Matt & Dalton’s Adventures on Carnival Conquest 2013

Let me preface this story by saying that this vacation literally became an obsession from the moment that we decided to look into it until the moment we were on-board.  You’ll see that I’m not exaggerating soon enough.  So, this post will be quite long, and I hope you can make it through all of it, but if not, that’s ok too.  Browse the pictures.  We’re doing this to share with everyone, but also to document all the memories we had since this was such a big deal for us.  So, here goes………

For at least 6 months before the cruise, Dalton & I started watching Netflix documentaries and YouTube cruise videos.  I am a stickler for researching anything I’m going to spend that much money on, so I wanted to know what we were getting into.  We have watched probably 75-80% of all the cruise videos on YouTube.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it certainly felt that way.  We would sit at the computer for hours at a time, just dreaming about what it would be like, wondering whether we could afford it, planning what we would do, etc.  It even got to the point where I had to research other video sites besides YouTube because we couldn’t find anything we hadn’t seen.  To be transparent, we had some guidelines:  after a while, we only watched the ones that were at least 20 minutes or longer, and it had to have audio, be steady video (video quality is a big part of my job lol), and not just be a video of still shots.  The only exception to these rules (for me, at least) was if there were cute boys in the video.

Having watched endless videos and listening to the songs that people posted on their videos, we decided we definitely had to have a cruise playlist.  We made one on Spotify called “Cruisin'”, which  included all types of songs, from laid-back country-ish stuff like Knee Deep & Island Song by Zac Brown Band, to pop-ish stuff like Get This Party Started by Pink.  Our favorite song, though, became Island Boy by Baha Men (yes, the same guys that did Who Let the Dogs Out – check it out here – it’s super fun!  I’d suggest playing it on repeat while you read lol).  If we’re friends on Facebook, and you have Spotify (which you should because it’s amazing, and if you don’t, you can get it here), you can listen to the whole playlist.  Feel free to steal it and share in the fun we had listening to it.  I synced the playlist to my phone and we bought a Music Bullet to be able to blast out our jams on our balcony before bed each night.  It was a quite fun experience.  On at least 2 occasions, our neighboring shipmates were heard singing along to some of the songs.

Ok, so with videos checked, research complete, a playlist compiled and a budget established, we bought our tickets on November 4th, 2012 for a cruise from April 21st through April 28th on the Carnival Conquest.

Carnival Conquest

Carnival Conquest

Itinerary:

  • Sun 4/21 – New Orleans
  • Mon 4/22 – Fun Day At Sea
  • Tue 4/23 – Fun Day At Sea
  • Wed 4/24 – Mahogany Bay, Roatan Honduras
  • Thu 4/25 – Belize 
  • Fri 4/26 – Cozumel, Mexico
  • Sat 4/27 – Fun Day At Sea
  • Sun 4/28 – New Orleans

The next several months actually flew by. I know most people say it drags, but we found a lot of videos to watch to keep us occupied. We also got our passports, too, which was actually rather painless for those that don’t have one and might be worried about “red tape”. The paperwork was easy, the people at the courthouse were helpful, and I think ours came in in like 6 weeks.

We really didn’t do much else for the next few months but sit at home and watch videos. Some of you can attest to the invites we turned down in the spirit of “saving for our cruise”. I’m sure we drove people nuts talking about it all the time, but considering that it was my first REAL vacation (one that didn’t involve just visiting my family or Dalton’s), I didn’t really care since I’ve had to listen to others’ vacation stories for years. Dalton had been on a couple cruises when he was younger, but it was always a family thing , and all of the other trips we took were more like weekend getaways, so he was just as excited to finally have a legit week-long vacation.

The time came to buy all the things we needed. There are SO MANY checklists and forum posts telling you what to pack and what not to pack… bug spray, Pepto, a Tide pen, duct tape, etc. We pretty much bought everything that the forums said to bring since I figured we’d need each thing at least once in a week. YEAH RIGHT. We literally used less than ½ the stuff we brought. We purchased a 24-pocket over-the-door shoe organizer with clear pockets to store everything in, which hung nicely on the back of the door at the house for a month or so before we left so we could stick other things in as we thought about them. (The organizer really was quite useful in keeping our cabin clutter-free. There was more counter space in the cabin than I expected, but not a lot, so I was thankful for it.)  We bought some sandals, beach towels, a couple of pairs of new shorts and some t-shirts (some of which we designed – see below – lol), and bought/brought something like 7 matching bandanas and 9 pairs of sunglasses. What? Boys can accessorize, too.

Several weeks before the cruise, other things we did to pass the time (and obsess further) were read forum reviews about the countries we would be visiting, which excursions were available and to make sure we were aware of all the policies and programs on the ship. We watched several videos about sneaking booze onto the ship (best one we found here), but in the end, although I was 99% sure I could do it successfully, that 1% of losing all the money we invested was enough to scare me, so we didn’t chance it. Carnival actually has a “Boy Voyage” program where friends and family can purchase gifts to have delivered to your stateroom. There’s a special department in that program that you can’t access online, where you can call and order bottles of liquor (at elevated prices, of course) to be delivered to your room.  We also learned about the “Cheers!” program, which is a flat rate drink package that Carnival offers. With the program, you get unlimited soda and 15 alcoholic beverages a day for like $42.95 a day + gratuity. Most of the drinks cost approximately $10 with the gratuity they automatically add, so you’re pretty much paying for 5 drinks a day and getting 15. Also, the soda card itself is like $25, I think, so it really is a steal.  Anyway, at 15 drinks a day, and ordering 2 bottles for the room (with the intention of buying 2 more once on board; you can order up to 4), this was shaping up to be BoozeCruise 2013, or so I thought.  (For our friends cruising in September and anyone else interested, the forum post with the number to call to pre-order liquor and the pricing (might have changed) is here.)

