The alarm went off at the Magnolia Hotel at 4:30 in the morning. Having showered the night before, Tara and I threw on clothes and headed down to the Lobby to checkout and wait for the 5:00 shuttle to the airport. The same guy that had checked us in the night before was still there to check us out.
The two legs of the flight were uneventful, and we arrived in Tampa at 11:30 where we got our luggage and took a cab to the Port of Tampa to board the Carnival Legend. The check-in process to actually get on the ship was incredibly long and took around an hour and a half. I just wanted to get to our cabin and take a nap.
Finally we were on board and we made our way to our cabin where our luggage waited for us. I had paid the extra cash for the “Balcony Stateroom” (Well worth it–at least once). The cabin was nice and so was the balcony. We headed up to the cafeteria for a late lunch then back to the cabin where we took a nap–sort of.
At an inconvenient time, the bell rang for the mandatory muster drill (grab the life jackets from your cabin and go down to the lifeboat that you would get on in the event of a Titanic). After the drill, the ship set out.
The formal dining for dinner on the cruise was something we particularly enjoyed. We were assigned one table for the week (shared with another newlywed couple from Arkansas), and therefore, had the same servers each night. They were all very friendly, and each night, at some point between the main course and dessert, the maitre’d got on the PA system and announced: “Showtime” to which the servers all danced to a variety of music from traditional french to modern hip hop. Also each evening, there was a show to go to. Some where musicals with dancing, one was a balance act, a comedian, and a juggler. They were all alot of fun.
Monday was a day at sea which we spent running laps around the deck (which didn’t last long because it was so hot), exercising in the fitness room, and lounging by one of the saltwater pools. We also went on the waterslide, which was also saltwater and caused for some discomfort at the end of the slide.
Tuesday was at Grand Cayman–A long sliver of an island that you can see across. We had continental breakfast delivered to our cabin which we enjoyed on the balcony while we watched 3 other cruise lines come from the distance and anchor next to us. This was nice, but it was so hot that by the end we were eating as fast as we could to get out of the heat.
We did a snorkel cruise excursion that day. After a short bus ride driven by a jolly black man that sang hymns a played harmonica the whole way, we boarded another, much smaller, boat that would take us snorkeling. We went out to the barrier reef, which was fun, but it was difficult to avoid the 90 other snorkelers, and the choral was pretty damaged. We then went to “Sting Ray City” where the guides lured in a bunch of sting ray with some bait. The guides would dive down and catch a sting ray, which didn’t seem to mind one bit, in their arms and bring them to the surface so we could pet them. I also dove down the 12 feet or so on my own to pet a loose one.
Once we got back from the snorkel cruise, we walked up the street aways perusing the shops. We came to a stand in which a Rastafarian-esque man was selling cocunuts which he chopped the top off so you could stick a straw into it and drink the milk. For $4 we bought a cocunut and went down by the ocean to sit and drink the milk and ate Rum cake that I had purchased. It was outstanding. When we finished the milk, we took the cocunut back to the man and he cut 2 “spoons” off of it and then cut it in half so we could eat the “meat”. Thus we walked back towards the ship each with a cocunut half eating the meat. You should have seen the stares we got from the other tourists who had not ventured far enough from the ships to find the cocunut man. With some amusement, we both admited that, although the snorkeling had been fun, the highlight of the day had definitely been the $4 cocunut.
Wednesday was Cozumel–a little Mexican island about 60 miles off the mainland. We had decided not to do an excursion here so we got off the ship with intentions of just walking around and seeing what we could find to do. After leaving the “tourist zone” we were called over by a few Mexicans in a stand who offered a compelling deal. For $90 we could get a 3 hour taxi tour of the island. This was quite a bargain–back in “tourist zone” it was $100 just for a taxi to the mayan ruins. Having not prepared for something like this, we had $100 in travelers checks and $40 in cash. The guys hesitated about the travelers checks, but, anxious to make a sale, accepted them. Before we knew it, we were in a taxi zipping to the far side of the island still wondering if we had enough money for everything.
