at the Water's Edge


Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Summer Vacation Part 3: The Cruise - Ports of Call


 To follow up on my previous posts (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here), I wanted to share with you our experiences at each of the ports we stopped at on our cruise.  It was a "7-Day Western Caribbean" cruise through Carnival, with four stops along the way: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman.  We only opted to do shore excursions at two of the ports (they're expensive!!) and were left to our own devices at the other two.  Here's a breakdown of our itinerary and what we did:



Day 1: Leave Tampa, FL and head for the Caribbean!

Day 2: Fun Day at Sea (Yes, that's actually what they called it)

Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel is an island off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.  I didn't realize until I looked at a map how close it was to our honeymoon destination -- Riviera Maya.  The water here was some of the bluest water I have ever seen in my life.  It was a deep, bright blue, even out in the deep parts of the Caribbean -- very beautiful.  While we got to Cozumel early in the day, we did not have an excursion planned here, so we actually stayed on the boat until early afternoon.  After lunch, without a plan, we decided to head ashore.  When you first get off the cruise ship, you are dumped into an area built specifically for cruise-goers, offering all sorts of souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, and the like.  Apparently cruisers love to shop.  It doesn't really look anything like Mexico or anything besides a touristy shopping area until you get outside the port.  After a brief look at the shops at the port, we decided to continue on in search of water shoes -- thinking they would come in handy for the next day's excursion and giving us some sort of purpose.

There are lots of smaller shops and restaurants when you walk out of the port, and lots of people trying to rent you scooters.  I think we said "no gracias" to the scooter offers about 10 times.  There were also lots of taxis and even horse-drawn carriages.  We opted to go on foot, though.  Not really knowing where we were going, we headed in the direction of downtown.  I think we probably walked a good mile and half or so before we happened upon a surf shop that I thought just might have what we were looking for.  And sure enough, they did -- though it wasn't really any savings from the water shoes we could've purchased from the store on board the ship.  Oh well.  We made our purchase then began the trek back.

We had passed several restaurants along the way, so we decided to stop at one of them along the shore for a drink.  Mmm...that's a big margarita!  I'm not even actually sure what it was, but it actually didn't contain any alcohol.  It's what was brought to me, and it tasted good and cold, so I drank it!  We had a very brief bout of rain while we were walking, which was really the only time it rained during the day that whole week.  We also saw a bit of wildlife on our walk.  Okay, not much.  But we did see an iguana!  I didn't really have my walking shoes on, so we decided to take a taxi back for the last mile or so.  And that was the end of our brief time on Cozumel.  We probably should've opted to do an excursion there, but oh well.  We still enjoyed our day.

Day 4: Belize City, Belize
Our second port of call was Belize.  I think this was my favorite spot, in part because I had never been there before, and in part because I am part Belizian.  Really.  You may know that I'm part Honduran even though I don't look it -- my mom's mom is from Honduras.  However, my grandma's mom was actually from Belize -- so I think that makes me 1/8 Belizian.  There's no big port in Belize, and I think its a newer and less common cruise port -- so our ship actually had to anchor out a ways, then we had to take a "tender" or a ferry type boat the rest of the way in to shore.  I'm glad we decided to do an excursion here, because I'm not sure that it's easy to find your own thing to do in Belize city.  The excursion we chose was Crystal Cave Tubing and Zipline.  It was awesome.  We started out with a looong bus ride from Belize City to the center of the country, to some national park that I don't know the name of.  However, we had our awesome tour guides to teach us and entertain us the whole way there.  Here are a few of the interesting things I learned about Belize:

  • Belize only gained its independence 31 years ago, in 1981.  It was a former British Colony and was known as "British Honduras".  I asked our guides how they gained their independence, and their response was that they just bugged the queen for long enough that she eventually gave in -- ha!
  • Belize is a small country, about the size of Massachusetts, and only has a population of about 320,000.
  • Belize City used to be the nation's capital, until a hurricane came through and destroyed much of it.  The elevation Belize City is actually 1-4 feet below sea level, so I imagine it was bad.  They moved the capital inland, to Belmopan, and the government assumed that businesses would migrate there as well.  That didn't really happen, leaving Belize City to be known as the "commercial capital".  Our guides made it sound like most people work in Belize City and said that many people get up at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning to begin their commute into the city.  Crazy!
And, on to the adventure.  When we first got to the park, we met our cave tubing guide, Alfredo (who was actually from Guatemala, but had moved to Belize 10 years ago and had been guiding these tours ever since).  They are old Mayan caves with some bits and pieces of artifacts left in them, and with a river flowing gently through them.  The minerals that compose the stalactites and stalagmites glimmer in the light, hence the "Crystal Cave".  We were given life vests and helmets with headlamps, and an inner tube.  We all linked tubes as our guide pulled us along through the cave, pointing out various formations.  We only saw a couple of bats, and despite the promise that there were no spiders, we saw a HUGE one -- the biggest I've ever seen in my life.  It wasn't very fat, but it was several inches long. 

