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Friday, January 23, 2015

Cozumel, a walk around the Tourist Zone

Friday, January 23, 2005
Cozumel, Mexico

We docked in Cozumel this morning and passengers began to disembark as early as 7:00am.  In case you haven’t been here before, Cozumel was discovered by Spanish explorer Cortez in 1519.  It’s actually Mexico’s largest island (30mi long and 10mi wide) and is located in the Yucatan peninsula.  It is also Mexico’s most popular tourist stop along with Cancun. 

Mary Alice and I were not in a hurry to get off.  We had a nice breakfast in the Horizon Grill on the 15th deck.  Then I grabbed a camera and off we went down the pier to the tourist shopping area which has really been improved since we were here last year.
There are new shops along with some of the familiar ones.  Of course there are still hawkers outside the shops gesturing, calling and promising a great deal to get you inside.  We walked around and saw a mini-park with a cool new fountain and there were many nice, breezy sitting areas all over the place.  People watching can sometimes be hilarious!
If you want to see Mayan ruins, enjoy a Caribbean beach, see an ecological/archeological theme park or the Chankanaab National Park, or go snorkeling and diving, boating, even go down 104 ft in a submarine and observe sea life, and finish up with a folkloric show with lively mariachi music, Cozumel is for you! 
This guy can make you a bracelet with your name in 5 min.
After the “obligatory” cold drinks and chips and salsa, we walked back to the Emerald Princess and topped our morning off with an iced coffee in the International Café. 

Oh by the way, they are building another permanent pier to accommodate more cruise ships.  Cozumel is looking forward to a bright tourist future.
We leave later this afternoon to begin sailing north back to Houston where we arrive Sunday morning. But who wants to talk about the end of a cruise!

So for tonight we join Michel and Chantal to shake hands with the Captain at his reception for “frequent cruisers”! It’s Lobster/Prawn night on the menu so we’ve been eating light in preparation. It’s been a great cruise and we’re glad you came along by reading the blog.  If you want to leave a comment, email me a

We'll see you on the next cruise in April!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Belize and a tour with Mr. Collins

Emerald Princess from the shuttle craft
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Our second port of call was Belize, formally known as British Guyana.  This is why it is the only Central American country that uses English is the prime language. You need to remember this because you might see that on a trivia question someday. 
We were not in a hurry to go ashore as we’ve been here two times before.  Belize has no deep water pier so cruise ships anchor off shore and shuttle boats bring passengers ashore and return them to the ships. The shuttles are large catamarans that hold about 100 passengers per trip.
At breakfast we met John and Shirley Avenna from the Dallas area.  They told us about their enterprise, selling gaming rooms in the Dallas area.  They retired a few years ago and enjoy traveling and cruises.
Chantal & Michel
 That being said, after breakfast we got our stuff together (camera, bag, wallets, etc) and made our way down to the 4th level and boarded the shuttle.  Once it filled up we were on our way to Belize City.  What we didn’t know was that Michel and Chantal were on the same boat and that was a happy surprise. We thought they were leaving later for their shore excursion. 
Like most Caribbean ports, Belize has a shopping area at the docks. We saw nothing that we needed other than some cold water so MA and I decided to walk into town and find a place with “free Wi-Fi”. We bought a cold drink at a waterside café so they would give us the Wi-Fi code. Why is this even important?  Ship Wi-Fi is not free and it is expensive and slow!

