Along our journey across all 50 states, Michael and I constantly checked various travel websites for deals on lodging, transportation, and more. We came across a deal that we just couldn’t pass when we were traveling. It was a vacation from our vacation, yes! We had been driving, driving, and driving some more. We opted for an exotic Western Caribbean cruise, where the captain and ship’s staff and crew did most of the work for a week’s time. And boy was it worth it. We just got back stateside yesterday morning, left the ship at 8am with our luggage in tow and our tans to show off.
The following post is quite long, so feel free to simply scroll through the photos or take your time and experience the different countries we experienced along the way…
Carnival was our cruise line of choice this time around! Since we selected Holland America for our Alaskan cruise, we thought, “hey, why not try a different type for our ‘fun’ beachy getaway!” It was also definitely on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of pricing, so it didn’t make us feel like we had empty pockets. Michael discovered the cruise for $192 per person, plus taxes, fees, and parking: which eventually added up to total $1,000 for the week.
We departed from the Port of Miami, the busiest cruise terminal in the States. Our destinations included: Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Roatan, Hondoras; and Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman. We checked out of our Miami Lakes Holiday Inn hotel and took the half hour drive south to the Port of Miami on Saturday, November 8th. Our boarding time was 1:30pm, but we wanted to get an early start, so we got there before noon and were able to get on the ship by 1pm. Check-in was such a breeze compared to when we were in Vancouver. They even squeezed in a questionnaire about Ebola, since there was a concern for this disease at this time. This surely did not deter vacationers from cruising to the Caribbean as it sailed at full capacity!
The set-up of this ship, the Carnival Glory, was quite similar to Holland America’s Ms. Zuiderdam. Our interior cabin was on the “Odd” side on Deck 7. Our emergency drill followed that afternoon at 3pm, and the way this particular drill was organized was really ineffective. We could definitely tell this was going to be a different experience.
Holland America really put a strong emphasis on using hand sanitizer before, during and after meals, but Carnival did not place a high value on this process. Michael and I could both see why some of these other cruise lines have such high rates of contamination and spread of stomach viruses. However, nothing of that nature happened on this cruise, our version of course.
We took full advantage of attending the first art auction on board which included free champagne and an artwork. Michael really likes to get involved in these auctions because he is really quick with putting the bid card up to win us some neat prizes. At the end, we got a picture of the cruise ship, 7-8 free artworks, and a bag of chocolate. Last time, we won a bunch of other art pieces and a bottle of champagne…man, is he quick! We both went into this art auction knowing that we would not invest in anymore pieces of artwork until we get settled down into a house where we will have room to put them up:) Yes, we did it! We did not give into purchasing anymore, willpower!
Before we went on the cruise, we perused through some shore excursions, and one really caught our eye: it was none other than the Amazing Cozumel Race! We were so excited to do something like this because we had been traveling across the states and really wanted to be challenged with the task of solving riddles, clues, and getting from point A to point B by interacting with locals and finding our way around the city. It turned out to be a beautiful, sunny and hot day in Cozumel, Mexico, and our Amazing Race excursion started at 11:30am on Monday, November 10th.
We met our guides who were really enthusiastic. They gave us a map, a sharpie, a Mayan number key, and a cell phone in case we needed help or if we happened to get lost. This race started with us all getting in taxis to get to the downtown area where we started at the Plaza Punta Langosta (Lobster Mall). We were split into teams, and there were a total of 10 teams consisting of 2 to 11 people. I was with Michael on a team, and we were Team #13, The Falcons!
It kicked off with a puzzle, which led us to a number on our map. Pretty much we ran from one location to another, and at one point, we were clocked in (when they stopped the time) to get ready for a snorkel excursion into the water to find a clue on a sunken ship. Of course Michael volunteered to be the snorkeler! And he shouted out the clues for a total of four teams. After that we were off to several other locations.
It was really neat to see the downtown area and interact with everyone. I really enjoyed myself because I got to practice my Spanish! I was really happy to see that all that high school Spanish paid off because I knew things that I never thought I did.
