In December, my Nana and I went on a cruise together to the Caribbean and had a really lovely time. Though I’m not really a huge cruising fan as a means of travel, it does give you a very nice, relaxing vacation. I had just submitted all of my grad school documentation, so it was nice to celebrate that as well.
The ship itself was a lot of fun. I’ve never been on Norwegian before, and I really liked that you could go and eat whenever you wanted in the different restaurants instead of being tied to one place at one time. The entertainment on the ship was really good–we watched an entire off-Broadway production of the Million Dollar Quartet on board.
As fun as the ship was, the highlight of any cruise is the ports of call.
We stopped in Honduras, Belize and two cities in Mexico. Out of the four ports, my favorites were Belize and Cozumel.
It was not my first trip to Belize. When I was there with my parents on a cruise as a junior in high school we had an amazing day in Belize City with a wonderful tour guide that we found. This trip was a little bit different because the cruise line has sort of built up this little “town” on an island called Harvest Caye. After buying some rum for my husband, we joined our group and were off (via a ferry to the mainland) to the Mayan ruins and a spice farm.
The spice farm was amazing. We ate fresh cocoa off a tree (the inside is so crazy looking). The fruit is tart and almost gooey and then there are the fresh nibs inside, chalky and bitter. We saw nutmeg growing and vanilla. The vanilla beans they grow take almost a year to reach an end buyer. The flowers bloom only for one day and have to be hand pollinated or they won’t produce a bean. That means in 6 hours their crew of 20 people has to pollinate almost 10 acres of vanilla. It’s really no wonder vanilla is so expensive.
The tour was really fantastic. We got to taste and smell and hold all kinds of spices from allspice (which, despite its misleading name is really one plant that’s native to Belize) to fresh pepper to lemon grass.
The ruins we went to in Belize are not very big (there are much larger ones there), but Nim Li Punit is notable because there are a lot of stele there (carved stones).
Before going, I watched a documentary about how scholars learned to read the Mayan language, and it was really fascinating to watch them try and work backwards. There’s so much artistry in their carvings. The same sound can be represented multiple ways, and each artist would combine symbols and try to create something unique.
I loved archaeology as a kid, and this was my first time visiting any Mayan ruins, so I was pretty excited.
In Cozumel, we went to the Discovery Park, which puts on all kinds of programs and is also an art gallery. There we made our own chocolate, which was so much fun, and we watched the Flyers.
The Papantla Flyers are a small tribe in Mexico, and we were lucky to see them perform their rain ritual. Four men with ropes attached climb to the top of a pole that’s about 30 feet off the ground. They wind themselves around and let themselves fall, upside down and attached at the feet, until they reach the bottom. But the real crazy thing is the fifth man, who climbs to the top with no rope and plays an instrument and dances ON THE TOP of the pole. He stays up there until the end and uses one of the other guys’ ropes to come down, which ends the ritual. You can watch Discover Mexico’s video here.
Our tour guide, Bou, was super knowledgeable about the history of Mexico, and I have to say it was probably the most enjoyable and information-heavy tour I’ve ever been on.
All in all, we had a great time, and I will remember it fondly.
So over to you–have you ever been to the Caribbean (on or off a cruise)? What was your favorite experience there? Let me know in the comments!