Carnival Glory -- Eastern to Western Caribbean Cruise
We flew from Albuquerque to Ft Lauderdale on Friday, Aug 21st, checked into hotel near the airport and went to dinner. In the morning we took the hotel shuttle back to the airport where we caught the Carnival shuttle to Port of Miami. We arrived early, checked in, then sat in the terminal waiting for the ship to be emptied of the previous customers and ready for us.
We had received an e-mail on Friday afternoon informing us that the itinerary was changed due to the hurricane. As we entered the terminal they also handed each person a note with the same information... and yet many people onboard the ship still didn't realize there was a hurricane! I can't tell you how many people we spoke with on the first two days of the trip who asked when we got to the private beach... HELLO? No people, we are going to Grand Cayman the other direction to avoid that hurricane. Sheesh.
Anyhow, the ship left on time, we ate a hefty lunch and did the Muster Drill, watched the Sailaway Party from the top deck as we sailed out of Miami, received our luggage just before our 6pm dinner time, cleaned up a bit and off we went to the Platinum dining room.
The ship: Glory
Sunrise as we pull into Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman is a tender port, so people were lining up for the tenders before we even dropped anchor in the harbor. Each tender holds 200+ people so in no time we were on shore, looking for the sign for our excursions. Yes, it was there along with several dozen others and thousands of people as more than one cruise ship was there today. We were lucky enough to get on the first group bus and our tour bus driver/guide gave us a fantastic island tour with history and information as he drove. We only made a few stops.
The village of HELL and the Rum Factory
The Cayman Turtle Farm and Rescue
Our tour bus took us around the island for 4+ hours stopping at various points, mostly shopping. Our first stop was the Iguana Rescue. For us, this was the highlight of the whole tour. The rest of the time was spent stopping at local vendors with the exception of the last stop at the "beach break" at a resort. No food was provided but we were told there would be time to buy food. It turned out that only at the last stop, at the resort, was there any opportunity to buy lunch and the menu there was very small, limited to only burgers, fries, BLT, etc. We got a small quesadilla and drinks. Service was very slow and food was just okay. We had hoped for a stop at the Westend beach/shopping area but the bus only drove through the area with the guide pointing and saying here is the popular Westend. Geez, what a disappointment. Overall, we are glad we did this excursion, but we would not do it again. LOVED the Iguana Farm, and enjoyed tasting the Rum at that factory (where we bought a bottle as well as a bottle of habanero sauce).
We finally get to tour Mayan ruins in Belize! On our cruise in 2014 on the Carival Magic, we had booked this same excursion. Unfortunately, the week prior to our arrival, Belize was hit by a tropical storm with brought over 20" of rain. This rain washed out many roads, including the one to access the ruins. We ended up doing a snorkeling tour instead that time. Not today! Woo Hoo! We were put on the first tender to shore and a Tour Guide met us at the dock and led everyone to a large air conditioned bus. We were off to the ruins within 15 minutes. We actually had two tour guides on the bus for the day, each giving an hour presentation along the way to the ruins. It was a fantastic presentation of everything you could ever want to know about the country of Belize, past and present, and made the trip go pretty smoothly. We arrived at a small bridge where we all had to leave the bus and ride over a river. At that point small vans picked us up and took us another mile to the ruins parking lot. From there most of us walked up the steep hill, while some with physical limitations were taken around the side in a van. We then all climbed up the last hill with our ruins Guide.
Our guide told us about the name "Xunantunich" which means Stone Lady. The name comes from the when the ruins were discovered - people told about seeing a lady on top of a hill calling to them. When they climbed the hill, she was gone. This legend continued for a long time before anyone began to excavated the site. Each structure is only partially uncovered in order to help preserve it. Several groups were there currently working on two different structures. Our guide then led us up to the first level of the large "Castillo". It was a long way up on very steep steps!
We then circled around the structure to discuss the carvings, then up another level to the top. At the top we could see for miles, including into the country of Guatamala. We then decended another staircase to the ballcourt and luckily, some shade. It was HOT.
After the tour of the ruins, we returned back down to the parking lot area for some quick shopping before the vans took us to the bottom of the hill and river. We boarded our waiting bus, and headed for lunch at a small restaurant in a nearby village. Lunch consisted of chicken, rice and beans, slaw, and fried plantain. It was absolutely delicious. Beer and sodas were available for purchase, also. We then boarded our bus and returned to the Belize port for our tender back to the ship.
Unfortunately, because of the length of the tour, we had no time for shopping. Groups of tenders were shuttling everyone back to the ships in order to arrive on time.
Our last port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. We have been to Cozumel over a dozen times, mostly on week-long scuba trips so this time we thought we would just keep it simple and stroll around town for a few hours. We were also rather pooped from the daylong excursions at all the other ports, so this was going to be our "relaxation" day.
The Glory docked downtown, at Puerto Langosta, just after sunrise. Most people onboard the ship got off as soon as the gangway was open. At the end of the pier Carnival vendors were set up with signs for all the excursions. Many people got on the ferry docked right there at the pier to head over to the Mainland for excursions, also. We took our time and strolled into town just to realize nothing was open yet, it was an hour earlier in Cozumel than boat time. We walked around the square, then over to the church to take a few photos.
It was already hot, so we found a little drugstore open and bought some drinks, then sat on a bench in the square to wait for stores to open. After 30 minutes or so, shops started opening doors and putting goods out on hangers. We went into several shops and found a few items to buy, then we headed around to the north end of the square down the sidestreet to our favorite little bar, Wet Wendy's. It was still early, but they were opening. We grabbed a couple of stools, a menu, and ordered a soda and a Key Lime Pie Frozen Margarita, plus a Queso Fundito to share. Yum...
After our snack at Wet Wendy's, we strolled around some more then headed back to the Glory for lunch.