In the last few weeks, we also were active on the Facebook “roll call” group that was created for all the people cruising that week on the same ship. I think that right before the cruise we were at around 90 members. We joined the group shortly after they ordered matching shirts, so we ended up not doing that. In retrospect, I kinda wish we had found it sooner because there were quite a few purple shirts, and I don’t think we were as recognized as we would have been with shirts. Not only that, but there was a meet and greet on the first sea day, but we were too drunk at 2 p.m. (Monday, while most of you were working lol) to even remember that it was going on… but we still got to hang out with some of the group in Cozumel (more about that later).  

Our obsession (mostly mine) went into overdrive the 2 weeks right before we left. I literally began stalking the ship. On Sundays, we would watch the port cam in New Orleans to see the ship there and watch as it left. It kinda pissed me off that it was only a still shot that refreshed every 60 seconds. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Then, I would find the itinerary for that week and scour the internet for any port cams at the stops it would make to see it there, too. There is also a website or two (best one here) you can go to and see exactly where any ship is at any given time. I was serious when I said stalking.

We even researched our cruise director, Gary Brierley, just to see what others thought of him.  We read some mixed reviews, but overall we were left excited at the activities he had planned for us.

Cruise Directory Gary Brierley

Cruise Directory Gary Brierley

Ok, so you get the point. We were more than ready to go by the time that last week arrived. Of course, as fast as the last months had passed, that last week made up for it… talk about DRAGGGGGGG…. by far the worst week I’ve had in a few years. It took every ounce of positive energy I had to get through that last day… we ended up leaving an hour and a half late because I’m not the kind to just leave stuff unresolved for my assistants to deal with. Dalton had to get everything on lock for his replacement, too. Anyway, everything had been packed for 2 weeks, and we had loaded up the car the night before, so all we had to do was leave after work. My wonderful sister agreed to watch the dogs, and we stopped off for a minute to say bye to her and the dogs before leaving. The ride to New Orleans was pretty uneventful, with the exception of jamming to our cruise playlist and talking about how we couldn’t believe we were finally on our way.

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New Orleans was a lot of fun. We got to our hotel, the Holiday Inn on the West Bank, at around 10 p.m.  We actually picked this hotel because it was the highest around with a view of where the ship would be, and I requested a room with a view of the city so we could see the ship when we woke up on Sunday morning… romantic, right?  🙂  Well, when we checked in, the lady said she couldn’t accommodate that request, but we were excited nonetheless with how nice the place was (especially for the rate I got us):

Anyway, we got into the room, took pics, primped a bit and headed straight to the hotel bar, which closed at 11 p.m. We hadn’t planned on going to Bourbon Street on Friday night, so we knew we only had an hour to tie a small one on at the hotel. Luckily, the bartender was friendly and had a heavy hand. We had a lot of fun chatting with her and drinking vodka & red bull.  There were a lot of good laughs, but by far the funniest part here was when she told us that if we signed up for Holiday Inn’s rewards program, we could get 20% off our bill at the bar/restaurant. She told us we didn’t have to do it right now, and she would give us the 20% off if we promised we would sign up for it. I, in my half-buzzed state, proceeded to promise her that we would, but I did so by saying “Scout’s honor” and doing the hand gesture incorrectly. My three fingers were pointed down, limp wrist and all… (in my defense, I was only in Boy Scouts for all of 1 day in my youth). So, Dalton and I just about die laughing about this, and then one of us suggested that perhaps that was Gay Scout’s honor, which of course we had to immediately revise to make it more dirty (sorry, mom):

Gay Scouts Honor

Alright, so we shut down the bar with the bartender and go back up to our room talking about going to some place she recommended, but whose name I can’t remember now for obvious reasons.  We decide we’re just going to hang out in the hotel room and share the dessert we took to go – it was as tasty as it was beautiful:

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So we decide to listen to music, and somehow the conversation turns to karaoke on the ship, so Dalton decides he wants to practice the song that he wants to sing, When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars.  We find a karaoke version on YouTube with lyrics, and this boy starts belting out this song at like midnight in our hotel room.  Do we care?  No.  There was a cheerleading thing in NOLA that weekend, with several groups staying on our floor, and I’m sure those teeny-boppers wished they had as much spirit as we did that night.   So my turn to figure out my song, but I’m too damned picky, so I put on Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart, because it’s a catchy song and a hilarious video.  The fun didn’t stop there, though – I decided not to “hide my crazy” and reenacted the video in the mirror, flicking ashes and flinging whipped cream from our dessert onto the mirror.  Dalton filmed most of it, but it’s tragic.  As much as I’d love to share it, it shows more of me than I care for most of you to see.  We watched it again the other night and laughed quite heartily at how crazy we can be when we really let loose.  He forgot to stop recording, so it even has our candid discussion about the things we could do to make it better.  Dalton tells me, “You weren’t very good.”  Brutal honesty from the guy who knows me best.  I suggested he give me pointers and then we post a video response to Miranda’s video on YouTube.  Besides Dalton calling me out, the best lines heard on our follow-up conversation are: “I feel like I should trash the hotel room” & “I could get fucking famous” (sorry again, mom).

