Stayed at HoJo in Tampa, terrible location $65 incl. cont'l breakfast. Visited Tampa area beaches, nice. Check in went smoothly with SetSail Pass. Happy with rooms. Interior boys room 5 doors down from ours(ladder for bunk in the way). Our OV rm had dirty windows. Boys 11, 14 & 15 are cartoon fanatics and I had to unplug their cable to keep them out of room. 11 yr old did not want to be with 9 yr olds and did not do AO until 3rd night. 15 yr old missed the gathering the 1st night and didn't hook up with any particular friend but didn't complain either. MOM's 4 RULES: Rule #1 Don't lean over the rails for any reason. #2 Only use room for sleeping and taking a shower. #3 Have dinner as family together and try new things to eat whenever possible #4 Have FUN! Only rule #2 broken on 1st night-removed cable cured that!
DAY 1 -- Worried about Tropical Storm Gamma needlessly, Captain knows how to get around them. Too tired to catch Late Night Comedian which I heard was good.
DAY 2 -- At sea day. Meet at Meet N Mingle with fellow Cruise Critics. Our table mates turned out to be some. Great Waiters and Staff. They knew what we liked automatically by the 3rd day. All the food in the Romeo & Juliet dining room was terrific except for Thanksgiving Turkey dinner. Lobster night was great. Extra food whenever we wanted. Made a point to eat in the Windjammer on the mornings of excursions to get off the boat as in port not long enough but understand need not to tender at night. Family brought exercise outfits but only used 1 day as too busy later. Bingo cost about $25-$35 each time(little pricey but fun). Never won but table mates did 1st day $175. Last day jackpot is free cruise. Shuffleboard, rock climbing & ping pong was great, but miniature golf needs serious repair job. Kids still had fun. Missed the Capt'n Welcome Aboard. Film to Footlights Show was boring. I liked the dancers but singers put me to sleep.
DAY 3 -- 1st tender to Grand Cayman terrible as we had to wait a long time for ship excursions off first. Didn't book Stingray tour offline either because of GAMMA. I knew I would use either Soto's or Moby Dick when we got off pier. It was $5 higher at the pier than online ($35). Got on with Moby with about 35 others for a fun time. Purchased our trip on video CD for $55. Informative bus driver to marina, Stingray City was terrific, snorkeled about 100 yds away and saw a nurse shark, and stopped at the Rum Cake Factor instead of getting off at 7 mile beach (Great advise from bus driver) Rum Cake and liquor tasting was great and tried the local meat pie which was hot and spicy like it was made for us. Yummy! Saw Blue Iguanas on the way back to pier. Salute to Temptations Show was terrific with the audience participation.
DAY 4 -- Docked at Costa Maya Took taxi to Mahahual ($20 to/$15 back) to Tequila Beach, walk thru hut to beach to get free chairs/table. Rented (2)terrible snorkel equip. for $10 all day. Two boys went parasailing for $90. They loved it. Beach smelled, food was great and then walked down beach to beach town and got mobbed by flea market vendors. No deals here. Never again. Purchased Lamanai Mayan Ruin tour thru ship ($96)as needed to get off early as an all day excursion. Found trip online ($75) but opted out because of not being able to get off the boat early if tour not thru ship.
DAY 5 -- Tendered in cool A.M. to Belize, got on 1 hr bus ride with informative guide to a 45 minute boat ride to ruins. Seen bats, iguanas, howler monkeys, tarantula, huge crocs and very nice ruins although thought we'd see several more structures. Local food included was great. Try the local Belikin Beer as it is really tasty. Jump Jivin' Swing show had good dancers and live band but cruise needs to work on getting better singing entertainers.
DAY 6 -- Tendered into Cozumel as our board was small enough to be able to stop and our boat is NOT SMALL! Booked a sailing trip thru cozumelsailing.com for $320 including tip (for paying in Travelers check) for the 5 of us. All day 9-3 on a 35' trimaran with Capt'n Dan of the TUCAN, 1st Mate & Cook, Juan, Deck Hand and Spanish Teacher for my 11 yr old and only one other passenger, the Author of The Complete Guide to Cozumel. Taxi to Puerto Abrigo Marina cost $15 each way for all. All you can drink, kids learned some Spanish, caught a Barracuda, snorkeled at several different coral heads, swam with a pod of wild dolphins, had beach time to collect 2 lg bags of shells and had some of the best fajitas cooked on board. The hotel area beaches are mostly gone but the gov't is hauling in sand as quickly as possible. Ongoing issues of captive dolphins seem to be a big problem and a sore subject. The Magician and Comedian was funny. Quest is a must do for the adults.
DAY 7 -- Pool deck extremely crowed on last day. Ice cream on deck hits the spot and hot tubs were good. Didn't think much of the BBQ by pool. Acrobatic/Gymnast show was good but not what you have in mind for a cruise show.
Suggestions: Don't worry about bringing private liquor stash on board as Drinks of the Day $3.95 was all that we needed. Didn't seem to have time to go back to the room to get refill. We had 3 unlimited drink passes ($28 ea.) and hardly used them. Only get if you are a big soda drinker. Tea is free. Don't use cell phone as costs $2 per min each phone. Kids used alarm clock but not night light for inside cabin. Needed compact sewing kit to stitch bathing suit on private boat. No need for clothes pins to dry suits (just bring 2) or duct tape for doors when in rough seas. I packed way too much. Too much clothes and snacks not needed for shore days. I would have preferred carrying off duty free liquor and rum cake.