A Travellerspoint blog

Day 6 - Costa Maya, Mexico

When & Where

semi-overcast 82 °F

Last night the ships clocks were set forward 1hr for our arrival into Costa Maya, Mexico. The weather was , and partly cloudy.

Costa Maya is the first Western Caribbean port designed exclusively for the cruise ship industry and is strategically located just hours from Cancun on Mexico's southern Yucatan Peninsula. It is comprised of 2 small villages, Mahahual and Xcalak. While Xcalak is approximately 37 miles south of Costa Maya cruise port, the fishing village of Mahahual is only about 2 miles away.

Mahahual has soft sand beaches, grass thatched palapas and a coral reef a short distance off-shore called Banco Chinchorro, as well as several bars, restaurants and shops.

Set against the deep turquoise sea, Costa Maya is comprised of three grand pavilions with a luxury and artisan shopping area, a beach club, saltwater pools, fine restaurants and bars, and all the resourced necessary to explore the surrounding jungle and coral reefs. It is the region's most complete and diverse port of call, providing cultural, natural and archaeological excursions.

I was excited for this stop as this was going to be my 2nd excursion where I would be getting back in the water for a two-tank Scuba dive after a long time away. I was pretty nervous since not knowing anyone, but was quickly at ease when just one other person showed up and it was just going to be the two of us diving with Dreamtime Dive Shop.

We were going to be seeing some pristine reefs with limited disturbance from unnatural causes. Meso-American Barrier Reef is the 2nd largest reef in the Northern Hemisphere (and they said they were in the process of getting it surveyed to see if it was bigger that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).

We met the team on the pier who assisted with getting registration done as well as answer any questions. The guide to ask what equipment we needed to ensure a great fit, and radioed ahead so everything was ready for us. The team offered assistance with equipment setup and provided a thorough briefing about the boat, dives, including the depth, time, signals, and marine life.

The Dive Instructor was very patient with the two of us, an since we didn't have to spend a lot of time with a lot of people, he offered to give us both a 30 minute refresher course just to make us both feel comfortable.

I had only been diving while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, so I only knew what the waters looked like there. At most, you could see three-fifteen feet ahead of you. (this was partly due to spring time waters churning, as well as humback whales swimming in the area)

Once I went in the water, and gave my "OK" to the captain of the boat, I was able to duck my head in the water and was simply amazed at the clarity of the water. It felt like I could see for miles, but in reality, it was around 50feet. Either way, the colors and the fish were amazing to see. This was a 'two-tank' dive, so our first spot was called "Dos Ojos", and our second spot was called "Acuario". Both were reef dives, and we saw plenty of coral, fish, sea cucumbers, and other sea creatures. Some common marine life are: Turtles, lobsters, stingrays, nurse sharks, eels, king crabs, barracuda, as well as a variety of tropical reef fish like damsels, butterfly fish, pork fish, parrot fish, and schools of Creole wrasse, blue tans, and lion fish.

At Dos Ojos, the maximum depth was around 60 feet for around 45-50 minutes. Acuario was around 40 feet for approximately 45-50 minutes. Travel time between the two was only about 10 minutes as the Barrier Reef is very close to shore with many wonderful sites with amazing plateaus beginning at 20 feet.

Be sure to wear your swimsuit and take a towel, ensure you have your certification card as well. This just ensures that little time is spent putting on your gear and waiting for others!

By the time we dove in both spots and wanted to enjoy more time, it was time to get back on the ship and head to our next stop.

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 12:18 Archived in Mexico Tagged vacation mexico costa america holland rotterdam maya carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 5 - Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala

When & Where

sunny 82 °F

Day five, Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala. Temperature approximately 82 °F, slight chance of rain in the mountains.

The port was built in 1976, which is nestled in the Amatique Bay, and today it is among the busiest in Central America. Although the pier itself does not offer a lot in activities, the nearby area is full of unique experiences. You'll find a Spanish fort located 5 minutes away, where you'll discover wonderful architecture and have the chance to learn about explorers and pirates.

