The irony of living in California my whole life is that I had to fly to Tampa and cruise through the Caribbean to make it down to Mexico.
April 14-19, Katie and I took a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, visiting first the island of Cozumel and then Puerto Costa Maya, further down the coast. To give you geogaphic reference, here’s a Google map of where we went… we started in Tampa (A), cruised to Cozumel (B), then to Costa Maya (C), and back. As an added reference, Tulum (D) is where Corona films their iconic commercials, so to say we were vacationing in a Corona commercial is pretty accurate.
This is officially the farthest South I’ve ever been since it’s more sourthern than the Bahamas where we cruised to in 2009. Just counting photos that I took on the trip, after editing and getting rid of bad ones or duplicates, I came away with 550 pictures. That includes shots of the ship, our excursions, and a visit to the Florida Aquarium, which I’ll get into.
Before we get into it, all my pictures are here:
Day 1: Flying from San Francisco to Tampa, with a layover in Denver. Pretty uneventful flights, with a nice lunch at the Denver airport in between. We arrived late at our motel…nothing to write home about, but a bed for the night. The James Cameron’s Final Word on Titanic special was on NatGeo, which I’d seen but Katie and I watched while we ate “room service”.
Day 2: Embarkation from the Port of Tampa on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas. We headed over on the early side and avoided lines, which was cool, and met up with my friend Brian and his lady Michelle. We got on board and explored, ate at the WIndjammer Cafe, their buffet, went through the life boat drill (which wasn’t as involved as on Carnival) and stood on the forward helipad to watch the ship take off… which wasn’t that exciting, but as soon as we started moving, we went back in.
Day 3: At sea, we explored more of the ship. This day at sea was also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, so they had a really nice memorial service on the Helipad. They had a string duo play “My Heart with Go On” and “Nearer My God to Thee” (the alleged last song the orchestra played on deck as the ship went down), shared facts about the TItanic, and then the captain actually gave the order to stop the ship. While the ship was stopped, he and the hotel director threw a wreath into the ocean, and then lead crewmen like the captain and other higher ranking officers gave tribute to their TItanic counterparts, which was super nice. After that, there was a dance group on board from Boston with girls aged 8 to 18, so to get out of the sun and inside for awhile, we went to see that and it was ok. It was formal night, so we did some walking around in the shops before getting dressed up for dinner, then had a nice dinner.
Day 4: Cozumel. We had 2 excursions planned, one Mayan Ruin and Beach tour, and a Swim with the Dolphins encounter. When we met with the tour group, we found that there were too many people to fit on the bus, so 4 of us were broken apart to go in a taxi van with another guide, which worked out fantastic. We went to San Gervasio Mayan Ruins and took a tour (did you know the Mayans built their whole civilization without the use of service animals or the freaking WHEEL?), then to Playa Chen Rio on the opposite side of the island (which has no power on that side) and had drinks and snacks. Since we were such a small group and got through the ruins and beach faster than a larger group, our tour guide took us to another place not intended to be on the tour - a tequila tasting! It was in El Cedral, a small village in the middle of the island where there’s a large festival every year. It’s also where the first Catholic Mass was said in the Americas, according to the tour guide. So we did the tequila tasting and learned basically how tequila is made, then went to the church and some shops before making our way out of there.
Another advantage of the small group was that we were able to get dropped off directly at the national park where our next excursion was instead of wasting time going back to the downtown area and taking a cab. The dolphin discovery was at Chankanaab Park, which I still maintain is a very Thai name for a Mexican national park. The cool thing was that the dolphin enclosures weren’t big tanks like a waterpark, but actually in the ocean, just fenced off. Of course, it starts raining on us, which isn’t a big deal considering we’re about to get into the water, just a bummer in terms of the scenery getting dark and gray., Swimming with the dolphin, Rachel, was amazing. We were taught 6 behaviors and their hand motions: we “hugged” her, shook “hands”, kissed her, had her touch our hand like a target, and then the coolest - did a belly ride with her and rode a boogie board while she pushed our foot across the enclosure. I wish the pictures had come out better, but it’s not the fault of the photographer, I just had weird looks on my face that look more scared or shocked than excited :)
The park was closing as we were finished, so we were kind of rushed out, but it was for the best since it took awhile to get back to the port, through all the shops, and down the pier to the boat. We were practically running to get to the ship by 5:30p, and they were actually pulling in the gangplanks as we were coming down the pier. Katie yelled at me to hurry up, but I’m convinced as long as they see me waddling my fat ass down there, they can’t legally leave me! Dinner that night was at the specialty restaurant on board, Chops Grille, and it was divine!
