andy Devine" as mentioned in his song "Pencil Thin Moustache."

I have also been to 32 of the 37 existing Margaritaville Café’s, resorts, casinos, Air Margaritaville’s in foreign airports, and Landshark Landing Bars and Grills.  My goal in retirement is to one day to have consumed a beer in each of his properties and that goal brings me to the beginning of this story.  

In early December 2014 the Parrothead Nation and the cruising world were rocked by the announcement that Jimmy Buffett and Norwegian Cruise Line had formed a partnership that would result in Buffett performing live on a transatlantic cruise when the new ship Norwegian Escape comes into service.  The agreement also called for the eventual establishment of a Margaritaville Café-like bar to be called the “5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar” on each of the ships in Norwegian’s fleet.  If that was not enough one of the existing bars on Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas would be called the “5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.”

The exciting news of this agreement was released the day before I boarded the Norwegian Sky for a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.  Already the news was making some Norwegian employees giddy or at least as giddy as me.

Laurel, the person who checked me in at the terminal in Miami was beyond elated when I asked if she had heard about the Buffett agreement.  With eyes as wide as saucers she said “I know.  Can you believe it sir?  Jimmy Buffett is going to play on one of OUR ships!  There has to be a way I can get on that cruise!!”

A few minutes later I met Adolphus as I reached the top of the steps on Deck 11 of the Sky.  An officer on the ship, Adolphus greeted me saying “How are you this afternoon, mon?”  I was surprised that an officer would greet me in such an informal manner.  However when I looked at his name tag things became much clearer.

His name tag contained his first and last name, his rank, and his home country.  In Adolphus’ case that was Jamaica.  At 6 feet 6 inches tall Adolphus was by far the tallest Jamaican I have ever met.  As he shook my hand he looked at my baseball cap.  Across the front of the cap were the words “Red Stripe” for the famous Jamaican beer.  Quickly doing his own 2 + 2 calculation he correctly surmised that I had been to Jamaica before.

“So you’ve been to my country, mon,” he asked.

The most important highway sign in all of Jamaica is this one on a major road in Montego Bay just half a kilometer from Margaritaville Mo' Bay

I had on several occasions and in fact the weekend following our chance meeting onboard the Norwegian Sky, I would be on another cruise ship bound for Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast. 

“What are you going to do in Ocho Rios?  Go see Dunn’s River Falls?”

I’ve been to Dunn’s River Falls several times and wasn’t interested in returning.  Instead I said “My partner and her daughter are going SCUBA diving and I’m going to sit in the Margaritaville Café by the cruise terminal and drink Red Stripes while I wait for them to return.”

My two personal mermaids, here on a dive off Key Largo, Florida in August 2014, will be diving off Ocho Rios Jamaica on December 15, and Grand Caymon Island December 16

“Margaritaville?  You’re going to Margaritaville?”

Confirming his suspicion he asked, “So are you a Parrothead, mon?”

Confirming that suspicion Adolphus flashed a huge toothy grin and said, “Did you hear the exciting news?  Jimmy Buffett is going to perform on one of our cruise ships!”

I told Adolphus that I’d read it online the day before and then saw a story about it in the Miami Herald that morning.

“So Adolphus, what do you think of having Buffett on one of your ships?”

“It’s going to be a huge money maker for our cruise line.  I told the captain this morning that whatever ship Jimmy plays on the cruise will sell out in seconds!’

Twenty-one years earlier I attempted to purchase one ticket for a Jimmy Buffett concert in Irvine, California.  The venue held about 20,000 fans and the concert sold out in 7 minutes. I read about the concert in the Los Angeles Times the next morning.  Obtaining tickets for other concerts in venues larger than where he played in California is problematic at best and that includes more than 30,000 seats at the amphitheater where he performs in Tampa.  There being only 2,000 or so rooms on a cruise ship I surmised that Adolphus was correct and the entire ship would be unavailable in seconds.  My guess is that Norwegian Cruise Line could offer postage-stamp sized interior rooms on a Buffett cruise for $2,000 per person double occupancy and they will all sell out in moments.

The best part of a Jimmy Buffett concert is that for about 4 hours one evening each year children from 3 to 103 get to play in an adult sandbox and nobody cares

“Did you hear about the Margaritaville Café’s we’re going to have onboard?  We are going to have Margaritaville Café’s on each of our ships over the next couple years!”

Right now the 37 extant Café’s extend from Sydney, Australia east to the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico and within a year there will be one on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  The specter of a Margaritaville Café on each of Norwegian’s ships excited me as much as it exhausted me especially if I am to fulfill my goal of drinking a beer in each of them. 

 Air Margaritaville - San Juan Airport (Customs there didn't hassle me)

Margaritaville Grand Turk is a huge pool party just inches from where you exit your cruise ship

The Margaritaville Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi

The best party in the Parrothead Nation is at Margaritaville Cozumel.  It doesn't get any better than here

“Right now I’m trying to drink a beer in every Margaritaville on the planet and that task just became more difficult Adolphus.  I’m not sure what to do,” I said.

He smiled again and said, “You’ll just have to buy the cruise line, mon.”

Our conversation drifted back to my upcoming trip to Ocho Rios the following weekend as Adolphus asked me how many times I have visited his country.  “Next weekend will be my eighth trip to Jamaica,” I said.  I then told him that during my 7th Jamaican trip a woman in Montego Bay told me that if I visit Jamaica ten times I would become a hybrid citizen of both America and Jamaica and would be known as a “Jamerican.” 

The Jamaican bobsled team is already my most favorite group of bobsledders.

He snickered and said “You’ve already been to Jamaica so many times plus you like Jimmy Buffett I think I will just christen you a Jamerican right now mon.”  He then shook my hand and welcomed me to Jamerica.  

If only I could find a way to merge these two passports into one I could travel the world as a Jamerican, mon

Now I have to find a Jamerican embassy so I can apply for my passport. 

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