Last minute getaway
This was the third cruise for me and the second for my wife. We were traveling with friends who have been on many more cruises. We left south Texas the day before our cruise for the day-long drive to New Orleans and stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites near the airport. We took a cab the next morning and were all checked in before noon. We had lunch in Raffles (the buffet) and explored the ship while our luggage was being loaded aboard. Lunch was surprisingly good as was all the food we had. We were used to eating well on cruises but I was half-way expecting cheese sandwiches on this trip since the cost was so low. We had been to the Western Caribbean before but decided at the last minute to go with our two friends as the cost was so low and the cruise stopped at two ports we had not seen.
Since we had cruised in this area before with shore excursions in each port, we also decided not to book any shore excursions this time and avoid drinking on ship to keep the costs low. We More
took advantage of all the free activities onboard instead. The trivia game each day was fun and we really had a blast with the 'digital scavenger hunt'. We also attended some of the free 'lectures' I enjoyed the art history session but most of the others were just sales pitches of one sort or another. The shows were good and we attended one every night in the stardust theater. We really enjoyed listening to Arvin and Emily though. What a pleasant surprise they were. My main disappointment on this trip was the lack of food variety and snacks late at night. In particular, ice cream was only available during meal hours and was doled out one tiny scoop at a time. All in all though, it was a great trip, lots to see and do, the weather cooperated nicely, and we had a super time.
I decided a long time ago that we never spend enough time in our room to warrant getting anything more than a hammock in the hold so anything better than that is great in my book. We booked the cheapest cabin we could and were pleasantly surprised when it was upgraded to a cabin with a window. The bed was about queen size and very comfortable since we like a firm mattress. The bathroom was actually roomy for a ship's head but the little hallway between the bathroom and closet got a bit crowded at times. I was amazed at how quiet the room was. Much quieter than many motels in which I've stayed. We were on level six midship which was right under one of the common areas and promenade (walking) deck on level seven. The steward didn't keep the room as clean as one might expect but it was ok. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Our second stop was actually Santo Tomas de Castillo but it doesn't appear to be on the list of ports! I was unable to find much about this port other than some generic ads and an approximate location on google maps. It's a major container ship port for Guatemala and not much of a 'tourist town'. We bought some souvenirs in the 'vendor barn' on the dock and enjoyed some of the free local entertainment. The marimba band was good but the small group of highly energetic dancing girls was excellent. The sendoff by the locals at the end of the day was very unique too. I am a geocacher and had intended going after a geocache near the port. It was only 2 mi away as the crow flies but a cab ride for the four of us was going to cost $80 so we passed it by. Our third stop was Belize City. We took a cave tubing excursion here a few years ago and still talk about that one but this time we just explored the town on our own. We walked down the beach to the Baron Bliss monument, then walked on to the Celebrity restaurant for lunch. This was recommended to us by the clerk in the Audubon Gift Shop when we asked for a place for food with a local flavor. It was disappointing as the menu was mainly burgers and other 'american' food. I had a seafood chowder and my wife a shrimp cavice that were both good and the price was reasonable. I was able to sample their Beliken beer again as well. We then walked on the the Belize Museum which was definitely worth the walk and $5 admission. Another short walk and we were back at the boat.
This was our first stop and a new stop for us in the Western Caribbean. There wasn't much to the port or the little town and we had been warned about the 'tourist village' just off the dock. We scurried through as fast as we could. We intended renting bikes for the day and exploring on our own but all the bikes were gone so we took a cab to the Hotel Maya Luna instead. What a pleasant experience this was! The cab was $12 total apiece for a six mile ride each way. This gave us a quick view of the little village of Mahahual and the surrounding coutryside. Hurricane Dean did a real number on the area in 2007 and it hasn't recovered yet. Maya Luna was a pretty oasis. Quiet, peaceful, lovely little beach, a very gracious hostess, and WONDERFUL food. Our lunch was easily the best food of the whole trip. I had a curried concoction of camarones (shrimp) called Camarones Maya Luna while my wife had a wonderful feast of shrimp stuffed pineapple. We had planned to do some snorkeling here but decided to just lay back, have some beers, and enjoy the solitude instead since we were running a bit short on time. The contrast between the peace and quiet of this quaint little hotel and the hussle, bussle, and noise of the tourist village on the way back to our ship must be experienced to fully believe it. While we were there we met another couple who had driven down from Cancun (about 5 hour drive), were staying at the hotel, and were looking at real estate in the area. Apparently this area is about to undergo some rapid development.
We went snorkeling on our last stop here and that was great but we decided to see more of this interesting port city on our own this time around. I had several geocaches picked out that are in the vicinity of the port and we took our friends on their introductory cache hunt. We had a great time, a successful hunt, and a nice walking tour of at least part of the town. We met Tony at Tony Rome's restaurant, the waiters at Guido's Italian restaurant and saw some interesting sculptures along the beach and in one of the small plazas. We had a nice lunch of fajitas at the Viva Mexico upstairs snack bar and even ran into a couple of alumni from my college.