Written by Koala_D on 11 Mar, 2009
We live near Seattle, Washington, so it seemed like a good idea to arrive in Miami the night before. We flew there on Alaska Airlines (a favorite of mine), and the flight was good. BUT, things started…Read More
We live near Seattle, Washington, so it seemed like a good idea to arrive in Miami the night before. We flew there on Alaska Airlines (a favorite of mine), and the flight was good. BUT, things started going bad when we reached the Miami Airport. My husband had wheel chair assistance, and we were escorted to the area for the hotel shuttle pick-up. The escort did not want to leave us there at 10:30 pm even though we insisted we'd be fine. When he did leave, however, he called our hotel first to find out when our shuttle would arrive.... which was in 45 minutes. OK. An hour later, still no hotel shuttle. I looked for a phone, but there was no public phone close. A shuttle driver called our hotel once more, and they said 15 minutes. An hour later, still no shuttle. TIP: Try to arrive in Miami before dark, and spend a little more for a reliable hotel. The shuttle area is dark and full of exhaust fumes, so it isn't a pleasant place to stand waiting for long. I finally left my husband there, and had to go to another level for a phone (much of the airport is blocked off at night for cleaning). The hotel had no idea where their shuttle was, and we were told to take a cab at their expense. Fine, but we arrived at the hotel at 1:00 am. (A review of this hotel, the Rodeway Inn, will be included in this journal.) We struggled up to the taxi level of the airport with all our luggage, and immediately a man located a taxi. Yes, he knew where to go. While he was putting our luggage into the trunk I realized he had no idea where to go. He did not speak English. We took our luggage back, and said "No... we want another taxi." He picked it up and started putting it back into the trunk. My husband wrestled it away, and put it on the sidewalk. This went on for 5-10 minutes while I searched for the man who locates the taxis. When I found him, he DID find us another taxi. The first driver was very angry, and my husband twisted his knee trying to hold on to a suitcase that was going back into the trunk. (Taxis are expensive in Miami. This 7.8 mile trip from the airport would have cost us $25.00.) TIP: NO MATTER WHAT..... make sure the taxi DRIVER understands where you are going, and that YOU BOTH understand the cost. Do not go near the taxi until it that is settled. A good idea is to show them a written name and address (although that did not work in this case). The next morning, the hotel shuttle left early so we did not get the complimentary breakfast. It deposited us at the cruise pier near our ship. Porters immediately grab your luggage and throw it on a cart. I found out later (when they ripped the wheels out of our luggage) that these baggage handlers work for the PORT, not the Cruise Lines. If you are allowed, take at least one carry-on sized bag with you! You will be allowed in your cabin about 2:00 pm, but some luggage may not arrive until that evening. TIP: Pack a few things for everyone in your party in the carry-on. A bathing suit is good to include if you like the pool or jacuzzi. NCL has a nice waiting area after check-in if you arrive before the boarding time (usually noon). Check in is fast and efficient. When I finally arrive on board I breathe a sigh of relief, and then head for Deck 12 Aft (on the Pearl). You can enjoy a leisurely brunch there in a relaxing outdoor eating area. TIP: Look for the made-to-order Pasta Bar there. Your choice of pasta is cooked fresh, and then choose your sauce and what you'd like in it. YUMMY !! Another choice.... most people don't realize the Summer Palace (fancy Dining Room) is open for lunch when you board! It is usually uncrowded, has a great menu, and your suitcase is welcome to accompany you. Close
Written by Astromaid on 17 Dec, 2003
There are several tours that are offered by the cruise line. I did a lot of time reading the forum at cruisecritic.com, which gave me a lot of ideas to book our own tours. The advantage of going with a ship tour is that…Read More
There are several tours that are offered by the cruise line. I did a lot of time reading the forum at cruisecritic.com, which gave me a lot of ideas to book our own tours. The advantage of going with a ship tour is that they handle all arrangements and if you are late the ship will wait for you. The disadvantages are that the ship tours are much more expensive than what you can book yourself, they are inflexible, and you will be touring with a crowd of people.
Booking your own tours you can become very creative, you get a lot more for your dollar, and it will be much smaller groups. The disadvantages are that you have to make sure to cover traveling to and from and make sure you allow time for problems, because if you run late, the ship may leave without you.