Day 5: Costa Maya. We were actually 2 hours late docking and almost didn’t dock at all because the weather was so bad. But being 2 hours late meant we were able to stay in port until 5:30p instead of 3:30p. Our excursion was just a ‘Fun on the Playa’ day, where we had access to beach chairs, ocean, an open bar, and some other activities for a fee, none of which we ever opted for. It was a come & go as you please type deal, so we didn’t miss out because of the late docking, unlike our friends who had their excursion refunded since they missed the start time. We determined we were vacationing in a freakin’ Corona commercial while sitting around with fruity drinks, swimming in the crystal clear ocean, and enjoying our Mexican combo plate. We actually ended up on like a party truck to get there instead of a regular cab, which totally set the mood. It spinkled off and on, but it wasn’t an issue since our stuff was all under an umbrella and we were in our swim suits, but at one point it really started coming down, and after it was clear that it wasn’t going to relent, we cabbed it back to the port area and walked around and finished our souvenir shopping.
Day 6: Cruising back to Tampa. We watched a cool ice carving demonstration on the pool deckWe explored the parts of the ship that we hadn’t yet been to and spent more time hanging out with Brian and Michelle. We changed our dinner arrangements so we could have dinner with them, and afterwards Brian proposed!
Day 7: We came back to port early in the morning, and we were scheduled to disembark before Brian & Michelle, so we headed back to the same motel for that night, dropped our stuff, then went on an adventure to FedEx to attempt to ship back the tequila we bought in port. Of course, it was all in vain since we are not licensed deals and can’t ship liquor, so we dropped back to the hotel and then out to Cheesecake Factory for lunch with Brian & Michelle. We had a lovely lunch, walked through the mall to where Brian & Michelle were parked, exploring the Disney Store and the Looney Tunes Ball Park play area in the mall, then headed back to the port area to go to the Florida Aquarium. It was pretty decent, and I got lots of nifty pictures.
That night after we parted ways with Brian & Michelle since they were leaving early in the morning to drive back to Alabama, Katie and I ate dinner at a Carraba’s Italian Grill, which we see commercials for here in CA but I’ve never seen a location. It was delicious, and of course, I looked it up and there are exactly ZERO locations in CA or even OR, so fat chance I’ll be able to go there again any time soon.
Day 8: For some reason when we booked our flights, it was cheapest to fly Frontier from SFO to Denver, then to Tampa…but to fly American back from Tampa to Miami to SFO. So we had to endure a lame 40 minute flight to Miami after security took away the snowglobe I bought in Denver for Joanna (apparently the preservative they put into the water to avoid mildew is an issue coming through security, which is assinine considering I bought the damn thing in an airport and took it with me in the cabin of the plane from Denver to Tampa). We had a hasty lunch in the Miami airport at the Corona Beach Club, where their promise of “service in 15 minutes” was not fulfilled, and we kind of rushed eating once we got the food so as not to miss boarding, which of course with our luck was slightly delayed so we were fine. And I managed to get a better snowglobe at the Miami airport for Joanna, but the Denver thing still kinda irritates me.
Back to reality here in California, I can’t wait to go on another cruise. I’m already planning our next cruise, actually, this time with Dominic, Jennie, & Tim next summer to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversaries instead of with Katie. This time though I have a friend’s travel agency helping me find packages and what not because I’d rather give his agency the commission than the last person we had to book through when this cruise was originally going to be a big group of View Askew fans… I was less than impressed with her.