*Note to Facebook folks – there are a lot of pictures that won’t make it into the facebook note. Please click on the link to see them.*
It took me a while to organize the pictures that I wanted to post along with this blog entry.
Back in November Michelle and I took a cruise with our friends Polly and Stu. As luck would have it our cruise departed November 8th and just missed Hurricane Ida on our way out to the Grand Cayman islands. In fact our departure was delayed by a couple of hours I believe for exactly that purpose. The folks that had just come off the ship had said that they had encountered very rough seas.
Our ship was the Carnival Legend, cabin 5281, and we shared a balcony with Stu and Polly (cabin 5277). The first night was VERY rough. I absolutely loved it. The tops of the waves were being torn off by the wind and looked like that fine icy snow you see blowing around on a crisp day up North. The ship was rocking so intensely that it was difficult to read in bed with your knees up ’cause of the force you had to exert just to keep them from falling over!
The ship was well appointed and we marveled at the cabin facilities. Everything was functional and just worked as it was supposed to. Our room steward (Natalia) was very pleasant and did a top notch job of keeping our cabin clean and stocked.
Another great surprise was that the mini bar prices were nowhere near as outrageous as I’ve seen in the past ($2 for a soda, $7.50 for a mini-bottle of booze).
The shows and activities on board were OK, but not spectacular (‘though I rather enjoyed the Monday night Jazz show) of note was a pretty bad balancing act (not naming it) that I would have thought was an SNL parody if I hadn’t known it was serious.
The dining room offerings seemed to go between extremes. The Caesar salads were uniformly bland while the potatoes were excellent, the ribs superb and filet mignon was tough and lackluster. The offered dessert of melted chocolate cake was excellent and the hot chocolate was always inspired.
There was an ongoing language issue with staff unable to understand basic inquiries or not knowing the answers and making something up so we would be on our way (in the wrong direction usually). This is something that Carnival needs to work on.
Grand Cayman Island
We did not schedule any excursions in the Grand Cayman Islands, preferring instead to just lounge around on the ship and then head out to shore for a late day drink and meal. We found a great little place called Rackam’s Bar that was close to the port but relatively quiet.
We elected to do the “Ruins of Tulum” as our shore excursion. I heard after we had booked this trip that the “ruins” tour in Belize was better than this one. Even without experiencing the Belize tour first hand I have to say that I’m confident that it’s probably the way to go.
We started with a 40 minute boat ride from the port which featured a great guitarist / singer who kept us entertained, we then spent about 20 or so minutes on a bus where we met our guide, Raul. He was very engaging, kind of like a Mayan Robert Deniro. Really, he was one of the high points of the trip. This stopped briefly at a little artisans place where I picked up some shot glasses. I really am a sucker for shot glasses…
The ruins themselves were modestly interesting. Everything was roped off and sealed so you could not touch or really experience anything.
If you have ever wanted to climb a Mayan pyramid then this is definitely *not* the tour for you.
There are some interesting lizards and I’m pretty sure that every tour group that goes through there gets an entirely different story from what I heard listening to some of the other groups going through there.
From everything that I read Belize was the place to go. It’s not nearly so tired as Mexico and it’s way more mature than Isla Roatan.
We decided to do the “lost world canopy tour” in Belize. This involves 5 zip lines and 2 rappels at a location that is about a 40 minute bus ride on smooth road and about a 20 minute ride on one of the bumpier roads that you’ll ever ride on. Surprisingly, and I kid you not, the bumpy bus ride is pleasant, almost invigorating.
The canopy tour was a lot of fun, made so not only by the obvious professionalism and care for safety taken by the crew there but also by their easy going and frank manner whenever we had a chance to chat.
This trip was a little pricey at about $100 per person but I think it was worth the investment. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
If I could have my ‘druthers, I’d have spent all of our shore time in Belize. There were many other excursions that appealed and all of them seem to get a thumbs up from folks who took them. Polly and Stu elected to go Quad Vehicle riding that day and they had a great time too.
We had a catamaran excursion planned for this port that we ended up canceling at the last minute since it was raining that morning.
Instead, when the rain let up later in the day we went into the port to wander around a bit. There is a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants immediately within the port grounds. We elected to head out into the village to see what it had to offer and were immediately assailed upon leaving the port by offers and solicitations of all kinds. Everybody leaving the port ended up with an entourage of children – usually about 3-5 who would hover and attempt to cajole you into each establishment that they had a deal with.
It was a little unnerving, though Michelle commented afterward that it was a worthwhile experience to see such naked capitalism. But we quickly ended up retreating back to the port for drinks and conversation. This is one place where I’d only trust the cruise line shore excursion offerings instead of trying to work out something in port. The folks here need the dollars the tourism brings, but they are far too aggressive in trying to get them.
All in all I really enjoyed the cruise. I would definitely visit Belize again any time to explore what they have to offer. I like the cruise lifestyle and being able to just relax on the ship. There is always food available and room service is part of the deal if you prefer to spend time in your cabin. As we were cruising with friends, we often got room service in the morning and breakfasted together out on our balcony. The balcony, by the way, is something that I will be sure to get on any cruise I take in the future. It was great to be able to just hang out there and chat or think with nothing to break the reverie.
And, when you tire of being on your own, you just head out to the public parts of the ship and enjoy the sights and sounds of the other cruise passengers. As always, we bumped into some odd and interesting folks that add color to the experience and make it that much more memorable.