CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN PT.2

WELCOME BACK!!!! Time to continue the journey with Part 2 of Cruising the Caribbean. The next stops are Roatan Honduras and Grand Cayman Islands. I think these two locations were my favorite.

Thursday April 25, 2019. ROATAN, HONDURAS. This day began similar to the others but the meet up time was a bit later 10:00am so that was a plus. This was the only port that didn’t require us to use a water shuttle to get to land. As soon as you got off the ship you were where you needed to be in order to get to your meet up point for the excursion. Upon arrival to the shore you are greeted by different tour guides who will have a sign to help you identify which one is yours. After you meet with them they give you another area to go to until its time to board your shuttle and begin the excursion.

 

 

This was one of the popular excursions so we had a large group with us. Before it began we had about 20 minutes of time to look around in the different shops. Unfortunately we didn’t use this time wisely lol. Please use anytime you may have before your excursion to look around and shop for souvenirs, because you may not have that time after. What I’ve learned is, although the excursions indicate a set time, you may find yourself running around and/or missing out because you have limited time to get back to the ship after the excursion. I recommend you go into any of the stores that are open when you first dock and then map out the ones you still want to see once you return from the excursion.

For this excursion we spent the day on the water. We took the Jolly Roger Catamaran excursion. Once you board the shuttle, there is about a 20 minute ride to the main building where you board the catamaran. This excursion is a great way to relax while enjoying the 30-45 minute ride on the catamaran where they take you out to go snorkeling. This excursion also provided open bar and lunch.   At the beginning, the instructors on the boat provides you with all the safety rules, your snorkeling gear, and water (no liquor until after snorkeling).

 

 

Once you arrive to the snorkeling area its time to enjoy the water and the views. The instructors will divide everyone up based on swimming ability and previous snorkeling experience. As far as I was concerned, once you show me what to do I’m going about my business. I didn’t like being with beginners because they required to much assistance (yes I know that’s the point) and I was ready to see the water and the sites underneath. While on this excursion you don’t really have to worry about a camera while on the boat because their was someone taking pictures. However, if you want memories of what you saw while snorkeling, I highly recommend you get a waterproof case and use your phone. My camera phone and the case I used was perfect and took excellent pictures and videos. I loved the waterproof case I used, because it had a built in flotation pad which was better to control while in the water.

 

 

While in the water enjoy the experience but also be mindful of breathing. I was not used to having goggles that covered my eyes and nose, so this was an adjustment. Choking on salt water is also a possibility so be prepared to doggy paddle while trying to recover. You will get tired quickly if you do too much too fast. Snorkeling will require you to relax and not swim to fast because you want to remain under water as much as possible. Also DO NOT SMILE while under water. This is the fastest way to fill your nose with salt water, TRUST ME!

 

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Your time in the water is about an hour and then its time to head back. Once you are back on the boat, you return your snorkeling equipment and then “begin the party”. The staff on the boat were great in making sure you had enough food and beverages. You were able to kick back and enjoy the return ride, while listening to music, taking pictures, doing a two step, and sipping on unlimited rum cocktails. Again another reason not to purchase an expensive liquor package on the ship.

 

For some reason the return ride felt a bit longer. Time seemed to disappear and now we were nervous we wouldn’t have anytime to purchase souvenirs. After we docked, we got off the catamaran and still had the 20 minute ride back to the port. Carnival will tell you as long as you have booked with a ship excursion they will wait for your return. That was good but I still wanted time to shop. Luckily what we wanted to buy was pretty much in a central location. It was crazy running from store to store trying to get items with the remaining 30 minutes we had before the ship was to leave. It was even better that the liquor I wanted to purchase was right in the store that we had to walk through in order to get back to the ship.

Well we had a challenge once we got back to the store. There is nothing worse than waiting in a line with only one person in front of you and hearing, “The gangway will be closing shortly”. The feeling of panic immediately kicks in, but also the desire to complete your purchase lol. Thank God for non verbal cues, because the cashier looked at me and must have seen my panic and immediately said “come on this side I’ll complete both transactions at once”. LOOK AT GOD!!! Needless to say I got my purchase and made it back on time. They even had a nice cup of cold water waiting for us because it was so hot.

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The only downfall about buying liquor while on a cruise is, they scan your bags when you are coming back on, and anything over a nip they will tell you to turn in. They bring it to your room the night before you dock back at your original port. Unless they are in a rush and not fully paying attention. This happened one day and I kept it moving. Again no need to waste money on liquor packages.

Upon return to our room we were already pulling out of port. The only thing I desired at that point was a hot shower. We then dressed and headed to an evening show. What I liked about this cruise was that we ended up going when the entertainers on board was switching out. The entertainment crew often runs a six months on and two months off schedule. So we were able to see the old crew and the new crew begin their six month contract. The change made the shows even more enjoyable. After the shows we decided to call it a night since we had another early morning. I enjoyed another night of a great breeze, wine, and reading. This is mandatory on a cruise.

