In her debut Voyage Vixens guest blog post, Jenny Hart learns that when in a less than optimal situation, salsa dancing solves everything. Plus, she gives some hot tips on making the most of a sunset booze cruise…
“Let’s go! The boat is going to leave!”
Shoes in hand, I hurried down the dock after my friend. It was our last evening in Aruba, and in an attempt to squeeze in everything we wanted to do, we booked our sunset catamaran cruise dangerously close to our spa appointments. And by dangerously close, I mean I was still at the spa when it was time to board.
Having just received a facial, I felt amazing, but knew I didn’t look it. When I initially found out we’d be doing a sunset cruise, I imagined myself elegantly perched beneath the sail, hair blowing lusciously in the wind, and wearing either a diamond-encrusted bikini or evening gown, dress code permitting.
In reality, I had just enough time to ditch my fluffy white robe and throw on a wrinkled sundress before booking it across the beach to the dock, where we hoped we’d find the boat still docked, waiting for us!
My hair was frizzed from the ocean air and spa’s humidity, and my face, though thoroughly cleansed, was tomato red and without a speck of makeup. Not my greatest look. Wheezing slightly from my very un-Baywatch style run, we hopped on board and planted ourselves down next to our group of five. We were the last to board, unsurprisingly, and the catamaran set sail moments later.
I looked around. Aside from my party and the crew, the boat was filled exclusively with, as I judgmentally thought at the time, “old people.” I realized I hadn’t put much thought into the excursion beyond my photo shoot worthy daydream. What exactly were we going to do for the next two hours? Sit and wait patiently for the sunset?
Before I had the chance to ask, my question was answered.
I whipped my head toward my friends and saw the same shocked expression on their faces. No one told us this would be that kind of sunset cruise. Hell yeah! As Granny #1 teetered quickly to the bar to request her first rum punch of the evening, I laughed and sent a quick apology up to the heavens. I shouldn’t have judged so quickly. I was obviously among kindred spirits.
Two tequila sunrises later, I had forgotten about my Mrs. Tomato Head appearance and was laughing with my girlfriends. We pointed out one member of the all-male crew who we thought was positively yummy. He looked exactly like Dave Franco, but with deep bronze skin and a perfect mop of blonde curls. We batted our eyes coquettishly at him while sipping our drinks and joking about who had first dibs.
The layout of the catamaran was simply designed; rows and rows of seating, and then the bar. There was a space in between the benches and bar – “good for dancing,” a crewmember pointed out.
“Should we dance?” one of my friends asked.
A few of our fellow passengers were milling about the side of the boat, looking at the horizon, but beyond that, movement was stale. Even with the alcohol, most seemed to be sitting and waiting patiently for the sunset, as I had nervously anticipated. If there was going to be a dance revolution, it would need to be started by us. I didn’t like the idea of this.
I love to dance, but I don’t do it too well. I have received many blessings in my life, but the gift of rhythm is not among them. This is not a huge travesty, as my dancing is typically reserved for crowded and dimly lit venues where alcohol has flowed aplenty. The sun was still far from setting, and the dance floor was dead empty. At least the cruise met my other requirement. Cheers!
The playlist that had been on in the background was an awkward compilation of Top 40’s hits. The “DJ” (a crewmember with his cell phone plugged into a speaker) turned the music up louder as we collectively approached the open space.
“I can’t dance to this,” said one friend, a beautiful Latina who had undoubtedly been shaking her hips like an expert since birth. “I’m going to request better music.”
I blinked at her as I continued to suck down my drink and sway side to side to Katy Perry.
“Let’s have him put on some reggaeton!” another suggested as they made their way to the DJ. I sidestepped in front of them, panicked.
“I don’t know how to dance to reggaeton,” I told them, looking down. “And I don’t think I like the genre.”
My experience with reggaeton was limited exclusively to when I had dated a Colombian guy for approximately one minute earlier that year. He was constantly playing what he dubbed “reggaeton” and loved it, but all I could associate the jumbled noise with was what blasted out the windows of my old neighborhood’s dive bar at 3 am on a Tuesday.
“There’s good and bad reggaeton. He just had bad taste,” my friend said.
“So what’s good reggaeton?”
“Well there’s a bunch. You’d probably like Daddy Yankee.”
After hard reflection, I realized I knew one Daddy Yankee song. Gasolina had been the soundtrack to one of my high school parties back in 2005. A WASP from Connecticut, I had probably assumed two years of Spanish classes at school qualified me to listen to and appreciate the catchy, sexy Spanish song. We certainly hadn’t danced to it correctly.
“You need to salsa,” said one friend, with a flick of her hips. I tried smoothing down my frizzed hair and looked around, plotting an escape route. The beach had become a distant speck. I glanced over at the cute sailor and found him looking at me. Any redness that had faded from my face immediately returned in full force.
