Embarkation We drove down most of the way on Saturday because we didn't want to get up early in the morning and risk getting stuck in traffic. Thanks to cruise critic, we knew I-45 would be closed so we took 225 to 146 and spent Saturday night at Super 8 in Deer Park. I needed a high speed internet connection. The motel was nice and clean with fluffy towels but the internet connection was intermittent and slow. I had to restart my download over and over because the connection wouldn't last long enough to download 400 megs. I never did get to download another file I needed which was 100 megs. (I am a long distance student downloading lecture videos.)
On Sunday, we got up at a leisurely pace and left Deer Park around 10. We got to EZ cruise parking around 11 and walked to the ship from there. It was a nice short walk and we beat the shuttle there. Once we got to the cruise terminal, we didn't know where to go. An employee pointed us in one direction for our bags where a bunch of people were just standing around with their luggage. I didn't see any porters. I walked my bag down a hallway and asked a guy at the desk there what I needed to do with the bag. He said just leave it there if it had luggage tags on it. The ones he was handing out were more substantial than the paper ones I printed at home so I stuck one of those on. I got DH and we took his bag down there. Then a lot of the people standing around seemed to notice what we were doing and took their bags there too. There was a long line when we left the bagging area. On the way out, I finally saw two porters. Next we got into the security line. There were only a few people in front of us. We did the online check-in and there was only one group in front of us for that line. By 11:30 we were in the windjammer looking at the buffet. It all happened pretty fast despite the confusion about where to go. Day one: We kept waiting for the luggage to show up. The lunch at the windjammer was ok. There was pasta, honey stung chicken, sandwiches and salmon wraps. The honey stung chicken didn't seem special to me. It tasted like any other deep fried chicken that I have had. I stuck with the sandwiches after that. After lunch we wandered around the ship checking it out. Most places weren't crowded at all. We played ping pong on the sports deck for awhile. We did the expo in the afternoon, going to all of the stations in the promenade so we could get answers to the questions on the raffle ticket. The promenade was very busy then and it was difficult to get around. Luggage still wasn't there. We went to muster drill before the abandon ship blasts. A lot of people were already there. The staff was a little uptight about people standing in line and facing the front. Our guy made a little girl cry because she kept turning around to face her dad behind her. A lot of people showed up late to the muster which meant the rest of us had to wait. We went back to the room to put the life jackets away. The room safes are NOT bigger than most hotel room safes. A normal laptop will not fit in them. We could fit our nine inch laptops standing on their sides in the back. The door wouldn't close when they were laying flat. We hung out and explored some more until sail away.
At sail away, we went to deck five at the helicopter pad. There weren't very many people there and we watched the ship sail away from the dock and turn before heading out the channel. We saw a few dolphins in our wake including a mother and baby pair. We stayed there until it was time to go to dinner. We were in the magic flute and we had a table for two. Our waiter was Rick from Trinidad and Tobago. Our assistant waitress was Samaira from Columbia. Both were very attentive and cleaned up after me. I tend to get bread crumbs every where. Even though there were a lot of confused people at the entrance who didn't know where to go, the staff got everyone seated quickly. We already knew where our table was so we bypassed all of that. Our table seemed to be at an intersection for the waiters, which was a good thing. I think this contributed to us getting a lot of attention from our waiter and we were served faster than the table on the other side of the rail. They also had a different waiter. I ordered the onion tart and cheese platter. The tart was delicious and didn't leave a strong onion taste in my mouth afterwards. DH ordered spinach salad. We were both very happy. I had the Mediterranean quesadilla for the main course. It was delicious and very cheesy. DH had the salmon and was happy with it. We both had the chocolate cherry cake for desert and it was great. After dinner, we walked around deck four. It was empty except for some kids playing shuffle board. We went back to the room and finally had our luggage. We just chilled out in the room for the rest of the evening. The shower is very nice. I could get really hot water and adjust the water pressure to my liking. I could also adjust the height and direction of the shower head which was nice. We had a room that adjoined with another room. The walls are paper thin. We could hear the guys talking in there as if there were sitting right next to us in our room. One also liked to play the guitar in the room (who does that?!) and make a lot of noise late at night. At least they didn't spend much time in there. The giggling girls he brought in were quite irritating. The seas were pretty calm and on deck 2 I could barely feel the motion of the ship.
