Our first port of call was St. Maarten, the Dutch side, where a rib boat awaited us. It took us on a 4 hour trip in and around both the Dutch capital and the French capital. We got to do a bit of swimming/snorkeling and also spent a bit of time on the beach in between boating around and seeing the island. The weather was great and we avoided the one rain shower that passed over the island.
The next day we had an all day dolphin excursion in St. Thomas. We departed the ship at 7:45am with our passports and, unknown to me, we headed for an hour long trip from the US Virgin Islands to the British Virgin Islands where the dolphins were based. We filled in our UK customs forms and passed through immigration without a hitch and soon hit the dolphin facility. The kids had an absolute blast in the tanks with our dolphin who was named Neptuno. We got to pet, kiss, shake hands with and ride the dolphin… it was a wonderful time.
After the dolphins, we went to a buffet lunch at a beach and pool facility. The kids played in the pool while I had a beer on the deck looking out over the water. About ten minutes before we were to leave I noticed Alex asking Alicia if she was ok. Thinking Alex was being a bully, I went to investigate and found Alicia bleeding from her head, nose and elbow. Apparently, she had foolishly dived into the shallow end of the pool and hit her head on the bottom. I got her out and applied a towel to her head to stop the bleeding. Right then a security guard comes up and tries to extort ten bucks out of me for the kids swimming in the pool. I refused, saying we were told the kids didn’t have to pay. He eventually gave up and we left on the bus without paying the ten bucks.
The boat returned to the US Virgin Islands and, of course we had to go through US immigration. Now, seeing as I didn’t know we were leaving the island, I only had our passports for photo ID and I did not have the signed consent forms from my ex saying I was taking the kids on vacation. During our divorce, my ex kept saying she wanted to leave Bermuda so I informed US immigration that we had a court order that prevented either of us from taking the kids anywhere without permission from the other parent since we share joint custody. Well, that backfired in my face as I tried to explain to the US immigration officers that I was the one who put that in place!
As usual, the officers were about as understanding as Hitler was of the Jewish people. They insisted that I go to the ship and return with the paperwork. First they were going to keep the kids then thought the better of that idea. Then they were going to keep the passports until I informed them that I can’t get on the ship without photo ID. As all this was taking place, the tour boat left without the three of us… Nice counting on their part! So, it is 3pm and the ship leaves at 4pm. I have to get to the ship, get my consent forms, get back to US immigration and then back to the ship in an hour. No way I do that via taxi so I get US immigration to call the excursion boat back to get us and then force them to act as my water taxi. As we head back to the ship, Alex says for me to give him and Alicia their keys and they will stay on the ship while I go back. I asked him what would happen if I didn’t make it back before 4pm and he said not to worry that he and Alicia would enjoy the rest of the trip!!!! Cheeky bloke 🙂
So, the tour boat docks and the three of us run at top speed (in flip flops) to the ship. The gangway is on deck one and our room is on deck six. I take the steps three at a time and promptly forget my backpack at security because I am in such a rush. We exit the ship again at 3:25pm and sprint the quarter mile back to the tour boat that is still waiting for us. Puffing, panting, wheezing and still in front of my kids who appear to be in worse shape than I am, we climb aboard. Of course, the whole trip back to US immigration is in a no wake zone and my flesh feels like it is peeling as I watch the minutes tick by. Fortunately, the officer came out to the dock and grabbed the consent forms to take photocopies so we didn’t have to get off the tour boat.
Five minutes later we were headed back to the ship. It was then that I realized that my backpack was still on the ship… Along with all our money and credit cards!!! So, here my watch is closing in on 4pm and we are about to be stranded on St. Thomas with only three passports and the clothes on our backs!!!! Now, I was panicked!!! The boat docked with ten minutes to spare and we sprinted again to the gangway. We were the second last people on the ship and I watched the crew haul the gangway up behind us. WHEW!!!!! Remind me to ask more questions about where our tour might be going next time 🙂