One of the most popular local attractions are waterfalls which are said to rival Hawaii and Dominica. You'll not only admire the waterfalls, but you can also bathe in the waters and climb the rock formations. For the adventurous, head to the Eco Farm, a 500 acre nature preserve, home to many plant and bird species. Enjoy a hike in lush, tropical surroundings.

The most special outing of all is a visit to a local school. This gives you a chance to meet and experience the people here and gain an understanding of the country and its inhabitants. Many visitors will tell you this part of their trip was the most rewarding.

Settlement dates back to the 19th century by Belgian pioneers. Another important historical site is to visit the "Tikal", the largest of the Mayan Ruins. It is impressive and continues to reveal treasures from the Mayan Culture as archaeologists explore it. Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site, Quirigua offers pieces from Mesoamerica.

I personally didn't get off the ship this day, however it was fun to watch the trucks at the port continuously bring loads of dirt to a ship, which later we found out the dirt had Nickel in it, then shipped to Russia to be mined.

Until next time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 12:10 Archived in Guatemala Tagged vacation alaska america holland super bowl gautamala Comments (0)

Day 4 - Mahogany Bay, Honduras

When & Where

sunny 82 °F

Day four, Mahogany Bay, Honduras. The ship's clocks were set back 1hour due to going into a different time-zone.

One of the largest of the Honduras Bay Islands, Roatán. Spanning just 37 miles in length, the island lies next to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest in the Caribbean Sea and the second-largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.

Roatán attracts divers from all around the world but also visitors who are simply looking for some rest and relaxation. While Christopher Columbus landed on the island in the 16th century, it wasn't until three centuries later that the island was given a break from territorial conflicts.

Today, the island is owned by American fruit companies and prospers from its agricultural endeavors. Plenty of recreational activities are available in Roatán.

Learn to sportfish from locals or take a semi-submarine tour in the Bay Island Underwater Museum. Head to the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum and wander through lush tropical gardens housing tropical fruit trees, heliconia gardens, and an indoor waterfall.

Next, embark on a journey through Carabola Gardens, where a nature walk takes you through the native environment of monkeys and parrots. Head to the Black Pearl Golf Course to soak up the paradise sun and perfext your game at the island's only gold course.

Roatán offers some of the best snorkeling in the world. Board a catamaran and explore the reef and its exotic and tropical marine life. Roatán still keeps the Garifuna traditions alive. Be sure to watch the Garifuna Dancers perform their culturally important dance called Punta.

So from eco-tours, diving, snorkeling, caves, botanical gardens, beaches, a cloud forest, and other incredible photo opportunities. This is a great place for very unique experiences, regardless of your age or activity level. There are also dozens of friendly iguanas, tarpons, monkeys, and lobster.

With the beautiful beaches comes fascinating Maritime history. In the mid-17th century, there were approximately 5,000 French, English, and Dutch pirates living on the Bay Islands. Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and John Coxen (the namesake for Coxen Hole) just to name a few.

This was a stop I was very much looking forward to. I would be on my first excursion. I was going to be going Zip-Lining with South Shore Zip-Line Adventures. There were several of us doing this excursion, as well as people from the Carnival Magic who pulled in after we did.

I was a bit nervous since I didn't know what to expect, but that quickly dissipated with the guides giving us our instruction and safety lessons. Since there were several groups, we were all split up, however there weren't any waits between trees as South Shore seems to keep things going very smoothly.

This excursion would be a 12-line zip-line on the island of Roatan with sensational views of the Caribbean Sea, and if you wanted at the end, purchase items.

We enjoyed the thrill of a 12-line canopy zip-line adventure with magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea. It was roughly a 25 minute ride to the place we were zip-lining, but our guide shared information of the culture, nature, and people of Roatan. Once we arrived at South Shore Canopy, we geared up and listened to a brief safety talk, then it was on to our adventure. The longest run was 1,300 feet and the highest point was 100 feet. The total line lengths were about two miles. It took roughly 60-90 minutes to complete, just be sure to wear closed-toe shoes, sunglasses, and insect repellent!

