Cruising 101: Part Two

Yesterday guest blogger Mel Mayberry shared Part One of Cruising 101.  Today we bring you Part Two.

Ports of Call:

Our ports were Grand Cayman and Cozumel. No need to worry about finding your way around. The ports are used to tourists and ships, and are happily ready to accommodate the happy vacationers.  On Grand Cayman, my cabin mate and I opted to take an island tour via air-conditioned van which was an affordable $20.  Our tour guide gave us information about the island in a friendly and humorous manner, and stopped at various sites of interest.  We spent a half-hour in “Hell” (a real place!) and samples rum, liquors and rum cakes at the Tortuga Rum Company.  Another stop allowed us to observe the dolphin sanctuary and a sea turtle farm right across the road. We saw the original homestead on the island, drove past the Governor’s home and spied on the wild iguanas sunbathing atop a church roof.

My other friends had booked a snorkeling expedition during the time in port and they reported a great time and took some amazing underwater photos.

As the harbor is too shallow for the large ships, we were taken to and from our ship by “tenders”; a brief, 5-minute ride across the water right up to the dock.

At Cozumel, the ships dock further away and we walked down a pier about ½ mile long.  There were cute little “Pedillacs” to rent if we didn’t want to walk. These were bicycle-driven rickshaws which looked like a lot of fun, but we chose to walk so I don’t know how much they cost.

When stepping off the pier, the traveler is immediately greeted with the duty-free shop, various bars and street vendors, as well as permanent souvenir and jewelry shops.  My companions had already agreed we would rent a Jeep and drive the highway circling the perimeter of the island. We called this “The Margarita Tour” and planned various stops along the way (my friends had been there before and knew some places).  We were given a great map at the rental shop, and were able to find some out-of-the-way places to explore, as well.  This proved to be great fun, and we even came across a local riding a burro.  In our limited Spanish, we determined the name to be “Pedro”, although we still aren’t sure whether Pedro was the name of the rider or of the burro!

We were given a 2013 Jeep and were told to fill the gas tank before we returned.  Including the fuel, the entire rental cost each of us $25 (there were four of us).  We had a marvelous day, saw some wonderful scenery and ate some delicious local foods. It was an extremely windy day, but my friends were still able to get in a little snorkeling.  Rain clouds threatened, but the showers were brief. My advice for doing something like this…the drinks are strong…make sure one member of the party is the designated driver.  I volunteered for this duty and still had a marvelous time!

Upon return to the port, we still had time to do a bit of shopping, take a leisurely stroll back to the ship, and relax before we set sail.

Clothes for the cruise:

At the advice of my friends, I took capris, assorted blouses, one pair of slacks and one basic black dress with some light, flowy jackets and a scarf. I took only one bathing suit and cover-up, which ended up being enough.  I wore the same jeans and  white cardigan on the plane both ways (I specifically chose the white cardi so I could wear it on the ship if needed).

At the advice of a dear travel buddy, I used her trick of bringing my oldest, tackiest underwear and discarding it after I wore it. I expanded this to include bringing and discarding my old toothbrush, a mostly-used tube of toothpaste and a partial can of hairspray.  This left extra room in my suitcase when heading home, which I’d planned on for purchase of souvenirs.  However, most everything I saw for sale was either tacky, touristy junk or very expensive.  I didn’t really find any middle-of-the-road items, price wise, so I came home with just photos and memories.

What I wish I’d taken:

More lightweight, colorful clothes!  A couple of the blouses I took were, although lightweight, were also very dark, wintry colors.  After lying in the sun and walking around tropical places gazing at palm trees and sand, the last thing I wanted to wear was something that reminded me of my wintry Iowa wardrobe!  I also had a couple of colorful, summer maxi dresses which stayed at home and guess what?  I saw women wearing that type of dress everywhere!  I found myself also wishing I’d thrown in a couple pair of shorts and maybe a t-shirt, especially for the days we were at sea. That would have given me options other than my bathing suit cover-up.  Speaking of bathing suits…before I cruise again, I want to find a 2-piece suit. Public restrooms on board are very small, and maneuvering taking off clothes as well as a suit was a real pain!

I also wish I’d packed one of those thin, drawstring backpacks.  My cabin mate brought an extra, which I borrowed for our days in port, and it was great for toting my beach towel, sunscreen, and visor.  I also ended up paying an exorbitant price for batteries when my camera died.  Take a spare package.

A chap-stick with sunblock would have been a good idea.  Fortunately, I had a tube of light-colored lipstick along.  If you’ve ever sunburned your lips, you know why I was cautious to not do it again.

A portable alarm clock or a watch.  It was the last day of the cruise before I actually spotted a clock on a wall in an obscure location.  True, I was on vacation and not following a schedule, but there were times when a clock did become necessary…especially when it came to knowing how long until the next event I wanted to attend!

Alas, the party on sea came to an end and I returned to Iowa just before an ice storm.  But, oh, the warm memories of my first cruise and my wonderful travel companions!  When do we go again?