Tulum Mayan Ruins

This morning, I got up and got ready for my Tulum Mayan ruins tour. The tour group assembled early at 7:15, so I got some breakfast and headed down to the group. Luckily not so many people were on the tour (just 22 of us), and we headed out to get on board another boat for a ferry ride. This boat was rocking so much that when we got in, we had a small orientation of what we were doing, and they immediately started passing out bags. It got me a little nervous, because I hadn’t brought any ginger pills with me, and it was feeling really stuffy in the boat. As soon as the ‘orientation’ was over, I asked if I could go upstairs to the outside, and they let me while most everyone else stayed in the first deck. Upstairs was beautiful, sunny, warm, with a great breeze, and I had no issue with the rocking of the boat. I think a few people got sick, and I’m not surprised because being couped up in the first stuffy floor with other people getting sick seemed absolutely terrifying.. not sure why no one else really came outside for the fresh sea air.

We then arrived and walked to a bus station where we boarded a bus to take us to the ruins. It was cool to get out of the touristy area and see some real streets, stores, etc, however I guess most of the area is actually touristy anyhow. We arrived at the ruins and were brought into the grounds where these old Mayan templates were built within a protected wall (Tulum). It housed about 300 higher society people like astronomers, mathematicians, and the dieties. Overall, it was a great trip out to see these ruins, and take in the beautiful weather, scenery, and culture!

After a ways back to the ship, we all met up and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun aboard the ship.

Costa Maya and Halloween Onboard!

This morning, we arrived at Costa Maya just after lunch. It made for a nice schedule because we turned our clocks back to match Mexico’s time, so we gained an hour! After a great breakfast complete with eggs, waffle, pancake, French toast and fruit, I got ready to head down to the meetup for my dolphin swim group. They took us off the ship and over to the port terminal where we literally walked by shops and simply went right to the dolphin pool. There we got some training of signals to make the dolphins kiss us, pet them, hug them, ride on them, and touch our hands tall out of water. We then made our way down to a pool next to the ocean where you could do these activities with the dolphins. I was excited to touch a dolphin finally, and actually have one pull me along in the water!

There were 11 of us in the group and the trainer managed to get everyone doing various turns with the dolphins while sending another dolphin to all of us waiting for one-on-one time to keep us entertained by letting us pet them. It was pretty well organized, and while a bit pricey, was really fun to feel them and see them so up close. When it was my turn to swim down to the end of the pool, the dolphin quickly swam to me, picked me up and let me hold on to its fins as he swam upside down in the water and pulled me back to the other side. The strength with which he pulled me was pretty incredible, and I just wanted to swim longer distances and be pulled through the water like this!

After the dolphin swim, I changed and went around the shops looking at items. Today was Halloween and they oddly planned the costume kids party around 4:30 and we had til 5:30 on shore. Since there wasn’t much to do at port, after some shopping and bargaining, I got another mask for $25 (down from $65—ridiculous) and headed back to the ship. It’s been fun to see everyone get dressed up, but we have our formal dinner tonight so we have to dress nicely for dinner, then we can don our costumes for the adult costume party later tonight.

It was incredible. I’ve never eaten s much food in my life. And the amazing part of it is for just $20, you have an incredible menu, and you can order as much of it as you like. By the end of the meal, I counted our dishes that we’d ordered, AND finished, and we had 14! Some were small portions/plates, but still, 14 amazing dishes between the two of us was quite an accomplishment!
I got dressed up as the matador, and we headed down to the restaurant to see our friends since we had an amazing dinner at Palo. There we sat with Luis, Claudia and the kids, and it was cute to see everyone dressed up in the restaurant. We hung out for a bit and did pictures, then headed down to the adult costume party. Apparently as costumes walked in, they were handed some cards for specific groups such as ‘Scariest’ ‘Most Disney’ or ‘Funniest’… I didn’t receive a card, so I figured I wasn’t invited to the competition. However at the end, they announced that if anyone didn’t get a card and were dressed up, that we should go up and have the audience vote. That of course was embarrassing since so many of us went up. Luckliy, I’ve built some good social links on the ship so that when it was my turn to introduce myself as the matador Ben HA min, and whipped my red cape, the crowd roared. I was then put in the finalist selection with 3 other groups. As it got down to the final call, I was knocked out by the MC, to which the crowd cheered and demanded me to be called a winner as well. So it ended up being a 3 way tie with me, and the 2 other groups. I got a nice little Disney souvenir to bring home as a trophy. We then called it a night since we had tomorrow in Cozumel going ashore quite early.