Later we continued walking toward the downtown area but decided against it when an older man stopped to tell us we were walking toward an unsafe part of town. We did an about-face and were headed back to get the shuttle to the ship when another gentleman stopped to offer us a city tour in his “air conditioned” car, for $20. 
We checked him out and decided to take him up on the offer, especially because his young wife would be with us and he seemed to be well-liked in the neighborhood.  This turned out to be very true.  His name is Mr. Collins and he knew literally everybody we encountered on our drive.  He and his wife proudly told us about their three children and how important it was that they stay in school.
Mr. Collins drives a 2002 Mazda 4-door with the windows rolled down, thus the “air conditioned vehicle” he promised us. But it was all good as we soon realized we had found a real jewel of a local tour guide.
Home to a mother and six kids!
This guy's smile got him photographed

We started off and he pointed out where different folks lived: the Chinese neighborhood, the India neighborhood, the upscale home of a couple from Texas, the home of the Prime Minister, a luxury hotel (Ramada). We saw some really beautiful homes and learned they could be had from about $100,000 and up.
He then took us around the poorer section of the city where he grew up. One place we stopped was a real shack and he told us a family with six children lived there. We gave them a little money in exchange for permission to take a photo. 

Along the way, we stopped at a farmer’s market so I could take some photographs and buy some peanuts in a shell. They cost me one dollar but Mr. Collins quickly pointed out that they would have charged me five dollars if I had gone there alone.

Next we spotted a guy holding a huge snake.  I paid him a dollar for a photo.  He wanted me to kiss the snake for good luck but I politely declined. Kissing Boa Constrictors is not on my play list.  Mr. Collins then showed us the fish market where at 5pm the fishermen all come in to unload and sell their daily catch. 
We returned to the dock area and came up on a kid dressed up as a “Belize Mayan warrior”.  I don’t know how authentic the costume was but for another dollar, I got a quick photo.  Then we passed a guy peeling grapefruit with a hand cranked peeler.  I got that photo for free. 
We were looking for the Princess dock to take the shuttle boat to the ship when we ran into retired HPD Officer Ron Knotts and his wife. I knew he was on the Emerald Princess because he sent me a message on Facebook and I had been looking for him. He told me he saw someone who looked like me and when he saw the big camera I was toting, well he knew it really was “Wendel” as he said. Turned out we both had to go to Belize to run into each other. 

The boat ride back to the ship was uneventful.  We topped off the day with lunch on the pool deck #15.  Tomorrow is our last port of call, Cozumel, Mexico.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Costa Maya, Mexico

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Port of Call:  Costa Maya, Mexico
We arrived to the Port of Costa Maya this morning around 6:00 am. Here in the 5th Century, the Mayans built a huge temple at a place called Kohunlich which was a multi-level city with amazing architecture and 10-foot high sculptures.  There were tours to see these ruins but we passed and slept in. Chantal and Michel did go on one so we’ll get the scoop and a ton of pictures from Chantal’s camera! 

As we were enjoying our first cup of coffee I wanted to turn on the TV but could not find the remote.  MA confessed she had it last watching a Grace Kelley movie.  But we could not find in anywhere.  Finally we removed the covers, sheets, and mattress and moved the bed away from the wall. There it was on the floor, wedged behind some plastic sheeting.  I never said a word but I don’t think she will casually drop the remote on the side of the bed again.
We walked off ship and into the port shopping area with shops that have a little of everything.    We found some ceramic figurines - butterflies and frogs for our fountain on the patio.  I bought a $5 cap because I forgot mine on the ship.  MA found a silver necklace for her crystal pendant and some stuff at the pharmacy that she likes for her face. 

There is a large fresh water pool in the port for people who want a swim.

We watched a show starring some dolphins. At that point, the weather was hot so we grabbed a cold drink and some chips before walking back to the ship.  We enjoyed a casual afternoon aboard the Emerald Princess. Tomorrow’s Port of Call is Belize.
Emerald Princess is on the right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1st Day at Sea....Cruising the Caribbean