That being said, we arranged the most awesome tour in Jamaica. My daughter and I wanted to ride horses in the ocean, my husband wanted nothing to do with this, but we all wanted to go tubing down a river. If we had booked a ship tour, we would not have been able to do both, the times overlapped and it would have been very expensive. In reading the forum, I came across numerous excellent reviews on A-J Jamaican Planners. I contacted Belinda (the owner) by e-mail, and she said would custom design a tour to do anything we wanted. So what we decided is that my daughter and I would ride horses in the morning while my husband would tour the Shaw Botanical Gardens. Then we would be picked up and delivered back to the ship for lunch (we could have gone to a Jamaican restaurant for jerk chicken, but my daugher would not have eaten, very picky). After lunch we would all be picked up, driven into the mountains to tube down a river.
We had our own personal driver, Oscar, who had come highly recommended on the cruise forum I read. He was absolutely awesome, very personable and attentive to our every need. We were driven to a plantation that rescues abandoned and abused race horses and rehabiliates them for riding.
The horses were in great shape and very well-taken care of. You ride in English saddles, no western. There were two other groups there getting ready to ride, I had assumed that we would tag along with them. Instead we had our own personal guide, just the two of us. Oscar stayed until we headed down the trail just to make sure everything was running smoothly. Then he drove my husband to Shaw Botanical Gardens. Our guide was excellent, talking about the plantation, life on Jamaica, and discussing various plantlife. We spent the next 30 minutes conversing about all sorts of things. He was a very personable guide.
We arrived at the ocean and met up with the other two groups. We dismounted and the horses were tied up while we had punch and various local snacks. We have worn bathing suits under our clothes, and took the pants off when we got ready to ride in the ocean. The saddles were synthetic, so we did not have to take them off. The horses went right in and we went out far enough that the water was almost over their backs, then we ran up and down through the water. This is fantastic fun and the horses don't seem to mind it at all (our horses at home would be mortified).
The extra bonus in having our own custom tour is that we stayed out the entire time the other two groups came and went, giving us double the amount of time in the water. It was absolutely awesome. And just a note, our table companions also did a horseback ride in the ocean on the ship's tour. There were fifty people in their group. They had a great time also, but certainly did not have the individual attention we did.
Written by Cantin2 on 06 Oct, 2007
The Serenity can accommodate 1080 passengers, all in oceanview rooms - 85% of these have verandahs and two floors are dedicated to suites or penthouses. Take a tour of the ship here. Rooms are large and very comfortable for a cruise ship, furnishings are…Read More
The Serenity can accommodate 1080 passengers, all in oceanview rooms - 85% of these have verandahs and two floors are dedicated to suites or penthouses. Take a tour of the ship here. Rooms are large and very comfortable for a cruise ship, furnishings are dark wood with fabrics of gold, light blue and some suites are done in shades of green. All have a sofa and hydraulic coffee table that raises up for meals. The built-in combination desk/armoire has a mirror with subtle lighting, a TV, DVD player, small refrigerator stocked with soda and water and replenished daily. There are drawers and shelves for storage and a variety of glassware.The beds are so comfortable - a mattress topper, Egyptian cotton sheets, a pillow menu (we like the king-size down pillow) and a down duvet makes you feel as thought you're sleeping on a cloud. During the day, the duvet is changed to a spread. Once home we ordered pillows and a topper from this hotel supplier - Hotel Down Shop - take a look - interesting...Closets are good size with a light that goes on automatically when opened - there are extra drawers here and also a small safe. Look further...slippers and two Frette Robes! Turn around...a full length mahogany mirror.The bathrooms...the best at sea...all have a tub with a large shower head and good water pressure. Twin sinks in a granite counter top set into a mahogany vanity....Aveda products - large size - and two hair dryers, a magnifying make up mirror and both a fluffy rug and a bath mat.The balconies are very private with two padded reclining chairs and a small table. You'll enjoy having cappucino in the morning, drinks and hor's doevres at sunset and possibly even dinner under the stars. Room service waiters will answer your call 24 hours a day.The suites and penthouses include extra amenities such as walk-in closets, scales, flat screen TV's, jacuzzi tubs, separate glass enclosed shower, upgraded furniture, teak balcony furniture and the attention of a concierge.Twice a day service by the room attendant with pillow chocolates each night, 24-hour room service, high speed Internet access - this rivals the services and amenities offered by many luxury hotels. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 29 Apr, 2007
