A little background before I get started. I cruised with my sister and two of my best girlfriends. We left the husbands and kids at home (12 kids total). We range in age from 33 to 39.
Saturday 1/15/05 (Pre-Cruise)
Since we live in Michigan we decided that it was wise to fly down a day in advance. Both Jane and I flew from Grand Rapids, Rosie from Detroit and Monica from Kalamazoo. Jane and I left Grand Rapids at 7:45 am and should’ve been in Miami by 12:40 pm. But our plane left Memphis over an hour late and we arrived in Miami about 5 minutes ahead of Rosie (there were about 40 people on our plane booked on a Carnival cruise. The last shuttle was leaving the airport at 2:20 and we didn’t land until 2:20. Needless to say there were so very nervous people on our flight. Luckily Carnival waited for them and they did make the ship).
The three of us met up at the airport and caught the shuttle to our hotel. We stayed at the Summerfield Suites about 4 miles from the airport. I booked the room several months in advance during one of their online specials. We had a 2 bedroom/2 bath suite for just $99 for the night.
After dragging all of our luggage to the room, we returned to the desk to ask the location of the nearest grocery store. There was a Publix a couple of blocks away. It was located in a little strip mall with several other stores and restaurants. There was also a Walgreens and a CVS pharmacy on the same block. We stocked up on a few 12 packs of Diet Coke and bought a few things we had forgotten. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and headed back to the hotel.
Monica’s flight from Kalamazoo was delayed in Chicago for a couple of hours. She finally landed in Ft Lauderdale at about 9:00 pm. She took a shared cab to the hotel and did not arrive until about 11:00 pm – the rest of us were sleeping by this time.
Sunday 1/16/05 Day One
We arranged to take the hotel shuttle to the port ($8 per person). The shuttle left the hotel at noon so we had plenty of time to kill. We ate at the complimentary breakfast (not too bad, nothing special). We met two couples at breakfast who were also on the Explorer. Monica and I walked back to the shopping area since she had not gotten the chance the previous night to pick up a few things. We also went into the liquor store and picked up a few little bottles to stash in our toiletry bags (we figured they would blend in that way).
It was pretty darn cold in Miami. The temperature was in the high 60’s and it was very windy. We were dropped off at the Pier and had to get luggage tags for our bags (we had e-docs, I would call and request luggage tags next time). It was a royal pain trying to fill out all the tags while standing there in the wind. The porters were getting rather inpatient with us, but we finally made it inside.
There were absolutely no lines and we sailed right through. We basically just walked from station to station. It was exactly 1:00 pm when we walked onto the ship. The stateroom hallway was still closed but the sign said “1:00” so we opened the door and walked right in. We noticed that there were other people in the hallway also.
We had connecting Promenade cabins on the 8th floor (8587 and 8589). Both rooms had the beds pushed together instead of the requested twin beds (we heard from other people that it was the same case in their cabins). We dropped off our carryons and headed to the Windjammer for lunch.
It was busy in the Windjammer but we easily found a table by the window. The secret to the Windjammer is to walk all the way to the back – everyone seems to want to stop at the first lines and things get very busy in the front. Lunch was good and we had our first Pina Coladas of the week.
We then checked out our dining room table. We were assigned table 557 in the 5th floor dining room. It was a table for 4 way in the back corner. We had requested a large table so we asked to be moved. It was no problem. We were moved to table 462 on the 4th floor which was a table for 10 right by the window. (This actually turned out to be somewhat of a mistake, but more about that later.)
We headed back to the cabin to see if our luggage had appeared. We met our cabin attendant and requested that the beds be separated. We also asked for 2 extra bath towels (no problem, we had them every day) and for the wet bar to be emptied. We were informed that we could empty it ourselves – so we did, we just put everything on the top shelf above the television set.
Our cabin attendant was “efficient” but that’s about all that I can say about her. I don’t remember her name but she was from St Vincent. She wasn’t very personable, she sometimes bordered on rude. But our cabin was clean and the ice bucket was filled twice per day – we couldn’t ask for much more than that. We also had cute towel animals every night except for the first night.
By the time of the muster drill (4:30) all of our luggage had appeared except for one piece of mine. The muster drill was no big deal. It went very quickly and with the cool temperatures it wasn’t uncomfortable wearing the life jacket. We returned to the cabin and my last piece of luggage was there waiting. We dropped off our life vests and went up to the deck for sail-away.
