Monday, March 31, 2014

Roatan, Honduras

Cruise life is harder than I expected.  With a new port to visit every day and many, many activities to choose from at night, and lots of teenagers who would rather play than sleep, I let the schedule get away from me.  I might have had a small meltdown after Belize.  By the mid point of our week on the ship, I had convinced myself that cruise life was not my thing and I would never be going again.  And honestly, if I could have figured out a way to find a helicopter to fly me home, I think I would have taken it.  

Fortunately, there were no helicopters available.  And fortunately, I have a very understanding and patient husband.  On Thursday morning, when I was still feeling overwhelmed and unexcited about another day of adventures in an unknown country, Craig suggested that I stay on the ship for the day.  Really?  Who knew that was even an option??  I was conflicted about not being with the group, but given their experience with me the previous day, they were probably relieved to not have to be with me.  So, I stayed on the ship.  And my sweet little Megan, who has become a hermit, like her mother, asked if she could stay with me.  Hooray!  I loved that idea even more than staying on the ship by myself.  

Megan and I waved to the group as they went ashore, and we happily and calmly ate a lovely breakfast all by ourselves.  Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who stay on the ship in the various ports.  We were without the group, but we were in no way, completely alone.  We spent the day taking pictures, looking over the side of the boat and marveling at the beautiful water, watching movies, and strolling along the unoccupied decks.  

By 11:00, we talked ourselves into going ashore for a little while just so that we could say we had been in Honduras.  Here's what our Roatan experience looked like...

Here's what everyone else's looked like...

yep, that is my baby hanging upside down from a zip line high above the forest floor

Megan and I didn't wander very far from the ship.  We spent more time looking at fish and flowers than shopping in the center of town.  And just over an hour later, we were back on the ship having lunch.  Craig and the Rods and all the kids rode first in a van, then in the back of a truck up to the highest part of the jungle, and spent the day zip lining through the trees, crossing suspension bridges, and hanging out with Capuchin monkeys.  Vastly different experiences, for sure.  But we all had a great day.  When everyone got back on the ship, Megan and I watched all their videos and listened to all their stories, and were pretty happy that we had chosen our quiet day.

At 4:00 that afternoon, we all walked up to the top deck to watch our ship back away from the dock. Roatan was so beautiful and lush.  I lingered up there for a long time watching the shore slip further and further into the distance...and took about a million pictures. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Our second port, on Wednesday, was Belize City.  

Let me just preface this post by telling you that I had no idea how exhausted I would be trying to keep up with 12 other people on a cruise for an entire week.  I didn't do a very good job of pacing myself early in the week, so by Day 3 of the cruise (which was actually Day 4 of our trip if you count the drive to New Orleans on Saturday) I was running on fumes.  

Belize was completely different than Mexico.  The entire coast is surrounded by coral reefs, so large ships can't dock there.  We had to anchor about 5 miles away and take smaller boats (called tenders) to the shore.  

Our driver in Cozumel was originally from Belize, and since none of us had ever been there before, he was immensely helpful in suggesting activities for our group.  Belize City is more jungly than the other beachier ports, so he suggested we try cave tubing.  (hmmm...Tubing down a river in a dark, underground cave.  That sounds just like something I would want to do, doesn't it?)  
When we got off the tender and out of the terminal...which was surrounded by armed guards...the Rods worked their magic and found us a driver for the day, although our Spanish speaking friends weren't as much of an advantage in Belize.  The official language of the country is English, but many people speak Creole, so there was a lot of negotiating happening in a language none of us understood.  