Day 2 It is nice and warm and mostly sunny. It is a bit windy. I got up when the sun started rising and we went to the buffet for breakfast. There weren't many people in the windjammer that early in the morning. The food was pretty standard buffet food for the morning; plenty of fruit, bread, yogurt, cereal, cold cuts, eggs and bacon. After breakfast, we got tickets to the ice show and walked around. We signed up for the rock climbing but decided to do it later when we had the cameras. Later the windjammer was full of people. I think I like being an early riser and finishing up before the crowds come in. We were going to play ping pong again but the tables were wet. There were a lot of kids lined up for the arcade but no one was in the kids' swim area. There were only a few at the sports deck. There were a few people already in the pools and Jacuzzi but not many walking around. So far, we have been taking the stairs everywhere we go and are getting a work out from that. The fitness area has plenty of exercise equipment. Lunch was pretty much the same as yesterday. The back line has more options. There were burgers and fries in the back of the windjammer. DH found some salmon pizza in the back line. Apparently, there was a medical emergency last night. During lunch the ship slowed down and turned to meet a helicopter to evacuate the person. This caused a four hour delay. Instead of being late to Cozumel, the captain moved Cozumel to Friday and made Tuesday another sea day. After lunch, we worked out by walking around the track that goes around the pool area. The main pool area seemed very crowded and where most of the people hung out. The promenade wasn't overly crowded in the afternoon. The adult pool in the solarium was empty most of the time we were walking around. Dinner was OK. I ordered a truffle Alfredo but got some kind of marinara pasta. I requested some brie and the head waiter brought us the whole international cheese plate which is delicious. DH got eggplant with mozzarella that tasted pretty good. The strawberry cheese cakey was good and a lot more like cake than I am used to.
Day 3 Breakfast was the same as yesterday. At 8 in the morning, the windjammer is pretty empty. We walked around for awhile. It was real windy and the pool area was empty. We played ping pong until some people bumped us out. Then we did the rock climbing. It was harder than I thought. We pulled with our arms instead of pushing with our legs which makes it a lot harder. The computers in the library only seem to be for internet access. I would have liked to have used Excel for a bit. They did have software that was monitoring all incoming and outgoing traffic. For dinner, I had cheese tortellini which was all right. DH got a salmon dish with an eggplant starter that was pretty good. I had apple pie ala mode which tasted pretty good. Service seems to be slowing down. We are spending a bit of time waiting to place our orders and waiting for food. DH is thinking it is a waste of time and neither one of us like the waiters trying to have a conversation with us. I don't drink and they keep encouraging me to have wine and him to have a desert.
Day 4 Honduras We got up early and ate breakfast. There weren't many people around. We went to port as soon as we could which was 8 am. Nothing much was open yet. Later, there were pirates dressed up for picture taking and people playing drums to greet the cruisers. The shuttle from Fin and Flippers wasn't running yet. We went into some of the stores near port to check out the stuff. There was a lot of nice wood work that was expensive. As we walked towards town, a boy joined us and started telling us where things were. He said he went to evening school when we asked why he wasn't in class. Half way to town some stray dogs joined us and started following us. The town looked dirty and poor. There wasn't much to the parts we walked through but we didn't go far. We gave the boy a buck for being our "guide". Fin and Flippers had pretty good snorkeling. There was a lot of coral and a lot of brightly colored fish. The water was fairly clear but a bit choppy from the wind. We were the first snorkelers to get into the water. Others followed us in and started swimming too close to us; one woman swam into DH trying to rush past him. What a pain some people are. There was plenty of ocean for everyone - show a little courtesy. We ate a small lunch there and DH ordered a beer. They gave me my water but forgot his beer and my quesadilla. DH had to go remind them and show them our receipt so they would know we had already paid. After lunch, the water was too choppy for us to snorkel in so we hung out on the beach. I had put bug spray on. A bunch of people started complaining about bites and we could see red marks on them. The beach was not crowded and mostly had people from the crew of the ship. It was very nice and relaxing. For dinner, DH was tired of the dining room and didn't want to dress up so we went to the buffet. The buffet was all right for dinner. The area was a bit dark - for ambience, I suppose. The teenagers were talking all night and banging on stuff in the room. DH reported it in the middle of the night and someone came to tell them to knock it off. There was a girl in the room who had been reported as missing by her parents when they noticed she wasn't in her own room. It was quiet after the crew sent the girl back to her parents.
