We are back from our (would be) GLORIOUS cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, but Hurricane Paloma had other plans and we were rerouted to the Western Caribbean. This was disappointing since we had just cruised the Western Caribbean this past January-- but a cruise is a cruise so we had fun!
We went down with a tour group (2 chartered motor coaches) last Friday. We spent Friday night in Jacksonville where we met up with Val for dinner and some laughs. Val and I have a fun history of practical jokes; I brought her a lovely jar of pickled pigs feet and she made us SPAM cupcakes. GAG!!!
I managed to start our vacation off with a bang-- somewhere in Georgia, we stopped at a rest stop and I stepped in a mound of fire ants. I had bites on my left foot that were swollen, painful and irritated. Then when we got to the port we were told that we wouldn't be able to go to the itinerary we paid for because of the weather- such a disappointment. Then somehow during embarkation, I lost my camera bag. Oh and I was using my camera bag as a purse so it had my passport, credit card, money, etc. in it. Luckily, I found it at the purser's desk but not before I broke down and cried like a little bitch. But a few deep breaths and a couple of drinks later, I was fine and ready to start my vacation!
Muster Drill went by fast, the sail away party was fun, we got settled in our stateroom about as smoothly as possible.
The food, shows and activities were fantastic! We did wine tastings, afternoon tea, went down the big slide, hit the casino just about every night, went to every evening show, dined in the Golden Dining Room every night, relaxed on lido, tried all kinds of new stuff and had a general good time relaxing and goofing off!
On the way back in, we got the see the Space Shuttle Endeavor launch from Cape Canaveral. The launch was glowing red and the shuttle was a jet streak of fire from the rocket. It was really cool looking but my camera wouldn't capture the propulsion images even though the captain turned off the ship lights so we could see the launch better.
1st port of call: Costa Maya
Costa Maya was removed from our last itinerary because the pier was still damaged from the hurricane. It had just opened back up and our ship was the 4th ship to come back to Costa Maya since the hurricane damage. We met up with our tour guide at the pier and climbed into all-terrain open air trucks. If you didn't have a sore neck and hemorrhoids at the beginning of the tour, you were sure to leave with both. That trek through the Mayan jungle was ROUGH. Like Belize, Costa Maya is a beautiful country made ugly by destruction and poverty. It was unbelievable how most of them live. Because of the hurricane damage leaving most of the country was under sea water for so long, all of their livestock and pets were destroyed and there is no farming. The sea water ruined the land and they lost all of their chickens, pigs, goats, etc. in the storm. Most of the jungle we rode through was still heavily damaged. We would see structures nearly crumbling - not even solid enough to call a house and as soon as you would think, "Surely no one can live there" out would pop a couple of kids hanging out the window waving to the tour trucks. It was incredibly sad. We didn't see any exotic birds. Because the vegetation is still damaged, not many birds have returned. I did see a few lizards, crocodile and a monkey in a tree. Speaking of monkeys, the highlight of the trip was when I got to play with a little spider monkey. He was so soft and actually smelled ok!
After the tour, we went to the downtown area for shopping, the vendors were thirsty for tourist dollars so they were very aggressive. And just a note: the dollar margaritas are watered down.....with Mexican water....you don't want to know how I found out. As part of our tour we stopped at a private beach for a while. It was hot but the Coronas were cold. Just after Melissa took the picture of me with the coconut, I turned it up to pretend to drink the milk and like an idiot, I poured sand all in my mouth. I spit and gagged for about 10 minutes. Served me right for acting stupid, huh? There's no pictures of that last part-- Melissa was too busy laughing...