We climbed into a slightly less comfortable van than the one we had been in in Cozumel and headed off on our adventure.  About 45 minutes into the trip, and only halfway to the cave tubing experience of a lifetime, on a two lane back road, our van started to overheat.  The driver turned off the air conditioner thinking that might help his van, but it only made all of us really really hot.  Less than 5 miles later, big puffs of white smoke started coming out of the engine.  The only sign of civilization was this little yellow house.  Our driver hopped out along with all the other men in the van, and they all gathered around the engine.  A few minutes later, this man in a white hat and stripey pants showed up out of nowhere with a huge container of water.  I seriously have no idea where he came from, but we were so grateful he did.  He poured the water in, did some other mysterious auto repair stuff, and then walked off into the jungle in his stripey pants.  And once again, the van and all 14 of us were on our way to our adventure.  

By the time we got to the cave tubing location, which looked more than a little bit questionable from the outside, it was close to 11:00.  Our time in Belize was shorter than in the other ports, and with a 30 minute tender ride back to the ship, I was feeling a little tense about the length of time we were taking with this adventure.  (And I may not have been super excited about cave tubing in the first place.)  An hour later, we were barely getting a guide and equipment (head lamps, water shoes and life jackets.)  And then we had to carry the tubes and all of our gear a mile down to the river.  
I wasn't entirely happy about the situation.  I wasn't exactly pleasant before, during or after the hiking or the cave tubing.  But I did it anyway.  I wasn't a trooper.  I wasn't delightful, or positive, or even very nice to anyone the entire time I was in Belize, but I did go cave tubing.  And it wasn't horrible.  
The jungle was really beautiful and so were the caves.  We saw bats, cave formations, flowers, fish, and gorgeous birds.  The water was pretty and clear and felt really good after hiking a mile in the hot, humid tropical weather.  And our guide was awesome.  He knew everything about every part of the jungles of Belize and even though I tried really hard to stay mad, it was impossible not to be fascinated by the whole thing.      

I opted to TAKE this picture instead of being in it because I was still pretty grumpy and worried about getting back to the ship on time, but you can see by all those smiles that everyone else loved it.  This group might be slightly more adventurous than I am.  

On our way back to the ship, we drove through downtown Belize City.  I so wish I could have gotten out of that van and taken more pictures, but with all of the activity, it's probably better that I didn't have a chance to do that.  Schools were just letting out, so the streets were filled with kids, bikes, cars and people selling stuff on the sidewalks.  There are no driving rules or speed limits in Belize.  What a different world than the one we live in and so different from the abundant cruise life we were going back to.  

If I could go back and do the week over again, I think I would have opted to stay on the ship during Belize and go with the group into Honduras the next day.  It was overwhelming for me and not my favorite port for lots of reasons, not just because I was grumpy.  But it was different and interesting to see a different part of the world, and amazing to see the jungle from that perspective in the middle of the river.  

And if, in my lifetime, I only ever did the things on my very safe, very comfortable list, I would miss a lot of amazing stuff.  

Friday, March 28, 2014


After spending two full days on the ship, we were so excited to get to our first port, Cozumel, Mexico.  We were schedule to disembark by 8:00, so McKay and I woke up early to catch a few pictures.  

How exciting to disembark and be in MEXICO!!  

OK Here's the thing about bringing seasoned cruisers with you on your first cruise...they know how to do EVERYTHING!  And if they happen to speak Spanish that's even better.  This is a picture of the amazing Rodriguez's negotiating a van and a guide for all 13 of us for the entire day for a fraction of the cost that it would have been had we done this ourselves.  Amazing!  

We happily got into his van, and rode through Cozumel for about 20 minutes while he told us all the details of this part of Mexico.  And then he brought us to this amazing beach...  

We spent the entire day snorkeling and lounging on the beach while our cute driver WAITED for us!  And yep, the water is actually THAT color.  I didn't even edit any of those pictures.  We saw TONS of gorgeous, colorful fish, and I might have lingered for a really long time on the floating platform out there like a lizard basking in the sun.  After we were sufficiently exhausted, he took us on a tour of the rest of the area before driving us back to the terminal to board the ship.  It was seriously the most amazing day!  

What an awesome experience to see this beautiful part of the world.  We absolutely loved this place and this day.