Once this phase of the debauchery was complete, I continued trying to convince Dalton to go out.  And we did.  We hopped a cab to Bourbon Street at 1 a.m. and hit up every gay bar I could think of.  Had a drink or two in each one and then went back to the hotel.  Needless to say, we had a great time.

We got back into the hotel after 4 a.m. and were convinced we were going to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning to get up and have a delicious breakfast at one of our favorite places and do something fun in the city.  NOT!!  We literally didn’t leave the room all day.  We ordered room service for breakfast and lunch, and laid around watching TV and playing games on our phones and talked.  Drank lots of water.  All in all, it was a really fun and relaxing day.  That night, we ventured out to eat at Buca di Beppo, which was a really fun, family-type Italian restaurant.  We chose it due to it being all of 2 blocks from the hotel lol.

Oh, one thing that I forgot to mention is when we woke up Saturday morning, we were able to look out the window and see that we actually DID have a view of the port if you put your face right up to the glass and looked to the left.  I’m sure my face print was all over the window.  We were so excited.  There was actually a ship in port that one of my friends was leaving on that day, so we were sure to get up to the window at 4 o’clock and watch it leave.  It was a little unreal thinking that we would be on the next one leaving tomorrow.

So, time for bed, and we were sure we wouldn’t sleep from all the excitement.  But, somehow, sleep came, and we woke up to see that it was now our ship parked at the port.  SO EXCITING!!!

We left the room way early and got to the port at like 9 a.m., only to find out that our boarding passes said we didn’t need to be there until between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.  So we headed to Jackson Square and hung out for a bit, then went back to port around 11 a.m. since I read that the sooner you’re there, the sooner you get on, and I didn’t want to be the last people on.  The boarding process was simple, we gave our bags to the porters, and entered the terminal.  There were SO many people.

I think we only waited like an hour and a half before they started calling people, and then it was time to head onto the ship.  The line was fairly long, but it moved rather quickly.  We headed straight to the Lido deck and started snapping pics.  The ship was beautiful – it wasn’t as new-looking as I thought it would be, but it appears that the recent renovations they did were just additions and not a total remodeling. 

Special Mention:  We saw this painting everywhere.  I only really noticed it because it resembles a character off Downton Abbey, The Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith.  (Those who watch the show will appreciate it.)  I mean it when I say it was everywhere – it started to freak me out like she was following us lol: Countess We had a quick lunch at the Blue Iguana Cantina, which is a design-it-yourself burrito/taco restaurant, and we each bought a drink.  We were able to get into our room by around 2 p.m., I think.  Our luggage wasn’t far behind.  We freshened up and headed back out to the Lido deck, where we purchased the “Cheers!” program and continued the cocktails.  Needless to say, we were feeling good in no time.  The ship took off at 4 p.m. and we went to our room to watch the initial part of the trip from our balcony.  As we got further down the Mississippi, we went back up to the Lido to get some pics of New Orleans as we left:

We had so much fun that first day/night.  The people on the Lido deck that first day were crazy happy (videos below, even a juggler), and we were really happy as well.  We didn’t get too crazy, but we were definitely feeling good 🙂   dsc00882_0001

Lido Juggling & Lido Dancing & Wheelchair Lapdance

(The guy dancing in the video was Mike, who I met a little later in the cruise.  Dude was always ALL OVER THE PLACE.  I swear he almost busted his teeth out every day dancing like a retard.)

We ate in the dining room that night, but it wasn’t what I expected.  The service was just so-so, and the portions and food quality weren’t impressive enough for the time we waited.   We ended up not going back to the dining room and opted for the casual buffet off the Lido deck for the remainder of our meals.  The food was better, I found, and it was a buffet, so… 

P.S.  Mojitos are nasty. dsc00893_0002

We had two days at sea to start, during which we saw two of the shows, “Divas” & “The Brits”, both of which were very good.  (There was another show, “Latin Nights”, that featured music by Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, etc., but we missed that one.)  I don’t have any pics of that because they prohibit cameras for copyright reasons.   Pretty sure we checked out every bar on the boat, except the piano bar, since it seemed no one was ever in there.  Our favorite bar was Vincent’s, which had one of the guys that plays guitar and sings around the ship performing there until 11 p.m. each night.  The added plus is that smoking was permitted within this bar.  I think we went there every night.  The bartender and waitress were really nice and got to know our drinks in no time.  

We went to most of the Hasbro the Game show competitions.  During these, they play life-size versions of famous games (Connect4, Operation, etc.)  We went to the first show with one of our co-workers that we found out was on the same ship, and her son was actually picked to be a contestant on one of the first games.  It was very fun to watch.  They went early, and we had front row seats reserved for us.  We had a great time with them – more of that to come.   Oh, and all the shows were hosted by the cruise director I talked about earlier – turns out he is super energetic and very fun!  He’s from England, and we definitely enjoyed his accent.  During one of the shows, there was a Q&A “warm-up”, and before anyone answered a question, they had to give their best “ello, govna”.

