Tag Archives: Cozumel vacation

Western Caribbean Princess Cruise 2016

12821521_553936600882_5279536164634086136_nThe Caribbean Princess ship leaves from Houston and we were lucky enough to take their Western Caribbean itinerary to Cozumel, Honduras and Belize for seven days. My friend and I had a nice direct flight on United from Cleveland to Houston the day before in case there were bad weather conditions. Being in Cleveland and planning on flying at the end of February, you have to be prepared for a cancellation or delay. They are now serving a snack on board which was from Solon’s very own King Nut factory although it was spicy pretzels so no nut allergies to worry about. The flight went perfectly and soon we were in the warm Texas weather. Being a day early allowed us to check out some local hot spots like World of Beer and Rudy’s BBQ.

12802843_553795169312_5318044778024896784_nThe Princess cruise terminal is about an hour outside the city, a different port than Galveston. This was smaller, so small that there could only be one ship in port at a time. This being the case, embarkation was very smooth. We had filled out our pre-cruise information online so really just had to show our passports, fill out one form and we were on our way.

12806205_553936211662_6787991350831150301_nThere were many fun things to do as soon as you boarded the ship. They handed you a card where you could check out different areas of the ship and get stamps at the locations like the casino and internet café. Once the stamp card was completed, you turn it in to be entered into a raffle for $1,000. I unfortunately did not win.

12821336_553936081922_6016918781776204706_nWe did not upgrade so were in an inside cabin. Although I was nervous about the closed-in conditions, the room ended up being more spacious than I was expecting. There was also a mini fridge next to the desk which was nice to keep drinks cold. Our room steward made sure to keep our ice filled throughout the trip. He must have cleaned our room at least 3 times a day, leaving little chocolates on the bed every night. The only thing that I was not expecting was to be completely confused on what time it was. There was no daylight coming in to wake you up. Another passenger gave us a little trick though. There was a station on the TV that showed a live feed of the ship and if you turned that on at night, it will brighten with the sunrise so acts as a “window”.

12802736_553935907272_8302676410619553966_nOur first complete day was onboard for a sea day. There were so many activities to do like a shopping presentation and trivia that you had to consciously plan your time to just sit back and relax. There was an adult only pool at the back of the ship that was quiet. We found a few lounge chairs up a couple decks from there. The two pools in the center of the ship were pretty crowded though. One had a video screen which played movies throughout the day and evening. During the late evenings, they played a movie and served popcorn with a blanket to keep the chill away which was nice. The other pool played music or had a live band on the stage above the pool. We did not go swimming though because the pools were VERY cold. There was also a wine tasting that evening where we sampled 6 wines from around the world, paired with canapés of lobster, caviar and prosciutto. It was our first formal night as well so the evening was extravagant in many ways.

12742148_553936366352_1794963794788627825_nOur first port was in Cozumel. I was most excited about this one because I have been there a few times so knew my way around. We decided not to do a shore excursion and use this as our shopping day. There were a lot of stores around our port but we took a taxi to the downtown area where there were even more shops. I was on a hunt for my favorite tequila and finally came across the store after showing multiple people the distinctive shaped bottle and getting directions.

12814152_553936715652_207735840608656508_nNow, there are plenty of tequila tasting tours offered on the island but you do not need to pay for any specialty tours. All you have to do is walk around and literally every little shop you pass will offer you shots of “the best tequila” to get you into their stores. After much of my shopping was complete, we went over to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for lunch. They have a beautiful deck out back where you can go swimming while you have lunch.

12802978_553834091312_5456951091519268233_nIt was a long morning so we headed back to the ship after we were finished and got ready for the evening. Princess sent canapés to the room before dinner and we were seated at our table as soon as we made our appearance. We opted for the anytime dining instead of picking an early or late seating. This worked out well because we did not have to worry about being down at a specific time. Although we did not sit with the same group of people the whole trip, we met different faces throughout the week which was fun too.