Day 5 Costa Maya We got up when we felt like it and headed out. A lot of people had already left the ship ahead of us. We went to a few shops in the port facility. They had some nice stuff but were very expensive. They were pretty crowded and the pool didn't have any water. The waves were crashing against the beach so it was too rough to snorkel. We started walking toward the village. It was pretty easy going without a lot of traffic. Part way there, it started to rain really hard so we stopped in a bar that was to our left. It was in a yellow building. We ordered a beer and noticed someone at a table using a laptop. We asked how much internet usage costs and they said it was for free. I wish I had known that so I could have brought my laptop. I still need to download a file for class work. DH didn't want to go to town any more. He wanted to turn around and head back to the ship. It rained when we departed the port. It was pretty hard rain and most people vacated the pools and headed to the Jacuzzis as if they weren't already wet :).
Day 6 Cozumel We arrived at 7am (6am Cozumel time). There were over priced shops around the port. We decided to walk around and check out the town. We walked all the way to the other port. There was some new development for expensive condos near the beach but it looked like a lot of places were closed. It looked like a few places haven't recovered from the hurricanes years back. It wasn't like we remembered. There used to be some shops on the side streets that were better priced. I hope they are still there and just closed due to the hour we were there. Last time, we were there in the early evening when we saw all of the street shops. We went into a store named Mega to see what was in there. It was just like a Wal-Mart. On our way out, we were accosted by someone from the Royal Holiday hotel. He offered us free stuff to go check out the hotel. We ate dinner in the windjammer near the windows and at the end, we saw a whole bunch of dolphins coming from the side to swim in the ship's wake. I also had some tasty chocolate cake that had 3 layers to it.
Day 7 Another sea day. We just did various activities on the ship and had fun. We ate dinner in the dinning room. The waiter said he missed us on the previous nights and said he had been bringing me the same international cheese platter each night and had brought me one tonight before I even ordered it. I had the spinach dip which was very tasty and the risotto which was also good. DH had the NY strip which he didn't like because it was very dry. We both had the brownie madness for desert which was very delicious. Disembarkation This was pretty straight forward. We got up and had breakfast then went back to our room and packed up a few last minute items, and then we walked off the ship. We did the express departure and there wasn't much of a line on the deck when we left. I think we departed right between the times for group a and b. The line in customs was short but slow moving. We walked the luggage back to ez cruise and were headed home by 8am. Notes: It was windy the whole time but that was ok; it kept things feeling cool. People who said it was easy to get a taxi were seriously understating the matter. They line up down the roads for more than a mile waiting for tourists. In Honduras and Costa Maya, they honked at us and pulled up to us while we were walking to offer us a ride. The excursion people in the port areas are too pushy. It made us want to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
The ship is in good shape and clean. The linens were fresh and clean every day but the shower had a bit of mildew that continued to spread throughout the week. The drawers in my room stuck but everything else was in good shape. The refrigerator didn't keep items cold. I couldn't usually smell cigarette smoke but I did occasionally smell it in the promenade from the casino. I frequently smelled it in the main pool area where I don't think smoking should be allowed. Try to avoid getting an adjoining room. We could always hear them but we never heard the people on the other side of us. There is no need to bring a coffee mug as some suggest. There are plenty of mugs and cups every where you can get coffee. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water, orange juice, apple juice, milk and lemonade are free. The OJ is watered down. I don't think it is a coincidence that they are selling fresh squeezed oj for $5 a pop at the windjammer entrance. Service in the windjammer is slow. More often than not, we got our own drinks. The water bottle I brought was useful for walking around the ports. You don't need an over the door shoe hanger. There are shelves behind the side mirrors over the desk for that stuff. We had a good time and relaxed. We are a bit anti social so I was wondering about being on a ship with 4000 other people but there are quiet places and quiet times that are easy enough to find. The promenade and pool areas in the morning are quiet. The kid area usually seems to be quiet. I never saw many people in the Jacuzzi by the fitness center. The promenade after dinner is a horrible place to be if you don't like shoulder to shoulder crowds. Deck 4 is usually pretty empty and one can walk around the ship there. The jog track was pretty empty at all times except the last day. The library is quiet. The windjammer is quiet early in the morning except for the port days. On those days, wait for people to finish up and head out to the excursions. Johnny Rockets didn't have very many customers on port days. There was never a line at Guest Relations in the morning before breakfast. They were charging for room service between midnight and 5 am. They also had the $15 steak on the dining room menu. We managed not to spend any extra money on the ship. We are not into drinking all of the time or wasting money in the casino. There are plenty of activities that are included in the cruise fare so there is no need to spend if you don't want to.