On sea days, we also checked out the casino (kinda lame) and hung out on the Lido and drank mostly.  We never went to the spa or played putt-putt like we originally planned.  We didn’t do any shopping either, except for a few souvenirs and a couple of the photos that were taken of us.

We didn’t hang out in our room as much as I thought we would, so it turns out that the balcony didn’t get a whole lot of use.  We really only wanted it to be able to smoke without having to venture too far first thing in the morning or at night, but as it turned out, our room on the Lido deck was maybe a 3 minute walk to the nearest smoking section.  In the future, we probably won’t get a balcony just because it’s so much more and we didn’t make use of it like we should have.

The smoking section was always packed.  In fact, one of the things I didn’t like about it was that there were a lot of people in groups that just hung out there all day.  Rednecks, really.  No offense to any rednecks, but these fools would pull a bunch of lounge chairs in a row or in a circle and block walkways, so that you literally had to navigate your way through a maze of their belongings to get to where you could smoke in your own space.  And some of them would give you shady looks when you went through their area.  They got a little rowdy at times too, for no apparent reason.  I mean, I get it, they’re on vacation, but at least be respectful.  That was really one of the only things I didn’t like.

We did meet some cool people there, though.  Notably, we met an older African-American couple who were smoking up there a couple times.  Actually, we only met the husband twice, I don’t even remember his name, but her name was Lawanda.  We bonded over the fact that they called the drink they were drinking a “blue muddafucka” (triple sorry, mom).  They didn’t know what it was called on the menu, so they just started telling the waiter they wanted another “blue muddafucka”.  I thought it was hilarious, and we started talking.  As it turns out, the husband can really only handle one of these concoctions before he has to take a nap.  So she was out there by herself most of the time, and anytime we saw her, we would hang out with her.  We’d ask where he was, and she would tell us that we already knew… he had one of those drinks and had to go take a nap.  When asked what their plan was for the night, she would say that she had to go get him up for dinner, and then they’d probably go have another drink and he would go to bed after his one drink and she would stay around and drink some more.  She was very funny.

We also met a younger couple from Oklahoma, Jesseca & Shaun.  We met them out on the Lido one night when some movie was playing.  We talked about the “Cheers!” program and found out that they had already reached their 15-drink limit that night (and most nights), so then later every time we saw them, we would yell out our drink numbers in passing.  We never hit our limit (they told Dalton he hit his 15 on the last sea day, but we were matching each other drink for drink, and I didn’t hit mine, so apparently “someone don’t math good”.)  We hadn’t been to a comedy show the entire trip (the line was always super long), and on the last night, we were hanging out in Vincent’s (the bar you can smoke in), and Shaun came in and invited us to come to the comedy show with them.  They had gotten there early to get front-row seats, and they had 2 places open.  So we joined them.  Talk about hilarious!  The comedian we watched was Darren “DS” Sanders.  We even bought his CD after.  When the show ends, everyone has to leave so the next line can come in.  Jesseca, who isn’t a smoker, went and stood in line for us while we smoked with Shaun, and we ended up getting prime seating again for the next show (some white guy who wasn’t funny, so I don’t even remember his name).  We were going to go to the next show too, “The Dirty Dirty Show” by Darren Sanders, but we were too tired and drunk at that point, so we just went to bed.  I kinda regret that… I kinda regret not being more lively the whole cruise, but I definitely got the rest & relaxation part down 🙂  

I was impressed that there was a GLBT meet & greet the first night, and then GLBT gatherings at the Alchemy Bar each night.  The Alchemy Bar was actually one of the places that we really looked forward to going to, as it was a new addition on the ship.  The drinks there are described as “prescriptions” for whatever ails you.  You tell the bartender what you need, and they come up with something for you.  I didn’t like what we got at all.  We went to the meet and greet the first night, and there were no other “Friends of Dorothy” there, so we didn’t go back.  On later dates, when we would pass the Alchemy Bar on our way back to the room from Vincent’s, we saw 1/2 a dozen or so gay peeps there, but they all looked a little too, er, douchy snobby for my tastes, so we didn’t mingle.  

Gay nights!

Friends of Dorothy lol

And now for the good stuff – the ports!

Isla Roatan, Honduras

Roatan was gorgeous.   We got there on Wednesday after 2 1/2 days at sea, so we were more than ready to go exploring.  We met up with our friend Joy (the co-worker we found out was on the same cruise) and her son, Tristan, who we came to know as “Lil Durb”.  He is a really cool kid, who gave us a lot of laughs.  We were really grateful that we found out that they were going on the same cruise, because we ended up changing our plans in Honduras (which was just to lounge around at the resort the cruise line has near the boat) and going on a private tour with them through Bodden Tours.  Best decision ever.  It was totally cheap, base price of $25 per person for the whole day, and you could add on additional things you wanted to do.  We opted to visit the iguana farm and the owner’s house, where they have a monkey & bird sanctuary, then lunch and a beach break.  We made our way through the Carnival port, Mahogany Bay.  Of course, they make you walk through their shops on the way in and the way out, and we took a short cab ride over the hill to where we met with the people from Bodden Tours.  