12033112_553940528012_5194442188821228084_nThe next day we arrived bright and early in our own port on Roatan, Honduras. There were a couple other ships in another port but Princess had their own including shops and a huge private beach that had enough lounge chairs to accommodate the entire ship. We did a bit of shopping before we met our tour guide to head over to another private island to snorkel in the Mayan ruins. Princess has partnered with the Discovery Channel which gives accreditation to some of their excursions and this was one of them. The bus ride was about 20 minutes and then we boarded a smaller boat for a few minutes. We landed at a small dock with a beautiful beach complete with dive shack and restaurant. After signing waivers, we were fitted for our gear and then taken on another little boat out into the coral reef. The water was especially calm that day so we went to the drop-off of the reef and then snorkeled our way to the ruins. Although they were reproductions, it was cool to see a different experience. There was even a circular Mayan calendar with a huge hole in the center. If you were brave enough, you could dive down and swim through the center. After about an hour, we were taken back to the beach where we were served local beers and fish tacos. There was time to play in the blue water before we had to leave and return back to the ship.

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The next day was off to Belize. The area is full of islands so we had to tender in on little boats to the main port. I have to admit that the shopping here was my favorite of all the ports. I did not realize that there would be so many stores or I would have brought more money! Our group was escorted to a large bus to go to Bacab Eco Park. There were two tours, one for horseback riding though the rainforest and one to kayak the smaller parts of the river. We were on the horseback one which was good because there was a crocodile sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the practice pond for the kayakers and I would not have gone.

1656204_553939400272_1183868446945579047_nThe riding was fun! The horses were older so did not go very fast which was nice but also meant that they were like cranky old men, not wanting the others to pass them but would stop in the middle of the trail to eat some plants. Our guide would smack them on the butt and yell “No McDonald’s break!” We were lucky enough to see a black howler monkey which was rare at the time we went. The monkeys usually came out in the morning to eat but then would hide and take a nap during the late morning. After our ride, we had a traditional lunch of rice, beans and chicken with an amazing local sauce.

12804728_553938322432_7054195356453559624_nThen it was time to walk the medicinal trail which was a self-guided tour through the forest. There were signs by different plants describing what they would cure; everything from fever to syphilis to diabetes. It is so amazing what these different plants can cure! There was still a bit of time so we went swimming in the pool that had a waterfall over the rocks and a waterslide down the edge. As I was about to go down the slide, I started chatting with the security guard and he was telling me that he was a medicine man too. He was working on curing his daughter of asthma. He already cured his brother and was going to the doctor next week to see if it was working on her. He even gave me some tips on plants they use to cure diabetes (made with hyacinth stem and root) and help stop cancer cells from forming (lemongrass). I think I need to go down there for a month or so to learn more…

12794339_553938392292_5167833802847140435_nThe next two days were sea days coming home. We relaxed by the pool and caught some shows. There was a great cooking demonstration given by the head chef and maître d‘. There was a tour of the galley after which was very interesting. Did you know that on a typical week of a Princess cruise, they use about 70,000 eggs?

12795549_553941022022_6875108499968093488_nAll in all, the trip was great and I would definitely recommend Princess to others. Their main demographics are retired and the LGBT communities but there were still a good handful of families and millennials as well. There were also many back-to-back cruisers continuing on to the next Eastern Caribbean cruise on the same ship. There were almost 400 people on-board doing that. Princess has a very streamlined experience for this as well. If guests are not moving cabins, all they have to do is exit the ship, go through customs and get back on. There was one lady with a broken arm who needed to move one room over but her room steward cleaned her new room first and moved all of her stuff so she would not have to do that. The ship did need some upgrades here and there but the service was spectacular down to the white gloves at afternoon tea service. I will definitely be looking forward to my next cruise with Princess in the near future. If you have any questions about Princess Cruises or this experience, please don’t hesitate to ask!

vacation@traveline.com or 1-888-700-8747

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Exploring Cozumel and Riviera Maya

IMG_2681I try to get to Mexico every year. It is such a great value for your vacation and they always have new resorts being built. The first week we returned to Cozumel to stay at the Occidental Grand at the Southern end of the island. This was our fifth visit to this resort and it just keeps getting better. Barcelo Resorts just purchased the entire All Inclusive Occidental chain. They say everything will remain the same plus improvements to come. They were replacing all beds, mattresses, etc. when we were there.

