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Wonderful Relaxing Cruise Fit for a Queen
We booked Hyatt Place Tampa Airport/Westshore through stay123. It was a pre cruise package deal which included the room for the night, breakfast, shuttle to and back from the cruise port and you could leave your car in their well-lite parking lot - all for a $23 deposit then $109 plus TX. Room was very spacious and super quiet. We used the outdoor pool as it was sunny and about 82. Beautiful lobby with art glass displays, a computer area and lots of seating. Their only fault was the breakfast was a bit limited, no proteins: no eggs, no no sausage. It was mostly carbs - cereals, toast, etc. They did however, have low sugar yogurt which was appreciated. When we do another cruise out of Tampa, we would definitely stay here again!
Took hotel shuttle at 10:30, arrived at pier at 10:45. Filled in a form, stood in line and had our cruise cards by 11:15. Our boarding number was called at 11:45, lunch at the grill by noon. Rooms opened at 1:00 and our checked luggage More
was in the hall at 3:00. Very smooth!
Second time on the Star. We sailed her in 2003 in Hawaii. General areas were the same, so we adjusted to the flow pretty quickly. Food quality and variety were terrific. My only mistake is I ordered the Cobb Salad at lunch the last day and it was Marvelous! I would have had it every day! Tons of bacon, ham, cheese and hard boiled eggs.
Anytime dining has a system that if you show up and there are no tables available - they give you a beeper and a coupon (per person) for a free soda or a glass of wine/champagne. We actually tried to time our arrival when it would be busy. Had quite a few champagnes while we waited. Wait was approximately 20 minutes.
Entertainment was varied and fun to watch, except one night.
Appreciated the use of hand sanitizers.
Room had plenty of storage. Shower doors, no shower curtain. Narrow area next to the bed, but we would just crawl to the end. Loved the towel animals.
Special KUDOS to:
Montse (Monserrat) who celebrated her ?? birthday that week
Ann Monique in the Versailles waitress (thanks for rocking the boat!)
Ricky- Blue Lagoon who went out of his way to get me provolone for my burger
Hared (our stateroom steward)
Loved all of our tours (check out my comments) Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
UnBelizeable Day @ Goff's Caye Beach and Snorkeling Tour
We booked the Goff's Caye tour through Island Marketing Ltd. about 3 weeks before our scheduled cruise stop on 2/8/12. For adults it was $40 and for kids it was $30 with a 20% deposit. The 4.5 hour tour included:
Snorkel gear & vests
Guided snorkel tour
Transportation to & from Goff''s Caye
Belizean BBQ available for purchase
Free purified water and rum punch
After our 20 minute tender from the ship to the Belize Tourism Village, we found our way to the tour office and paid the balance (cash or Money Order - no credit cards)
We were transported to Goff's Caye in a powerboat, captained by Germain, which took about 30 minutes. We actually went right past our cruise ship! Great photo-op.
The weather on the mainland was humid, cloudy and overcast The weather was perfect on Goff's Caye, sunny with a light tropical breeze. Goff's Caye is small, but very picturesque! Leon gave us the grand tour in about 2 minutes! There were palm trees, powdery sand beach, several picnic tables, clean bathrooms and a open-aired building that housed the drinks and food with a small souvenir stand.
Leon then took us on an hour Barrier Reef snorkeling tour. We went out in the powerboat and had to jump or fall back into the water. The life vests were mandatory, you could either wear it around your waist or attach it to your wrist with the strap. We saw many colorful fish and many varieties of coral and Leon even brought a conch up for us to hold. Be sure to have sunscreen on your back, as it is exposed to the sun the whole time.
After the snorkeling we enjoyed the beach, did some swimming, observed a crab with a see-thru shell and sandpipers and had a few of the free rum punches.
One of the crew, Janene was telling us about the local history of Goff's Caye and information about the fish and coral we had seen. The food available that day were: sausage, hot dogs, snapper, chicken kabobs and grilled lobster tails ($10.00). Local beers ($3.00)
Unfortunately we had to leave our "private" island and get back to reality. Very sad, but we had an "UnBelizeable Day"!
What a Way to Spent a Perfect Day
Booked this all-inclusive beach break through Island Marketing Ltd. The $40 per person fee was very reasonable for what we received. And the best shore excursion we have ever done!
As per the instructions, we walked through the Costa Maya cruise port, following the signs for taxis. Taxi station was a few minutes walk just past the tour bus parking lot. Found a taxi opposite the mini Mayan temple, for $2.00 per person plus $1.00 tip, which took us from Costa Maya to Mahahual (Ma-Ha-Wah) Town. Armand didn't speak much English but we mentioned Nohoch Kay and the owner Jaime (Hy-me) and he knew exactly where to take us.
We arrived within a few minutes and were warmly greeted by both Jaime and Jeff. Throughout the whole day they remembered our name, along with every other cruise guest. Simply amazing!
We were shown to our reserved woven mesh lounge chairs under a thatched palm leaf palapa. We were then introduced to Brenda who, all day brought us ice cold local Dos Equis or Sol beers and gave us impromptu Spanish lessons.
Mid-day we tried their homemade salsa, guacamole and chips. After mentioning that we liked spicy, they even brought us extra hot sauces to try.
Nohoch Kay has a open-aired restaurant & bar with clean bathroom facilities in the back. The outdoor shower (to rinse sand off) and hand washing sink use conch shells for the faucets! Very cool! Be sure to check out my photos. They also have string lights made of conch shells in the dining area.