Our tour guide was Howard.  He had a nice air-conditioned van, and the 4 of us were the only people in it.  We got to go where we wanted for as long as we wanted, and this was perfect in my opinion.  We didn’t want to be on some hot, cramped bus with a guide trying to keep a schedule and showing us the usual stuff.  Howard was born on the island and was very knowledgeable.  I felt like a kid in a candy store being out of the USA for the first time.  I asked him about everything I could think of – the economy, crime, gas prices, his family and what he does when the cruise ships aren’t in (odds & ends, fixing houses, etc.), what their currency was called and what it looked like,  – he even took some money out of his wallet and let us pass it around. I pretty much did all the talking for our group (those who know me know this is not uncommon), and he remained friendly and entertaining the whole time.  He was super professional, as well.  Never once did he rush us to the next stop, and he opened our doors and closed them every time we got in and out.  He even answered his phone on two occasions and told the person he could not talk because he was driving us around.  I was super impressed with his level of professionalism. 

The iguana farm was great – they were EVERYWHERE!  They even had a live turkey walking around, and some beautiful Macaws there, too.  We were given some sort of plant to feed the iguanas, and boy did they love it!  Some of them were skiddish, but others came right up and ate it up.  After the iguanas, they brought us to the back of the place along the water and showed us some tarpon fish they had in a pond – not that exciting, but for $8 for the total experience, I wasn’t complaining.  We bought a few soft drinks in glass bottles, and I was pretty amazed that the writing was in Spanish.  Remember, I’ve never left the US.  

After the Iguana farm, we backtracked past the ship again and got to see the ship from views there were so beautiful I’m kinda kicking myself now for not asking Howard to stop and take pics.  He brought us past the airport, which was very small with just one runway, and then up this very narrow, one-lane road up a hill where the air traffic control tower was.  At the top of this hill, there was a spot for tourists to pull off where various natives were selling all sorts of items.  We didn’t buy too much, just a few trinkets, and we actually bought some of their currency just because it seemed so neat.  Howard even offered to take our pictures while we were up there.  He then walked us across the street to show us a bunch of the trees that we were feeding pieces of to the iguanas.  He explained that it has sexual arousal properties.  He compared it to Viagra.  He warned us against eating too much though, as “it might never go down”.  We didn’t eat any of course, but it was pretty interesting to learn about since we probably wouldn’t learn that on a mass tour.

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Next, we went to Monkey Business at the owner Victor Bodden’s house.  We got to go into the habitats of some white-faced Capuchin monkeys and what they refered to as “night monkeys” (kinda looked like lemurs).  There were also exotic birds, some anteater looking thing, and some sort of rabbit/weasel crossbreed.  I can’t remember their names currently.  Towards the end of the tour, they showed us a cashew fruit, and I insisted that we get to try one.  Big mistake.  At first, the juice was sweet and then the flesh of it hit my pallet, and I immediately spewed.  It was super dry in your mouth, and the taste was beyond description.   Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, but he did have to keep us moving so the next group could get through.  I don’t remember his name; I think it was Jose, but the back of his shirt had a nickname on it (Scout, maybe?).  Either way, he was great.  

After the monkey experience, we shopped for souvenirs and hung out on the porch of the place while Lil Durb went zip lining, which they offer there as well.  They had an older man on a bike with a refrigeration unit on the front of it that was selling Popsicles and stuff.  We didn’t buy any, but it was kinda relaxing listening to him ringing the little bell on his bike and just enjoying not being at work lol.  He was riding off as we left.  This part of the trip was probably the most fun for us – we had a great time playing with the monkeys, and Joy even got to buy a CD with the pictures of Tristan’s zip lining – I thought that was a neat service they offered.

Next, we went to a local restaurant that was not one of the typical tourist spots (per our request).  We had a buffet lunch there, rice/beans, fish, steamed vegetables, plantains, chicken and some other stuff – it was pretty good.  The best part about eating at this place was that we got to enjoy our lunch on this covered pier out over the water, and we were the only ones there.  The owner even came out and talked to us for a bit.  

After lunch, we went for our “beach break” at the Bananarama resort.  It was nice, but we were a little pressed for time, and Dalton really wanted to snorkel.  We only had about 1.5 hours left in our trip since we kinda took our time for the beginning.  In retrospect, we probably should’ve sped it up some because the resort was really nice.  Joy & Tristan hung out at the resort while Dalton & I went to snorkel.  We had to walk about 1/4 of a mile down the beach for the best snorkeling spot, and Harold came with us the whole way (mind you, he was in jeans and a polo shirt in all this heat), and he waited for us to walk with us back.  He even offered to hold our cigarettes for us and then offered to light us one when we got out since we were wet.  This dude was impressive in every way.