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Some of the strongest selling points:

  • Great wide sandy beach, little seaweed on Cozumel compared to Eastern facing Riviera Maya.
  • Great snorkeling & reasonable priced diving in area
  • Beautiful grounds of well maintained gardens
  • Hardly can see the three story octagonal buildings
    housing 24 units above the foliage
  • Total of 243 rooms
  • Good food and service. One main buffet and two specialty restaurants that require reservations. No problem at least in low season.
  • Professionally entertainment brought in most nights- Folkloric Show, Fire Show, Mexican Rock band, etc.
  • Resort is for everyone but few children off season. I would assume a great resort for families during prime vacation times.
  • No wristbands needed.
  • Wi-Fi available at a cost of $60 per week

I hope to return again and hope the area never over-develops like so many other places.

DSCF1164Then we took the Ultramar ferry to Playa del Carmen ($10), now a town of over 100,000 residents. We picked up our rental car and were off to the brand new Secrets Akumal, Secrets fourth resort in Riviera Maya. Located one hour and ten minutes south of Cancun Airport on the infamous Akumal Bay which has been an undeveloped favorite beach and snorkel spot for over thirty years.

Having built five resorts in this area of Mexico before, Secrets really knows how to plan a beautiful and easy to navigate resort for Adults Only. 430 junior suites or suites with modern decor, double jacuzzi tubs in bath, double sinks, glass showers with seating, stocked refrigerators, 24 hour room service and free Wi-Fi throughout.

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All rooms are nice but Preferred Club gives you better location with better views, plunge pools on balconies, Preferred Club lounge with premium liquor, snacks and concierge service.

Some of the strongest points:

  • Adults only that would work equally well for couples as singles
  • Professional entertainment every night, Mexican Warrior Show Cirque de Soleil show, Rock bands, and comedians that involve guests in their shows
  • Six specialty restaurants plus buffet, beach grill and coffee cafe. No reservations needed except at Japanese Hibachi style table. Longest wait was 30 minutes for the Portofino Italian restaurant that passed quickly at the poolside lounge with professional musicians. Food was very good throughout.
  • No wristbands needed. Really a challenge for security with other resorts next door.
  • Three main HEATED pools and continuing heated river pools fronting all buildings for swim out rooms. It is rare that hot tubs are heated in Mexico let alone pools so this was a real treat.
  • Lots of activities in the infinity pool. Main and Arch pools are quiet.
  • Beautiful, well maintained beach, seaweed cleaned up daily, no rocks in water and some of the best snorkeling in area.
  • Great service throughout. All of the staff is fresh from training and end each conversation with “It is a pleasure”.

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Problems:

  • Sometimes slow service in the specialty restaurants, waiting thirty minutes for next course. Whether these delays were caused by kitchen or wait staff, I think they will be resolved. The resort and staff are new so it takes time to get up to speed. Secrets has the manpower to fix it.
  • Preferred Club Lounge check in. If your reservations are in the Preferred Club section you will be escorted to the lounge which adds to the waiting time. Then, since they only had two staff members handling every job at the lounge it took another thirty minutes to check in. It only took me five minutes once I got to the desk but this needs to be expedited. No one wants to wait an hour to check in.
  • Of course our room was not ready until after 4PM so we just went to have lunch at 3PM to pass the time.

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Famous Akumal Bay

We and everyone else have been coming to snorkel there for over thirty years. In fact, it is sold as an excursion as a “learn to snorkel” trip. As a result, you have all the locals, all the guests of hotels, apartments, homes next door and groups of twenty snorkelers every half hour coming to this beach. According to Mexican law, the first twenty feet from water’s edge is open to the public throughout all of Mexico. However, we had never had this problem anywhere else in Mexico for that matter.

This is a constant challenge for the Secret’s security guards to maintain order and protect their and the guests property. During our stay, they came up with a great solution. They placed poles and planted palm trees on their property at the twenty foot mark. However by week’s end the community made them remove all even the palm trees. I do not know how this will end but unfortunately having the best beach with snorkeling in area, everyone wants the use of it. We never felt in danger but glad security was there and felt badly that Secret’s has to deal with this issue. Time will tell and maybe be resolved in the future.