Serenity continues the tradition of assigned tables at two seatings. Their surveys show that guests are comfortable knowing that they'll interact with the same people each night and establish a comfortable feeling with their waiters. This may be a result of the older age…Read More
Serenity continues the tradition of assigned tables at two seatings. Their surveys show that guests are comfortable knowing that they'll interact with the same people each night and establish a comfortable feeling with their waiters. This may be a result of the older age group represented on this ship and the fact that many guests are traveling solo. But there are other venues to vary the experience for those desiring more choice.The CRYSTAL DINING ROOM is elegantly appointed with tables for two along the windows and larger tables centrally placed. The menu is ever-changing to provide variety for the long voyages on it's itinerary. Service is friendly and efficient with at least four choices at each course. Main courses are available in appetizer portions for indecisive diners or those with smaller appetites. Presentation and preparation are top notch; meats cooked perfectly to order and comfort foods featured, such as meatloaf, roast tom turkey, spaghetti and meatballs, along with the international, more gourmet meals.The sommeliers are helpful with their recommendations and will re-cork any unfinished bottles for consumption at your next meal. You may even purchase wine in port, bring it aboard and enjoy it at dinner—for a $15 corkage fee, of course—further enhancing your experience of the country visited.Prego, their Italian restaurant, is small and also elegantly decorated, reminding you of an upscale New York restaurant with heavy gold drapes, Italian murals, and even a fountain. Tables for two are set very close together along the windows. Yes, you will end up sooner or later interacting with your dining neighbors. If you have a later reservation you may be given the choice of dining at a larger table as a twosome; this does give you more privacy. What I found appealing on the Serenity is that there is no service charge for any of the gourmet restaurants. You may dine at them as often as you can ensure a reservation and it won't be monotonous because they have daily specials in addition to their regular menu. Their mushroom soup served in a bread bowl is not to be missed. We ordered it each night and also bought the cookbook in the gift shop in order to attempt to replicate it upon our return home. An "amuse bouche" is presented soon after you are seated. One night it was rare tuna on a seared scallop over a few greens. The textures and flavors are incredible. The staff is exceptional and if you are wavering in choosing between two or three of the appetizers, the waiter will accommodate you with a tapas-like portion in order for you to experience all of them.Silk Road is Crystal's Asian restaurant overseen by Nobu. What a treat!! The decor is sleek, the menu incredible, and you will recognize all of Nobu's signature dishes. The sushi bar, as you enter, always has two Nobu chefs from one of the restaurants in attendance. Toko, from New York, was on board during our cruise. This area has a few tables for guests without a reservation, it is first come seating. A full menu is also available here but I found that most chose to order many small dishes; sort of a tasting along with their sake, wine, or tea. Th main Silk Road dining area is more formal but not stiff, and requires reservations. There is an exuberance of energy felt here. My mouth waters as I recall some of our favorite dishes: Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Mayo, Miso-Glazed Black Cod, Soft Shell Crab Roll, Lobster with Wasabi Pepper Sauce. Nobu uses the freshest of products and has perfected the fusion of herbs, spices, oils, and textures. And to end a perfect meal, Valrhona Cocolate Souffle with Green Tea Ice Cream. Mmmmmm. This is a not-to be-missed experience. A restaurant visit to Nobu in any city would approach $250/couple. Close
Crystal Cruise Line is noted for it's Creative Learning Institute. On days at sea there is always room by the pool showing that many guests are busy with the learning activities offered.One room is dedicated to music instruction on Yamaha Digital Pianos with lessons…Read More