The snorkeling was nice; we didn’t see all that much, just some small fish and a HUGE lobster.  This was my first time, so I really had a tough time with it when I would get water in my goggles and then try to get my feet under me with those flippers on.  I kinda lost it a bit one time, and was flailing my hands in the water trying to stand up so as not to drown, and I hit my right hand on some coral and got a nasty cut.  After the fact, Dalton asked me if I was worried about sharks when it happened, and I kinda freaked out because I hadn’t even thought about that – I was more worried about some crazy sea infection lol.  I sucked it up and was actually hopeful for a cool-looking snorkeling scar lol.  We did find a really cool conch shell that had something living in it.  I wanted to bring it back home with us, but I’m pretty sure that’s a no-no.   Unfortunately, our search for hermit crabs (a favorite from my youth) was unfruitful.  Oh well, maybe next time!

Once we got some snorkeling done, we headed back to the resort, met up with Joy & Lil Durb and we were headed back to the ship.  We said our goodbyes to Howard and tipped him generously.  I know that if we ever make it back, I will specifically request him.

Getting back on to the ship was painless.  There was a deck party that night, and based on the lack of memories I have, I’m sure we had a great time 🙂

Belize City, Belize

As beautiful as Honduras was, Belize City was equally terrible.  Against the advice of several people, including one of my old bosses that is from there, we decided to not book an excursion or go to one of the beautiful islands, and we ventured outside of the cruise port to get a real look at the country.  As much as I want this blog to be positive & upbeat, I don’t want to be ingenuous either.  So we’ll start with the bad and end with the good.

We took a tender boat from the ship to the shore, which was pretty fun.  We had originally planned on just drinking in the port, but decided to try to rent a vehicle and go explore by ourselves.  The cruise lines discourage people from going outside of the port.  They say it’s due to safety, and maybe some of it is, but I’m sure they also just want a bigger piece of the pie for themselves.

While walking through the port, we were approached by several people, who were very aggressive, trying to get us to go on their tours.  After turning them all down, we were able to make our way out of the port and saw the exit to enter the city.  There was a sign that I think was a warning about leaving the port, but I didn’t get a chance to read it because we were immediately shouted at by at least 12 cab drivers at the gate.  They are not allowed to enter the port, so they congregate there to get fares.

Unshaken, we walked towards them and picked the person that appeared to be the nicest, a gentleman named Richard Lord.  I pointed to him and said, “you’re our guy”, and most everyone backed off at that point.  One driver, however, continued to follow us and aggressively attempted to persuade us to go with him instead.  It was a little intimidating.  He followed us all the way to Richard’s car, and even mentioned my weight and the size of Richard’s car (a Corolla) as a means to sell us on jumping ship.  He reportedly had a van with air conditioning.  We stood our ground and took off with Richard in his tiny little hot car with no A/C while this guy continued to shout at us.  I was really hopeful that my judge of character (based solely on a 30-second observation) was on point when we got in Richard’s car and drove off.

Our intention was for Richard to bring us to a rental car company, and he told us that he would, but that we shouldn’t expect to get a good deal and we were probably better off letting him show us around.  I told him we wanted to at least try, because I wanted to drive, and he even offered to let me drive his car lol.  He brought us to the rental car place and went inside with us.  The guy there was a complete dickbag (not sorry, mom).  We told him that we only had about 3-4 hours left at the port since we started out late, and we wanted to rent a vehicle for that timeframe.  He told us they don’t rent by the hour, they rent for 2-days minimum.  I ask him how much that would be………. $450!!!!   And he would not negotiate.  I didn’t understand, but I wasn’t about to fight with some guy who looked like one of the drug lords off Breaking Bad.  We got back in the car, and I asked Richard why this guy wouldn’t work with us… didn’t he need the money?  Richard went on to explain that he’s the only person that rents out cars there, unless we wanted to drive several miles to the airport, so he pretty much just rapes whoever comes in looking… and desperate people will pay it.  Screw that, and screw this guy and all the other people/organizations that Richard told us about that keep so many of the Belizean people there in poverty when they could help instead.

So we told Richard we would just stick with him for a few hours and let him show us around.  He didn’t want to give us a price and said for us to just give him what we thought was fair after the trip. Richard was a great tour guide.  He really grew on me.  He told us about Belize in a very truthful way – it wasn’t all beautiful ruins and history.  He told us about their government and how they don’t take care of their people.  How 35% of them are unemployed, and there is so much crime there.  He told us that he does not have electricity at his home and how he had to rent this POS Corolla for the day just to be able to work and make money for food.  He told us that we were his first fare of the day, and that they didn’t expect another cruise ship until the next week.  He thanked us multiple times for standing our ground and choosing him.  He kept saying, “Everything worked out for Richard today.”  This phrase really touched me after hearing about his life and just the way of life in their country.

Richard shared with us how he had to pay for his daughters to go to school, and that they really need a bike and a computer, but he has no way to afford them.  He told us about how his father died because they couldn’t afford to pay for medical services upfront.  If you go to the hospital there for anything, and you can’t pay for it beforehand, you don’t get treatment and are sent home.  Makes no difference if it’s life-threatening or not, you’re sent home to die.  No welfare, no medicaid/medicare, no tax breaks, no unemployment.  (I didn’t do any research to find out how much of this is true, but from the sound (& sights) of it, I can’t imagine he was lying.)  He told us how the government doesn’t encourage industry to help its people find jobs, and how even if someone were to send him something in the mail, he would have to pay very high tax on it.