2nd port of call: Cozumel
The last time we went to Cozumel, we went to Chankunaub Park for the Dolphin Swim so we didn't really get to see much of the country. This time we booked a "highlights" tour. It was great. Our tour guide was a short little Mayan man named Ruben who seemed to know everyone in the entire country. We toured a couple of towns, the oldest church, a small Mayan Ruin, markets and a tequila farm. They grow blue agave there that they use to make tequila. We toured the little museum that shows how the plants are made into liquor and then we got to go to the sampling room. Every type of tequila they made (about 15-20 flavors?) was set out with pump dispensers and we were given medicine cups. You were instructed to "sample" each and every one as much as you wanted. Our guide pretty much insisted that everyone have at least 4 shots so that his group could be happy and worry-free. I thought for sure I would like the cherry flavored tequila, but it tasted like cough syrup. The cream, coffee and amaretto flavored ones were delicious. My mom pretty much set up camp at the Blue Margarita sample bottle and people had to just go around her and sample from the other side. She loved that stuff! The guy there said that it was "female Viagra" and was a hit with women shoppers. I lost count at how much we sampled, but everyone was able to walk back to the tour bus just fine so I guess it wasn't too bad. Maybe a bit giggly but we were fine. One of the tour highlights was stopping on the beach at a fresh coconut vendor. He would smack a hole in the top of the fresh coconut (which are large and green there!) and give you a straw. You suck out the milk then hand it back to him. He takes this big-ass machete and chops open the coconut and they scrape out the meat and put it in a baggie for you. I ate mine the way the locals were eating theirs: with a sprinkle of salt, a few dashes of chili powder and a few squeezes of fresh lime. It was fantastic! Melissa and I hiked over some of the deposits/formations at the waterfront- the view was spectacular! We shopped a bit (Mom bought me an awesome pendant!) and Melissa got caught sneaking pictures of a hot guy showering by the pool at the pier--yikes! Even funnier, he ended up working on our ship and we kept running into him! I think he enjoyed it though. We had lunch in Cozumel, too. Last time we ate at the Park and bragged about that meal the entire time. This time none of us could eat our food. Other than the chips and salsa, nothing was remotely digestible. The waiter joked around with me that I ordered an iguana quesadilla and damn, I think that's what the guy served me. Blah!
3rd port of call: Nassau Bahamas
Well, we were back in Nassau for the third time this year. I looked at the tours and everything was "been there, done that" so we just hung out downtown a bit. We ate at Burger King believe it or not. Melissa was jonesing for the BK Lounge as soon as she saw the sign. We shopped a little and went down to the straw market. The market sucked. Big Time. It was hot as all grades of hell, all of the people working there were pretty much hustlers and EVERY vendor had the same crap--knockoff purses, ugly jewelry, straw bags, T-shirts and tote bags. Mom's knee was killing her so we went back to the ship, then later that evening, Melissa and I went back downtown for drinks at Senor Frogs. The food at Senor Frogs is over priced and not that great. The drinks are overpriced but totally delicious!
Days at Sea
We had 4 days at sea- which were my favorite part of the cruise. Sleeping in, relaxing on the deck or our balcony all day, eating delicious foods, getting dressed up, gambling, meeting new people and joining in the activities when we wanted-- it was perfect!
I won the grand prize drawing at the Photo store--a photo package worth about $50.00- I used it to buy our formal night pictures!
Mom fell in total infatuation with our captain. I have to admit-- he was quite handsome. Every time Mom was missing, it was a running joke that she was in the captain's cabin. Our wait staff and "supercharged" maitre D were fantastic-- they kept us laughing every night at dinner! Some nights we laughed until we cried. Our wait staff were from Bali and although their "engrish" was very good, they cracked us up singing "hoppy birfday" to the other passengers. Luckily, they had seen "A Christmas Story" and knew the scene from the Chinese dinner/Christmas carol, so they enjoyed the "No-sing it like this" joke with us.
The sunsets were breathtaking, the view from our balcony was hypnotizing and we were spoiled with lavish food and drinks all week. The shows were wonderful, the late night comedians were fun, and the casino was a ball. Melissa and I made several friends at the Roulette table again this trip! One of the best parts of the cruise is the people watching. By the middle of the week, we were taking pictures of everything that cracked us up, even a "what not to wear" page. Our 'what not to wear' pictures include a ton of fat, hairy guys in Speedos, fat chicks in bikinis and dresses looking like an exploded can of biscuits, butt-ugly vagitarians in trucker hats, crazy drunk people in bath robes, insane German guys throwing money off the interior balcony, show-off bimbos with brand new boobies, crazy hair-dos, etc. It wasn't all crazy people though- we met a bunch of really nice people. Even Santa was on our cruise resting up for the big season. It was awesome!
We bought several of the professional photos from our trip but I haven't scanned them in yet. I'll update again as soon as I have the rest of the photos!