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Xenotes Excursion

I took an online course “Xcaret Expert” that agents trains on the most popular excursions in the Riviera Maya area – Xcaret, Xplor, Xelha and the new Xenotes. This newest consists of five separate cenotes that allow for various activities in each. They are located thirty minutes inland from Puerto Morelos, off a very rough dirt road. Transfers are included for $109 per person.

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You get to repel down into a water filled cave, snorkel in clear water cenote open to sun, kayak down a mile long river, zip line into the water from three different types of lines, water slide into
another river, swim down lazy river and jump 30 feet into cool waters below. All of this with lunch and snacks makes for a nine hour excursion. It was lots of fun, professionally run and well worth $109. We have done so many of these excursions and they really make this Riviera Maya so popular.

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Cozumel Cool

A Mexican heart…with a Caribbean soul
Color your dreams on the island of Cozumel, a vibrant land steeped in rich history with beauty that stretches far beyond its spectacular shores. Just twelve miles off the Yucatan coast, Cozumel draws divers and snorkelers from around the globe. Once described by Jacques Cousteau as the best diving area in the world, famous Palancar Reef lies three miles offshore and is renowned for its underwater clarity of up to 150 feet. On the eastern side, white beaches are left as they were when Mayans inhabited the island. Take a jeep tour, explore ruins in the jungles, or snorkel in the Chankanaab Lagoon, which features the only inland coral reef formation in the world.

Check out some of our favorite Cozumel resorts!

Secrets Aura

The only hotel of its kind on picturesque Cozumel, Secrets Aura Cozumel combines all of the amenities of Unlimited-Luxury with an unparalleled island vacation experience for adults only. Secrets Aura Cozumel offers 238 luxurious guestrooms and suites, each featuring a four-poster canopy king-size bed (or two double beds), private terrace or balcony, full marble bathroom with Jacuzzi, complimentary mini-bar, and much more.

Sunscape Sabor Cozumel Resort & Spa

Sunscape Sabor Cozumel is the perfect getaway for endless fun in a beautiful destination. Located on the small island of Cozumel, just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, this is the largest and most complete beachfront resort in Cozumel. Guests will enjoy a getaway complete with all of the privileges of an Unlimited-Fun vacation. With 2000 feet of white sand beach, this is an excellent choice for families, couples, and singles to enjoy countless daytime land and water activities, limitless food and beverages from four reservation-free restaurants (most with oceanfront views!), unlimited top-shelf spirits from three bars & lounges, and so much more! The 218 guest rooms and suites at Sunscape Sabor Cozumel offer spacious and finely appointed accommodations, most with oceanfront views.

IBEROSTAR Cozumel

The 24-hour all-inclusive IBEROSTAR Cozumel Hotel is nestled in a privileged enclave of natural beauty along the Mexican Riviera. Sitting beachfront, the hotel features 288 bungalow-style rooms, including four oceanfront junior suites, two Presidential suites, and three handicapped accessible rooms. Rooms include hammocks and small private patios that incorporate the local flora and fauna. The IBEROSTAR Cozumel Hotel is also a proud holder of Green Globe Ecologic Hotel Certification.

Melia Vacation Club Cozumel

Melia Cozumel All Inclusive Golf & Beach Resort offers a casual, comfortable, and inviting vacation experience certain to satisfy one-and-all. This beautiful beachfront resort is directly across the street from the island’s premier golf course, which was imagined by the Nicklaus Design Group. San Miguel, Cozumel’s main shopping area, is just three miles away.

Cozumel Palace

Cozumel Palace is a premiere choice for a family-friendly all-inclusive escape in Cozumel! Downtown San Miguel is approximately a 15-minute walk away and famous Palancar Reef is right at your fingertips!

Cozumel is famous for its snorkeling, and at Cozumel Palace, guests can dive into the waters right in front of the resort. Snorkeling equipment is included! Kids will enjoy a variety of activities at the kids’ club and also a children’s playground. Both adults and kids can partake in daily activities around the pool as well as the theme shows and parties every evening.

Contact Traveline for more information or call us at 1-888-700-8747.