Crystal Cruise Line is noted for it's Creative Learning Institute. On days at sea there is always room by the pool showing that many guests are busy with the learning activities offered.One room is dedicated to music instruction on Yamaha Digital Pianos with lessons twice daily, mostly geared to the beginner. The great surprise here was that at the end of the week, anyone who took a lesson was entered into a drawing for a new piano. A nice perk! The card room always seemed busy with either bridge games or instruction at various levels. Berlitz social conversation language classes are taught on each cruise—Spanish was the choice on this cruise, appropriate for visiting Mexico—again designed for the beginner. The Internet Cafe is also in this area. Computer University at Sea was my favorite and very popular. One part of the lab was dedicated to internet access with knowledgeable assistants to help you if you encountered problems, and the other section was for learning with hands-on classes. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Publishing, and Digital Photography were very interesting.Lecturers are invited on board each cruise. A White House correspondent gave us insight on our presidents by sharing his slides and anecdotes about their "planes", their "retreats", and their individual personalities. It really felt like we were getting a sneak peak into their private lives. A motivational speaker was aboard along with a lecturer from the Princeton Institute helping guests define goals to improve their lives or to teach them leadership skills.The spa and fitness areas were always abuzz with exercise classes and nutrition informational seminars, as well as makeup and anti-aging hints and product info on their line of Steiner and Elemis products. I did buy some products and will continue to order them when I run out. Plus, they were duty free. A unique program was "Walk on Water". This ship has a 360 degree teak deck for walking. You are fitted with a vest with weight inserts and you are allowed to keep it for the length of the cruise. Two walks are scheduled daily if you care to have company while walking off the calories.A golf pro gave seminars and was also available for private consultation enhanced with video for an extra fee. Paddle tennis courts, shuffle board, and ping-pong tournaments were scheduled regularly.The dance hosts were not only busy at night as partners for the unescorted ladies, but served as dance partners during the instructional classes readying everyone for a night of dancing. As you can see, the day goes very quickly with so many choices of activities and if you care to part with extra money. Bingo and Caesar's "Casino at Sea" is bound to tempt you. Close
Written by vampirefan on 24 Feb, 2005
When I was a travel agent a few years ago, the company I worked for sent me to this seminar at sea. I learned about Carnival and the line and got to experience a cruise firsthand. I am sure I am getting no sympathy from…Read More
When I was a travel agent a few years ago, the company I worked for sent me to this seminar at sea. I learned about Carnival and the line and got to experience a cruise firsthand. I am sure I am getting no sympathy from anyone right now. I traveled with my fellow coworkers Tammy, Scott, and Guy. Tammy and I had a wonderful ocean-view cabin. Talk about a great way to work! Cruising is the perfect vacation. You pack and unpack only once, get to see some great places along the way, and are treated like royalty. It is also very affordable, especially if you compare it to a land vacation. To show my clients the difference, I actually priced at a 7-day cruise against 4 days in Myrtle Beach, and the cruise was over $1,000 cheaper! Once considered vacations of the rich, today there is a cruise for just about any budget. Cruising has been increasing in popularity since the 1970s with the Love Boat and continues to grow each year as more and more people cruise. Today, you can cruise the whole world.
Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world. As an agent, I have sent more passengers on Carnival than any other line. Carnival is for everyone. Singles, couples, families, and groups are all sailing Carnival. There is a great deal of acceptance on the Carnival ships. I have had many gay couples travel Carnival and feel comfortable while on the ship. From grandparents to little tykes, everyone is sure to find Carnival the fun ship line.
Maybe you have heard Carnival is the party ship? Well, people do tend to have a good time on the ships. But it is not the Girls Gone Wild, spring break-type atmosphere that people think. Carnival was the first cruise line to raise their booking age to 21. Now all passengers under 21 must have a passenger over 21 in their room with them. There are only two exceptions to that rule and that is a married couple under 21 (you must have proof of marriage) or kids traveling with their parents. Maybe you heard about a case of food poisoning on a ship or a ship that broke down? Yes, that happened. But guess what? It happens to all the other cruise lines, too. Cruise ships are much like cars, and they do on occasion break down, and food poising can happen even at the most exclusive of places. Believe me, I know as an industry professional, it is only the most popular ships that get the headlines. After all, the Titanic was the most luxurious ship afloat in 1914 and look what happened to her!
