Back in November of last year, six friends decided to go to the Caribbean on a cruise. On March 6 at 5:00 AM, they all loaded into the SUV and made the 5 hour drive south to Galveston to do just that.
After a stop for a nice breakfast (do they REALLY serve chicken and waffles...together...on the same plate???), we arrived in Galveston just a little after 11:30. My husband and I are seasoned cruisers with a whopping two cruises under our vacation belts - but this was the first cruise for our friends. It was so much fun to watch their jaws drop open at their first sight of our ship, the Voyager of the Seas. It's HUGE. Like, seriously huge. 3114 passengers and 1500 crew members on board this literal floating city. After a pretty painless check in that took all of about 45 minutes, we were on the ship and vacation had officially started!
Here was our itinerary:
Day 1: Leave Galveston
Day 2: At sea
Day 3: At sea
Day 4: Roatan, Honduras
Day 5: Belize City, Belize
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 7: At sea
Day 8: Return Galveston
Firthdaball...as as my son used to say when he was little...this ship is amazing. There is so much to do, it isn't even funny. Ice skating, rock climbing, shopping on the promenade, fun classes and workshops, pools...there are so many bars and lounges I lost count and just about every one had some sort of live entertainment going constantly. The pool had a great calypso reggae band and our favorite night time bar had a great live band who played just about everything from their own original music to country to rock. That particular band, The Mickey Utley Band, was only on board for a few weeks, so we considered ourselves lucky to hear them. A few nights into the cruise we discovered a sing-a-long piano man in another bar, and he was so fun to sit and listen to. And the dancers on board!! Holy moly!! These people could seriously try out for Dancing With the Stars...as the pro's! It was just as much fun to watch the other cruisers dance at night than to watch the actual entertainment. It was almost like it was a prerequisite to be a good dancer to book on that particular sailing...however, Scott and I must have missed the memo, because neither of us are any good. But I digress....There was a hysterical comedian show, an ice show and "game" shows like Family Feud and Love and Marriage. Scott wanted to sign up for Love and Marriage, but I was too chicken to get up in front of 500 people. We would have mopped the floor with the competition, I guarantee it. So much to do, we literally ran out of time to do it all, even with three full at sea days. My take on cruises...if you're bored on a cruise, it's because you choose to be bored.
We were lucky enough to book the cruise during Mardi Gras...even though we had no idea when we picked the dates back in November. WOW! The promenade on the ship is like a cobble stoned street with shops and cafes and such, and a fabulous Mardi Gras parade was thrown on Fat Tuesday! In fact, there were three or four parades that week...they were all spectacular! We had purchased feather masks and we had a ball with our masks on dancing our way down the "street" on Fat Tuesday.
The staff on board was so nice! Our waiter at dinner every night for the late seating was wonderful, and we had our favorite pool waiter who remembered our first names after taking our order only once and even remembered what drinks all six of us liked. It was like he had a homing beacon attached to us because no matter where we were on the pool deck...it's HUGE, buy the way...he found us the minute our butts hit the chairs and greeted us asking how our day was going. Keep in mind he serves hundreds of people a day...so I just think we were his favorites...am I right?? Anywho, our room steward, whom we called our Room Ninja, was amazing. We would seriously step out of the room for a moment, return for a forgotten item and POOF!, the room had been made up. Every single time. We joked that there were cameras in the rooms that showed him when we left. He was amazing!
We hired a private driver in Roatan that took four of us on a tour of the island. For $20 USD per person, we had the owner of the tour company, Rony, drive us around in his brand new air conditioned mini van for over 6 hours! Rony was wonderful and he taught us so much about his homeland. For lunch we stopped at his mother's local restaurant and it was so good. On a side note, it's difficult to see the poverty in the tiny houses, the dirt streets, and the barefooted children running around...at first. But then you look again and you see no trash anywhere. You see sturdy, healthy little bodies that are attached to those bare feet. You see smiling faces and clean clothes. This may be a poor country, but the locals were neither unhappy nor unhealthy. It was very humbling, but at the same time very uplifting. The people of Roatan are some of the friendliest I've ever come across while traveling. We boarded the ship in the evening after a long day on the island, and went out on deck to watch the dock workers prepare the ship to silently pull away. A local man who was selling handmade necklaces near the dock watched us as we began to glide out. He raised his arm, smiled and called out in a heavy accent, "Thank you, America!". Us sentimental girls had tears in our eyes and we waved back to the man. I would love to go back to Roatan.
During our visit to Belize City, we took a tour to see the ancient Mayan ruins that were about 1 hour outside of the city. Belize City, itself, is very dirty and very crowded. We were told not to leave the gates of the port area unless we were on a pre-booked tour. We asked our driver if that were really the case and he said, "No...it's no that bad. You just pass through the gates and it's hell." Uhhhh.....Ok then!! One thing I didn't realize - just due to my own ignorance - there are no beaches in Belize because it is actually below sea level and a sea wall borders the water in lieu of sand. To spend the day on a beach in Belize, you must take a boat tour to a private island offshore. At first I was disappointed with the scenery, but the further we got out of the city and the closer we got to the rain forest, the prettier it got. The Altun Ha ruins were amazing to look at...which date to 500 BC. It's stunning to look at what these ancient people accomplished with zero machines and only hand tools and physical labor.
Cozumel was fun! What energy this town has!! Beautiful water that is so blue, I can only compare it to a bottle of Windex! And the shopping...holy cow, the shopping. Miles and miles of cool shops. We were pretty wore out after two busy days of go, go, going in Roatan and Belize, so we all decided to just take it easy in Cozumel...find a cute restaurant for lunch and stroll the streets for souvenirs. So...that's what we did. The restaurant we found was amazing. The best Mexican food I've ever eaten in my life. Guacamole that will make you weep. I'm serious, and not being at all dramatic. The weather was perfect and we spent a glorious day just browsing and walking.
Royal Caribbean was offering incentives and small deposits if you booked your next cruise while on board....so we did. Four of us are going next March...only this time we'll visit Falmouth, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We will be on a different ship, too, so we're all excited about that! We have the option to get our small deposit back at any time in full by December 20, or pay the balance due. So, I've got nine months to sell as many hair bows as I can to save up!! Anyone want to join us?? We leave March 4, 2012 out of Galveston! Come on!!!
And now we're home. And even though I missed the kids terribly and I'm so glad to be back...I keep looking for our pool waiter and wondering where in the world I put my vodka tonic....