This summer, I was hanging out in the Bronx (New York) at the weekly Friday Night Roast. Everyone was having a good time. I saw some friends I haven't seen in a while. We played dominoes (I won), ate some barbeque pigtails, listened to soca and calypso music. And I drank a Heineken or two.
As the night progressed, the music also progressed from the likes of Kerwin Dubois, Bunji Garlin, and KES toward a more Montserratian flavour€Arrow, Falcon, and Kulca Don. And as the music progressed, the conversation also moved from a general nature and became more centered on Montserrat, reminiscing about growing up and eventually looking forward to Festival 2012.
And there it was. I was in New York City amongst people I've known since Grammar School, everyone of us excited about the 50th anniversary of Montserrat Festival. It was as if it Festival was the only thing on our collective minds because it is the one thing that draws us back home every year. And this year will be special. We all feel that it will be special. It has to be special, right? It's the 50th anniversary after all.
Anyway on occasions like this I get introspective. And it got me thinking: What if I wasn't one of these people. What if I had no recollection of the Montserrat they were so proud of? What if I wasn't one of this group dancing and singing along to Kulcha Don's 'Wickedest Whine'? What if I was a stranger watching these people getting so excited and animated about their festival? And what if I decided (as a stranger to Montserrat and festival) that I wanted to be a part of it? How would I go about it?
Which brings me here. I decided to do the research. I decided to do the research as an uninitiated tourist.
Assumptions: This absolutely scientific empirical research is based on the following assumptions.
I am not from Montserrat. I have never been to Montserrat. I know nothing about Festival. I need to plan a week vacation for two people. I need accommodation and transportation. All my research will be done online (because my Editor is too cheap to authorize any payment for any expenses like the use of a travel agent or even international phone calls.) So the World Wide Web will have to do.
Okay, here goes.
First step: Find a flight.
Right from the start I send the search sites into an unrecoverable tailspin trying to find a flight from DFW airport in Texas to Montserrat (MNI). They all came back with apologies that they were unable to find a flight matching my criteria. So, like any great researcher, I changed my criteria. I switched up the dates. I asked them to check nearby cities. Still. No. Luck.
So I decided to give up. There is no way to get to Montserrat for Festival. You just can't get there from here.
No. I didn't give up. I decided to check with the people whose job it is to try to get me to the Island. They should know exactly how to get me there--The Montserrat Tourism information site. Back to Google.
I typed in Montserrat Festival and I get lucky. Near the top of the page is the Montserrat Tourist Board web site www.visitmontserrat.com. The site is well laid out and has tabs for travel, accommodations, etc. There is even a tab for the Festival. I am in business.
Ok so I click on: Getting to Montserrat. There is a ferry that runs two days a week from Antigua. So I suppose that if I can get to Antigua I will be able to jump on the ferry for a mere EC$300 (approx $120 US) per person. There is one slight problem...I plan on travelling the day after Christmas€a Wednesday. The ferry runs on Thursday and Friday. Wow!
Okay, not to worry. There is airplane service from Antigua as well. So off I go to the airline website, www.flymontserrat.com. I found 4 trips from ANU to MNI on the 26th of December and one return trip on 03 January. Total cost for two people for that portion of the trip: $517. For a 15-minute flight. Wow!
Now back to my trusted travel sites to get me a flight from DFW to Antigua.
The best fare available for round trip, same day flight for two: $2801.40.
But wait, that does not include baggage fees. I am up to a running total of over $3320. And I do not have a place to stay as yet.
Back to visitmontserrat.com since Hotels.com couldn't find any hotels for me on Montserrat for me.
Tropical Mansion Suites was the lone hotel listed. But unfortunately they rates are not listed. (There is a mention of a 10% tax. So what ever the rates are I will have to pay 10% more)
I found a decent guesthouse for $75 per night that allows use of the kitchen and pool. The tax on that is 7%. Approximately $561 for our seven-day stay.
Sub total: $3881
Next Step...getting around.
I figure we could rent a car. Back to the tourist board site since my car rental sites fail miserably. No Budget, or Alamo there. I find lots of places to rent a jeep but no price listing. I must either contact them by telephone (but remember that is not in my research budget) or by email (I unfortunately don't have time to wait for a response€I am writing this in the middle of the night and my editor said something about a deadline). Here I will just have to venture an intelligent guess and budget $50 a day for a car rental. Add $100 for fuel for the week. $450.00 for a rental car.
Sub total: $4331
Ok... Progress! I now know how to get there. I have a place to stay. I have secured a rental jeep.
Next: Food and Entertainment.
I am going to have to wing this one. I am going to go with about $2500.00 to have a good time for the week. If push comes to shove there are always credit cards. There will be Waka Waka Mas band registration as well!
Grand total -- Montserrat Festival 50 for two: USD$6831
That is not exactly a shoestring budget vacation. Come to think of it, I could spend a week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic for way less than that. But I am not even going to do the research on that. Because I really, really want to go to Montserrat for the 50th anniversary of Festival and I am afraid that if I find out how much it costs compare to say, a week in D.R. I might have to change my mind.
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Theo Semper is an Editorial Contributor with MNI Alive.