Carnival Glory - Western Caribbean - December 13-20, 2008.
This cruise was a combination graduation present for both of our children, plus a really nice vacation for my wife of 27 years and I. My son Russ will graduate May 2009 with an associate degree in Aviation Maintenance Science from Embry-Riddle, and my daughter Amy will graduate with an bachelor's degree (English major with an emphasis on journalism) from North Georgia College in May 2010.
We knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime, and were not disappointed. From check in time at the port, the Carnival folks were helpful and friendly. The food was for the most part very good, and we made it to most of the sit-down dinners, just to try out the different foods. The cheesecake wasn't right, though, as it seemed like it was whipped and airy. The Red Sail restaurant was always good for something, and many times served the same food as the dining room.
We gave the kids $150 each (both are over 21 now) on their Sign and Sail shipboard account, and to their credit, neither one hit their limit. We suggested they might want to get the unlimited soft drink pass, but to our surprise, they declined. Later, they admitted that with the limit, mixed drinks and beer were more attractive : ).
We thoroughly enjoyed the Dolphin Push Pull and Swim experience in Cozumel that we booked through Carnival, and while expensive ($170 per head), we did not regret a minute of it. The people are also great salesman at the experience, and we left with photos and a dvd we did not originally plan to purchase because they looked so good.
The kids chose to spend part of their money on a shore excursion in Belize to snorkel at the barrier reef, followed by a beach break and unlimited rum punch during the trip to and from the location. Although we didn't go, it looks to be one of the best values. Although we did not enter, Belize City looked really scary. We watched one group walk out the gate and they were immediately hailed by a number of hopeful souvenir vendors. Even sadder was the father and daughter reaching the bars offering their wares. We thought it best to just stay on the ship.
The absolute highlight of our cruise was the Mayan Experience tour in Costa Maya, given by Ivan Cohuo of TheNativeChoice.com. My family will always remember their visit to Chacchoben village. Ivan is very knowledgeable, as he grew up on the grounds of the Chacchoben ruins and knew everything that is known about them. I can't say enough how impressed we were with everything. Ivan took his time with our group of ten, and we actually ran an hour over. He never hurried us, and told us fascinating stories about each area we passed. He described a number of the native plants and what is made from them. The allspice leaf was quite surprising to us. He also showed us their Tree of Life, among many other things. The trip to Chacchoben Mayan village was even more memorable. We got to meet the host family, and enjoyed as close to an authentic Mayan meal as possible for a tourist followed by one of their native dances. When we asked for some more spice on the meal,
they picked the fresh Habenero pepper of our choice and made the sauce for us on the spot. It was definitely hot, but oh was it good! It is very difficult to put everything we experienced on this tour into a few sentences, but we highly recommend this tour to anyone. Bring extra batteries for the video camera! You'll need them. His tour is so good it has already spawned a similar excursion, the Mayan Culture Experience, which we could have booked through the ship. Don't be fooled, that one pales in comparison, with only four hours (and two trips per day) versus 5.5 hours and one trip per day. One of the few negatives in Costa Maya are the taxis. Unlike Cozumel, I am not sure who is regulating them, but a one way cab ride is $10 per person, and the trip to most of the destinations is simply not that far. Don't worry about the army soldiers you see. Ivan explained they are there to help police out when thousands of tourists are around.
For some reason, the itinerary at Nassau got shortened a bit, but we didn't really mind at this point in the trip. We had from 10:00am to 3:30pm to enjoy the city, so we made sure the kids got to see the Straw Market. Very chaotic, but pretty fun. We told them about the street vendors, and true to form, one of them tried to give our son a "free" necklace within minutes of arrival. The vendor backed off pretty quick after I called him out. Watch out for traffic. We made a game of trying to see vehicles that did not have a dent. Traffic near the port is nuts.
Being somewhat of a cheapskate, I was not really impressed with the never ending supply of jewelry, watches, diamonds, artwork and liquor being offered both on the ship and in the tourist trap portion of the ports. After a while, I kept thinking, "same junk, different port". We declined those purchases. Casinos, nah. We already spent enough on the trip, and didn't feel like donating to those coffers as well. Also, being a smoking area, the casinos really did not smell very good. Oh well, to each their own. When wanting to get from the back to the front of the ship, I preferred going via the Lido deck.
Overall, a great experience.