Day 2 (Sunday): Breakfast at the hotel's seaside restaurant. Then, we take a walk to the nearby strip mall to grocery shop. We buy $145 in groceries at the tiny grocery deli--just breakfast and lunch and a few snacks--ouch, some things are expensive in Roatan. When we return, we realize that we should have claimed our beach chairs earlier; they are almost all gone. We spend the day between the pool and beach. Willow tries snorkeling in the pool and manages to briefly dip her face in a couple of times. Then declares she does not want to snorkel again. The sea is almost the same temperature as the pool, both very comfortable one you are in and moving around. Willow enjoys playing in the sand, despite the lack of sand toys. For dinner, we take a water taxi to West End to the Coconut Grove restaurant that is actually called something else. Willow falls asleep en route and continues to sleep until our order arrives. The coconut shrimp, shrimp quesadilla and lion fish cakes are delicious and we watch football as we eat, making it feel more like the holidays. We take a car taxi back after walking to what appeared to be the end of the West End strip.
Day 3 (Monday): We get up early to drive over to Anthony's Key Resort for the dolphin encounter. Outside, it pours. Willow is a reluctant participant. We arrive to more rain. After signing a completely inapplicable waiver for diving, we get our wristbands and are ferried a short distance to the dolphin enclosure. We can see the fins as soon as we get close and as we walk the dock one of the dolphins starts jumping out of the water next to us. We listen to a short briefing and then head for the water. We are split into groups of about 6 or 7 and told to form a tight line shoulder to shoulder in waist deep water. Apparently, the dolphins think it's fun game to swim through the gaps. Our dolphin is Marge and our trainer, Lisa who Jake later discovers has a degree in marine biology from UCSB or D. Lisa lets us feel Marge's skin and her teeth and her fins. Then Marge demonstrates some of her sounds: cockatiel, dj, raspberry. Marge likes applause, so we clap each time she does a behavior Lisa requests. Marge squeals and clicks a lot, which Lisa says shows she is having fun. For her grand finale, Marge does giant leaps into the air alone and with her best friend who has been working with the group next to us. Then, we pose for photos with Marge kissing us and hugging Marge. Willow passes on the kiss. When invited, we sit Willow on top of Marge. Willow is at first unsure but then seems to enjoy it. She later kisses Marge and Marge lets out a squeal of excitement. Back at our hotel we play in the sea and Willow actually puts on her snorkel mask to look at a fish! We are elated. We eat dinner at our hotel's buffet, which is quite good and then head down to the beach where a dj is planning music. Willow runs around on the beach, dances on the small stage area and then plays in the sand. We wander down the beach to see what other hotels are doing for NYE. We get back just in time for the fire show featuring Dan the fireman. The, we head to our room for some champagne and to put Willow to bed. Miraculously, she sleeps through the fireworks that star at midnight. They are not the giant professional ones but are just like what we see on the lake in AK.
Day 4 (Tuesday): We spend the entire day on the beach. Willow even naps in a lounge chair. Jake makes a trip to the doctor to clear up a clogged ear that has been bugging him since our first day. Willow refuses to snorkel. Jen goes snorkeling with cruise ship passengers. Cruise ships started coming in the day before. When they are in port, the beach is packed. For dinner, we head back to West End for a very delicious (and expensive --$110) Thai dinner on the restaurant's dock.
Day 5 (Wednesday): Highlight from today--Willow snorkels. With the promise of an ice cream purchased from the cart of one of the vendors who walk up and down the beach all day, tinkling their bells, Willow finally agreed to put her face in the sea. She came out with us in her floaty suit, put on her mask, put her snorkel in her mouth and put her face in. She saw a school of yellow fish! How did she get so lucky as to see an immediate school of fish, you ask? Her father had a handful of bread and summoned the fish. Willow loved it and had her face in the water for a full minute! But, when she finished, she was finished. She loved the fish, but the allure of the promised ice cream was too much and that was the end of the snorkeling.
Day 6 (Thursday): We wake up early to get down the dock. We’ve reserved space on the glass bottom boat and Willow is excited. The boat is unlike any other glass-bottom boat we’ve seen. It’s really a boat with an undersea aquarium. You walk downstairs and are surrounded by glass. It is spectacular. With Reggae music playing, we motor past the reef, seeing fish after fish. Willow loves it, screaming, “fish” many many times. After the boat trip, we all felt a little wobbly. The rest of the day is spent lounging, swimming, and reading. The beach is packed and we are looking forward to Friday, when we will attempt to get away from the crowds.
Day 7 (Friday): Another early wakeup to go down to the dock. We’re going on a boat trip to Cayos Cochinos - a few islands about 30 miles away from Roatan. We got some advice to take a “fast boat.” So, we had a boat with 600HP and off we went. The boat had 5 staffers, 2 other families and a couple of backpackers. As soon as the boat rounded the West End Point, it felt like we were really in the Caribbean. The mountains of Honduras loomed to the West, while we could only see open Sea to the North and South. We’re in 3-4foot rollers - real ocean rollers with 10-15sec from trough to trough. The boat is fast and the trip takes a little less than 2 hours. We check in at the main island and worry, briefly, that the islands will be crowded. Our guides put us back in the boat and we go to an absolutely stunning, perfectly Caribbean island. It’s surrounded by reef, it has palm trees, and it has white sand. We immediately go snorkeling. Willow gets into her raft and we pull her along. Almost immediately, a huge Eagle Ray skates beneath us. When we arrive back on shore, the crew has prepared a large dish of fresh fruit. Willow is in heaven with a big piece of watermelon.
