My favorite part of the cruise was visiting Cozumel. We have been to Cozumel at least three other times but this was our best visit yet. The first two times, we booked snorkeling excursions through Carnival, and had a great time. Last time, we just shopped, and also had fun. This time, however, we took a cab to Playa Palancar, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The beach was sandy and clean, with no rocks; there were very few people there; the water was a gorgeous shade of turquoise; the servers were terrific; the guacamole was yummy and drinks were cold; and it was basically my idea of paradise. Visiting the private beach was free, less the $25 cab fare (one-way). However, you were encouraged to buy food, drinks, activities, massages, etc. We were asked once about a snorkeling trip and once about a massage -- when we said no, we were never asked again. However, we ordered a moderate amount of food and drink to "pay" for our stay at the beach. It was more than fair -- we spent about $14 on food and drinks, and I gave the server a $20. All in all, including cab fare we spent $70 on this beach trip, which was way cheaper than any of the beach excursions offered by Carnival.
Playa Palancar is not a great snorkeling beach, because it is sandy, but there is snorkeling nearby and the beach club offers excursions, like I said. However, we were thrilled to sit in beach chairs, with toes in the water, and watch our son play! It was a perfect beach experience.
After Playa Palancar, we visited the Viva Mexico store, which is on the same main boulevard as the cruise ship pier. Viva Mexico has an incredible selection of locally-made, authentic handicrafts at great prices. The store employees are very helpful -- maybe too helpful -- one associate accompanies you as you peruse the store. However, prices are clearly marked and are very fair. They accept U.S. dollars, credit and debit cards. However, my debit card would not work because (I later found out) my bank would not allow international use -- so a pretty spendy shopping trip was quickly downsized to only a few things that I could buy with the cash I had on hand. I regrettably had left my credit card on the ship....I will learn from that lesson next time.
I love Cozumel and wish the ship stayed there for much longer than only 8 or 10 hours!! The people are so friendly, I feel safe walking in the busy areas, and the beaches and natural wonders are amazing.