A Carnival cruise is the perfect vacation for the whole family. Even though you may have read in some travel magazines to wait for last-minute deals, don’t, especially if you are a family. They only have a limited amount of rooms for more than two passengers, and those book very quickly. Your best deals are found in the fall months, when most families cannot travel. Cruises in the summer months and on holidays must be booked well in advanced. Alaska cruises, which only sail from May to September, tend to book up about a year in advanced. Anywhere from 9 to 12 months ahead of time is a good timeframe to book. You will only have to pay a deposit if you book in advance, and then your final payment comes in about 8 weeks prior to sailing.
Jut about everything is included in the price of your cruise: three sit-down meals a day, a range of buffets, 24-hour pizza, 24-hour room service, use of the gym facilities, nightly shows, children’s programs, entertainment, and use of other facilities. What is not included? Alcoholic beverages, sodas (though Carnival does have a soda card where you purchase a card and have all the soda you want. You purchase them at the bar on the ship), spa and beauty salon treatments, photographs, or shopping. What about tips? Yes, you are encouraged to tip about $10 per day, which covers your assistant waiter, waiter, and room attendant. Tip service should also be given in the bars, beauty salon, and spas. You can tip your dining host for exceptional service. These people work extra hard to make sure you have a wonderful vacation, so please be very kind to them. Some cruise lines add tips to your bill, so make sure to ask. There are some cruise lines that do not allow tipping. But I can assure you that these are the more expensive cruise lines.
Once aboard the ship, it is a cashless society. Your room key also serves as your onboard account. When you purchase a drink from the bar or postcards from the shop, you just hand them your key. At the end of the trip, you will receive a bill and it is automatically applied to your credit or debit card. Prefer using cash? That is fine, too. You just simply put money on your account, and once you have gone through that, then you just go down and put money on your card again. There are ATM machines onboard in case you want money for shore. The fees are extremely high, so wait until you are in port to use an ATM. The only place cash is used is at the casino. But many ships today also use your onboard account for this, too.
Once you have mulled over the cruise lines and the itinerary, then go ahead and book the vacation of your dream. You can book directly with the cruise line. Go to to book with them. You can also book with your locate travel agency or through the many travel websites, such as Expedia or Tavelocity. Places such as AAA or Sam’s club offer these services to their customers. Can you save ton using an agency versus the cruise line? To be honest, not really. Carnival especially has now implemented a one-price structure, meaning you get the same price whether you book though them or an agent. But no matter whom you book through, just do it. Come on, what are you waiting for?
When on a cruise, you should always take the time to experience one meal at a restaurant while in port. While in Cozumel, I always send folks over to Carlos and Charlie’s. In business since November of 1979, Carlos and Charlie’s is the place to…Read More
When on a cruise, you should always take the time to experience one meal at a restaurant while in port. While in Cozumel, I always send folks over to Carlos and Charlie’s. In business since November of 1979, Carlos and Charlie’s is the place to be. The Anderson group owns it, and they also own the restaurant chain Senior Frogs, which is also located in Cozumel. The restaurant is located on Av. Rafael Melgar No 551. Taxicabs from the pier will only set you back $5, and they will know the place. The place is easy to spot since there is usually a large crowd waiting to get in. Thankfully, when Guy and I arrived, our friends Tammy and Scott were already holding a table.
The place is loud, rowdy, and lots of fun. If you like quiet and refinement, then you will probably not take a liking to this place. But if you love fun, then come on in and join the party. There is a disco located on one side of the restaurant, so sometimes you can barely hear someone talking to you. They have a HUGE bar at the back. There are lovely cocktail waitresses serving shooters. This is not for the easily embarrassed. They pour the shooter into your mouth and razz you a bit. Our friend Guy who was with us was single and loved it. You may be sitting there and all of a sudden everyone gets up on their chair and does the chicken dance! If they do, join in. Thinking this might be for the under 35 crowd? Think again. I have had clients into their 80’s go and enjoy the fun. Only requirement here? Just a love of good food and fun. Again, everyone here speaks English. Credit cards and US dollars are accepted. They have a souvenir shop on the premises. Their shirts are just as coveted as those Hard Rock shirts (they also have a location here). You can also take home a great souvenir picture of your dining party. The picture is $25 but comes with a very large nice wood frame.