It was VERY cold up on the deck during sail-away. Everyone was wearing coats and sweatshirts. But it was still fun. We watched two different groups of people show up at the pier late. Both groups were turned away since the ship was already untied and ready to go.
We headed down to the Promenade to check things out. We stopped at the Café Promenade for some hot chocolate to try to warm up (this didn’t seem quite right!) and walked around for awhile. This is when the ship really started moving. The water was very rough and we were really rocking. It was somewhat amusing to watch people try to walk, it looked like a bunch of drunks :0)
We spent some time unpacking before dinner and managed to find space for pretty much everything (suitcases fit nicely under the bed). Late seating the first night was at 9:00 instead of the normal 8:30.
Before dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard show (8:00 pm). The cruise director on the Explorer is Clodagh O’Connor (Clo) and she was absolutely wonderful all week. She and her staff were very visible all week. Clo’s mom happened to be on the ship along with 3 of her friends. The comedian was Jimmy Carroll, he was okay. We heard that his adult show was better the next night but we did not attend. The RCI singers and dancers also performed.
Our tablemates were already at dinner when we arrived. We were seated with two couples from Iowa, one couple was traveling with their 10 year old son. The table next to us had about 5 kids. We were not very happy about this situation. I have nothing against children (I have 4) but I since I left my children at home I really didn’t want to dine with anyone else’s children either. Our tablemates pretty much ignored us and didn’t speak to us unless we asked them a question. The first night they were all wearing jeans and sweatshirts (yes, they had their luggage).
Our waitress and assistant waitress were very efficient and friendly. Dinner moved along very quickly every night and we were often the first tables finished. The food the first night was nothing special. I ordered the chicken which turned out to be one of those frozen stuffed chicken breasts that you can buy in any grocery store. We started our shot glass collection with Andrew “the booze man”. (For those who may not know there is a shot offered every night after dinner. There are 7 different colors of the glasses, one for each night. They provide a box for taking them home)
The Bon Voyage Parade was in the Promenade at 10:45. We watched from our room.
From 11:00 pm to midnight it was “Margaritaville Madness” in two of the bars. We were not missed 2 for 1 Margaritas!! (Rosie was in bed at this point. She was so paranoid about getting seasick that she took an extra Bonine and it made her very tired). So we headed to the Crown & Kettle Pub. We took our drinks and headed to the Maharajas Lounge where the Stingrays were playing. They were pretty good, we referred to them as a “wedding band”. (they played the kind of music you’d hear at a wedding reception). They finished at midnight so we headed to the Chamber (the disco). The Chamber is a really neat place, the downside is that they play a lot of “techno” music. Maybe I’m old but to me it all sounds the same. We stayed for a little while but couldn’t take it for very long. We then wandered around the ship but it was pretty quiet by this time. We headed to bed around 1:30 am.
Monday 1/17 – Day 2 “Day at Sea”
After going to bed with temperatures in the 60’s we were very unsure as to what this day would bring. We turned on the television and were happy to see temperatures in the low 70’s and a partly cloudy forecast. However the ocean condition was still considered “rough” with pretty high winds.
We wandered to the Windjammer for breakfast around 9:30. Once again we headed straight to the back away from the crowds. The only line was at the omelet station but it moved quite quickly.
We headed for the pool deck at about 11:00 am only to discover the “chair hogs” had already been there. Lots and lots of chairs with no people – just towels. There are plenty of signs everywhere stating RCI’s policy – no leaving a chair for over 30 minutes. This same statement was posted in the Compass. However I never saw a single person enforcing this policy. Personally I wasn’t going to stand around for 30 minutes waiting to see if someone returned to their chair. We wandered up to the 12th deck and found a bunch of empty chairs right outside the spa. Within an hour there wasn’t a chair to be found anywhere on the ship.
We had a nice relaxing day. We just hung out and read our books (something we can never do at home). We also met another group of 4 women who were also from Michigan – they were seated right next to us on the deck.
At about 2:00 we’d had enough sun so we headed inside to the Windjammer for lunch (lunch was served between 11:30 and 3:00).
I really don’t remember what we did the rest of this afternoon except for our usual “naptime” between 5:30 and 7:00.
This was our first formal night along with the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Reception. The Captain (Carlos Pedercini) was available for pictures outside the Weekend Warrior (on the Promenade) between 7:15 and 8:00. He gave his welcome speech at 8:30.
