We just got back from a new adventure. As most of you know we downsized many aspects of our lives in order to make more room for activities and adventures. We went to extreme measures in our downsizing, including selling our house, in order to make more time and money available for these adventures. Last week was an adventure that reminds us that all our sacrifices have been worth it.
We went on a seven day cruise to the Western Caribbean. We traveled aboard the Carnival Dream, leaving Port Canaveral, Florida and making stops in Cozumel, Mexico; Belize; Isla Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico. We have cruised before, but this was our first seven day cruise. The prior three cruises had been three or four day cruises to the Bahamas. Today I will share a bunch of photos from our trip and tell you a little about each stop we made and about the trip in general. In my next post I’m going to follow up with some of the things we learned about traveling, cruising, and packing for the trip.
Our cruise started at Port Canaveral. This port is only about an hour from our house. We received a phone call a couple days ahead of time saying that the ship would be undergoing a mandatory Coast Guard inspection so it would start boarding at 1:30 instead of 11:30. We arrived around noon and they were already boarding, so apparently the inspection went pretty fast. We departed Port Canaveral at 4:30. It was cloudy when we left and we were really hoping the weather would clear up. (We ended up having beautiful sunny skies all week, and after we got back we found it had rained most of the week at home.)
The Carnival Dream is a big ship, holding over 3500 passengers. It has some cool water slides on the upper deck, a nice mini golf course, a basketball court, several three swimming pools, and a bunch of hot tubs. It also has two theaters, one for broadway style shows and the other for comedy shows. Here are a couple of pictures from the top decks.
Day 1 – Day at Sea
Day 1 is a day at sea. It was a good time for us learn our way around the ship. They offer a tour of the ship as one of the activities, and it was a good way to learn about the ship and figure out where everything was. The tour guide said it was one of his biggest groups with about 30 or 40 people, and with over 3500 people on board I’m a little surprised that more people didn’t take advantage of the free tour.
Almost everything on board the ship is free. (Or maybe more accurately included in the price of the cruise.) Meals are included, Broadway style shows, comedy shows, movies in the on-deck theater, and much more. They do charge for plenty of other things though, like adult beverages, sodas, bingo, gambling, and on-board shopping. We opted for some mixed drinks on a few of the days, but other than that didn’t spend much on the ship.
Our stateroom was an interior cabin. On past cruises we’ve had exterior with either a porthole or a balcony. We decided to try the interior cabin because it was a bit cheaper and we wanted to save most of our money for off-ship tours and adventures.
Day 2 – Cozumel, Mexico
We arrived in Cozumel on a beautiful sunny day. Cozumel is an island off the coast of Mexico. I had always heard of people going to Cozumel, but I never realized it was an island until I started reading about it before our trip. I should mention here that if you are looking for information on what to do at each stop you should check out the forums on CruiseCritic.com. That is where we found all our information for tours and places to see. It’s also great to find off-ship tours, as they are quite a bit cheaper than the tours offered by the cruise line.
In Cozumel we passed on guided tours and instead took a taxi to Chankanaab National Park. The entry fee was $21 each for adults and $14 for kids. When I was researching places to visit I must have missed the entry fee, as I was a bit surprised at the cost. I left my credit card on the ship and only brought cash. It was a good thing I brought a little extra cash with us that day.
Once inside the park you have access to free beach chairs under thatched covers. You can also get a free life vest for snorkeling by leaving your ID with the attendant. We brought our own snorkel gear, but they also had it available to rent. We like to bring our own to save a little money.
We spent the day snorkeling and lounging on the beach. They had guys on the beach that you could order drinks and food from. They were like waiters or runners that would take your order and then walk over to the on-site restaurant to pick it up. At lunch time we ordered some bottled waters and quesadillas. It was nice to be able to order from the comfort of our lounge chairs.
The snorkeling was good. It was rocky terrain with one little patch of coral. We saw some of those fish from Finding Nemo, the silver colored ones that were all balled up together and formed an arrow to point Nemo’s dad in the right direction. It was neat to see them, it was big ball of fish sitting near the bottom and every once in a while a few fish would change position. We also saw some more colorful fish. The snorkel area also had several sunken statues that gave us something to look at and encouraged us to travel all around the snorkel area.
Day 3 – Belize (sort of)
On Day 3 the ship stopped in Belize. We didn’t plan any tours in Belize. With the other tours we had planned in Isla Roatan and Costa Maya, we decided to save a little money and make day 3 a ship day. It was lucky we did as Dream and Faith got sick overnight. For Dream it was a few too many FunShip drinks combined with a bit of sea sickness. For Faith, I think she overexerted herself in Cozumel and a bit of sea sickness. This ship moved a lot more than the others we have been on. I’m not sure if it was the location of our room, which was in the very front of the ship, or the speed of the ship, or simply rougher seas. The seas didn’t seem that rough and I noticed that when the ship went faster it seemed to rock more. In any case, Dream and Faith weren’t up to any tours in Belize so it was a good thing we didn’t have any booked.
They recovered after sleeping in, and we spent the day lounging in the ship.
Day 4 – Isla Roatan, Honduras
Isla Roatan was our favorite stop of the trip. The island is beautiful and has lots of lush great foliage surrounded by turquoise caribbean waters. We booked the Best of Roatan tour through Bodden Tours. This tour included our own private tour guide, a tour in an air conditioned van around Roatan, and stops wherever we wanted to go. We added stops at Victor Bodden’s zip line and monkey exhibit and at Bananarama beach club.