As if being magically summoned (or just having overhead our conversation), another sailor appeared.
“You want to learn to salsa?” he asked us.
“Yes, she does,” said my friend, pointing to me.
Though Aruba is a Dutch island, it is just off the coast of Venezuela. A large percentage of the island’s tourists and expats are Latin American. This was as good a place as any for an authentic salsa dance lesson.
“Okay, but let’s all take a shot first.”
As my dance instructor showed me how to move my feet and when to twirl, a second crewmember came over and pulled one of my friends onto the dance floor. A few nearby couples joined us, and before long the dance floor was in full swing.
It was exhilarating. Though I was still stomping on toes and moving terribly in comparison to the others, I felt in sync with the music and the ocean. My sundress billowed in the breeze as I was spun around, and I laughed until I was out of breath.
When our dance partners had to return to their duties on the boat, we approached some of the older women who had been watching us, and pulled them onto the floor to dance in our circle. I saw one woman who was in her late sixties wink suggestively at her sitting husband and thought, “I can’t wait until that’s me one day.”
The next thing I knew, it was dark. Between the drinking and the dancing, I had missed the sunset – the reason we were on the boat to begin with. I sat down to sulk, and when I lifted my head, I was finally aware of exactly how much I had been drinking. We hadn’t yet eaten dinner, and my nerves had me pounding them back like I was a sailor myself.
The captain announced that the catamaran was headed back to shore. I took a wobbly lap around the boat to get some air, but when I returned to my seat, my friend immediately jabbed me in the ribs.
“Dave Franco is staring at you.”
I glanced over and he was indeed staring. He smiled at me and waved me over. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
I looked back to my friends and they excitedly shooed me in his direction. One of them faked a jealous pout. I tiptoed over, trying fruitlessly again to smooth my hair.
He asked me my name and told me his. I forgot it within seconds.
“Where are you from?” I asked him, making bets in my head of which Central or South American country he would say. I wanted to know what ethnicity our future children would be.
“I am native Aruban,” Dave Franco said, eyes twinkling. “My family has lived on this island for many generations.”
“Oh. Wow!” Drunk me is not very suave or articulate.
“I kept expecting you to come talk to me all night, but you never did.”
“You could have approached me sooner!” I said, pleased with my counter argument.
I noticed how rapidly the boat was approaching the dock.
“You should come out with us tonight!”
“Where are you going?”
“To dinner at this place kind of far from the resort… they’re supposed to have great fish. And then out!”
He laughed. “I have to work in the morning.”
“Sooo?” Drunk me is also not very courteous.
We had docked. My friends let everyone else get off the boat before us, but then it was time to leave. I had to tear myself away from his steamy gaze.
“Well?!” they grilled me, as soon as we reached the beach.
“He’s so cute,” I shrieked.
“Did you get his phone number?”
“Did you tell him where we were going to dinner?”
“I couldn’t remember the name.”
“Did you give him your room number?”
They rolled my eyes at me and I shrugged my shoulders. More than anything else, drunk me is not a very effective flirt.
Dinner was delicious, but I made the mistake of having another drink with my meal, and was done soon after. When we went back to our rooms to change before going out for the night, I ended up falling asleep on top of the bed with my wrinkled sundress still on. The group went on without me. I was fine with that outcome; my dancing shoes were off now, anyhow.
1. Learn ahead of time if your cruise will be serving alcohol. Had we known, we would have definitely eaten ahead of time and the ending would have been less sloppy. (Or choose to go on a booze cruise that serves food, too.)
2. Pay attention to how much you drink. Open bars are tempting, especially when someone else is steering the vehicle. But “one last drink!” is not worth blowing it with a cute sailor.
3. Dance your booty off. Even if you think you look foolish, no one else will. You’ll have more fun, and encourage others to do the same.
4. Don’t miss the sunset! Seems obvious, but it’s easy to miss when you’re caught up in the moment. Try and pay attention to the changing horizon in between songs.
5. Go with the people you’ll have the most fun with. For me, that was with friends. For others, it might be your spouse, your family, or even solo. If I had been with people I thought would judge instead of encourage my silly dancing skills, I would’ve never gotten off the bench. Surrounding yourself with the right people is what makes any activity memorable.
For more travel tips and things to do in Aruba, visit aruba.com.
About the Author
Jenny Hart has worked on staff at nine national publications and breaks out in hives if she’s away from the airport for more than six months.
Her hobbies include reading, critiquing photography that’s better than hers, and trying not to miss her subway stop while doing either.
She graduated from Hofstra University with degrees in Journalism, Global Studies, English and Religion. She lives in New York City.
The second sunset sailing photo is courtesy of Aruba Tourism; the rest are courtesy of the author.