There were opportunities to have pictures taken everywhere you looked. There were at least two photographers on all three dining room floors. There were different backdrops at each station. They took pictures on most nights, not just the formal nights. We had some pictures taken the first formal night but didn’t purchase any of them. From what I remember 8x10 pictures were $19.95.
I’ve seen lots of comments and questions regarding formal night on these boards. I would say that the vast majority of people on the ship were dressed quite nicely. I didn’t see a ton of tuxedos but most men had on a dark suit. Women wore cocktail dresses or long formals – there were plenty of sequins to be seen. Personally I CANNOT imagine not dressing up and showing up for dinner in the dining room. I would feel so out of place. However, the Windjammer was open so that choice was also available. I loved dressing up – it’s something I rarely get the chance to do. I did not spend a lot of money on my formals – one was purchased at a garage sale for $5 and the second one at a consignment store for $25.
Late seating dinner returned to the normal 8:30. We were not surprised to see that our tablemates were not present at formal night. The table next to us (the one with the 5 children) only had 2 people present for dinner. So our servers only had the 6 of us to serve, our dinner went very quickly.
After dinner we made a quick visit to the casino. I played $5 dollars in quarter slots and walked out with $33.75.
Showtime was at 10:45 pm. “History Repeating” featuring the RCI singers and dancers. Jane and Rosie did attend the show and said that it was “okay”. There was also a late night comedy show with comedian Jimmy Carroll at 12:15 (none of us attended).
After the show we all met at the Weekend Warrior where we met our soon to be favorite bartender Kirk. We weren’t sure what we wanted to drink so we asked him for suggestions. He asked us “sweet or strong” to which the answer was of course “yes”. I had a couple of Rum Runners which were very tasty (and strong!).
We then ran into two of the ladies that we had met up on the deck earlier in the day. We joined them across of the Promenade at the Crown & Kettle for one more nightcap. Rosie tried to talk one of them into taking her place at cave tubing the next day in Belize but no luck.
We had an early tour the next morning so were off to bed at about 1:30 am.
Tuesday 1/18 – Day 3 Belize
Based on recommendations on the port of call board we prebooked a cave tubing excursion with Wet N Wild. The ship docked at 9:00 am (8:00 am Belize time) and we were supposed to meet at 9:30 am for a 10:00 tour.
Tender tickets were given out starting at 8:30 am. We went at 8:15 and the line was LONG (okay, nobody told us what a nightmare tendering can be). We did receive tickets for the second group. We were informed by the RCI staff that we should be off the ship within 15 minutes of the first group.
This is where the nightmare begins and my only real complaint with RCI. We watched from Deck 5 as the first two tender boats filled and left for shore. We headed inside to get in line thinking that we would get off the ship soon.
They had not called group 2 yet but we went ahead and got in line at the end of group 1. The RCI staff kept telling us that we didn’t need to do this that we would get off the same time no matter what (????) This made no sense to us since someone has to be the first group 2 people off the ship, so we just stayed where we were (we did let any group 1 people get ahead of us in line).
The line did not move. We were told that there was a 20 minute hold-up – but nothing else. The 20 minutes turned into 45 minutes and still no explanation. It was close to 60 minutes before the line finally started moving. We later found out that there was a medical evacuation and that stopped the tenders during this time. I think that people would have been much more understanding if this would have been explained to us. Of course the ship’s tours continued to leave the ship from the other end of the ship. I have a HUGE problem with the ship tours. They are way over priced…the same cave tubing tour that we paid $60 was $112 on the ship. Actually our trip was better since it was a 14 passenger van as opposed to a bus.
We finally got to Belize and found Marvin our tour operator. Unfortunately our tour had departed about an hour previously. But he did gather up enough people to create another tour (other people who had missed our tour along with a group that had missed a different tour).
Cave tubing was a ton of fun. We rode about an hour in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our guide gave us lots of information about Belize and the people. The tourist industry has been a great help to the economy of this very poor country.
Once we got to the park we were given headlamps and innertubes. We then set out on about a two mile hike. It was a relatively easy hike with some incline. Along the way the guide pointed out various plants and trees.
