Crossing Another One Off My Bucket List 21 Years Later

Published by Daleen Berry on

Which story shall I tell you first? The one about how I almost broke my neck taking a tumble from the balcony onto the theatre seats below? Or how it felt to peer up at the underbelly of a jet airplane performing a very low-altitude landing few feet above my head?

This 10-day cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas, one of the vessels targeted by the Centers for Disease Control, and which its passengers nicknamed the “Norovirus ship,” was number 21 on my bucket list. Why 21, as compared to a more general number like 20 or 30? Maybe that’s the logical place to begin.

Once upon a time, there was a bridegroom. I left him standing at the altar in 1995, one week before the wedding—after realizing that no, seven combined children did not us the next Brady Bunch make. He gallantly offered to let me take the cruise alone, but I declined. I had my four children to tend to, and solo sailing didn’t seem wise. I’ve been waiting ever since to walk the gangplank.

Instead, I later ended up studying aviation and getting my private pilot’s license. Which is a great segue into the airport story.

Which came first, the runway or the beach it abuts? I don’t know, but either way, tourists from around the world flock to Maho Beach on the tiny island of St. Maarten. (Maybe it’s a Dutch thing, since the airport is technically governed by the Netherlands, rather than France.) It offers the bold and fearless a feat unlike any other: the chance to be blown into the ocean whenever exhaust fumes from a jumbo jet scorch the faces pressed into the fence behind it.

I wasn’t there long enough to experience that personally, but I did see a little FedEx courier plane take off. And I’ve watched the YouTube videos since then. Trust me, not nearly as exciting. I did stand underneath a Boeing 747 on its final approach to Princess Juliana International Airport, named Number 11 on the “Most Insanely Dangerous Airports Around the World” list. And yes, it was exhilarating. More so for the fellow in front of me, who had an even better view. But still.

For sure, this is not something my flight instructors ever let me do.

Incidentally, our tour guide told us the story about how he once led a little, old man of 80 to that same fence. The fellow was as excited as a child with two fistfuls of candy. Afterward, he said he’d waited decades to cross “feeling the fierce heat of the jet blast at Maho Beach” off his bucket list. It was all he’d dreamed it would be.

I admit, it did rank up there in the “experience of a lifetime” category, far better than the famous Sarafina’s café and bakery, which boasts delicious French pastries and a clean restroom, as well as a rude and rushed French wait staff.

Labadee, Haiti


Among the ports I visited—San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private Haitian island—snorkeling at Cokie Beach at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was my favorite adventure. Even though I could have tumbled over backwards and perhaps drowned in the rough waves, if not for a local named Bob who suggested I remove my flippers and then led me into the water. There, he offered his arm while I donned them again, followed by my snorkel mask. Hands down, it was best day of my 10 days at sea, and I will forever remember swimming with entire schools of beautiful, shiny fish as they wove to and fro amidst the coral reef.

Of course, all that snorkeling worked up quite an appetite, so afterward I ate Nemo for lunch. He was fried and lathered with homemade hot sauce. The side dish? Johnny cakes, a delicious fried dough known as a local culinary delight. It was well worth abandoning my gluten-free diet in West Virginia just to dine on that one meal. (If you ever make it here, skip the fast food and ask Charlotte at Sun Seekers how to find the fried fish and Johnny cake hut. Charlotte is sweet and helpful, and the food will not disappoint.)

With its brightly colored buildings and rich history, San Juan was lovely, too. Except, after disembarking, it took more than an hour to find a taxi. The hot Caribbean sun made the outside wait unbearable. So I walked most everywhere, and stumbled into Mejunje PR, a friendly family-owned wine bar that features delicious, homemade steak empanadas and fabulous mojitos. And their baños was super clean and clearly decorated by a wine lover. While there, I was serenaded by some local musicians who sang off the cuff, which washed away the frustrations of waiting for a taxi that never came.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”


Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

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» Cruising the Caribbean: Danger Finds Daleen On the High Seas · January 25, 2016 at 8:00 PM

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