Some of you may have heard me tell this story in the past, but I was reminded about it recently cause since I have not been working I have naturally been receiving THOUSANDS of email spam offers to go on cruises. It's all part of the curse (see HERE).
Anyhoo, a few years ago my family went on a cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Louis, etc. During the day the ship stopped in St. Thomas, everyone went on an "excursion", which is basically a more exciting word for paid tour or activity (swimming with dolphins, touring the island by helicopter, taking part in a ritual sacrifice, etc.).
My mother and sister decided to go snorkeling. My father took a tour of the island by car. Amy, my brother in law Brad, and I found this listing in the ship excursion information guide:
Join the Kon Tiki party barge for a lively trip across the water! Step to the rhythms of Caribbean music as your cruise makes its way through the hustle and bustle of Charlotte Amalie harbor. Sip rum punch as you take in the sights and enjoy the festivities on board. A short stop will be made for those who would like to refresh themselves with a swim before continuing the ride amid the tropical beauty of the Virgin Isands. As the ship heads back to port, a limbo contest will ensue. Changing rooms are available on board.
Rum punch? A limbo contest that "ensues"? Done! And all this for 29 bucks. We decided to sign up even though I was suspicious of how it could be any good for so little money. In the line to get on the boat, the other party barge people were already annoying us with inane chatter. Oh, and incidentally it was 9 am.
This was the captain of the barge. I forget his name, but he was definitely not in a good mood (ironic?)
Right off the bat I spotted this guy wearing some SWEET kicks. 1983?
As we pulled away from the dock, I briefed Amy and Brad about how the cruise would go down based on my past experiences with so-called "rum cruises".
GIBBY: As soon as they tell us the rum punch is available I want you both to hit it hard.
AMY and BRAD: Huh? Why? This cruise is like 5 hours long.
GIBBY: Yeah, but I know the scam. They'll only serve the punch for like an hour of the cruise. OR, they'll conveniently run out of the rum punch at some point.
AMY and BRAD: Uh, okay.
GIBBY: Like I said, as soon as they release the punch, get at least two cups each if you can and drink it real fast so you can get refills immediately.
AMY and BRAD: Uh, okay.
I scoped out the competition. Ha! Look at these rubes! Snoozing already! We will school them with our rum punch drinking prowess!
As we left the harbor area, the lead band guy/party leader got on the microphone and said something about how cheap rum is in St. Thomas and how we should all go to the bar to get some rum punch. I had positioned us strategically 5 feet from the bar so that we could be first (near the smelly porta-john style bathrooms with no view but worth it for the cause). The bartender was a a kid who may have been 20 that the rest of the crew called "White Chocolate" cause he was the only other white crew member on the barge. He was DEFINITELY stoned.
GIBBY: How many cups of rum punch can I get at a time?
WHITE CHOCOLATE: As many as you want dude.
GIBBY: Can I get 6 cups?
WHITE CHOCOLATE: Uh. You can get as many as you want dude.
GIBBY: So I'll just get 6 cups then. Is that okay?
WHITE CHOCOLATE: (laughing) Dude, you're freakin me out. Just take whatever man.
Sweet! They are soooo stupid! I took the 6 cups back to Amy and Brad and ordered them to gulp them down. Down the hatch! Arrrgh! (Various other pirate noises) We are gonna SCHOOL THESE NOOBS!
Notice I was wearing my super-sweet bathing suit material shirt so I didn't get a drunken sunburn. The only drawback was that all the crew members kept calling me Jolly Green Giant.
We gulped down the first 2 cups each in like 3 minutes and I was back at the bar with White Chocolate.
GIBBY: Can I get some more punch?
WHITE CHOCOLATE: (laughing) Dude! You are a trip. I'll tell you what-I'm just gonna put a few gallons of punch in this big dispenser thing on the bar and you can just serve yourself as much as you want okay?
I raced 6 more cups back to Amy and Brad and ordered them to gulp them down. This same cycle went on about 4 more times before the band guy/party leader got on the microphone and said "Stop the music! I have a very important announcement to make!" This was about an hour into the cruise.
GIBBY:Here we go. They're gonna announce that there's no more punch available. Good thing I had you guys gulp down 12 cups or so each before they screw us over.
BAND GUY: Everyone, I have to announce that White Chocolate has made a mistake with the rum punch. He forgot to put the rum in the punch.
Everyone on the party barge groaned, booed, hissed, etc. I was pissed.
BAND GUY: He forgot to put rum in the punch-AND HE ACCIDENTALLY PUT BACARDI 151 IN THE PUNCH! (music starts back up) DRINK MORE PUNCH! YOU ARE ALL NOT DRINKING ENOUGH PUNCH!
We realized that we may be in serious trouble. Immediately we start trying to figure out the mathematics of what we have drank already (on empty stomachs to boot). Let's see, 12 cups of punch that are about 6 ounces each. Let's say there's like half a shot of 151 in each cup...umm...that's like 6 shots or something...right? Needless to say, Amy, Brad and I were soused.
5 minutes later there was a conga line of drunks going around the boat. It lasted for like 30 minutes. WTF?
The giant barge approached this beautiful beach where we would be staying for about an hour. There were a few families on the beach, and it had obviously been quite pleasant prior to our arrival. The barge literally rolled onto the beach, making a terrible scraping sound.
A big drawbridge dropped down from the front of the barge onto the sand and the drunks started pouring out onto the beach. I forgot to mention that this barge could hold like 300 people. It was surreal to watch the drunken people stumble out across the sand, much to the horror of the people who were trying to enjoy the beach before the barge got there. People from the barge were barfing, peeing on trees (thinking they were out of sight), and generally acting like...well....drunken pirates pillaging a town.
We quickly snapped this shot on the beach (just to have one) and then ran back on the boat so as not to become too intertwined in the madness. There was one woman who had been on the beach who was loudly protesting the barge's presence there.
We sat on the barge, giggling like hyenas at the surrounding craziness, and all the while the rum punch-ah, the rum punch.
After an eternity, the captain blew the horn. It was one of those super-loud movie boat horns that you could hear in space. As he blew the horn, we saw all the drunks on the beach jump up and start staggering to the barge. It was like one of those zombie movies where the dead all start crawling out of graves. I don't know how they counted that everyone was there (or if they even cared) but with a horrible scraping sound the barge backed away from the beach and we headed back to the ship.
At this point, all drunken hell broke loose. The promised limbo contest "ensued", and the drunks really started dancing, falling, barfing, etc. Amy and Brad managed to get under the limbo bar ONCE before they got the fear.
I watched this drunk girl fall off the stairs that led up to the top deck and GASH HER FOOT REALLY BAD. She was MAYBE 16. Medical attention? Nah. Pour some rum punch on it.
The whole last 30 minutes of the cruise we had the fear pretty bad, so we huddled in our corner and just watched. It was surreal. This kind of debauchery would never be allowed in the US. Did I mention that at this point it was only 2 pm? We got back to the ship and stumbled off the barge. The crew was literally carrying people off the barge (the cruise ship actually had golf carts there to cart the people back to the ships). I have not had rum punch since. All this for 29 bucks.
P.S. The coast guard has since shut the Kon Tiki party barge down. I wonder why?