Welcome back all! We just got back to Montreal on Monday and are experiencing the first snow storm of the year already! I must say I was very impressed with this cruise - there are always a few blips but we had a good ride and even the balconyless stateroom wasn't all that bad! The check in at Tampa was quick - it was the first time we could walk right up to the agent. show our passports, get our photo taken and have our cards issued. Trouble was - we then had to wait at least an hour before boarding. There was a gastro outbreak on the the previous cruise and the ship was being super sanitized to reduce the chances of a reoccurrence. Luckily, there was no problem during the cruise.
As a result though, the Lido was not self serve for the first couple of days. They wrapped the food displays with plastic wrap so only the crew would be able to serve. as a consequence, the lineups were long. Once the wrap came off and we could serve ourselves, the lineups were greatly reduced.
As far as the ports were concerned - Roatan was the best by far! Trouble was we were not there for long and the lineup to take the tender back (we waited 1 hour in the blazing hot sun) was inexcusable. We found a great tourguide outside the gates on the way to town. The guides at the port were charging $35 per person for a tour but we found Enrique who negotiated a price for the five of us for $80 total. He spoke great English, owned his own car and went out of his way to make the most of our three hour tour. The kids went ziplining and Karen and I went to West Bay beach for some incredible snorkeling. The beach was a zoo, but with two ships in port, what could we expect?
In Belize, we took a ferry to Cay Caulker, for a nice day of snorkeling. We wandered around Belize city first. My kids were a little amazed and afraid of all the aggressive street vendors but it certainly gave them an education on how spoiled we are and the things we take for granted. I still have the nail marks and bruises on my arm where my 12 year old daughter hung on for dear life anytime one of the natives approached us to sell us something. I have learned long ago to treat the people as people and a firm no with a smile usually works to say we are not interested. They are only trying to make a living any way they can. Cay Caulker was a very nice island and we actually had a picnic table in the water where we put our gear while snorkeling. The bar had been hit with a hurricane, the dock was ravaged but we had a couple of nice rum punches, saw some neat fish, rays and nurse sharks. Of course the local boys were very interested in showing my daughters the hiding places of the sharks.
The Mexican stop was a bit of a disappointment because of the rain. We visited a private beach - the Maya Luna - about two miles south of the little village near the port. We had a nice meal and a little beach time, no snorkeling here but it pored rain. This would be a great place to get away from it all - there is nothing around and the owners are very nice, It would be pretty hard to get to if it were your end destination of a week or two.
I really didn't enjoy Key West. What a crowded, tourist driven place it is. I wish we could have spent more time in Roatan and just spent half a day ( at most) in Key West. We took the trolley tour and watched all the acts at the port. Very forgettable!
The food on the ship was very good. The entertainment was as I expected from Hal. The comedian and the magic show, as well as the dancers/ singers were just ok. The violin player was amazing - that guy knows his way around his instrument! I tried the slot machines for the first time - no surprise here that I lost! I don't think gambling ever pays off.
It was too bad I never came across any of the CC members on the cruise. We met some really nice people at dinner. We had our hands full with the girls - they kept us pretty busy.
All in all it was a very nice holiday and we arrived home in great spirits. As I remember one CCer writing - A bad day on holidays is always better than a great day at work!
Happy New Year!