This winter break, I departed on trip that is all too familiar, but nonetheless a favorite of mine—a Caribbean cruise. We booked a cruise aboard the Carnival Pride to the Western Caribbean debarking from Tampa, Florida, for seven nights. One of the biggest attractions to cruising is the all-inclusive food factor. With the exception of soft drinks and alcohol, everything is included in your cruising experience. Of course, you have to pay for extras like excursions and trips to the spa as well, but cruising is still a great value for your dollar. We visited Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras; and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
The Carnival Experience
The food selections on cruises are endless and I’ve never had an item off their menu that I didn’t like. Really like lobster? Feel free to order two of them on surf and turf night. It’s all included.
The menu changes daily in the main dining room so if there are two or three appetizers that look good, order them all because they won’t be there tomorrow. Menu choices include a variety of hot and cold soups (Spiced Pumpkin (pictured), Bing Cherry (pictured), Cucumber (pictured), and Mango are just a few varieties), sushi, prosciutto and melon (pictured), escargot (pictured), shrimp and grits, bacon macaroni and cheese (pictured), salads, prime rib, steak, lobster, and a myriad of desserts, including crème brûlée, cheesecake, chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, and orange cake (pictured), and so much more.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Local Caymanians are some of the most wonderful and genuine people I’ve ever met; however, they are few and far between. In a coun- try that’s famous for its lax banking regulations and privacy, expats flock to this island in droves. Its beautiful crystal blue waters and white sand beaches are some of the reasons that tourists visit. While the conversion rate is only $0.80 on the $1.00 US, most tourists that escape to the Caymans are looking for fun in the sun, fresh local seafood, snorkeling along the Barrier Reef, or playing with sea turtles and stingrays. Cay- manite, a neutral-colored stone found only in the Caymans, is made into jewelry, making jewelry shopping a favored pastime as well. Because of the Barrier Reef and shallow water surrounding the island, cruise ships must drop anchor approximately five miles off shore and passengers must use tenders (smaller transport boats that hold between 150-300 people) to get ashore.
Coming back to your stateroom to a folded towel critter (pictured) is a highlight of cruising with Carnival. Carnival even sells a book so that you can fold towels on your own at home.
Along with the towel animals, you’ll find mints on your pillows and Fun Times, Carnival’s daily newsletter complete with calendar of events and sales for the day in their duty free shopping area.
Costa Maya, Mexico
Costa Maya, Mexico is a port that is strictly for cruise ships. There is plenty of local shopping, a few restaurants with authentic Mexican cuisine, a lazy river area, and a small beach area. For those looking for adventure, a short drive with a Carnival sponsored excursion can offer dune buggy adventures, scuba diving, or a tour in glass bottom boat, just to name a few. For those who are willing to travel a little further, an hour and a half will allow you to tour some of the Mayan Ruins.
In Belize, the shopping potential is endless. Whether you are looking for duty-free liquor, handmade jewelry made of wood or bone, or knockoff designer handbags and Beats headphones, this is the spot for you. Just to start, Belize offers horseback riding safaris, cave tubing, snorkeling, and tours of the city or zoo.
The zoo is found in a remote area of the Belize. Completely natural, visitors can get up close and personal with local wildlife. Unlike the zoos in the United States, only basic cages separate you and the animals, allowing for better photo opportunities as well as a chance to take your life in your hands when it comes to the big cats. Over 320 varieties of birds are found in Belize. Popular birds include the Keel Billed Toucan, Brown Pelican, and a variety of parrots and parakeets. Five native big cats call Belize home.
They include the Jaguar, Jaguarundi, Margay, Mountain Lion (pictured), and Ocelot (pictured). Other native wildlife includes Collared Peccary, Crocodile (pictured), Coyote, Gray Fox, Spotted Skunk, Spider Monkey, and White-tailed Deer, just like the ones found in Maryland.
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is one of the outlying islands of Honduras. Its beautiful and lush landscape includes rainforests, the beach, and winding mountains. Perfect for ziplining, Catamaran sailing, swimming with dolphins, touring the countryside this country is a photographer’s dream. Rich in culture, the Best of Roatan tour offered a perspective of the island that most tourists don’t have an opportunity to see. Traveling away from the beach, participants visit Rusty Fish, where they repurpose local metal scrap into inspirational artwork, followed by Roatan Chocolate Factory where the island makes chocolate without any dairy.
Forget your chocolate bar in the hot Honduran sun? No worries, it doesn’t melt! Next on the tour is the Roatan Rum Company where you can buy rum cake in five different flavors (coconut, banana, 151 proof, tropical spice, and original) and Rum in four varieties (coconut, mango, 151 proof, and original). The last stop is to visit the secretive Garifuna tribe where spectators take in a native song and dance and try Cassava bread, a traditional dish of the tribe. Other local delicacies include iguana and blue crabs. Unlike Maryland Blue crabs, these land crabs are actually brown and burrow in the ground.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Greenstein unless otherwise credited