Their food is also incredible. To make their American customers happy, you can get such American goodies such as pasta, burgers, chicken, and ribs. But why? You can get that at home. Most everyone has had some taste of Mexican food, whether it was from a Mexican restaurant at home or Taco Bell. But the local flavors here are made to be savored. I got an enchilada plate. Out came three HUGE enchiladas with red sauce (you get your choice of red or green), beans, and rice. What a party for your taste buds. I still drool thinking about the food. It’s certainly not Taco Bell. And the portions… oh my. My food was served on a HUGE platter. I swear at least two people could have eaten off this plate. And the price is perfect. It was only about $7. They have an extensive bar list. If you happen to have any room left in your tummy, they have a mouthwatering dessert menu. They had a mango crepe dessert that looked heavenly. The table next to us had one, and it looked just divine. Also reminder the water here is safe, so if you prefer H2O as your refreshment, you are okay. You can make advanced reservations online at the group’s web site at or check out the unofficial web site at .
Tulum, which in Spanish means wall, probably dates back to between 250 and 600 AD. It is one of the few walled Mayan cities. It most likely did not become a major city until about 1200 to 1530. This city served as both a city…Read More
Tulum, which in Spanish means wall, probably dates back to between 250 and 600 AD. It is one of the few walled Mayan cities. It most likely did not become a major city until about 1200 to 1530. This city served as both a city and fortress for many ancient Mayans. The first mention of this sacred place was not until 1518, when Juan Diaz, an explorer, mentioned it in his writings. In 1842, John Stephens and Fredrick Catherwood wrote about the Mayan city in their book Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan. Excavations of the site started as early as 1916. It was not until 1937 that Miguel Angel Fernandez began full-time work on the excavation. Today, the National Institute of History and Anthropology continues to work and preserve this site so that generations of people can stand in awe of this once great city.
Today, you cannot longer climb the structures. But the structures are not roped off (unless work is being done), so you can go up to the structure to experience the power of this place. The most incredible sight here is the castle. Dramatically built on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean, it inspires wonder in all those who see it. There is a massive wall on both sides and then a series of steps up the temple. This was once the main site for worship. Located throughout the ruins, you can still see incredibly preserved houses, walls, and buildings. Many times, descendants of the Mayans are on hand to talk about this city or to perform. While we were here, several men preformed a pole dance. I have had clients lucky enough to be here and get to talk to these wonderful people about their ancestors. The Institute does not pay these people, so if you can, please tip these wonderful people for their service. Throughout the ruins you will also see a large concentration of lizards. These little guys are harmless and will not bother you. They do seem to like to pose for pictures, though! You are welcome to take pictures, but there is a small fee for video cameras. You can pay this to your guide, who will get a pass for you.
When you are finished, you will be taken back to the city, and from here you board the ferry back to Cozumel. If you had your picture taken, this is where you can pick it up. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and it really is beautiful. Those prone to motion sickness may want to take something before they head out. This is a must for the whole family. When you are here you go back in time for just a few brief hours. This place is incredible, and what a way to give your child a history lesson. Once you are here, you will understand why this place is considered magical.
One word about shore excursions, especially for cruise passengers: Make sure you book this excursion either with the cruise line directly or with a service such as Ship to Shore. Your travel agent will provide you information on shore excursions. With Carnival, you sign up for shore excursions when you board the ship. With others like Royal Caribbean, NCL, or Princess, you can order your excursions before you leave. You will be given a time to be back at the ship, and make sure you are there. That ship will sail with or without you. However, if Carnival receives a call that 200 of their passengers are on a bus that has a flat tire, they will wait. If you booked it with Joe’s bus tour and they have a flat, the ship will not wait for two passengers. If you book your shore excursion with the cruise line or companies such as Ship to Shore, the cruise line either waits or gets you to your next port. If you are in a resort area, then you don’t have to worry about a curfew. Most of the major resorts and hotels offer excursions to Tulum. If they don’t, they can direct you to a reputable travel agency to make the arrangements. It is a good idea to go with a group and to go with a reputable company. Also, check with your cruise line or resort about going to Play del Carmen. Play del Carmen is a lovely city and worth visiting. Some cruise lines are starting to add a complete day stop here or offer this place alone as an excursion. Resorts and hotels will help arrange to get you here for a visit. You can find out about Tulum at , , or .