cool stalactite formation

tubing through the cave -- it was super dark,
so the head lamps were necessary

View from a little lagoon; we jumped off a little rock ledge
up there into the water.

another interesting formation...

We also saw a big centipede--I mean a REAL centipede
on our way out of the cave.  Bugs sure are bigger in the jungle!

Pretty flowers -- I'm told this is "birds of paradise"
 After our tubing adventure, we headed back into the jungle for a zip line course.  First, we had to get on our harnesses, helmets, and even gloves.



We then proceeded to a series of I think 6 different zip lines.  You just go from one platform to another, through the jungle.  You go so fast and the zip line is only so long, so you don't really have a chance to see much while you're in there air.  It was a fun experience, though! 


We really had a fantastic time in Belize, and I do hope to go back and visit again sometime.

Day 5: Isla Roatan, Honduras
I was also very excited to go back to Honduras -- this was my fourth time there, but my first time on the island of Roatan.  There is a fairly new port area at a part of the island called Mahogany Bay.  It has the typical shopping area for cruises, and then, oddly, a chairlift that takes you down to the beach area.  I've never seen a chairlift in such a warm climate!  And, apparently cruisers are also lazy, because there was a short walking path you could take down to the beach, as well...


We had a sail and snorkel excursion planned here, which took up pretty much all of our time on the island.  The result is that we didn't see much of the land, but we saw a lot of the coast and a lot of the reefs!  The excursion was great -- very relaxing boat ride, where they actually served us lunch and drinks, and a good amount of time snorkeling.  They do make you stick pretty close together in a group, but after getting kicked in the face, I tested the limits of how far they'd let me swim out before getting yelled at :)

The shoreline really was quite beautiful

We saw lots of coral and various marine life

This was my favorite fish -- a deep indigo blue with almost
illuminated bright aqua colored spots.  Help me identify it please!

Apparently this is what I look like when I snorkel. Scary.

A sea anemone of sorts
It was a very different trip from the past two times I was in Honduras -- which were both mission trips.  The first time I went I was about 7 years old, and we went to visit family.  So, this was my first time in Honduras purely as a tourist.  Even though our visit was brief, it was neat to be back.  I only wish my mom and Grandma could have been there with me!

Day 6: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Our final port of call was Grand Cayman.  I had been here once before on the first cruise I went on when I was twelve.  We did not have an excursion planned here, mainly because I figured we could just go to the famed Seven Mile Beach and find something to do.  This was the only other port where we had to take a tender from our ship to the shore.  There were a lot of shops right at the port, but there's just a ton of shopping over a good chunk of the island, I think.  We headed right for the beach, though.  After walking along for some ways, we discovered that we could rent snorkel gear from the Marriott and that there were some good fish and reef formations right in front of it.  Most of the "reef" was man-made objects that were put in the water to attract the fish.  There were not as many different types of fish here as in Honduras, but the fish were swimming right along side you in very shallow water!  It was just a very different sort of snorkeling experience.  Tom even saw a squid!  He has a video, so I'll have to get him to upload that later. 





After we were done snorkeling, we headed for a beachside restaurant for lunch and drinks.  We had a delicious chicken bbq pizza -- probably the best I've ever had!  It's a good thing it tasted good -- because lunch was super expensive!  We spent $35 for one 10" pizza and two drinks.  I also discovered one of my new favorite drinks: Cayman Lemonade.



After coming back from the trip, Tom's been experimenting with making tropical drinks and made me some Cayman Lemonade based off of this menu picture -- it actually turned out really well!  It was a fairly short day on Grand Cayman and it was SUPER hot.  I really thought I might melt.  The beach was beautiful though, and the water was the brightest aqua blue.

Day 7: Fun Day at Sea

Well, that's about it for our cruise adventures.  It was a great trip, and I hope that we can do another cruise at some point in the future!






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ABOUTME

Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Happy Gilmore. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!

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