In many major cities, there are attractions that the locals fancy themselves far too good for.
I spent some time in New York and never once made time for the Statue of Liberty. The Walk of Fame didn’t really appeal to me during my stint in LA. I spent summers in Atlanta as a child and still don’t much care for Coca-Cola, definitely not enough to tour the factory.
It’s that same blasé attitude that has kept me off the infamous pirate ship that lights up Vallarta evenings with a nightly invasion of pyrotechnics. We’ve all witnessed it at some point: the shadowy silhouette that slinks silently into view from the Malecon before firing off a fusillade of fireworks. That’s pretty much how you know it’s 9:30 around here, right?
I had never had a burning desire to set sail with randoms on a 3 hour tour–I’ve seen that end badly–but when the generally amazing Carol Ann invited me to join a group of visiting friends in doing the tourist thing, it was an easy decision…I wanna be a pirate.
The Vibes: El barco in question is the Marigalante, a 700-ton tribute to the Santa Maria, the ship that brought Columbus and his lot to the new world after they went through all the proper immigration channels. The vessel made an impressive sight on the horizon as we were processed through the search and security area to make our way to the docking point.
Cap’n Charlotte led her scurvy crew and the assembled landlubbers through the open water adventure, bantering with her drunken second mate the whole time. A friend of mine won a contest by popping a balloon with her buttocks and was also placed in the brig for a time in an unrelated incident, and I believe that serves as a handy encapsulation of the evening.
The Vices: Due to my fuzzy recollection of the festivities, this section functions best as a timeline. I didn’t check my watch much, but have devised an alternate tracking system.
Drink 1 (rum x Coke): Our standing drink orders were taken on the way to the ship, and while I did just endanger any potential Coca-Cola sponsorship earlier in this piece, I can honestly say it’s much more enjoyable when diluted with booze. *bigsmile, thumbs up*
The drinks were handed to us almost immediately after taking our seats for the show, setting the tone for some high times on the high seas.
Drink 4 (Captain Morgan shot): It was here when I discovered the crew’s resident borracho was so committed to his method acting that the bottle he was carrying around was actually full of liquor. I asked for a swig o’ the swill and was enthusiastically obliged.
Drink 5 (rum x Coke): Sampling my drink and finding far too much cola for my taste, I asked for another and was indeed given another. They didn’t even take the original away, so there I sat on the upper deck of a Spanish galleon, multicolored hair fluttering in the wind as I sipped on my stereo cocktails and watched the shores of Vallarta roll by. Truly I was a god among men.
Drink 7/8 (glass of beer served alongside a glass of red wine, sailor style): The next sips came alongside dinner, and you know what, it actually wasn’t bad. Certainly not the worst food I’ve had on a cruise. If I had it to do again, I’d choose the steak & lobster meal. Not that the chicken Cordon Bleu was disappointing, I just figured it would be the most difficult dish to make terrible. I’m happy to report that bunch of pirates earned a bit of my trust here.
Drink 9 (rum x Coke): After dinner in the galley we all headed back up top to take in the sunset, which is beautiful from the beach but spectacular from the ship’s deck. I also took in another drink, and this is about where things got a bit hazy.
Drink ? (probably rum x Coke): I believe this is when the mutiny took place. One of the crew’s saltiest sea dogs was apparently tired of Cap’n Charlotte’s ship, and resolved to make it his own by taking command. He swung in on her with a rope, which is an entrance I have to use one day.
Drink ?? (unknown tequila): Like I said, my memories of this evening aren’t the best, but they are the greatest. More shanties, more swashbuckling, more shots. Also, fireworks, remember?
Drink ??? (probably rum x Coke): The rebellion was quashed, and the traitor made to walk the plank. The sea is a cruel mistress, and so is Cap’n Charlotte…First Mate Judas was tossed overboard with a graceful dive, where I assume he drowned.
After a few hours on the bay and what had to have been the better part of a 750mL bottle, we pulled back into the marina and were officially christened pirates by our captain. Cheesy? Yeah, sure…but there’s nothing wrong with cheese unless you are cursed with lactose intolerance, in which case, poor you.
The Verdict: Obviously consuming eleventeen adult beverages in less than one-eighth of a day is not an equation that’s going to work out for you very often, but my lack of self-control is hardly the fault of the attraction itself. If a night of nautical nonsense is what you’re after, there’s hardly a better place to find it than with these Banderas Bay buccaneers. Maybe I’ll catch you there…drinking responsibly, of course.
Learn more about the tours available and purchase tickets for the Marigalante Pirate Ship on their website.