Grand Cayman Islands

We’ve made some great acquaintances on board. Specifically an adorable family of Claudia, Luis, Isabella and Mateo. They are from Houston and have been so sweet to spend time with. They sit at the table next to us at dinner, and at this point, we’ve run into them so often that we’ve had nice discussions. Today we landed at our first port of call, Grand Cayman. It was really pretty in the night when you could look out and see land ahead, and I couldn’t help but think of what it was like hundreds of years ago when after sailing for so long, the sight of land happens, and the feelings that people must have felt. It’s hard to imagine the amount of exploration by ship that went on, and how difficult those journeys must have been.

Because of some rough waters on the other side of the island, we had to dock at a smaller more inconvenient dock which made us take tendering boats back and forth to the ship. It was interesting, yet so well organized. I’ve been really impressed with the organized way the ship and passengers have been handled, though we are a bit under capacity, lines and things have never been long, nor noticeable.

The hardest thing about the excitement about this port was that I scheduled a city tour which had an on board meetup at 11:15, so despite being able to leave the ship, I had to stay on board until 11:15 for our tour to assemble. As we made our way off the ship, we got our tour bus driver, and headed on our way for what seemed to be a drive through his neighborhood. What I mean, is that the city isn’t much, and you simply drive by the local grocery store, the local post office, the local beach, the local bank etc, winding our way to the end of the island. We stopped at a place called ‘Hell’ due to the rock formations that created a hellish looking death land.. it was like a miniature Bryce canyon, yet black and swamp looking. After a little look at ‘Hell’, we continued on where we found ourselves at the turtle farm. Apparently, turtle meat is eaten quite a bit, so they have these farms that raise turtles for butcher. They were huge! There were different silos of turtles based on their age groups, and the oldest one who’s been retired was 67 years old and could possibly live to 150.

There was an area of the smaller turtles that you could pull out of the pools and take pictures with them. They were funny looking, and soft but scaley. After the turtle farm, I headed over to take a look at the ocean and see some views before our bus took us back to downtown for shopping. Once in Georgetown, I found a café to have a sandwich and a quick checkin on the internet with my phone. I had a good turkey sandwich and was on my way to find any interesting souvenirs.

As I’ve collected some masks over the years, I found a really great one here that I thought would look good with my collection, so I picked it up after a tiny bit of bargaining, which made me realize how poor our dollar has gotten. Gone are the days were you could haggle and barter for amazingly cheap prices because of the strength of our dollar (thanks Clinton!) and now, people would rather not carry US currency because of what a deteriment our economy has become—even the Canadian dollar and Aussie dollars are worth so much more now! (Thanks Bush!)
Anyhow, after a bit of shopping, I headed to the terminal to pick up our shuttles to bring us back to the ship, and there was Luis, Claudia, Isabella, and Matteo. We rode home together and talked about our days.

We then had our dinner and checked out a couple shows including a Karaoke contest for the adults. I was pretty exhausted so turned in for a good night’s rest as I’ve planned dolphin swimming the next day!

New Friends, Beautiful Weather, and Endless Food!

Today we woke up to beautiful warm air—which is a great trend! The air has constantly been getting warmer since we left and having the door open during our sleep is so incredible. We went to Palo, the on board restuartan that is not a freebie. They had an elaborate brunch, but honestly not worth the $20 fee. It’s a buffet style, and while the buttermilk pancake was incredibly delicious, it was still just a pancake. So I decided to transition from breakfast foods to lunch to make sure I got my money’s worth. I ended up being able to down a pancake, eggs benedict, fruit, pastry, shrimp cocktail, seared tuna, mushrooms, fresh hummus, tiramisu, chocolate tart, strawberry pastry, and probably a few other items that I can’t remember now. People are impressed with the amount of food I’m able to handle (shocker).