One of the most popular shore excursions in Cozumel is to the ancient city of Tulum. Tulum is actually not in Cozumel but in the smaller city of Playa Del Carmen, which is about 30 minutes away. The ship stops near Playa de Carmen. The…Read More
One of the most popular shore excursions in Cozumel is to the ancient city of Tulum. Tulum is actually not in Cozumel but in the smaller city of Playa Del Carmen, which is about 30 minutes away. The ship stops near Playa de Carmen. The ships are too big to pull into the port, so you get on a small boat, which will take you to the pier. Once you arrive at the pier, you will take a brief walk though this very lovely town to your tour bus. From here you will board your very luxurious tour bus, and then the trip starts. Soda, beer, and snacks are provided. You will have a bilingual interpreter onboard (I don’t know why since everyone we met spoke English) who will give you a history lesson along the way. Our guide was Armando. He was quite chatty, entertaining, and very knowledgeable not only about Tulum but this lovely city as well. It is about a 45-minute drive to Tulum. You will stop at a very large gift shop for a break and refreshments before you go into Tulum. This is a great place to stock up on water if you forgot yours or have gone through what you brought. You can get soda, water, candy, and pretty much the same stuff you get at a convenience store. But you can pick up some wonderful souvenirs and beautiful jewelry. I purchased a beautiful sterling silver cross necklace here for $12. This is also a great place in case you need a potty break.
Once you board the bus, you drive about another 10 minutes and are then at Tulum. There is someone who stays on the bus in case you make a big purchase in the gift store, so you can leave it on the bus and your item will be safe. You will then walk through a small shopping plaza. Here you have two options. You can walk the 800 feet to the entrance or you can take a tram for $1.50. Due to my asthma, we took the tram. It was a very nice ride up and beats the heck out of walking. Your guide will meet you at the front entrance, so just wait before you go on in. Your guide will take you in as a group. He or she will give you an overview of Tulum and a history lesson. They spend about 1 hour telling you about this wonderful city. Then you are given several hours to tour at your leisure. You will be told what time to be back at the bus, so make sure someone in your party has a watch. They do have photographers around who will take a nice souvenir photo for you.
Back at the shopping village, you will find several shops featuring some absolutely beautiful handmade crafts, everything from handmade masks, figurines, and blankets to T-shirts, collector’s spoons, and postcards. There is a Subway here in case you get hungry. They also have a convenience store stocked with sodas, snacks, beer, and souvenirs. Your tram ticket is good for the length of your stay. So if all the trampling around the ruins gets you hungry or you need a potty break, you can hop back on the tram and return. Do try to leave in time to stop by the shops and see some of their amazing craftsmanship. Again, everyone does speak English here and your U.S. dollars are gladly accepted.
Of the two most prominent ruins in Mexico, Chichen Itza (located near Cancun) may be more well known and photographed, but Tulum offers a something else. This city was built atop a cliff overlooking the beautiful ocean. You can climb down and enjoy the sand and take a dip into the cool turquoise waters. From here you are offered a breathtaking view of this amazing site.
The second stop on my cruise was in the magnificent city of Cozumel, Mexico. This tiny island (only 28 miles long by 10 feet wide) is the largest island in Mexico and sits off of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is home to 75,000 people. The…Read More
The second stop on my cruise was in the magnificent city of Cozumel, Mexico. This tiny island (only 28 miles long by 10 feet wide) is the largest island in Mexico and sits off of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is home to 75,000 people. The history of Cozumel dates back to the 13th century and the ancient Mayans. The Mayans were farmers, fishermen, and warriors. The Mayans considered Cozumel a sacred shrine and called it Ah-Cuzamil (Island of the Shallows). Ancient Mayans would sail to the island to worship the goddess Ix-Chel. She was the goddess of fertility and the wife of the sun god. Today many descendents of the ancient Mayan culture still call this beautiful island home. In the 15th century, Spanish explorers overtook it. From the 16-19th centuries, it was known more for its pirates and looters than anything else. It was pretty much closed to the rest of the world.