Once we arrived at the cave system we got into our tubes. The water was pretty warm and you got used to it quickly. The caves were very dark and it was really cool to float along with only the light from the headlamps. There were a few places where the water moved along quite quickly and other places where you had to paddle. There were some very shallow places and when you heard the words “butt up” you better do it. When we came out of the caves it was pouring rain (it was sunny when we went it but what do you expect from a rain forest??). The rain quickly passed and the sun returned. We ended at the same spot where we started our hike so it was a short distance back to the van.
Lunch was included in our tour but due to lack of time we took it “to go”. It was a wonderful lunch with chicken, rice/beans, salad, and homemade bread. Desert was a wonderful muffin.
We got back to Belize with about an hour to spare before the last tender (last tender was at 5:15). We went directly back to the ship – we were wet and tired. There really isn’t much to do in Belize anyway.
5:30 – 7:00 was of course naptime :0)
Suggested attire for the evening was casual or Country & Western. I am a big country music fan but I didn’t have my boots packed :0) We did see a few people dressed up in boots and hats throughout the evening.
The show was at 10:45. This night it was a ventriloquist Brad Cummings and a singer Delores Park. We did not attend the show so I have no idea if it was good or not.
We headed to the Weekend Warrior to once again see our favorite bartender. Monica and I were both drinking Long Islands (better known as Strong Islands when Kirk makes them). The Stingrays were playing at the Maharajas Lounge so we headed that direction.
It was the Country and Western Hoedown. It was pretty obvious that the band did not do much C&W on a regular basis. They did okay but they were better at other times during the week. The cruise staff was there getting people to line-dance. There were a lot of people there and it was a very good time.
The “hoedown” ended at 1:00 so we decided to give the Chamber another chance since it was really the only thing open. It was a little better this time with the DJ playing some 80’s music (of course he called it “classic” or “oldies”…that makes me feel quite old!).
We met Don Mack who is the “one man band” who performs in the Crown & Kettle each night from 10 pm to 1 am. He was a lot of fun and we all danced until about 3:00 am when we headed off to bed.
Wednesday 1/19 - Day 4 Costa Maya
The shipped docked at 7:00 in this port but let’s just say we weren’t up quite that early after the night before. We got up about 9:00 and went to the Windjammer for breakfast.
It was a cloudy, windy day with temperatures only in the 60’s at this point. The Captain announced that the weather would probably stay about the same all day so there were lots of people in long pants and sweatshirts.
The pier at Costa Maya is LONG…long enough that there is a tram driving back and forth (we walked it four different times so it isn’t that long). There were 2 other ships in port with us.
The port area was very busy – probably due to the bad weather and not much else to do. It was too cold to use the pool or the beach. We wandered around for a few minutes and then decided to head for Majahual.
The taxi stand was very busy. You have to stand in a line to buy your taxi tickets ($3 to get to Majahual) and it’s the same line where you can buy excursions. The line was pretty slow due to people trying to decide what they wanted to do.
There were so many people going to Majahual at this time that they were using buses to transport. We waited in line for just a couple of minutes and then were loaded into a bus. It’s only a few miles and you are dropped off in town.
Majahual is a tiny fishing village with a population of less than 400 people. It has dirt roads and no telephones. The people were very friendly. It’s basically shopping for a 2-3 block stretch. Everyone tried to get us into their shops but no one was overly pushy – nothing like Jamaica if you’ve ever been there. I bought beautiful dresses for my two girls and coconut shell necklaces for my two boys. You can definitely bargain on the prices, I think I usually got about half prices from where they started.
Here’s a very important note….they do NOT take any credit cards in Majahual (no phones lines remember). We quickly ran out of cash. So we decided to take a cab back to the ship, eat lunch and get more cash. There is another cab stand where you buy tickets ($2 this direction) and yellow cabs take you back to the ship.
After lunch we gathered up more cash and headed back to Majahual. By this time there was no line in the taxi area. The weather had greatly improved, it was still cool but the sun had come out. We had a great afternoon just wandering around and talking to the various vendors. We bought vanilla, hot sauce and some beautiful jewelry.
We had to be back on the ship at 5:30 pm for a 6:00 departure. We headed back to the port area and had about an hour to spare. We wandered around the stores for a little bit but I’d say the prices were definitely better in Majahual. There were lots of drunk people in the area. I guess there wasn’t much else to do if you just stayed in the area.
At 6:00 the captain made an announcement that there were 33 people still not on the ship. He was giving them 15 minutes and then we were leaving with or without them. We heard conflicting stories for the rest of the week whether or not they made it back on the ship or not.
