A few days before our RCI cruise, DH discovered that he’d have to return to home early for a work opportunity. So, he planned to get off on the morning of our last port, Cozumel. This itinerary was as follows:
- Day 1 – Depart New Orleans
- Day 2 – Sea Day
- Day 3 – Sea Day
- Day 4 – Falmouth, Jamaica
- Day 5 – Georgetown, Grand Cayman
- Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico
- Day 7 – Sea Day
- Day 8 – Arrive New Orleans
I’d been to each of the ports at least once. I’d been to Cozumel three times. So, especially since we had a junior suite, we had decided in advance that we’d skip touring for the most part. We did want to go to Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. I hadn’t gone the last time we were there, and it was DH’s first visit to Jamaica altogether. We did DRF via a ship excursion that was $79 each. It was pricey but a dear friend whose family lives in Jamaica had consulted with her folks and told us it was our best option. Some of our dinner friends tried to just grab a cab at the port, but they had no luck. It seems like RCI just basically bought and built up Falmouth such that it would be their port. The cruise people are basically stuck using RCI’s services because nothing else is made available.
It was roughly an hour to ride the bus to the falls. The chatter from the tour guide was largely uninteresting. But, once we got to the falls, she seemed to give us good advice and got us into the queue for a river guide safely. As we were walking down the boardwalk to the base of the falls, I chickened out mainly because the idea of stepping wrong and falling into water was not appealing to me. Plus, it turns out that you can really get great views of the falls and go in the water from the boardwalk along the falls, so I was like, why bother climbing the thing with this big annoying group of people when I can just hop into the water where I want and stroll along at my leisure? DH had fun, though, and the tour guides were really great. They even took pictures of us together at one of the big pools.
The falls themselves were quite pretty and very cool and refreshing. DH climbed all the way up.
After the falls, we had to walk through the really annoying and pushy souvenir sellers to get back to the bus. We were the first to get back. On the way back to the ship, they stopped at a bar/restaurant. Normally those stops annoy me since their main purpose is to strand you somewhere that you’ll be bored enough to spend money, but this bar had free wi-fi, so we got a drink each and dived into email and social networking.
The other port stops were mainly non-eventful. I had decided to get Andrew presents from each port as his Christmas gift from us, so most of our activity was around going into town and finding some nifty and largely useless trinket to get for him. We did have lots of fun on the ship though. Having two sea days up front meant that we got to experience the ship fully right away.
We played bridge on the first day, and we were pleasantly surprised to have enough people for three full tables of bridge, with some kibitzers. One other pair was even close to our age! The card and game room on the Navigator was adjacent to a room that was for general purpose but often got used for tot/toddler play sessions. On the first sea day, they had the divider between the rooms opened up. Lots of bridge and other game players complained, because there was noise from toddler play (kid songs, random drum banging, kids shaking rattle toys). It was really ill-planned and yet the staff seemed totally caught off-guard that it would bug us, like they always do this and we were the first people ever on a cruise to complain. When we went to play bridge the next day, DH eventually just took charge and closed the airwall between the rooms himself. He received applause from the game players.
The second sea day was a formal night. We had a late dinner seating, so we spent some time swimming and such right before dinner, while half the ship was off eating. I was already at the adult pool, but DH had run a few errands first. On his way out to meet me, he passed a family in their fancy duds for dinner. The young son in the family looked at DH in his swim trunks and tee and then plaintively whined to his mom, “Moo-oom! I thought you said it was FORMAL night!” Hee.
We had so much free time that we spent time on the balcony one evening coming up with actuary jokes. 🙂 We also went to a martini mixology class and tasting. At the end of the “class” (which mostly consisted of us being handed taster ‘tinis), each person got to make their own customized ‘tini for judging, and you got to take a full ‘tini of your custom blend. There were over forty people there, so there were lots of combinations, even though we had *very* limited ingredients to choose from (no flavored vodkas, e.g.). I ended up making a ‘tini of vodka with a splash of butterscotch schnapps and a couple of splashes of key lime syrup. It tasted like a lime cooler cookie, and I was quite proud of it. I was even more proud when it won the contest! The prize was a free ‘tini from the bar and also getting to be the martini of the day on the last night of the cruise.
For DH getting off in Cozumel, he had to send off a bunch of info to the cruise line in advance, specifically he had to speak with the emergency travel department before the cruise to get approval for the early departure. On the Cozumel day, he had to go to a conference room on the ship right before they made port so that he could clear Mexico customs. Everyone who is leaving the ship for good goes through a specialized customs area, including employees and contractors. It was more likely to have bag searches and close attention than a normal customs entry. You, of course, have to have a passport, and you get a temporary visa. The customs agents also told DH that he owed a tourist fee (~$25), but they don’t have the ability to collect it there. They said he’d be asked for it at the airport. When DH got to the Cozumel airport, he asked United about it, and United collected the fee from him. If he hadn’t asked, though, he’s pretty sure no one would have ever cared about it. The Cozumel airport was really small, and DH says he breezed through check-in and security there. We made port at 9am and his flight left at noon, and he had no trouble making the flight. (Of course, keep in mind that he has status on United, so he can use the premier lanes where applicable.)
I was told by a cruise ship employee on the day after Cozumel that 80+ people got left behind, accidentally, at that port. We were over an hour behind in untying from the port (and thus hauled ship-ass on our last sea day). The weather that day in Cozumel was really windy, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the ferry from mainland Mexico (which a lot of cruisers take over from/to Cozumel in order to visit the ruins and eco-parks over there) was canceled or delayed. When B* and I were touring from Cozumel and took that ferry, I had us get on one way earlier than we needed to for specifically that reason. (I had read that the ferry is frequently canceled or delayed for stormy weather.) Anyways, we saw one boat bring a couple of latecomers to the ship from the dock, and there were people who came onto the ship a good 45 minutes late. (I could see the dock from my balcony.) I don’t know if it’s true that so many people got left. The person I talked to implied that both us and the other RCI ship in that port lost a lot of people, and that Carnival’s ship had missing people, too. That supports my ferry hypothesis, but it still seems like a lot of people to be abandoned.
After my cruise, I spent some time in NOLA. I visited the Audubon Insectarium. They had lots of holiday things in the bug aquariums. It turns out the praying mantis, ironically, is Jewish!
I also went to see The Hobbit with Andrew, and we had comped dinner at the casino. The steak at the Besh steakhouse was one of the best steaks I’ve had anywhere. Sadly, as I was in the beginnings of the cold I have now, I had hardly any appetite. 🙁
Flying out the next day was uneventful. My PT cruise was iced up when I got to it in Milwaukee. Even my Agent P antenna ornament had icicles hanging off its bill!