Our next stop is a Garifuna (indigenous people) village. There are fishing boats coming and going and boys pulling wooden boats up on a white-sand beach. We sit down at a table and the locals bring rice, beans and fish. The food is quite good. The locals also bring bracelets and other assorted items to buy. We take a few pictures and then head to our next destination - a private beach where our guides have paid for us to be the only boat there. One problem: the water has a fair amount of stinging tiny jellyfish. So, we pull Willow through it fast and she doesn’t even notice. Beneath us is a squid! Very cool. Willow tires of being in the water after 10 mins and starts really whining for the first time. We head back to land, play in the sand, and then head out. The boat trip back to Roatan feels very long, but the seas are calmer. We’re a little sad, because we think this was our last day in Honduras. Little do we know...
Day 8 (Saturday): This is our last day at Infinity Bay. We wake up, knowing that we want to have a day at the beach, but that we have to be out of the room by 9a. Luckily, a nice woman working at the hotel has promised to find us a place to shower before we need to leave at 2p. Despite morning rain, we enjoy our last few hours playing in the sand and swimming in the Caribbean waters. After lunch at the hotel’s beach-side restaurant, we head for the shower which turns out to be in someone’s vacated uncleaned room. Ewww. Oh, well--at least we got clean towels and fresh soap. Afterward, we head for the airport. The line to check-in is ridiculously long, winding all he way around the ticketing area of the airport, and seems to be moving at glacial pace. We worry about whether we’ll make our flight. After at least an hour and a half in lines, we finally have our bags checked and are in the boarding area. We wait. And, we wait and wait. At last, a United representative makes the announcement that there’s something wrong with the landing gear. We wait some more. There several more announcements, all of which are basically: sit tight, we’re working on it, we’ll know more soon. After two hours, we finally get word that the plane is unfixable without a part from Houston. A repair crew will be flown in the next day. Jake runs into the pilot who says: “Why are you guys still here? I told them when we got in that the plane wasn’t fixable tonight and that the flight needed to be canceled.” Minutes after the announcement, there is a mad rush for the ticket counter. We wait in another long line. Eventually, we are told that United will put us up in a hotel for the night and feed us dinner. We are sent in buses to Parrot Tree Plantation Resort, a relatively new and mammoth development in the opposite direction from West Bay, where we stayed. Our room is big and beautiful, definitely a step up from Infinity Bay. We wonder whether we should have checked this place out when we were booking. In the morning, we are glad that we didn’t end up here. The hotel’s only beach is coarse and hard-packed sand surrounding a slightly murky blue lagoon. A seawall separates the property from the ocean. Although, a bit dirty, the pool is very nice. We play in the pool until noon, when we’re told we must ship-off to the airport. We convince the bus driver to stop for snacks and arrive at the airport for another long wait in line. Apparently, the hotel wanted to get rid of us. There’s no one even at the ticket counter for four hours. We just sit. Fortunately, Willow naps through most of the wait. By the time they finally start checking people in, it is so late there’s clearly no way the flight we leave on time. As we arrive in Houston, the flight attendant tells us that our flight to Seattle has been told to expect runners and that they may hold the flight. We split up off the plane. Jake waits for the luggage to take it through customs. Willow and I run ahead to try to hold the plane. We After escalators, a subway, an elevator and what felt like miles of running, we ended up outside of security. The line was empty, but when we tried to go through, we were told we had the wrong kind of ticket because it had no barcode. Jen was sweaty and seething. She threw her bags down and yelled at the TSA agent that the Houston airport was the worst airport in the history of airports. Then, marched back to the United ticket counter and demanded the “right kind of ticket.” The ticket agents declared the flight closed and our mad dash a lost cause. We were spending the night in Houston. Meanwhile, Jake had made it to the gate where are our plane was and called to find out where we were. Jen tried to explain our location. Willow demanded to go to the bathroom. Of course, there was no bathroom on the ticketing level, so we left our passports and wrong tickets with the United agents to sort out our onward and flight and headed downstairs. When we got back upstairs to the ticketing counter, Jen realized her phone was missing. They went back downstairs but the phone was gone. The woman cleaning the bathroom claimed that she’d seen it on the counter and that a woman outside on the airport courtesy phone took it. Jen waited for her to get off the phone with a hotel at which she was booking a room. Meanwhile, the cleaning woman came out and offered the use of her phone to call the phone. It went straight to voicemail. Jen borrowed the woman’s phone to call Jake. The woman on the courtesy phone hung up and when asked about the phone in the bathroom, she said quite credibly that she’d not been in the bathroom. At this point, Jen started to get a bit suspicious about the cleaning woman and her accusations. Jake appeared but the cleaning woman had disappeared. After, a trip to lost and found and back to the United ticket counter. We set out for a nearby Holiday Inn. We later sorted out that Jake probably went through a restricted area to reach the gates without leaving the security area. And, Jake found a website that actually listed Houston as one of the world’s worst airports due to the need to leave security when changing flights--Jen felt vindicated.
Day 9 (Sunday): Back at the airport, we successfully caught our flight out of Houston. Unfortunately, they were unable to put us on a direct flight. We arrived in Portland to find out that our onward flight to Seattle was delayed. We sat down at a restaurant to eat and considered renting a car, but Jake had the brilliant idea to head to the gate to get the full scoop. He came running back and told us to cancel our order and high-tail it for the gate. It turned out that the earlier flight to Seattle had been delayed and was just about to take off--and there was room for us. A short flight later, we were finally home!