This was my 5th and longest (7-Day) Carnival cruise and perhaps the best of all time. This was chiefly due to the length of being onboard for 7 incredible days, but also for the fact that I literally sailed into the age of 50 on Halloween. For this cruise my Wife Susan and I were also joined by my parents to celebrate the BIG Five-O.
Our first Port of Call (POC) was Grand Cayman and we were able to tender right into Georgetown in a matter of minutes. Of the four POC's, Grand Cayman was the only one that we did not book an excursion. We walked around town and went to Diamond International and Tanzanite International where you could redeem a coupon issued onboard for a free bracelet and charm. While there we inquired about a few bracelets and such that didn't seem all that grandiose (that's code for something you could also get at Sears) and were startled to find the retail price was more that $16,000 bucks! Once again, something that I could purchase at Sears for just a few hundred dollars. Needless to say we didn't buy anything but we did have a good laugh. Before getting back onboard we came upon a small shop nearby the tender entrance that sold bottles/cans of beer for just $1.25 and also…drum roll…gave out nearly a limitless samples of rum and rum-soaked-cake. This was the find of the day as we, as did most everyone, avail themselves to the hospitality of the rum shop. Truly a great free excursion for one and all!!
This was my 3rd visit to Cozumel and like before, my Wife and I elected to go on the Fury Catamaran Snorkel/Beach Party excursion. Why a 3rd time? Because it Rocks! For an incredibly low excursion rate you sail on a well crewed catamaran, have the opportunity to snorkel in some of the cleanest and fish friendly environments, get to kayak and hang out along a private beach and of course are provided with FREE beer and margarita's. Sure we went through the shopping village for a bit before returning to the comfort of the ship but after a while the shops just seem to be a bit mundane, more like window dressing for tourists and that's just fine but getting out on an excursion, such as the Fury, is really why I go to Cozumel.
This was my first visit to Belize which is touted to be "Un-Belize-able" per se, and to a certain degree it is. I say this somewhat tongue and cheek as Belize is just one of those places where despite the Disney-esque attempt in staging a friendly little port (ala fake movie sets) Belize really is an unfortunate example of what third-world-poverty is all about. My recommendation is to never wander outside of the "relative" safety and security of the fenced area where the tenders come ashore. Anything just a foot or two beyond the gate is quite reminiscent of a sea of crack dealers looking to make a sale; or knock you over the head. I came to this conclusion AFTER going out on our excursion to mountain bike through the rainforest. Had I known a bit more of what types of areas we would have to travel through (for no less than 30-minutes) I most likely would have stayed onboard and enjoyed the ship. Belize is a nation of 330,000 people and has a grand total of six traffic lights in the entire "country" in which only 5 work.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed our excursion that included mountain biking through the rainforest and seeing the live habitat filled with monkeys, flora, and termites that you could "sample" if you wished. I passed. After the bike-hike we were treated to a swim at a beautiful pool and provided with a lunch of local cuisine; chicken not termites. Should I ever find myself going back to Belize I may venture out on another excursion, but then again, they don't serve termites on the Lido deck so I may as well stay onboard.
Roatan was our fourth and final POC and we scheduled an excursion to Tabyana Beach. This time my Wife and I were joined by my folks. Tabyana Beach is around a 25-30 minute "school bus" ride away from the port. Somewhat reminiscent of Belize (economically speaking), but filled with twists and turns going up and down through some mountainous areas. The beach itself is truly MAGNIFICIENT indeed with clean white sand and its refreshing turquoise water. We brought our snorkel gear along a quickly found another fish-filled reef just off the shoreline. If you're a beach/snorkel fan then Tabyana Beach is not to be missed!
Fun "50" Day At Sea #2 - Halloween
Fun Day at Sea #2 was Halloween and of course my 50th Birthday. I have always enjoyed celebrating my birthday on Halloween as it makes the experience of just getting older and transforms it into a truly party like atmosphere filled with candy and costumes. My wife and I brought costumes of course and found ourselves being selected for the Halloween Costume Contest onboard later on that night. I dressed as a prisoner wearing a black and white striped convict costume accented by a Hannibal Lector mask while my wife dressed as "Officer Hottie" (Badge # 38-DD). She is the reason why we were selected to participate in the contest, but despite our antics a couple dressed as Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty ended up winning. Either way, Halloween, and turning 50 was a great and Fun Day at Sea.
Self-assist is the way to go. Fast, efficient, and generally hassle free and the Port of Tampa once again demonstrated that they have their act together. All in all, this was yet another incredible Carnival Cruise experience that I am looking forward to repeating once again next July 2010. In the interim my Wife and I will be going back to Hawaii to rediscover its beauty and perhaps recapture some more pleasant memories that although will not be on a Carnival Fun Ship will be just as rewarding – Aloha!