Monday, January 25, 2010

1/25/10 Having returned from our very enjoyable 5 day cruise, we have now packed up the RV and are on the freeway, heading north and west. Don't know how far we will get today, but there is no hurry since our reservation at the state park across from New Orleans isn't until Feb. 5. In the meantime, we will be trying to catch up on things, get back in better physical shape after some days of decadence, and see a bit more of the countryside in northern FL, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. There is a SKP park in Summerdale, Alabama, not far off our route, so we will pause there for a few days.
The cruise was delightful, and we weren't even hauling a bunch of friends along with us. The ship was the Grandeur of the Seas, which is in the same class as the Splendour, which was the ship we cruised on for our first several cruises and enjoyed very much. The Grandeur is more elegant, with nice wood paneling wonderful art work, and very good food. Happily, the weather had warmed up so the day we left Tampa was in the 70's, and the next 4 days of sailing and Mexican ports were in the low 80's. Now that is the type of weather we LOVE! Here are a few pictures of some of the art work on the ship:

Because of our access to the Diamond Lounge each day from 5 to 8:30 PM, with free wine, champagne & soft drinks, we met at least 6 other couples who were fun, interesting, liberal, and well-traveled. So every evening was a pleasant diversion with them. We also met two women, Sheila & Stephanie, who own a restaurant in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, which is a Gay friendly resort town. So we joined them at our first port, Costa Maya, for a trip to the nearby fishing village of Majahual. Once there we were immediately reminded of all our enjoyable trips to Mexico, and realized how much we missed going there. We haven't been back to Mexico since 2004 when we spent 2 months there on our way down to the Panama Canal, and 2 months there on our way back. Other parts of the world have been calling us! This part of Mexico was hit by a hurricane in 2007 and there has been a lot of rebuilding going on.
Right where the ships dock there is an area enclosed by brick walls where there are many upscale shops, bars and restaurants for the cruise passengers, along with a very nice pool and a swim up bar. From here we took a bus ($3) to Majahual, where we enjoyed strolling on the very pleasant cement promenade with the beach on one side and the shops, bars, restaurants, and vendor stalls along the other. There were many opportunities to have services performed by local women, such as massages (30 minutes for $10) and hair braiding. Most of the stalls were selling jewelry, carvings, various textiles, and other Mexican handicrafts. After a long walk, we found a small, shady bar and restaurant where we had a beer and enjoyed the beach view. Here is a picture of us with the girl friends on the beach near the bar:

Also as we walked around, there were quite a few iguanas in evidence, scurrying under the buildings, and also out in the areas of the lagoons and mangroves, which the bus passed:

The next day we were in Cozumel, a place we haven't visited since 1995 on our first RV trip to Mexico. That time we had taken the ferry over from Playa del Carmen, rented a moped, and gone out to the marine reserve for some excellent snorkeling. It mystified us how the fish could know that they were protected in the reserve, but judging by the large number and the diversity of them there, they KNEW!!! This time we had arranged to meet our very good friend, Jonna Harlan, for lunch. Her partner, Mimi, was in California dealing with some of their real estate, so she didn't come, and we missed her. But we were delighted that Jonna came since she had to drive from their newly renovated home in Merida to their condo in Akumal, then take the ferry over from PLaya del Carmen. We had a delightful visit with her over some food and drinks at Pancho's Backyard:

This was a place that was recommended on Cruise Critic, and which was tasteful and pleasant, but over-priced, we thought. Later when we discussed it with Adele and Carl in the Diamond Lounge, they said that the best thing there was margaritas. So we missed out on those....
The weather was warm and the waterfront area in Cozumel has been very tastefully restored after their hit from a devastating hurricane. We walked around and talked and talked with Jonna. I also took a few pictures of some of the new sculptures and artwork in the area and here is one of them:

There are 3 piers in Cozumel where cruise ships dock, with only one of them being right downtown. The International pier, where we docked, was a little over 2 1/2 miles from the downtown, so we walked along the waterfront on our way to meet Jonna. There is now a very good sidewalk the whole way and we could see that some places that had been damaged or destroyed by the hurricane had not been rebuilt. Others were spiffy and new. Cozumel is much larger now than when we were there in 1995! And Jonna says that Playa del Carmen has greatly expanded as well.
When we returned from the cruise, we were held up in docking by heavy fog in Tampa. That was the first time that has ever happened to us. After retrieving our mail at the post office, we drove to Pinnelas Park to have a happy reunion and lunch at the home of Paul & Alistair, 2 friends from our very first cruise on the Splendour. They are from Blackpool, England, and they come over every year for the winter in their Florida home, and return to their English home in the summer. The Spring and Fall transAtlantic crossings work very well for them, and we were delighted to learn that they will be on the Independence of the Seas with us this Spring, when we go from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton starting April 11. Here is a picture of them with Elaine at the luncheon:

So you can see that we are doing well, are fat and sassy, and looking forward to our upcoming adventures in some of the southern states we will pass through on our way back to California.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

1/16/10 Hello Blog Readers and thanks for your patience. It seems like we are always too busy to post something! Currently we are at the Brandon Elks and are happily parked in the RV storage area, because this is where we will be leaving our RV while we are cruising next week. There are between 15 and 23 nice hookup sites here, for $15 a night, in case any of you RV friends are interested. The Elks here are very friendly and nice - much more so than the SKPs at the Wauchula SKP Park where we stopped on our way here. Happily, the weather has become much warmer, although it is currently overcast and looks like rain. Monday we leave from the Tampa cruise port, about 12 miles from here, for our 5 day cruise to Costa Maya, Mexico and Cozumel. Our good friend, Jonna Harlan, who has relocated to the Yucatan in Mexico, is going to meet us in Cozumel. We are also hoping that Kathe Kirkbride, who lives not far from the Costa Maya port, will be able to meet us there as well.
Last weekend we had a marvelous time on our 3 day cruise on the Majesty of the Seas with Martin & Roger, Reuben & Sergio, Jack, and four friends of Roger and Martin's: Amy & Dilia, and Nancy & Faith. The weather was very cold and a big storm hit just as we arrived at Coco Cay, which is RCCL's private island. So they didn't put anyone ashore there, but instead hauled A__ for Nassau where we could be tied up at a pier instead of at the mercy of the wind and waves. Most of us never got off the ship, because we have been there many times before and also it was too cold. But we had a good time anyway, because we always enjoy being on the ship and having time together as well as a few of the ship activities.
Here are a few pictures:
Roger, Martin & Jack on the wave runner on the ship's deck:

In the next picture, you can see it was quite sunny the day we sailed. This is looking towards Miami Beach:

Roger, Reuben, Martin, Jack & Us in the Diamond Lounge:

When we got off the ship on Monday morning, the temperature was in the 30's!!! This was practically a record for Miami. Here is a picture of some of the friends while waiting for the shuttle to show up. Please note what Elaine is wearing. Roger says she looks like she is a member of the Taliban:

Once back from our next cruise, we will post another update and let you know where we are going next.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

1/6/10 Hope you all are having a Happy New Year! Here in the Miami area is has been unusually chilly. Since we have 4 days in between our 2 day cruise last weekend and the upcoming 3 day cruise starting Friday, we have been trying to do some shopping we have been putting off. Yes, I finally found time to buy the new computer I was promised for my 65th birthday, which was last August!! I decided on a small Toshiba Satellite, which is really like a large netbook, because it requires an external CD drive, and it only weighs 3.8 pounds. Now I can take it along on international trips and cruises. It is taking me days to get programs transferred and installed, new printer drivers downloaded, etc. I will still be using both of them for a while, I can tell.
Janice Ryder wanted to know about the cruises. We are doing 3 short cruises while we are here in Florida because we need 3 more cruise credits with Royal Caribbean in order to achieve Diamond Plus status. This gets us lots of perks when we cruise with them. So last weekend we took the Majesty of the Seas to Nassau, in the Bahamas. It really isn't that exciting because we have been there lots of times, but it was nice to have slightly warmer weather there. It was so unexciting that I didn't even take any pictures!
This Friday we will be sailing with our "boy toys", Roger and Martin, and 4 of their female friends. So it will be a big PARTY weekend on the ship. Again we will be going to the Bahamas and also to Coco Cay. When we get back, we will be driving over to the Tampa area where we will stay at the Brandon Elks Club, and take a 5 day cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas starting Jan. 18. It goes to Costa Maya and Cozumel, in Mexico. Then we will be done with cruising until April, when we are going to do a transAtlantic.
It has been interesting to be staying in this part of Miami. It is pretty close to 100% Hispanic, with most people being Cuban. Nearly everyone is bilingual, so it would be a great place to stay if someone wanted to be "immersed" while learning to speak Spanish. And the food is wonderful!! The people are friendly and nice and we have been enjoying our stay here.