Kenny was our tour guide and he did a great job telling us all about Roatan and the different areas we passed through. Kenny showed us the ex-mayor’s house. He said the ex-mayor was corrupt and got voted out, only to be replaced with another mayor that was just as corrupt. We also drove through some of the island villages and saw how the locals lived. We saw areas of locals living in poverty and areas where retired Americans and Canadians lived in luxury. We drove by the island homes of Johnny Depp and Silvester Stalone. We also took in some views from some of the mountainous areas.
After our tour around the island we went to Victor Bodden’s place and rode the zip lines. The zip lines weren’t super high, but they were a lot of fun, and just right for Faith’s first zip lining adventure. They had no minimum age or height requirements here, as opposed to the ones in our home state where Faith can only do the kiddie course ones. One a couple of the zip lines Faith was hooked up with me or Dream as she would have been too light to make it across on her own. They even let us hang upside down and on one of the longer zip lines Faith and I flipped upside down together. The zip lines were great fun and all the guides were playful and fun.
After the zip lines we toured the mini-zoo. They let us go inside the cage with the Capuchin Monkeys. The guide gave them sunflower seeds to eat and they climbed on our heads and backs and hung out there while they ate. We also got to go inside the cages with the Macaws. The Scarlet Macaws landed on our shoulders while the guide fed them sunflower seeds. The Green Macaws were smaller and Faith was able to let one land on her arm. While she was holding one another flew down and landed on my head. We had a good laugh at that.
After the zip line and monkey visit we headed to the beach. Our driver/tour guide took us to Bananarama. The beach was lined with small beach resorts, each having a small slice of beach front, a restaurant and/or bar, bathrooms, showers, and beach chairs. We had some tortilla chips and salsa and a pizza for lunch. Our guide hung out with some of the other guides as we enjoyed our time at the beach.
The reef on this part of the island is only a few yards/meters from shore. From everything I had read online, this is some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean and is probably tops for snorkeling from shore. We snorkeled in front of a resort called Infinity Bay. There was a pink buoy marking a small channel through the reef. At some point the reef is so close to the surface that you can’t swim over it. We swam along the channel and the reef changed from rocky to more coral like. Along the outer edge of the reef was real living coral in many different colors and varieties. We saw various colored fish swimming about. It really was some of the best snorkeling we had ever done and it was awesome that we could get to it from shore. We took a few pictures, but our digital camera glitched after the first few and we weren’t able to take pictures of the prettier side of the reef. We snorkeled for about an hour and then headed up to the beach to relax for a short time before heading back to the ship.
Day Five – Costa Maya, Mexico
Day five was a shorter stay than the other days. We only had five or six hours on shore, so we opted to take one of the shorter tours to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. There are some other Mayan Ruins near Costa Maya, but those tours took longer than the time we were allotted. We booked our tour through Native Choice Tours before our trip. This seemed a popular choice as we had three vans full of people join us for this tour.
They told us a little about the area as we drove to the ruins. They said the Mexican government had placed limits on this area to prevent it from getting overrun with resorts like Cancun had done. Because of this there wasn’t much to see other than the scraggly island vegetation.
The tour of the Mayan ruins was very interesting. Our tour was led by a Mayan researcher, and he proved to have a wealth of knowledge about the Mayans of the area. He told us about their system of math, their calendars, and the life of the Mayan people. He said there were over 9000 Mayan cities in the areas of Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. I had no idea there were so many.
I’m kind of glad the tour wasn’t longer. While it was fun and informative, it was also hot and humid. It was almost unbearable and we are used to hot, humid weather. Twice during our couple of hours we had a slight breeze and it felt oh-so-good. Luckily our tour provided bottles of water to everyone to keep us hydrated.
On the way back from the tour we stopped a roadside pineapple plantation. They had sliced pineapples and pineapple juice for sale. Dream and I shared a bottle of pineapple juice. This was our first ever fresh pineapple juice and it was delicious and refreshing. I perfect end to a hot, humid, fun, and informative tour.
Back on ship we had a large part of the afternoon to do as we wished. They had a Juggler on board for a show and we decided to check it out. We got there a little early and scored seats in the front row. They had a short pre-show with the cruise director and she asked for a volunteer from the audience. Faith shot here hand up in the air and was called up on stage. The cruise director ask Faith a few questions and she answered in the microphone, on stage, in front of a theater full of people. If you’ve been following this blog for a while and read my last post on her SM, you’ll realize this was a huge accomplishment for her. She used to struggle to speak at all in front of anyone she doesn’t know, and on this day she spoke on stage. We are so proud of her.
The cruise director gave Faith a magical Carnival medallion. She told her to put it under her pillow and in the morning she would have $20. The cruise director asked if we liked that trick and we nodded yes. She said good, because sometimes it’s $50. The trick worked too, in the morning she had $20 under her pillow. She tried again the next night as well, hoping for another $20, but it’s only a one trick medallion. 🙂
Day 6 – A Day at Sea
Our last full day on the cruise was another day at sea. We spent the day relaxing, napping, soaking in the hot tubs, and playing on the water slides. It was a nice relaxing end to a fun vacation.
I’m going to follow up this post with a behind the scenes post. I want to share some of the experiences, comparisons with other cruises, and costs of cruising. I also have a new bike commute post ready to go and will post that later in the week. Also, If anyone had trouble accessing the blog in the past week, I found out I had a problem that resulted in the main page working but all the other pages giving a 404 not found. It looks like it was this way during my entire vacation, so apparently my blog took a vacation at the same time I did. It’s all fixed now though, and hopefully all my pages will get back into Google now that it’s back up.