Friday April 26, 2019. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. We were able to begin the morning with a great breakfast because we knew we would be out all day. We switched this excursion the night before because we wanted to see a few more places while we were there. Grand Cayman is beautiful. If I had to pick an island to live on it would be here. I loved hearing their history especially the fact that they don’t have taxes. I long for the days where my money is all mines. In addition to no taxes, they have a low crime rate to the point that their police officers don’t carry guns. I wish this was the American way. I would feel safer being pulled over.

 

 

Given that we switched our excursion, we happened to be the only two on the list that our tour guide had, so we were linked with another excursion. That was more fun for us. This was called The Stingray Sandbar, Hell, & Turtle Center experience. This excursion had about four different stops and each gave a different site of the island. To begin our tour guide was great. This makes a difference on tours where you have a long ride throughout the island. He made sure to show as many landmarks as possible and keep us on schedule.

 

Our first stop was a rum and rum cake tasting. This is a quick stop for about 15 minutes, where  you can take pictures by the water, go into the store, and try out a sample of rum and rum cake. Please remember to be mindful of time. More than likely you won’t be on an excursion alone and it’s sucks making others wait for you. Don’t feel pressured to make a purchase at this stop. The lines may be very long, given that other excursions will be stopping there as well, and they have rum cakes and other beverages back at a store where you have to line up to get back on the ship.

 

The next stop was a city called HELL. Why was it called Hell? Based on the tour guide, when two men first arrived to Cayman Islands, they saw an unusual rock formation and said it looked like hell, and so they named the city Hell. Be careful while in Hell, things will cost you more than you want to pay. That’s literally and figuratively. This stop is only about 15 minutes. There isn’t much to see but the rock formation, take a couple of pictures, go inside the two gift shops, and keep going. We thought it was a bit more to it but we were wrong. That was fine because we still had plenty of stops to go.

 

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The third stop was Cayman Turtle Centre. It’s a cute wildlife encounter center that takes care of the turtles and gives you the history of the turtles on the island. This visit will last about 30 minutes to an hour. Our tour guide walked us through and gave the history, we had a chance to hold some of the baby turtles, look around the souvenir shop, and then we were on our way to the next adventure. This is a good excursion if you have children with you. There is a part of the tour where you are able to get into the water with the turtles that the kids there seemed to enjoy.

 

 

 

It was now time for the main event. The last stop was swimming with the stingrays. When we first began planning what excursions we were going to do, I was so against this one. The only thing I kept thinking was, it’s going to be just my luck to be stung by one. I was completely wrong. This was my favorite excursion. Before you get to the water where you’ll enjoy the stingrays, there’s a nice ride that’s about 45 minutes out into the middle of the Caribbean Sea. While on the ride you enjoy the views, the breeze, and provided water because it’s HOT. Once you arrive, you are free to enter the water and relax. The staff will have you get into a circle in order to have a hands on experience with the sting rays.

 

While you are waiting your turn, be mindful that the stingrays are everywhere. You will feel them on your legs or just see them swimming past you. I panicked a couple times as I was adjusting lol. After that I went into full photographer mode and started taking pics and recording them. You get the opportunity to feed them, but the sound they make is a bit scary. It sounded like they were about to eat my finger. You also get to take a picture with them in different poses. Unfortunately my pics were never emailed so try and have whoever you go with to do it for you.

 

 

 

 

Also during this time you won’t be the only people enjoying the experience. There were about three other tours there during our visit so please remain with your group. After about 45 minutes, you are instructed to board the boat and prepare for the ride back to shore. During the ride back they give you a nice punch to enjoy.

Once we arrived back to the docks we boarded the bus and headed back to the port to board the ship. Again we battled against time because the commute and waiting for other people, but we were still able to look around in the stores and purchase a few items. The pricing of souvenirs there can be a bit pricey so be sure to look around, set a budget, but still get you something to remember the experience.

After we were done, we got in line to board the water shuttle back to the ship. Once aboard the ship we enjoyed a nice meal, given that this excursion didn’t have lunch included, and then relaxed. This was our last day for excursions and the next day was at sea. We took this time to make sure we enjoyed all the other activities on the ship, shop a bit on board, and prepare our suitcases. One thing about me is once my trip is over I’m ready to go. I don’t stall on packing up and I don’t like to rush. After that it was a nice relaxing night and to bed.

Saturday, April 27, 2019. This was our second day at sea as we headed back home. I began the day by doing an arts and crafts session. It was cute but not what I expected. We were able to create a scrapbook and lei. After the crafts I went to enjoy a nice breakfast and then headed to the disembark presentation.