The first stop was an open air mexican restaraunt right on the beach. It was fairly quiet–there were only about 3 other small groups there. After learning how many pesos are in a dollar and confirming that they did not take cards, we decided to split a seafood dish between the two of us for about $18. Everything was outstanding. Towards the end of the meal, the mariachi band that had been circuilating stopped by our table and asked if we would like them to play for us. We requested love song and they began to play. About halfway through the song, I realized that they would be expecting a tip. I had only twenties (and the travelers checks), and also feared that if I gave them money, we’d end up short on our cab fare. Thus as the song ended, we clapped and thanked them, and I did nothing, hoping they’d just walk away. They did not walk away, but rather, asked if we’d like another song, so we accepted. The second song was also very good. As it concluded, they all just stood there. Finally I reached for my wallet. They all nodded eagerly. “Do you guys have change for a twenty?” I asked awkwardly. Fortunately they did, and I was able to tip them, and they went away happily.
Back in the cab, we drove further up the coast (all fairly vacant, and absolutely beautiful), then turned inland towards the Mayan ruins. It was supposed to cost 7.50 a person to get into the ruins. For whatever reason, it only ended up costing $3 each. We spent an hour there walking around looking at the ruins and iguanas. These ruins are not nearly as impressive as the mainland ones, but they were neat nonetheless.
After the ruins, the driver took us through downtown back to the ship. We were already over our 3 hours, so he was driving as fast as he could. The ride through downtown was crazy. Tons of Mexicans on bicycles and mopeds swarmed the streets and kept pulling out in front of us. The driver had installed a siren in his taxi which he kept using to ward them off. We arrived back at the port, paid the driver with the travelers checks and a little extra cash, and emerged from the adventure with and extra $5. You’d be surprised the bartering capability one acheives when one really only has x amount of cash. We went to a little “trinkets” stand on the way back and I talked the guy down from $10 for a bracelet for Tara.
Back in tourist zone, we went to Fat Tuesday (wich took credit cards) and bought Daiquiris and sat on the cool rope swing seats and drank them while looking out at the ocean and the ship. We aknowledge that they weren’t as good as authentic Mexican margarritas would have been, but they hit the spot anyway.
Thursday was Belize which is a small country in Central America. We did a jungle mountainbiking excursion at an eco park. First we were able to spend some time at the pool they had there, then we got lunch which was rice and beans with a side of fried banana. I can’t say I’ve ever had fried banana before, nor can I say that I’ll have it again, but it was interesting to have once.
The mountainbiking was a 45 minute easy ride through the jungle with a tour guide. One thing that we had both neglected to realize was that the jungle would have mosquitos. More mosquitos than I had ever seen in my life. Each time we stopped for the guide to talk, they swarmed us. Tara was swarmed particularly bad and consequently, also had the most skin showing. One guy in the group did actually have insect repelant which he was kind enough to pass around. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the deet stuff and did not work the best. Tare emerged from the jungle looking like she had chicken pocks.
That being said, the jungle ride was a blast and it was amazing to be in a real jungle, let alone riding a bike through it. Even Tara enjoyed it, although we will definitely bring bug spray if we ever make it back.
Friday was Isle Roatan, a small Honduran island. Having yet to do a beach day, we did the beach excursion, which bussed us to the other side of the island to the exact type of beach you’d see as a desktop background. The whitest sand and the palm trees coming right up to the beach. We rented snorkel equipment and experienced snorkelling right off the beach that was far better than the snorkel cruise at Grand Cayman. Towards the end of the our time with the equipment, I dove down to swim amongst the corrall. Some 15 feet down was a short underwater tunnel in the chorrall. “I need to swim through that” I thought as I excitedly headed for the surface for air. As it turned out, Tara was right above me trying to get water out of her mask and frantically kicking to stay afloat. Not seeing her, I came up right under her and she kicked me in the face. This did not hurt me, but rather, popped off my mask breaking the strap thing that holds it to your head. Angered that we may have to pay for the damaged equipment, but still eager to swim through the tunnel, I held the mask to my face as I dove down and accomplished the feat. Somewhere above me, Tara saw me emerge from the tunnel and shook her head…
We returned the equipment (the broken strap went unoticed by the bored teen employee), and decided to buy 3 handwoven hammocks from a guy there selling them. 2 for Becky and Bryce, and 1 for us. We also had to buy some honduran coffee from the gift shop to get cash change from our travelers checks for the hammocks. Back on the beach with our purchases, we saw a woman walking topless along the beach. It was terrible, and by terrible I mean awesome.
Saturday was our final day and it was a day at sea for the return voyage. We lounged by the pool and got pina coladas which were delicious. Dinner was kind of sad that night, enjoying one last “Showtime” and saying goodbye to the servers.
Sunday we were back in Tampa and debarked and returned home.
And there is still pleny more…