Cozumel first started opening its doors to the rest of the world in 1924, when they built the Hotel Louvre. But it would take until the 1950s before it became a popular tourist spot. It wasn’t until 1961, though, that the island really took off. When Jacques Cousteau visited here, he said that it was the most beautiful island and marveled at the pristine waters, offering an array of beautiful fish and high visibility for scuba divers. The rest, as we say, is history.
Today Cozumel is a major diving and cave-diving center. Millions of people come here to traverse the beautiful underwater world that awaits. Cozumel is home to the second-largest reef barrier, with Australia being the first. Just about every dive magazine lists an annual best-dive issue, and you can bet Cozumel is on every one of them. This port is also on just about every Western Caribbean itinerary. In most cases, you have a very long time in Cozumel. Most ships arrive early in the day and do not depart until the wee hours of the morning, giving you plenty of time to take in a shore excursion and still get back to enjoy this beautiful city. It is the largest port in Mexico, the third-largest in the Caribbean, and fifth in the world. More than 2,500,000 people discover the beauty that is Cozumel each year.
There are plenty of shore excursions offered here, including island tours, shopping tours, tours of the ancient city of Tulum, party boats, jeep adventures, and snorkeling and diving tours. You do have to be certified to dive here. There are no diving tours here that will allow you to dive a few feet in the water with an instructor. Not in the mood for a tour? No problem--just take a taxi into town and enjoy the hospitality. Taxis line up at the pier, and the fare into town is about $5. Or you can rent a jeep fairly inexpensively (you can rent them right at the pier) and head to the beach. If you don’t want to plunk down almost $80 to see Tulum, you can rent a jeep and explore another site, San Gervacio, on your own. It is a lesser-known ancient site that is still being discovered. Warning: if you want to do this, TAKE PLENTY OF BUG REPELLENT! Since it is still being excavated, it is not as well-tended as Tulum, and you can bet you will get a bug bite or two if you don’t use repellent.
After you return from your shore excursion, take the time to go into town and mingle with the people. Cozumel is a shopper’s paradise. As soon as you come off the ship, there is a duty-free shop for visitors. Here you will find liquor, perfume, clothes, jewelry, and locally made crafts. I picked up some beautiful handmade blankets for $4 each! On into town, you will find more jewelry shops (silver is a particularly good buy), liquor shops, and clothing shops. Take the time to try one of the local restaurants. The Hard Rock has a branch here, as well as local favorites Senor Frogs and Carlos and Charlie’s. Local cuisine from some incredible chefs abounds here. No habla espanol? No problemo; amazingly, everyone here speaks English! U.S. dollars are very accepted here. But for very large purchases I would suggest using a credit card in case of any problems. When you get your bill, though, it will show up in pesos. Currently, the exchange rate is about 10 pesos to each U.S. dollar. My hubby about had a cow when he got our VISA bill. He wandered why in the world I spent $500 on jewelry. I actually only spent $50.
Today Cozumel has been built up as a major resort area. When you pull into port, the pier looks like any other pier in the U.S. To me, it looked no different than Myrtle Beach. Along the pier, you will find TGI Friday’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s, just to name a few! The sands of the beaches are pristine, and the shore is dotted with major resorts and hotels. It looks like and is paradise. Granted, all of the tourism dollars have helped this country and cities like Cozumel tremendously. Housing, education, and health have all benefited from the influx of tourism dollars.
But beneath the glitz and glamour, if you go just outside the city, you will have culture shock. Away from the big resort areas, you will see that this is still a third-world country. It is heartbreaking, to say the least. But the people of Cozumel are very generous and warm and gladly welcome you into their beautiful city. When you are traveling, please always respect the culture and the city where you are a guest. Kindness is greatly repaid here. Oh, and one more thing... what about drinking the water? Well, doctors think Montezuma’s revenge actually comes from a combination of things. They think traveling though several times zones, being in a new environment, and the hustle and bustle of travel is actually what contributes to traveler’s diarrhea. One other thing that has benefitted from tourism dollars is the water system. All major resorts, hotels, and restaurants have water filters, and the water is perfectly safe to drink. If you are eating at a small local restaurant, you may want bottled water or soda. Just remember: no ice (which is, of course, made from H2O!). For more information on this beautiful island, please check out , , or .