We wanted to do something special for our 25 anniversary (on Valentines Day) so we booked this cruise. Our oldest just finished college and our youngest has 2 years left, the "budget" entered into our choice. You can't beat the value of a cruise when you compare it to a land based vacation.
We live in central Illinois and plane fares were high so we made it into a road trip too. We stayed in the Hammond LaQuinta on Friday night so we could drive the causeway on Sat. morning. We knew to not drive the causeway on a business day. This is a new hotel and it was a great place to stay. I highly recommend it. Very friendly staff, very clean and it had a nice breakfast that was included. It came to a total of $80.00. AARP rate.
On Sat. morning we parked at the pier early and dropped off our luggage. We walked through the Riverwalk Mall and went to the French Market. We love this area and it was good to be back there again even though it was a cool and windy day. The line at Cafe Du Monde was very long which was no problem for us as we knew we could buy the same thing in the Riverside Mall if we wanted to. The French Market was a busy and fun place to be!!
We checked in at the terminal at about 12:45 and were on board in just a few minutes. It took us 8 cruises to figure out that you don't always have to be the first to be on board the ship. The buffet was busy for a few minutes but that changed when the rooms opened up at 1:30. When we cruise again we will use this situation to our advantage.
The first day at sea was cloudy and cool but we didn't mind that. We just hung out together and enjoyed not having any schedule to follow.
The first port was at Progresso. We did the tourist $3.00 bus tour and walked over to the beach. We like to hit the beach and enjoy the sand and water. This was our second time at Progresso. We did buy our favorite vanilla at Los Cinco Soles at the pier shop but otherwise didn't do any real shopping. If you like vanilla we know, without a doubt, that this is the best. A few years ago we bought another brand and it wasn't very good. The Los Cinco vanilla does not have any coumarin in it. We did find the sales push at Progresso to be strong. I recommend wearing dark sunglasses and just politely saying no thank you. Everyone has to make a living in this world.
The second port was Cozumel. This was our 7th time there so we knew what to expect. For $20.00 (each way) we took a cab to Palancar beach and loved it. It's a beautiful beach and a great place to swim and sun yourself. It's located very close to the Palancar Reef. Getting a taxi back is easy, our driver offered to wait for us (for a price) but we opted to not do that. When we were ready to head back to the pier there were a few taxis available. When we got there a waiter told us if there wasn't a cab they would call one. I was concerned about getting back but found that concern to be totally unfounded. We both loved this beach and hope to take our adult kids back there with us in the not so distant future. The waiters at the beach were friendly and not pushy. Oh yes, we aren't certain when we can be in Cozumel again so we bought some more Los Cinco vanilla at this port too. Some of it is for gifts etc...
The last day at sea started out warm and sunny so we took advantage of the sun. We knew it would disappear the closer we got back to New Orleans. At about 10:30pm we were lucky enough to see the river pilot get on our ship. That's always fun to see....at least for us.
We are both vegetarians so the food choices were limited for us. We knew it would be limited based on our prior cruises. Our biggest frustration on this cruise was the pizza station. It ALWAYS seemed like you were putting them out and there was always a "ten minute wait". It appeared that the pizza station was not the place you wanted to be assigned to work.
We found the ship to be very cared for and clean. The staff were friendly and seemed to have a good working rapport with each other. The Cruise Director, Jeff Bronson, was very good. We know it's his job to sell and inform you of activities but he was never annoying.
We stayed in a porthole room again. We like that it's the same price as an inside room. You can shut the windows tight and it's nice and dark for sleeping. Plenty of sunlight available during the day. It's also quite for sleeping since they are in the front of the ship.
Getting off of the ship was very easy. We did the self assist and were off by 8:00am. Our car was at the terminal so we immediately hit the road for the 13 hour trip home.
All in all we had a very nice and romantic cruise. We had a lot of time to reminisce about our past 25 years together. Now we are looking forward to the next 25 rested and ready to go.