Monday, January 19, 2015…..Ship-board life
1st Day at Sea
The Emerald Princess sailed smoothly overnight as we proceeded south into the Gulf of Mexico.  I woke up at 5:30, got dressed and grabbed my tablet and Daniel Silva novel, The Mark of the Assassin, and headed to the International Café down the hall.  This is one reason I like the Plaza Deck, the I-Café is close. 
I ordered coffee and turned on the tablet.  After logging on twice I finally got on-line and checked the news.  The world was still spinning.  Terrorists are still out there, the government is still wasting taxpayers’ money and President Obama is proposing a tax hike.  That will go over like a lead balloon with the Republican Congress.  Oh well, I logged out and opened my novel.  At least I’m on a ship in the middle of the ocean and who cares.
We had ordered room service coffee at 7:00 so back I went to check on Mary Alice.  We watched the news together and I checked Facebook and e-mails. Both of us were feeling energetic so we walked a mile on the Promenade Deck.  We later met back in the I-Café, early enough to grab a table for the fruit and vegetable carvings and a couple of crazy passenger-involved games.  I challenged her to a game of Scrabble and she won, but not by much!  Mary Alice has been playing Word with Friends with her son Jim (2 Masters Degrees) and nephew Dylan (PhD in Math) for a couple of years and this makes her just about unbeatable.    (Wayne! I can’t beat either one though! They’re too smart for me!)
After lunch I hosted a Veterans get-together which I do any time my buddy Captain Ron Jones isn’t aboard. He’s the original host on Princess for these!  I met a WW2 Navy veteran who drove LST’s in the Pacific and participated in the Battle of Okinawa. We had a Korean veteran and many Vietnam vets.  We toasted them all and thanked them for their service.
The afternoon was as laid back as the morning culminating in a nap, except for MA who went to the Line Dancing class! This was formal night so we got all dressed up, met Michel and Chantal, at the Captain’s champagne party, got our pictures taken and finally dinner, which took almost two hours for all the courses…..zzzzzzzz!  Thus go the days on Princess!  So pleased to have Michel and Chantal here to share the good times!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015….We be cruising the Caribbean
Embarkation from Port of Houston
I really don’t know how Mary Alice does these things, but this time she arranged a 7-day cruise out of the Port of Houston for Sunday the 18th. Who am I to argue with my wife? Besides it was my birthday!
Seriously, this is our 4th Caribbean cruise in the last 5 years and we love it.  There is no hassle with airport, security, flying, delays, etc.  Just drive to La Porte, park and get on the ship. We are very happy to have our good friends from Paris, Michel and Chantal, with us too. 
For us this cruise is a really good deal. Its 7 days at a cost of $379 ea plus port fees and taxes. In addition we got $250 on board credit, money to spend on the ship.  The credit given any veteran is a minimum of $100 and then we get another $150 for owning 100 shares of Carnival stock.  I was thinking about folks who have boats and motor homes, or a second home.  I’m sure there are advantages in all these vacation options. For us, well it’s cruising and we don’t pay property taxes for cruises! So this is our 20th since we got married 12 years ago.

For today, we left our home in Cypress around 10:00 am, that is, once I figured out why the alarm wouldn’t turn on. Turns out we had a window that was not all the way down.  That being handled, I thought I would show Michel and Chantal a little Texas history.  Enroute to the ship, we swung by the San Jacinto Monument and shared with them some of the story of the Battle of San Jacinto.  They loved it.  We met two actors who welcome visitors and are ready with tales of the details of being a “Texian” soldier and a pioneer Texas woman. 
And by the way, veterans get free entry to all the extra exhibits and to the top of the tower. We took the elevator all the up 550’ to the observation deck. From there we could see downtown Houston, the Port of Houston and surrounding countryside.  The weather was clear and sunny and we enjoyed a great view of the battlegrounds.  After touring the exhibits we stopped at the Battleship Texas and headed off toward the Cruise Port.
We arrived, unloaded suitcases, got the car parked, got checked in and received our cruise cards.  Our room is on the Plaza Deck 5, very near the art gallery and the coffee bar.  We joined Chantal and Michel for lunch and made dinner plans with them for later.  Remember! We do not miss meals on the ship!  During the afternoon I watched Green Bay lose in OT to Seattle.  That’s all for now! I’ll fill you in on tomorrow, tomorrow.

God bless Texas.