The intent of an April, 1994, 90-passenger Mayan Prince exploratory junket was to work out a smooth American Canadian Caribbean Line (ACCL) Mayan Coastal trip, south to north. It was the ship owner’s intent to maximize the Caribbean water experience while including as many Mayan stops as possible with minimum land busing. At the onset, the exploratory group of 27, along with owner, founder and shipbuilder, Luther Blount, flew from Miami International, via Lacsa, to San Pedro Sula, spending the first night in a pleasant downtown hotel enjoying a dinner which included many miniature vegetables. Novel. The group then boarded a bus taking luch the second day at a lovely, secluded Marina Inn in Copan.
Following lunch the second day in the attractive Marina Inn in Copan, they visited the large Copan site. After spending the second night at the Marina, they visited some lesser sites in the area then bused on to Puerto Cortes to board the Prince docked in a cargo port. This was only one reason Blount was along. He would meet with PC officials and make arrangements to gather ACCL’s future passengers at nearby, more aesthetic Amoa. This particular cruise didn’t stop at Roatan, a rapidly- growing diving destination, but this fast-growing island will be added to this itinerary soon. .
We usually set anchor nights. An example of this unofficial venture is “the man upstairs,” in this case our Capt. informed us we’d run three hours the following night to get to the mouth of the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) in Guatemala which leads up to Lake Izabal. Firm to his word, the little ship ran the three hours during an enormous, exciting thunderstorm. People streamed from their cabins, snacked and saw the Prince and its Capt. through.
On the north shore of the delta of the Rio Dulce River is Livingston, a town where there are no cars and which can be reached only by boat. Most are Garifuan, a race which traces themselves back to Africa and St. Vincent (island in the Caribbean). Descents are a happy lot deported in 1797 to Honduras and ended up here to the north. Known for their fun and music, their language is a mix of Arawak, French, Yoruba, Banti, and Swahili! Most, however, speak English and Spanish as well. The town’s paved main street climbs up a steep hill and is for pedestrian street, only. One passenger on board confirmed a “worth-seeing Russian tearoom castle” still stands and was worth seeing again. Half-way up the first hill is an interesting hotel with an pleasant lobby and comfortable outdoor lounge.
The Dulce has been used for filming during many Tarzan films. It’s moderate white cliffs, overhanging trees and winding path make it an excellent binocular opportunity. At one point we pulled up to the Fort of San Fillip where a family sold bright central American goods. Once in Lake Isabel, we anchored just off the Tropical Hotel. Guests and hotel workers listened to tapes by UB40. One native wore a University of Florida gator t-shirt.
Guatamala was seen as hostile these days over incidents of child snatching, however, the passengers on this expeditionary cruise of the Mayan Prince, received and spread around nothing but hugs and kisses when the ship pulled close up to the grounds of the Guatemalan orphanage along the Dulce. Passengers and crew went ashore with brownies, balloons and pencils. The kids got to click visitors’ cameras and make bunny ears behind each other … not too many clear throats. Unlike Rio de Janeiro, Guatemala tends to round-up their homeless city children and send them to this camp to learn skills they’ll need for grown life. .
In all, the 27 passengers, plus crew, made land stops at Lime Cay, Mariscos, Mariemonte, Livingston, Punta Gorda, Sopadilla Cay, West Snake Cay, Plancencia, Laughingbird Cay, Tobaco Cay(* see end) and Goff Cay. Passengers explored ruins at Copan and nearby Sepulcha, Quiriqua, Lubaatum Nim le Punit, Altum Ha, Xunantucich, Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. Each ruin had its own expert guide, or ACCL made arrangement so meet up with a special expert.
Once in Belize City, the trip’s end, passengers stayed at the Ft. George Hotel where the ship anchored at its dock. As the Prince pulled in, the crew was battening the hatches in preparation for a repositioning dart across the Gulf to West Palm Beach.
They speak English in Belize. In face a couple of people were rebuffed for speaking Spanish. This territory is also strong on ecotourism and abundant with endless song birds. A rather handsome, quality T-shirt is sold which benefits Belize Audubon.
Who sails ACCL? Among the 27 passengers, the majority were seniors. The Line has a history of catering to this age group with its three ships which seasonally cover vast areas of the western hemisphere. These ACCL seniors seemed to have considerable annual cruise budgets. It’s a matter of record, the bigger a ship, the less the cost-per-cabin. ACCL’s ships carry only 90 passengers, so these cruises are not cost- cutters for this fastest growing economic group. In contrast to vast and mega ships, passengers know ACCL means three square, not-ultra-fancy chef-cooked meals. They make available get-them-yourself snacks around the clock and evenings the BYOB bar. What also seems to appeal to this group is the shallow draft which permits these ships to ply relatively small waters and the subtle scenic marvels discovered in these places. With four decks, total, they have retractable pilot houses for bridge clearance and a stern swimming platform.