The disembark presentation is a good one to attend because it prepares you for your return home. This is where you find out when your luggage needs to be prepared and outside your door for pick up. This also tells you when your beverage purchases will be delivered, where to get the tags for your bags, and  where to be if you have early departure. Since we did not have a flight the same day as our return from the cruise we were able to worry less about when we got off the ship.

 

If you are able, I recommend booking your flight for the day after your return. Things happen all the time. Although you may return at 8am, anything can happen when you have a flight at noon. If your schedule doesn’t permit you to stay the extra day, then book your return flight for later in the evening so you aren’t rushed.

During the presentation you also get the final thank you from the cruise staff and captain. If you can, take a moment to meet the different staff and tell them about your experience on the cruise or any tips you may feel could be useful to enhance the experience.

As this is the last day on the ship there are many activities and shows planned so prepare to enjoy them. Just remember that you have to make time to pack so that your luggage, regardless of your time to get off the ship, is still where it needs to be for pick up. If it’s not, you will be lugging it around all morning and taking if off the ship yourself. This is NOT recommended (unless you are rushing for a flight). I say it’s not recommended because that morning everyone is out moving around, especially in the dining  halls, so the spacing and ability to move about is crowded. Our luggage had to be outside our room by 11pm, but if you are planning to attend shows or activities all night you may want to put it out sooner. Since we were in the back of the ship and most events in the front we did ours earlier.

That night, the ship had a fun show called the Lip Sync Battle Carnival Edition. This was a nice show that had a male and female contestant battling against each other. It was even more fun because they knew each other so their family was entertaining. If you do nothing else on the ship, make sure you take time for the shows. It’s free entrainment, and depending on the type of ship you are on, you can have a Cirque du Soleil type show or a family fun Lip Sync Battle.

 

(Go to @shesenroute on IG to check out the performances on IG stories)

The night ended with a balloon drop in the atrium of the ship at 10pm. This was the conclusion of the journey. Prior to the drop there’s different performances and every just dancing and having fun. Use this time to have your last carefree moment and let loose. After the end festivities we spent time walking the ship one last time, enjoying the night air in the middle of the Caribbean, and then prepared for our return home.

 

 

Sunday, April 28, 2019. DISEMBARK DAY! This is unfortunately the end of it all. We arrived back into Tampa in the early morning. We enjoyed our final breakfast and waited to be called to get off the ship. The process ran very smoothly. Since we were staying another day we had to rent a car to enjoy the city of Tampa. Luckily for us the moment we got off the ship their were different transportation companies willing to transport you anywhere you needed to go. We had already planned for Uber but it was much easier and cheaper to use a airport shuttle.

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Once we arrived to the airport we picked up our rental and was now ready to enjoy more of Tampa. Keep in mind we exited the ship around 9:30am so the whole day was ours.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to check into our hotel yet so we headed staright to the beach.

One of the popular beach areas in Tampa or near Tampa is Clearwater Beach. I remember when I went on my very first cruise this was apart of one of the excursions but was cancelled because of the weather. This time we had perfectly hot Florida weather. This time was perfect timing because the Sugar and Sand Festival was going on. The festival had a lot of independent vendors with creative jewelry, bags, and other items. I found the perfect phone case that fit me lol.

 

 

Once we finished taking in the sun, putting our feet in the water, and enjoying the souvenir shops we headed to our hotel to check in. We relaxed for a min, refreshed, and then headed out for downtown Tampa. The city of Tampa is beautiful. In the downtown area there’s a section called Sparkman Wharf. It’s a beautiful outside areas with different restaurants, a sports bar, and lounge space to sit and enjoy the city views. We decided to eat at a restaurant called Splitsville Southern + Social. They have an inside and outside eating area. Also inside is a bowling area, ping pong table, and other indoor games. The food was great. The drinks were perfect. The overall atmosphere was perfect for a beautiful spring day. I recommend you take a moment to enjoy this area if you’re ever in Tampa.

 

 

After we finished our dinner we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Then we drove around Tampa. The campus of The University of Tampa is gorgeous. I would have loved to have that close access to the beach, the amazing weather all year round, and  the overall appeal of the campus. Once we were done we headed back to the hotel and prepared to head home. Of course I couldn’t let the night end immediately. The hotel had an amazing pool that was empty when we returned and was going to be open for another half hour. I used my time wisely and enjoyed an evening swim. It was refreshing and a perfect end to my amazing spring break.

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Monday, April 29, 2019. The final goodbye. It was time to head home. Luckily we booked an afternoon flight so we didn’t have to rush and was able to sleep in and enjoy the morning. The hotel had a great breakfast we were able to enjoy before we headed to the airport. Once we were finished we returned our rental, boarded our flight, and came home.

 

I must say this was my best Spring Break. Even with my original worry about being on the ship  I loved the experience and will definitely be doing it again.

I hope you enjoyed this journey! Until next time….

(For more pics of the ship and trip check out @shesenroute IG stories/highlights)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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