After going out in the sit-on-top kayaks for a while. I decided to walk along the Malecon (boardwalk) Since it was a very warm day, I got a frozen Margarita to go! The Malecon had street vendor, other restaurants and several apartment rental units.
I did end up purchasing a gourd that was hand-carved with cut-out palm trees, dolphins and suns. There were also blue half marbles and was wired with a cord & light socket. It looks so beautiful when lite. Vendor started at $35 and we settled on $25.
After my shopping expedition, we decided to do a late lunch. Most of the passengers from the other cruise ship in port that day had left, as their ship departed sooner that ours. Jaime took the time to sit with us and knowing that we liked spicy, he ordered some items with a little kick. The shrimp and fish tacos were fresh & hot. The Ceviche was the best we have ever had!! I was served another frozen Margarita in a very large glass.
As we were getting close to having to leave, Jaime shared a toast with Jose Cuervo Tequila Tradicional. Very smooth, not like other tequilas. Then hugs with Jaime, Brenda and Jeff, with a promise to come back again. Jaime already had a taxi waiting for us.
We miss you guys!!! We did find Jose Cuervo Tequila Tradicional and toast to you often!!!
Cozumel Volkswagen Convertible Whole Island Tour and Snorkeling with Omar
We booked this Cozumel Island Buggy Tour through Island Marketing Ltd. over a month before our cruise, because this had very limited availability. The 5 hour buggy tour was in VW convertibles with standard transmission (stick shift).
We disembarked our cruise ship and picked a free map of Cozumel at the tourist information booth inside Punta Langosta Cruise Terminal and Shopping Center. The meeting location for our tour was at the Diver's Memorial located right on the waterfront at Calle 2 Norte and Rafael Melgar. From the Punta Langosta Port this is a 6 block walk. (approx. 20 minute walk) or a $8US taxi for up to 4 passengers. Since we were early, we chose to walk.
Met Omar (who spoke terrific English) at the Diver's Memorial and waited for the rest of our group. Not much shade so be sure to wear a hat. We then walked a few blocks to the business office and signed a contract (who was going to drive, & check their driver's license)
Omar took the lead VW which was loaded with a cooler that had local beers, sodas and bottled water and our lunch ingredients.
Our first stop was to snorkel on the calmer west side of the island just off the Dzul Ha reef. They had submerged clay pots, so the fish could find shelter and Omar had food in a plastic bag which attracted large schools of fish that completely surrounded our group. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring the underwater camera!
Our next stop was El Cedral which has a small ancient ruin, a small church and shopping for souvenirs. On to a local Tequila factory where we watched a demonstration of how 11 year aged tequila was made & had some samples. The premium 3/4 liter of tequila was $85.
Next we caravanned to the west side of the island, where you can catch more waves. Not many tours in Cozumel get you to this side. They have colored flags to let you know if it is OK to go in the water. Green is safe, yellow & red means use caution and black means don't swim (strong waves and undertow) The day we were there it was yellow, so we could go in. There were also lifeguards in a raised look-out, but I think they were paying more attention to playing cards.
Omar prepared lunch at an open-aired restaurant called El Diablo. He had Caribbean grilled chicken, tortillas & chips - plus Omar made fresh guacamole and salsa table side. All was served with the beverages from his cooler. Most of our group had seconds! El Diablo's had a souvenir shop & also a Burma bull with a saddle. Not sure if it was a photo-op or if you got to ride it, but we did neither.
The snorkel gear, coral reef stop, unlimited drinks, Tequila tour, El Cedral stop, a wonderful local lunch and marvelous beach time -all for $74 adult and $48 for kids 4-12.
I should note that the VW's had no rear view mirror, nor passenger side view mirror or seat belts! But, after a Tequila tasting and a few Sol's or Dos Equis - who cares!
This tour is a marvelous way to see most of what Cozumel has to offer! Thanks Omar for a great tour!
Garafuna, Mangrove and Iguana Farm Tour with Island Marketing
Chose this tour on our recent cruise, because we wanted to get a true feeling of Roatan and it's people. All our other stops on the cruise we were doing beach or snorkeling tours - we had booked all our tours through Island Marketing.
The meeting instructions were terrific! We got off the ship and found the tour operator within 5 minutes. There were only 4 on our tour, so it was very easy to hear our driver/tour guide Gestlor Cook. He was a native of Roatan and was very willing to answer all of our questions. Our tour was from 9:30 to 2:30.
Our first stop was to the Iguana Farm and we were able to feed and pet the Iguanas. Numerous Iguanas were on the ground and hanging out in the nearby trees. There were other caged animals, but but it started to drizzle, so we left.
Then on to the Mangrove tour on a Cayuco ( motorized canoe) Unfortunately, it started to rain - which only made it more humid. The mangrove would have been lovely, but there was garbage everywhere and it smelled really bad. We were also suppose to stop at "The Hole in the Wall" A unique restaurant that floats on barrels, but the owner had recently died and it was closed. Island Marketing had not found another optional lunch stop yet.
Next we drove though a native Garifuna village, where all the houses were made of mud and bamboo. We opted not to see the native dancing and on the way back to port we stopped at the Turquoise Bay resort for a local beer.
Roatan is a very poor island, but with tourism it is slowly changing. We were perplexed because the housing was shack-like, yet we saw teens with state-of-the-art cell phones.
Our tour guide Gestlor was 5 star - but the tour itself was a bit lacking. Island Marketing needs to add a food stop to replace "The Hole in the Wall" and somehow reduce the garbage on the Mangrove tour.