A July 2004 trip
to Western Caribbean by Shaken_Bake
Quote: Our Caribbean cruise was fantastic! This was a first cruise for my husband and I, another couple, and our single male friend. We’re an active, fun-loving group of professionals who wanted to cruise in order to meet people, see new destinations, and enjoy the luxury and conveniences of cruising.
It certainly wasn't luxurious, but the facilities were clean and pleasant, with a helpful staff. Our room was on the small side, but had a comfortable queen-size bed, closet, and dresser. It also had a small kitchenette with a refrigerator, two-burner stove, and sink. The air-conditioning worked very well, an essential item for spending a few days in July in Florida! Our room overlooked a common patio and boats docked on the Intracoastal Waterway, which was pleasant, although a little noisy later in the night, when some guests sat out there talking after we had gone to bed. The location was convenient to the main beach avenue and very close to a number of restaurants and shopping. It wasn't a long taxi ride to the pier.
The room came with a continental breakfast, but it wasn't the highlight of our stay! In the very small lobby, a cabinet was set up with a toaster and loaves of bread and English muffins but not much else besides coffee and juice. With just some wicker chairs in the lobby, the only place to eat was back in the room.
Wish You Were Here Inn is an okay place to stay if you’re not up for paying $100 per night at the more well-known locations and don't mind an older facility with basic amenities.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 16, 2005
Wish You Were Here Inn
7 North Birch Rd.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304
Restaurant | "15th Street Fisheries, Ft. Lauderdale"
The waitstaff was very attentive and prompt. The rum cocktails looked irresistible, so I succumbed! In addition to a huge selection of seafood dishes, the menu had some unusual items on it including kangaroo and alligator! I stuck with a more tried-and-true selection, crab-stuffed flounder, which was outstanding! Each meal comes with a salad, choice of soup, like conch chowder (yum!) and specialty breads. Unfortunately, no room for dessert after a great meal like that! After dinner, we got an extra treat; it was the Fourth of July and fireworks were going off all along the waterway. They looked extra spectacular reflected in the water.
With cocktails and a bottle of wine, the dinner for two was about $100 but well worth the price, given the quality of the food and the ambience.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 16, 2005
15th Street Fisheries
1900 S.E. 15th Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316
Attraction | "Snorkeling in Shark-Ray Alley & Visit to San Pedro"
After a 45-minute high-speed cruise through the mangroves and along the shores of many different islands, we had a stop in Caye Caulker to pick up some sardines to feed the fish. We soon arrived on the barrier reef, and watched the shadows of the sharks (nurse sharks, no threat, so they say...) and rays under the clear, shallow water. I really had to talk myself into jumping in, but I am very glad I did! I could not believe my eyes about what I saw under the water. So many fish! Rays all over, but they seemed very tame. We were warned not to kick them, but otherwise we could reach out and pet them as they glided by. The crew even grabbed the rays on either side and held them up so we could see their undersides - funny mouth and teeth! A number of sharks glided under me, maybe seven or eight feet long. It was an amazing display - I felt like I was swimming in a giant tropical aquarium. We also did a tour of the coral reef. If you look in the distance, the reef looks kind of bland and colorless. It's when you're right next to a formation that you can see the vivid colors and shapes. Unreal! I could have spent hours more floating around.
We spent the afternoon in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. It’s a very funky, kind of primitive town. Golf carts with oversized tires are the primary mode of transportation on the sand streets lined with ramshackle buildings of all different hues. I found the people to be laid back, ready to chat or help if you needed it. There are many different races and national origins there. I saw Americans or other westerners who obviously lived there, people of Spanish and African descent, even Amish! I didn't find a lot of shopping venues, but I did stumble upon a shop that had some Central American handicrafts in the window. I was warmly greeted by Ricardo, the owner, whose main product was jewelry he made out of black coral. I spent time chatting with him about different things, about living on the island and how the jewelry was made. It was very unique and some pieces were exquisite.