One of the really eye-opening things he talked about was when he told us how hard it is to hear American tourists talk among themselves in his cab and mention things that they don’t use or are going to throw out that he would find perfectly useful, for example a laptop with a cracked monitor or a missing key or a plug that shorts, or a bike with a flat tire.  (Side note:  Dalton & I each bought some insulated mugs from Wal-Mart for like $8, and took them with us when we went with Richard.  We were asked by at least 3 people if we would donate our mugs to them.  They were raving over our mugs.  It was the craziest thing.  I would’ve given it to the last guy when we were getting back into the port, but the security guard was rushing us inside their checkpoint.)

I still have Richard’s card somewhere, and although it may not be much, I want to send our computer to him when we are ready to upgrade… or an old bike or something for his kids… for those who know me well, you know I have a very tender heart for people in need (even though being a Good Samaritan has hurt me more times than not), so you know I was really moved by this very sad, very bleak reality.  Suffice to say that by the time it was over, I was pretty sickened at all the luxuries that we have in the USA that we so frequently take for granted. It was hot as hell in that little car, which I assumed had no A/C.  Never once did I think for more than a second to ask him to turn it on.  Not with all the stories he had told at this point.  It seemed petty.

He showed us their downtown areas, shops, restaurants, etc.  There really wasn’t much interesting to show.  He brought us to his house, which we thought was strange, and Dalton admitted later that he was expecting for a bunch of people to come out and rob us.  Truthfully, the thought crossed my mind more than once until we got comfortable with him.  We got to meet his wife, who was the reason he had stopped in the first place.  He wanted to drop off some food and about $4 and some change to her.  I don’t speak the language, so I don’t know what she was saying, but as he gave her the money, I could tell by her tone that she was not happy with him.  He didn’t tell us what she said.

When we left, he took us down the highway towards Guatemala and told us stories.  We ultimately ended up going behind a range of mountains nearby, which he explained was where his family grew up before he moved into the city.  We traveled to the end of this dirt road, where we met at family friend, who let us onto his property.  The man, whose name I don’t recall now, apparently has a small business (if you can call it that), where he entertains tourists on his property.  There was an outhouse looking building with 2 doors, labeled “Jack” and “Jill”, and he had a barbecue pit and a bench.

The coolest part about his place is that he lives right along the river, in a spot where the cave tubing (a popular excursion there) does not pass.  There was a rock staircase leading down a very large cliff on his property, and we got to go down it and see part of the river that most people never see.  It was beautiful and serene, and it really felt special.  I was a little shocked when the man who lived there started taking his clothes off in front of us.  (He was not too cute, to say the least.)  Luckily, he stopped at his boxers, and then he dove in the water and swam way out.  They invited us to swim, but  we hadn’t brought anything, and I wasn’t about to get nekkid in front of strangers.

The man told us that he had a group of spring breakers at his place a few weeks back, and they had a barbecue and swam and drank beers down by the river.  I was kinda pissed at the trash that they had left behind – ungrateful jerks.  He also told us about all the wild animals in the jungle, how he goes fishing in the river almost daily for his meals, and how he has a problem with the wild cats (jaguars, I think?) eating his goats.  He told us about how his mother used to have this place until she passed away and he moved back to take care of it so that their family wouldn’t lose it.  I could tell by the way Richard was familiar with it that this was probably a place that they played together in their youth.  All in all, it was a pretty cool experience.  We were only there for about 20 minutes, and the man told us we didn’t owe him anything, but we were happy to have experienced this, so I gave him a $20, and he was thrilled.  It felt good to help him out.

The ride back was uneventful, except for Richard pointing out the whorehouse lol.  We were going to see something else, a place he called Old Belize, but time was running short and I was pretty worn out from the heat at that point (first world problems), so we asked him to bring us back to the port.  When we got back, he continued to thank us for choosing him and making “everything work out for Richard that day”.  I ended up giving him $100 (more than we paid total for the 8-hour tour in Honduras), because it just felt like the right thing to do, and because he had mentioned earlier in the day that he had to pay $60USD just to rent the car for the day.  I am very thankful for Richard Lord, because I don’t think we would’ve gotten the real-life experience that we did that day with someone else.  Thank you, Richard!

Cozumel, Mexico

After going on the guided tour in Honduras, and taking the cab drive in Belize, we decided we wanted to get away and adventure on our own in Cozumel.  We made our way through the port, where of course the cruise lines make you pass through their maze of shops, and out to where the taxis are.  We’re leaving in a taxi to go to the city before going to the resort we booked, when I see a line of beautiful Jeeps all just waiting to be rented.  The cab driver was a little disappointed when we asked him how much the Jeep rentals were and then politely asked him to do a U-turn to bring us back lol.  We ended up paying the full fare that we would have ($8), just to be fair since he had to get at the back of the line again.  The Jeep rental was actually relatively cheap.  We picked out a yellow one, had them take the top off, and we were on our way.

Cozumel is crazy.  There’s a ton of people there, and most of the locals appear to ride mopeds.  I swear we almost mowed down at least 3 people.  They apparently have no fear of dying lol.  It was relaxing to just ride around and look at what we wanted to.  The radio didn’t work, and with the top down, we couldn’t hear music on our phones, but it was still enjoyable.