After breakfast, I wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather and hit the deck to read and enjoy basking in the sun. So I claimed a seat and relaxed for the entire afternoon. I’m getting to know people on board and now it’s becoming very social where I’ll wave at several people throughout transiting the decks. It’s quite fun!

After a full afternoon of enjoying the pool and sun deck, I met a woman named Cherie. She and I got into a really intense discussion of life and such, and formed an unusual bond that made for almost a couple of hours of talking seem like minutes. I look forward to seeing her again!

Every evening, we see funny towel-gami, towels folded into unique creatures.. sting ray, monkey, turtle. It’s been really fun to see the little surprises they give us!

Food food and more delicious food!

After being a little worried about my first dinner and feeling a tad bit seasick, I was very pleased to have slept so soundly the entire night. We had the door of our balcony open, and it was the most relaxing to hear the water, feel the breeze, and see the moonlight shine against the water. It’s truly an experience, and so happy to be doing it!
We selected from a menu some breakfast items so we had something to start the day with, and got some muffins, juice etc. We then headed up to the pool area to meet some others that we’d met up with the previous night. We got to know a girl from San Antonio, some others from a company called Vacationstogo.com, and it seems like everyone on board is a travel agent somehow.
What’s cool about the cruise, is you really get an opportunity to meet and hang out with people. We have been so surprised at how under capacity the boat is.. only about 1800 people are on board the ship designed for 2700. The good news with this is that the adult only section is quite available, and the pool, being a little small, seems plenty big for the amount of people that use it simultaneously.

We then went to a theater to watch one of their broadway like shows. This one was ‘Twice Charmed’, the story of what really happened to Cinderella after the ball.. It was really quite well done, but being in the theater made me feel a little sick again. It was formal night, so wearing a tie with pants made me feel uncomfortable. So, right after the show, I went straight to the room to take a ginger pill and tabacum and I instantly started feeling better. That has been a godsend!

We then went to dinner at the restaurant called Lumiere’s. That night was a Prince/Princess menu which means everyone on the ship ate the same food, so I’m looking forward to returning to see what the food is really themed like. We got butternut squash ravioli, with lambchops and an amazingly delicious dessert spread. The food has been really impressive for ‘buffet style, and as much as you can eat).

We ended the night up watching a funny ‘match your mate’ show with some nice passengers that had been married for 43 years down. A ventriloquist did a fun show and played with the audience as well.

We then hung out with our ‘singles’ group at the night club which literally went from 200 people down to us 10 within minutes after the show. I was surprised how few people were on board in the evenings and out-and-about. The ship literally turns into a ghost ship at night—which can be extremely pleasant. The night air is perfect with the moon being full, it gives an amazing feeling out in the Caribbean!

Cruise bound!

Our journey to the cruise port began early in the morning from Austin. We drove and made great time through Houston, Galveston, and made it to our port parking. After getting parked, my first thought was, wow, there aren’t many cars. We then got in a shuttle and headed for the terminal to get checked in for our cruise.

We quickly made it through the lines and when we were asked for our passports, Brent said all he had was his drivers license! Luckily I got checked in and started thinking, well what would I do if he can’t board the ship?! Luckily after a half hour of vigorously coordinating with friends and roommates someone was able to locate his birth certificate which sufficed for boarding purposes. After we boarded, we went straight to get some food for lunch..

We then got access to our rooms and started unpacking our luggage. It was actually quite cool in Galveston so we had our jeans and everything on..not yet a tropical cruise feel.

We then did a mandatory emergency drill and went through simple training. The boat finally tarted to move and we were on our way. We started to go around the ship to explore everything and it was pretty impressive how big the boat was. Pools, jacuzzis, restaurants, everything was set up so nicely., it was really impressive.

We had our first dinner at parrot cay, which is a tropical theme. They do something pretty smart–they design your seating so you meet other oassengers and your servers, and they stay with you the entire trip as you rotate restaurants. That way you build rapport with several members of the crew as well as oassengers. Our food was really good, and I opted for the prime rib with great desserts.