I spent the rest of the time in Fido's Bar, under a thatched roof on the beach. Nothing like sipping a drink with the breeze cooling you nicely, watching the palm trees and the water... I would heartily recommend an afternoon or more in San Pedro for a true off-the-beaten-track destination.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 11, 2005
Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Attraction | "Getting to Tulum on Our Own"
When we got to Playa, we walked a short distance to the bus station. The cashier spoke English, and we easily bought tickets on the next second-class bus. The bus had comfortable seats and A/C, with lots of gringos going to see the ruins, as well as locals going about their business. I sat next to a Mexican mother and her beautiful baby boy. She was kissing him, and he was squealing in delight. It was just one of those moments that made me glad that we took a chance in going on our own.
One important lesson about riding Mexican busses is that the driver calls out the stops ahead, but will stop only when a passenger responds. I didn't know that and couldn't hear the driver anyway, which caused a problem. I assumed with the number of gringos on the bus that he'd automatically pull over at the ruins. Nope. He went sailing right past. I ran up front, but the driver told me, "I said ruinas. You'll have to catch a bus or taxi from town." So we got off in the dusty, little ramshackle town. We readily found a taxi who charged us all of $2 to take us back. Not a trip spoiler, just a little aggravating.
There are aggressive vendors at the entrance trying to sell guided tours, but we declined. There is a trolley to take visitors to the gate for a nominal charge. We decided to walk the 3/4 miles, which was not too difficult, the heat notwithstanding. The entrance fee was 38 pesos; they also charge 30 pesos to use video cameras. If you need cold water, you can buy bottles in the book store at the entrance booth.
The ruins are spectacular and in an incredible location. There are placards in English at various buildings, so it is possible to learn a lot without a guide. We also eavesdropped on numerous English-language tour groups. I was more interested in the physical beauty of the site than in learning the history (maybe because it was so hot!) I took some fantastic photos, but it’s hard to go wrong when you have an intense blue sky, turquoise ocean, and majestic stone buildings all in the same place!
After a few hours, we headed back to wait for the bus in a decent shelter with an overhead fan. We made it back to Playa for the ferry to Cozumel, and then easily hopped a cab to the ship pier with enough time to shop there before we boarded. It was a wonderful excursion that certainly cost a lot less than doing a tour through the ship!
Tulum Mayan Ruins
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 11, 2005
Their shop was large, well stocked with all the needed equipment to rent or buy, as well as souvenirs. All the staff we encountered were very friendly and informative. The boat was full on this Saturday afternoon, but the crew certainly showed that they knew how to take care of a big group (perhaps 25 divers). The oxygen tanks were set up quickly and the dive master briefed everyone on what to expect and the rules that needed to be followed. They had a very small concession counter on the boat to buy a limited selection of snacks and drinks. The covered area for the divers to sit was fairly cramped, especially with all the equipment everyone was carrying.
After about an hour’s cruise into the Atlantic, there were two dive stops, each about 45 minutes, the deepest about 60 feet. One was on a wreck, a boat that had been sunk deliberately to serve as a reef for marine life; the other, on a natural reef. The crew was very efficient in helping all the divers into their gear and over the side into the water; several of the crew dove with the clients to make sure everyone was safe. Unfortunately, the seas were very choppy and the boat rocked quite a bit. A few of the divers lost their lunch over the side and didn’t have a great afternoon (probably not helped by the young crew member, yelling at them, "Go for distance!" in order not to have wash down the decks!) I enjoyed the roller coaster ride myself and didn't feel sick at all, thank goodness!
I went snorkeling close to the boat on the last stop. It was shallow enough to see the reef and a number of fish, but I wouldn’t describe it as spectacular. The current was fierce and I had to really kick very hard not to stray too far away. My husband enjoyed his dives quite a bit and was also impressed by the efficient operation of the Pro Dive boat and crew. We would recommend it for visitors to Ft. Lauderdale who want to scuba dive or snorkel in the Atlantic.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005