After about an hour, we made our way to the resort we chose, Mr. Sanchos.  We had chosen the all-inclusive package, which offered all-you-could-eat from an authentic Mexican buffet and all-you-could-drink at the bar.  For $40 a person, this was a bangin’ deal.  We were able to get one of the cabanas to relax in, ate some really good food, and I hung out at the bar on one of the swings (yes, swings at the bar!) with some of the people from the Facebook group that I mentioned earlier, who were at the swim-up side of the bar.  While I was drinking, Dalton snorkeled some more.  I wasn’t feeling snorkeling after my debacle in Honduras.  Dalto wasn’t real impressed with the snorkeling, as there wasn’t any real reef where this resort is.  Oh well, we had fun anyway.  I only had about 3 drinks, though, because I wanted to be able to drive around some more.  (One of the things I love about Dalton is he really doesn’t care to drive that much, which is perfect since I’m a terrible passenger.)   Before we left, we bought quite a few souvenirs, most of which were these cool little painted skulls (pics of all souvenirs at the end).  I loved them.

We explored a bit more, even saw a Domino’s Pizza store, so I had to take a pic 🙂  We later stopped at a 7-11 and bought some drinks.  They took USD, but only gave the change in pesos, which I thought was pretty cool since I had never seen any.  We kept some to bring home just because we thought it was so cool lol.  We had to gas up the Jeep before we brought it back, and we had no idea about the conversion rate, so I’m pretty sure the guy at the gas station screwed us, but oh well.  We were having a blast at that point.  After that, we returned the Jeep and headed back to the boat.  We really enjoyed Cozumel, but I think next time we’ll rest up more the night before, and I won’t rent a vehicle so that I can take advantage of the all-you-can-drink package more effectively 🙂

Alright, so it’s back on the boat and time for the last big Lido deck party, a Mexican fiesta.  Luckily we took some pics because this party was a bit of a blur.  They gave folks glowsticks and whistles, and boy did we make use of them (see pics below).  They had inflatable palm trees around the bars at the Lido deck, and I decided to uproot one of them and plant it in front of a group of kids that were dancing near the pool just for them to have fun.  Some nelly little queen The assistant cruise director immediately came over and grabbed it and brought it back and asked me not to move it again since they were planning some sort of event on the deck shortly.   Fine.  But that didn’t stop me from taking it with me when we did a conga line all around the deck.  Yes, I danced around a cruise ship with an inflatable palm tree while thousands of people looked on.  Regrets?  Hell no.   You can actually see the assistant cruise director behind me on the right in the pic with me dancing with it, which I think it priceless (although I look a bit nelly myself in that pic lol).  We had a lot of fun that night, and we even got to see Dalton’s dance moves, which those of us who know him well enough have come to call “Happy Feet”.  I think we even tried the cupid shuffle or the wobble or something, too, but it didn’t work out so well.  Epic night.

The very last day at sea, we were on a mission to meet our drink limit since we knew we hadn’t before.  I think I got up to 12, and like I said earlier, the computer said Dalton hit 15, but we know he didn’t.  Nothing else real eventful happened (that I remember), but we did end up attending those comedy shows I mentioned earlier on the last night at sea.  Knowing now how funny they were, we will probably try to catch every one when we cruise again.  Yes, we will be going again, just don’t know when/where/etc. yet.

Ok, this blog wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to our room stewart, Alit.  He was very nice and accommodating.  He learned our names after one meeting, and would yell at us from down the hall even to make sure we got a “good morning” as soon as we’d leave the room for the day.  He filled our ice and made our bed multiple times during the day (when we napped), and we never saw him in it – he was a ninja, I tell you.  And yes, we got the towel animals.  We took pics of a few of them, but not all.  We even tried to make one of our own and left it for him.  I don’t think he liked it since he took it down lol.  We brought some sticky notes to be able to communicate with him things we needed, or what not to take, and he was spot on with all of our requests.  He left an itinerary for the next day and chocolates on the bed every night.  We tipped him generously on top of the automatic gratuities because he really did make us feel very welcome.

Debarkation was a breeze too.  It was bittersweet leaving the ship, but we were ready to get home.  Overall, we had a nice vacation.  We know better now than to save all of our money and not do any fun stuff (drinking, socializing, etc.), because it made us “paw-paws” on the ship.  We really couldn’t hang lol.

We’re very excited to go again – I probably won’t take the same cruise again, unless it was one that went to Honduras and 2 other places.  We would definitely go back to Honduras.  Cozumel wasn’t bad, but there was something like 4 ships in that day, so there were people everywhere.  I would recommend an excursion in Belize for anyone that is not into the gritty experience that we had.

If you made it all this way, or even if you just scrolled the pics and are reading this, I want to thank you for taking the time to enjoy in our memories.  And maybe you can join us on the next one – we both agreed that going with a big group would probably be a lot of fun.  Special shout-out & thank you to Joy & Tristan for not only inviting us to go with them in Honduras, but taking pics for us when we left our cameras.  The time we had with you two in Honduras was the highlight of our trip, and it wouldn’t have been the same without you guys.

<3, Matty & Dalton

Below are some of the extra pics, including the souvenirs we bought and some folks we met on the cruise (of course we didn’t get pics of Lawanda or Jesseca/Shaun (dumb!) – enjoy!

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