Back on the ship it was “naptime” and then time to get ready for dinner. Suggested dress was casual or Caribbean attire.
After dinner we went to the Love & Marriage Game Show at 10:15 pm. It was great. We laughed so hard. Clo (the cruise director) was the host and she did an excellent job. I’m not convinced that it’s not at least somewhat fixed, but it’s still funny.
We headed up to the room to watch the Tropical Parade at 11:15 pm. After the parade was the Dancing Under the Stars Pool Party and Buffet from 11:30 pm to 1:00 am with the Stingrays performing. We had every intention of going but once we got back to the cabin we just couldn’t gather up enough energy. It was still windy and somewhat chilly outside so we decided to just call it a night. This was most definitely our earliest night, we were in bed before midnight.
Thursday 1/20 – Day 5 Cozumel
I would definitely say that Cozumel was my favorite day all week. We woke up to sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s. We knew that there were 9 ships in port on this day so we headed straight to Paradise Beach.
We took a cab to the beach ($13 for the cab) and arrived at about 9:30 am (8:30 Cozumel time). We got four chairs on the beach right on the water’s edge. It was absolutely beautiful. This is a gorgeous beach and I’d highly recommend it to anyone going to Cozumel. (Admission to the beach is free, they do charge $5 if you want to use their water toys). We laid on the beach and drank Pina Coladas, talk about a perfect day. They had an area where you could get a massage ($30 for 30 minutes I think), hair braids (of course!) and henna tattoos. Jane got a massage and I got a henna tattoo. There was also a small shopping area between Paradise Beach and San Francisco beach. San Francisco beach (right next door) also offered parasailing and wave runners for rent.
After some wonderful chips and salsa (the best I’ve ever had), we decided that unfortunately we had to leave Paradise. I bought a t-shirt to remember my wonderful day. We got a cab at about 2:00 pm and headed to the shopping area (another $13 cab ride).
The shopping area was busy but not overly so considering how many ships were in port. There are so many stores but many of the same ones that we’d seen at other ports. I’d be just fine with never seeing another Diamond International.
We took a cab back to the pier where we had about an hour to shop before getting back on the ship. I thought that the prices were cheaper in this area for many things. I bought all of my kids t-shirts (2 for $9) and bought a beach cover-up for myself ($10).
We did witness something rather alarming when we got out of the cab. The cab in front of us was also letting out passengers. It was 4 young kids (late teens, early 20’s). One of the girls was so drunk she had vomited all over the cab and herself. She literally fell to the ground and passed out when they got her out of the cab. The Port Authority came over and tried to get her friends to let her stay there for a few minutes, but they said that their ship was leaving in 15 minutes. They picked her up and carried her while running through the port area. I really hope that the ship’s security made them take her to the infirmary when they returned to the ship. I have never seen anyone that drunk in my life, she was totally limp.
We had to be back on the ship at 4:30 pm for a 5:00 pm departure. It was quite depressing to have to leave so early, we definitely could have spent several more hours in this port. I’m not sure why they leave Cozumel so early.
We dropped off our packages and went up to the deck for sail-away. The Stingrays were playing and people were having a great time.
Next on our agenda was “nap-time”.
The show this night was Bowzer’s Rock “n” Roll Party with Bowzer from the Sha Na Na. The show for late dinner was at 7:15 so we didn’t get to go (naptime you know). We did hear from many people that it was a good show.
Suggested attire for dinner was Casual or 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. We did notice a few people dressed this night in various “costumes”. We saw several ladies in poodle skirts.
After dinner was Quest at 10:45 pm. I won’t say much about Quest except that you should not miss it. I can’t remember ever laughing so hard in my life. I cannot believe what people will do to win a t-shirt!
After Quest was “Dancin’ Thru the Decades” with the Stingrays. It was fun and the music was great. At one point some of the cruise staff came out dressed like the Village People. It was taped and shown over and over on television.
We then headed to the Crown & Kettle to catch the end of Don Mack’s show. It was always a lot of fun and usually there were “guest” performers stepping up the mike. We saw some very talented guests during the week.
At 1:00 am we went to the Chamber where it was supposed to be “Classics” night. We were really looking forward to hearing music from our decade. But there were only about 10 people there when we arrived. I think that too many people had partied all day in Cozumel and were asleep by this time. We were disappointed but headed off to bed.