It’s hard for me to rate this as low as 4th, as Roatan is one of my absolute favorite places. If I had my way, we’d be living down there by now :). I know there are various challenges in the area from time to time due to the political and economic climate in Honduras, but I fell in love with the place the first time we visited. For purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on the first of two stops we’ve made in Roatan. On that trip in March of 2006, we came in on the Norwegian Jewel and docked at an older location near Coxen Hole, a dock that I don’t think is in use anymore. This was one of the first cruise stops where we didn’t use a cruise sponsored excursion, and as far as I’m concerned, it was one of the best stops to date.
We were on this cruise with the staff of the dental office where my wife worked. Over the years, we did a few cruises with that group, and always had a blast with them. For this trip, my wife was doing research on the ports, and came across a post on one of the cruise boards where someone who had recently visited was mentioning an orphanage they’d stopped to visit (Greenfield Children’s Home), and how they could use some athletic equipment if anyone was headed that way. She brought that up with my daughter and I as an option for our visit to the island, and we were sold. The post mentioned a local we could hire to drive us around, show us the island, and take us to the orphanage. My wife went ahead and set that up, including contacting the orphanage to set up the visit, and ensure that athletic equipment was really what they needed the most. In addition to the items we bought, my daughter organized a donation drive at her school to help get even more equipment to deliver to the kids. It’s been a while, but if I recall we had at least 4 over sized duffel bags full of various sports gear to haul with us on the flight down and on the boat, but it all worked out fine and we got it all on board the ship without issue. When we got off the ship in Roatan, we simply put the bags through the scanner for an additional security check, and once that was done, we were on our way. NCL had definitely seen cruisers do this before, and never questioned the purpose of the gear.
Our guide/driver met us at the port and loaded up all of the stuff we’d brought into her van. She also had a surprise for us, a hand carved jewelry box for my daughter, as that stop fell on her 10th birthday. After getting everything loaded, she took us on a driving tour of the area, through the local town, and driving around the countryside, giving us the rundown on the area along the way. The local kids were in school that day, as we saw several of them walking around in their school uniforms with smiles on their faces. The area was a mix of poorer sections interspersed with a few large waterfront homes outside of town, and even a couple of resort/condo communities under development at the time.
After the tour our guide drove us to the orphanage, where we were greeted by the staff on hand that day. Upon arrival, we took all of the gear inside and gave it to the kids, and they immediately dug in to see what we’d brought. Everyone, the kids included, were very warm and welcoming. While we hung out with the kids, the staff gave us a tour of the facilities and the history of the organization, which is headquartered only a couple of hours from where we live. Here are a few shots from our time with them:
I don’t recall how long we were at the orphanage, but it was easily the best part of my day and the highlight of the cruise. I rarely talk about where I donate my time/money, and this is probably the first time I’ve talked about this stop outside of discussions among our family, but those kids and that group left a lasting impact on me, and I’ll never forget our time with them. Huge thank you to the staff for making time to let us come by for a visit that day.
Even with everything we’d already done that day we did have some extra time after visiting the orphanage, so our guide took us to Paradise beach for a couple of hours so we could spend a little time relaxing before we headed back to the boat. There weren’t many people there, and when you combine that with the crystal clear water, it made the stop that much better.
After a little food, swimming and relaxation, our guide took us back to the ship. This is definitely one of the most memorable stops in my eyes, and shows that you can still give back to a local community, even if you’re only in town for a day.