Once we were back at the start, was able to hang around with some spider monkeys who were looking for hand-outs (food). Before you know it, it was time to load up in the buses and get back to the dock and look around the shops. Look is all I do as I don't want to purchase stuff I don't want/need, or have to pack in my bags to make them heavier!

Until next time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 10:59 Archived in Honduras Tagged vacation bay america holland rotterdam honduras roatan carribean hal mahogany Comments (0)

Day 3 - Sea Day

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

Day three is a 'Sea' day. This means that from the last port to the next, the ship is literally at sea between the two ports.

The weather was 80 °F, and partly cloudy. Such an awesome day to enjoy some rays by the pool. The schedule was pretty busy with things to learn at the next port, however, when one enjoys the sun, it's hard to stay inside.

I did go to the Grand Opening Art auction and bid on a Charles Schultz piece for a very good price. Sure, there were many other great pieces to buy, however, I just don't have the money to buy such highly priced items, so the one piece was good enough for me.

I did enjoy a spa package before hand, so early in the morning, I ventured to the Spa to receive a 75 minute long massage. (it's always good to relax when you can)

There was a $5,000 jackpot bingo going on, however, since having been on other cruises, it's great to hold off hoping for a higher jackpot!

Today was a special day since having the Cellar Master Package, I was invited to the first Sommelier Wine Tasting. I didn't take any pictures of the table setting, or a picture of the wines we were trying, however the pairings were excellent with the cheese and small bites. They provided the tasting in La Fontaine Dining Room in the early afternoon. so with that: Cheers - Skol - Salute - A Votre Sante - Proost!!!

After an afternoon of tasting, I enjoyed walking around the promenade deck and watch the waves splash against the ship. It's just so relaxing to listen to and watch.

Then the awesome view from the back of the ship to see where we have been. Hard to believe that we're out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Not much really happened other than some beverages on the ship, so...

Until next time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 11:50 Archived in USA Tagged sea vacation day america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 2 - Key West, FL

When & Where

sunny 72 °F

Day two has a stop in Key West, Florida, arriving around 11am, with a temperature of 74 °F, and partly cloudy. Our port was actually on an active Military base, so transportation was limited via shuttles. I chose to remain on board, as I knew we would be coming back to Key West the following week. I was able to venture around the outside the ship a bit more, and watch as our ship came to dock at the Naval Station.

Key West is almost 130 miles southwest of Miami. Known for its popularity with cruisers, the area also has an important naval station and vacation destination for thousands of visitors every year. The island's tropical Savannah type climate offers pleasant conditions, with year-round temperatures hovering around 80 °F with frequent thunderstorms.

Ernest Hemingway called Key West his home in the early 20th century. Now, visitors can take a look at where the famous writers kicked up his shoes with a trip to 1301 Whitehead Street. Another famous writer, Tennessee Williams, made Key West his hoe around the same time period, but unfortunately the home is privately owned and cannot be viewed by the public.

A trip to Old Town offers plenty of sites and activities. One can tour the shops and visit museums at Mallory Square, wander the famous commercial district on Duval Street, and take a trip back in time with a stroll through the neighborhood in the Truman Annex.

From there, you then make your way to the corner of Whitehead and South streets to what was thought to be the southernmost point in the contiguous 48 states. For an environmental experience, one can stop at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, or take a relaxing drive to take in the picturesque surroundings on the Overseas Highway. If you're stuck on the ship, and there is another in port, be sure to watch them turn as it's very fascinating!

Some things to see: Southernmost Point, Key West Aquarium, Shipwreck Museum, Key West Lighthouse, Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Ernest Hemingway House, Harry S. Truman Little White House, Audubon House and Tropical Garden, Key West Museum of Art & History, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Until next time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 11:44 Archived in USA Tagged vacation west america holland rotterdam key carribean hal Comments (0)

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