The First Week!!



This is a trip report of the first (10/27/96) Mexican voyage 
of Fantome. 
I had just completed the two week voyage from Antigua to 
Mexico. I was making use on the pool at the hotel next to 
the dock the ship uses ... the hotel has an arraignment with 
WJ'er to let pax. use their facilities. I walked over to the 
dock to catch the 4 pm tender back to the ship. While I was 
waiting, I talked to some of the "inaugural cruise" pax. 
Their first question was, "Why was the ship so far out?" The 
reason was that you have to go out two miles to find more 
than 15 ft. of water at Cancun. At four I got on a tender 
with two 150 horsepower outboards and was back on the ship 
in less than ten minutes. 
The new pax. found, except for the Mexican snacks, 
everything was pretty standard WJ'er. The pax. mix was about 
the same as the reposition - 75% couples; 25% not traveling 
as couples. There were three people in their 80's. One new 
thing we all found in our cabins was a loose leaf binder 
describing the 17 shore tours what would be available. 
(Shades of the big steam boats.) You are asked to select the 
tours you will take by Monday morning. 
I took no tours in the three weeks I was aboard (we had 
them on the reposition too.) The feedback from others 
indicated that I didn't miss much; but you must read the 
descriptions and decide for your selves. The most praised 
tour was the "Indiana Jones Adventure" which featured a tour 
through the jungle and snorkeling in caves with guides and 
hand held lights. The "Jungle Jet Boat" tour was said to be 
fun. The "Chichenitza Tour" was popular; but you only got 
two hours at the site and 6.5 hours on a bus. But they did 
show a "Ace Ventura" movie on the bus! 
Two of the new pax. were Gary and Sheila, a couple I had 
sailed with on Flying Cloud the week of the famous, and near 
deadly, "shootout at the Bath & Turtle Pub". They both 
remarked that things were never dull when we sailed 
together. How right they were. 
We sailed for Isla Mujeres that night and ran aground at 
8:45am. A reef/sand bar extends several miles off the 
northern tip of this island. Hurricane Lilly had shifted a 
lot of sand around in the vicinity. The charts became 
useless; but we didn't know that. We went aground early in 
the morning and strong wind and seas from the East made it 
impossible to back off. Shortly after running aground, I was 
talking with some people sunning on deck and one asked when 
we would get to Isla Mujeres, I replied, "We have been there 
for 15 minutes.<G>" The seas were washing onto the lower 
deck and the pounding on the sand bar became unrelenting. I 
went to my cabin and got my wallet. The only things I wanted 
to save from the ship were in there. A number of things 
might have happen, and most of them were bad. If we had 
encountered rocks as we were pushed further onto the bar, 
the holing or cracking of the hull were possibilities. If 
the ship began to turn sideways and the waves hit us broadside, 
things could have gotten very uncomfortable ... 
reminiscent of Yankee Clipper in Hurricane Klaus. After 
three hours, a shrimp boat pulled us across the reef. (The 
reef/bar was about 300 meters wide, and we only had 100 
meters in front of us.) We were afloat and anchored off Pt. 
Norte and were free to explore the Island ... but how we 
would get to our next stop was very much up in the air. 
This was our only wet landing. Bicycles and mopeds were 
available and there was some shopping. I found a trip to the 
southern end of the island by bicycle was fun. (14 pesos per 
hour) There was the ruins of a Mayan temple and a light 
house. Lots of things to see and places to stop in between. 
After returning the bikes, we had a pleasant swim at the 
beach where the launches picked us up. 
I write this as if I were doing these things alone, but 
actually I was always with other people from the ship and I 
enjoyed their company immensely ... I seldom sailed with a 
nicer group of passengers in my 63 weeks of WJ'in. 
The next morning we were still at anchor. We were to be 
led by a small boat to another opening in the reef later 
that day. There were many rumors about problems with the 
Mexican government and damage to their reef. Some of the 
rumors involved fines or payments in significant $ amounts. 
I asked Captain Sean what was going on so my report could be 
accurate. Hr replied "It was company business and just 
business as normal in Mexico" At first I wasn't happy with 
the answer; but then realized that it was the only answer he 
should have given. If minor Mexican officials had any hint 
that WJ'er might pay them off in some way to avoid 
inconvenience, the line of people with their hand out would 
form on the left. 
30 hours after running aground we picked our way back 
across the reef, with a small boat leading the way, and out 
to deep water. At 3:15pm the sails went up and we were on 
our way to Playa Del Carmen. I imagine "Amazing Grace" never 
sounded better to Sean and his fellow officers! Just after 
the sails went up, Captain Paul Maskell (I call him WJ'ers 
Captain of the Captains) walked up and said "Hello Tony". I 
said "How did you get here?" It seems WJ'er Miami had Paul 
on his way shortly after we went aground. 
Wednesday found us in Playa Del Carmen. While many 
went off on their all day tours, I did some shopping. This 
was by far the best shopping of the trip ... Bargaining for 
price is the name of the game. I found it fun and easy. The 
stores are mostly in a six block area which is closed off to 
traffic. The street is Avenida 5 (fifth Ave). After shopping 
I went back to the ship for lunch and then spent the rest of 
the day at the beach. A very nice beach is located next to 
the ferry dock, which the ship's launches use. That night I 
ate on the ship and went into town for the evening. I had a 
snack at a restaurant and heard a report (Favorable) about 
the Chichenitza tour. Most folks came ashore at night, shops 
stay open until about 10pm. 
