A Cruise Not Fit for a Queen
But there was that cab-driving, tour-giving, reggae-spinning Belize native.
By Hannah Levin

As David Foster Wallace famously warned Harper's readers in a hilarious,
depressing, and heavily annotated essay, spending a week on a cruise ship is
not for everybody. Though I tried to put my snarky apprehensions away when I
boarded the 1,100-passenger vessel in New Orleans last week, I have to say
it's not something I ever want to do again (even if it was entirely paid for
by a third party, as this one was). Telling people I traveled to Guatemala,
Belize, and Mexico on my vacation seems dishonest, simply because floating
from port to port in a luxury liner with an all-you-can-eat buffet and
remaining practically and psychologically separated from how people actually
live in the countries we are visiting seems nothing like what I consider
true traveling. "Culture: Sanitized for Your Protection," if you will.

Given that mind-set, when we docked in Belize City, my boyfriend and I
practically ran past the cheap souvenir shops and tourist-friendly daiquiri
bars in a desperate effort to have some sort of experience that was not
depicted in the glossy tour brochures littering our stateroom. We quickly
and naively hit the other end of the spectrum, accidentally stumbling into
what we would later find out was the intersection of the rival territories
occupied by the local chapters of the Crips and the Bloods. Thankfully, we
soon encountered Carl Lindbergh, a local who was not only a cab
driver/amateur tour guide for hire, but a DJ who hosted a weekly reggae show
on a Belize City radio station. Carl proceeded to give us a freewheeling,
colorfully narrated tour of dismal local politics (three local policemen had
just been brought up on human trafficking charges, and there had been an
alarming rise in women being brutally murdered by their domestic partners)
and showed us around his beautiful but troubled homeland.

As we made our way from a stunning wildlife preserve to an off-the-radar
restaurant and bar, Carl's rickety dashboard cassette player provided the
soundtrack and conversation naturally turned to music, local and otherwise.
Before we had to reboard, he took us to Teddy's Music, his favorite record
store, and helped me pick out half a dozen selections, including Belize City
Boil-Up, an excellent, eclectic compilation of local calypso, dub reggae,
funk, and jazz artists that is now in regular rotation on my home stereo.
Anyone interested in exploring the history of Belizean music should track
down a copy of this comp, or at least start with almost anything by the Lord
Rhaburn, the region's definitive frontman in the late '60s and '70s. Anyone
interested in exploring Central America via cruise ship, well, don't say I
didn't warn you.