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.