The next day we were at Cozumel. This had been our first 
port on the reposition cruise, so I was familiar with it and 
liked the Island. My favorite beach was Chankanaab a park 
on Cozumel. A cab cost $8 (for the whole cab) and entrance 
fee was $7 plus $1 for a locker. (Yep this is not the Flying 
Cloud) The park was beautiful and the snorkeling was 
excellent. My underwater camera only focuses down to 1 meter 
... I had a hard time getting the fish to stay that far 
away. You get a "S" shaped lounge to use on the beach and 
waiters serve you drinks on the beach ... of course they are 
expensive ... a Corona costs just over $1 ... $1.50 with 
That night I returned to a great restaurant, "Prima". It 
is small, has great pasta and seafood (Try the whole king 
crab - get there early because they only get about 20 per 
day.). It is located on a side street (109 A. Rosado Salas), 
but everyone knows where it is. It also features strolling 
musicians, an owner from Chicago - a real character, and 
parrots that will sit on your shoulder if you want them too. 
One person who dinned there called the dinner "Magical". 
After dinner it is a short walk to "Carlos and Charlies". 
Always loud, hot, and lots of fun. Most people on the ship 
who come ashore, end up there. 
The next day we sailed to Puerto Aventuras. This is a 
private resort, but allowed us to use their facilities; 
expecting people to shop, buy drinks, and lunch ... which 
many of us did. I spent most of the day on their beach. Bar 
service was very reasonable. Snorkeling was poor and the 
sand was mostly ground shells - hard on the feet. The launch 
ride is about 0.7 miles and the anchorage is very exposed. 
Got drenched on the launch back. (My guess is that if the 
winds had picked up during the day, they may have had to bus 
the pax. still ashore to Playa del Carmen and pick them up 
there. Two pax. who had taken the "Indiana Jones Adventure" 
tour missed the last launch. They had stopped for a massage. 
We sailed without them, but put into Playa Del Carmen to 
pick them up. At about this time we started having 
electrical problems. Associated with the electrical problems 
were A/C and water pumping problems. I guess they needed the 
generated power to run these also. The bottom line was that 
we spent the night there and I carried a flashlight with me 
as the problems came and went through the evening. There was 
some dancing that evening, (no where near the amount we did 
on the reposition cruise.). 
The next day, plan "A" was to sail to Cancun, but a 
weather disturbance might have made the anchorage there 
untenable. So plan "B was to sail to Cozumel, where the 
cruise would end and we would be taken to the airport by 
ferry and bus. More electrical problems (I think that was 
the reason.) made us switch to plan "C", which was to stay 
at Playa Del Carmen. 
That night a group of us decided to go ashore for a 
Mexican dinner as a way to extend the vacation one more 
night and get away from all the "good byes", Captains 
farewells, and flambeaus. It was a pleasant night ashore and 
I did some packing and made it an early evening. 
The next day I took a launch ashore and after a one hour 
bus ride and one bottle of Corona I was at the Cancun 
airport. The flight home was very uneventful ... cleared 
customs in Charlotte NC. I thought I might have a problem, 
because I was traveling alone, on a one way ticket, and I 
told the immigration officer I had been to 7 countries and 
the form only had room for four. He asked me what other 
countries I had visited. I told him and he took a red china 
marker and put a "1" and circled it in the right hand 
corner. I was ready for a through search of my luggage ... 
but the customs officer waved me by after asking if I had 
any liquor. 
Here are some general notes: 
"Senor frogs" or "Carlos & Charlies" ... One or both of 
these are located in most ports and are lots of fun. They 
make a good place to end an evening ashore, or a place to go 
after eating on the ship. 
Peter, the Food and Beverage manager, was in Mexico 
lining up produce for the ship when we arrived. He was also 
at work in the galley making salsa and other wonderful 
Mexican treats. The Mexican food on the ship was very good. 
Looking back over this report, it sounds like a disaster 
... but why did I have such a good time? The answer is the 
people you meet on a WJ'er are the kind who just know how to 
have fun. We went ashore at Isla Mujeres not knowing what 
the rest of the cruise would be like or if we would ever get 
away from this Island. But we had a great day and no one 
seemed to care if we were stuck there for 30 hours or three 
days. As I have said in many of my reports ... "The people 
you meet on a WJ'er are different and really great!" 
In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone/everyone 
should sail the Fantome in Mexico. But don't try to compare 
it in "ANYWAY" to the Eastern Caribbean. It's as different 
as goings to to Paris or Tokyo. The people are great ... I 
could not imagine a more tourist friendly place. 
I would be glad to try to answer any questions anyone 
might have. For those reading this on an internet WEB page, 
I can be reached at BWDF98A@PRODIGY.COM 
I will be writing a report on the reposition cruise 
(10/13 - 10/26) shortly. I have written them out of order 
because of the high interest in the Mexican Itinerary. 
Tony in Del.