How’d we do? We took first place, along with two other couples. It was the first time in their history that three teams won 1st place. We were awarded with metals and a balloons at the Hatched Roof Restaurant. Woot Woot!
Our next stop along the way was Belize! I was really excited to check out this country because both Michael and I have never stepped foot on it before this. We booked another shore excursion where we took an hour an half van ride out of the city to the jungle, where we selected to go tubing on a freshwater river. In Belize we had to tender ashore because the country has such lovely coral reefs that they do not want to damage nature with large cruise ships docking ashore. So they send out smaller boats ashore to and from the ship. It took about fifteen minutes to get to the docks from the ship.
This excursion was a lot more relaxing than running 4 miles around the city in Cozumel. However, we both felt they really put a lot of emphasis on our safety than anything else. The rapids were not very fast at all, and we were decked out with helmets and thick life vests!
We looked quite adventurous! However the river was not very exhilarating. The best part of the excursion was having the opportunity to learn about the country of Belize with our tour guide, Axel. He really did a great job with giving us some really nice and detailed highlights about the country itself. I have to be honest in saying that once we left the port, the city was really run-down looking. It wasn’t a bad thing. It just gave us a new perspective. We passed the only prison in the country…which by the way is not government owned and operated. It’s actually owned by an American Foundation that works on rehabilitating prisoners through crafts and various activities such as baking, farming, and cooking and cleaning, interesting… Also, did you know the official language in Belize is English?
The next stop on the list was Roatan, Honduras, where Carnival has a piece of real estate to itself at Mahogany Bay Islands. We defaulted into turning this into our “beach and snorkel day” where we rented some snorkel equipment to explore some underwater life. This was my very first time snorkeling ever!!! I was really happy to have shared this experience with Michael. The weather could not have been more perfect, and it beat taking any excursion. We put our waterproof camera to the test here, and we actually used this more durable camera pretty often on this Caribbean vacation. Michael spotted a few different kinds of fish, and even a barracuda! I saw a jellyfish and got a bit scared, but we really enjoyed our own snorkel adventure here in Honduras.
Our last stop was the Cayman Islands in Grand Cayman on Thursday, November 13th, where it was Pirates Week when we got there. We were able to get tender stickers from 10am to 12pm, and then afternoon we could simply board the ferries to get ashore. We decided to stay in a bit, take a our time with breakfast and use the fitness center before we embarked on our adventure.
There were several cruise ships that were in port that day. Michael and I decided to simply explore the area on our own as there was a Seven Mile Beach we wanted to check out. We also had to tender into the area, but it only took five minutes to get ashore.
The water here was so clear! And we ended up walking about half an hour to the left, where the ocean was on our left where we docked ashore. We had run out of sunblock in Roatan so we found a little scuba diving shop and purchased some there on the way. We came across a sign that read “Public Beach Access”, which led us through a narrow pathway to a beachy and also coral and rocky area. This beach led us to various resort-like areas, and we decided to hang out by this little cove. There were thousands of tiny fish, and Michael spotted many needle fish trying to catch these little tiny fish as prey.
On our way back to the ship, we stopped at a local grocery store where we decided to get some freshly squeezed pineapple and watermelon juices…we were parched and decided to get some refreshing beverages. We also passed numerous roosters that were crowing. I also ended up getting a fresh coconut from a man selling them on his shopping cart. He was kind enough to cut them up for us to eat the coconut after we were finished drinking the fresh water, yum!!! What a tasty snack. Of all the islands, I really enjoyed Grand Cayman the most because I can totally picture myself getting a little house and living the island life there. They have all the basic necessities. The only thing is that they drive on the opposite side of the road.
For dinner that night, we had our last elegant evening, where we snapped a few shots with our dinner companions:) #BestTableEver!
Overall, we found our first Carnival cruise to be really fun and a nice getaway during our vacation! To cap this post off, we have a feature photo collage of some of the various towel animals that greeted us in our cabins and some of our dinner entrees.