This time last week we were lifting the inflatable back aboard to the sound track of the whales.  Today we’re answering emails to the sound track of overly amplified squealing party music from the party catamaran the next dock over.  Every afternoon instead of the lap of waves against the hull, we are jolted from any sense of calm by “Who let the Dogs Out!” blasting from the neighboring Ocean World Dolphin Experience as some show starts.  Gas-powered golf carts go rattling and smoking by, a far cry from the the gentle whooshes of a passing humpback.

We’re back in Ocean World Marina again, the only harbor in this area that the Dominican Navy allows foreign yachts to dock at.  Ocean World is someone’s dream not quite fulfilled.  When we arrived, Viktor in the office patiently explained the amenities to us – the pool, then each floor of the looming, gaudily decorated casino building next door – the famous, high end restaurant on the ground floor, the casino on the second, Bravissimo, the dance show, occupied the third floor (It’s #1 in the DR!) and of course, not to be forgotten, the nightclub on the top floor.  After explaining that we would get discounts both here and at the neighboring dolphin park for being Marina guests, he then added, as an afterthought – “Of course, the casino is closed for a little bit for some renovation – and so while it’s closed the restaurant and the night club are too.” A few days ago, they put up fencing and started to drain the pool.

Ocean World is an entertainment destination without the entertainment – the slips, the paths, the roads, all revolve and focus around the casino building in the middle, which looms, guarded by its glittering red seahorses, like a sleeping sentry.  Despite the evidence that the “small renovation” will be going on for months more, or indefinitely, it seems like everyone is trying desperately to pretend that business is as usual – every night we’re kept awake by the bright colored lights and spotlights reflecting off the casino walls through our portholes, by the thumping music and karaoke (on Wednesday) from the liquor store/breakfast cafe that seems to be the only thing able to survive in this wasteland.  Even the dolphin “Experience” on the far side of the casino is oddly empty, throbbing to life for a few hours every day when busloads of tourists arrive, then drifting back to sleep, music quieted, dolphins swimming placidly in their ponds.

I’ve enjoyed our visit to the Dominican Republic, but there is a definite feeling that tourism is an industrial thing here – that as foreigners we should be staying in an all inclusive resort, wearing a wristband, feeding at the buffet trough and going on package tours.  Outside of the tourist enclaves the country is vibrant, dirty, beautiful, full of energy, but it seems like most visitors are content to stay in the cocoons designed for them by the tourism industry.  I’ll be glad to get back to sea again this weekend.
– Captain Eric Loss, April 1, 2015

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