Thursday, December 26, 2019

March 22, 2019 - Ft. Lauderdale FL - Partly Cloudy - 80s

Reflection arrived early in Ft. Lauderdale and I was up in the Oceanview Café when it opened.  It was crowded but we both found seats and had a reasonably unhurried breakfast.  

We are trying to stay on the ship as long as we can because our flight doesn't leave until 3:06PM.

We wound up walking off at close to 9:00 AM and cleared immigration quickly.  We hired a van to take us to the airport - $20 for the two of us (FLL is very close).  

We checked in and checked our bags at the kiosk and headed through security (very quick) and to our gate.  We still have several hours until our plane even shows up at the gate so we found a comfortable seat and waited.

We had lunch (thanks to some food gathered from the ship) along with chips and the obligatory diet coke.  The food was tasty.

AA156 - a B737-800 arrived at the gate about 40 minutes before flight time.

The plane was turned around quickly and we boarded on time.  We are in 8C/8C Cabin Extra Seats for this flight.

The flight home was smooth and our bags showed up in a reasonable amount of time.

A short cab ride home and our cruise was over.

It was an odd cruise - staying on the ship at so many ports - but the stops in Mexico were really nice.

March 21, 2019 - At Sea (Caribbean Sea) - 70s

Our last sea day of this cruise.

Today, I gave my fourth and final talk - "Forensic Detectives:  Identifying America's Fallen Heroes".  The crowds grew somewhat during the cruise but all in all, it was an OK series.

It was an usual day at sea - the weather is still warm.

We had our final dinner up in the Oceanview Cafe.  

I got a final picture of the beautiful seas and skies of the Caribbean.

Ellen has done a very nice job of packing and we are planning to walk off tomorrow.

March 20, 2019 - Cozumel, Mexico - Partly Cloudy - 80s

Cozumel will be our final port of call on this cruise.   There are two ports in Cozumel.  The city port is right next to San Miguel, the biggest and essentially the only city in Cozumel.  You can see San Miguel and the City Port in this photo from the deck of the Reflection.

The larger ships dock at the International Pier, which has grown considerably over the years.  That's where Reflection is today.  We are parked next to the behemoth Allure of the Seas.

After breakfast, we got off the ship and walked through the tunnel between Reflection and Allure of the Seas to the shopping center.  This is a shorter walk than that at Costa Maya.  

It is a little difficult to find your way out of the shopping center and onto to the main street but after some wrong turns, we did escape the maze.  The map below shows the International Pier and our walking destination today.

The main street - Avenida Rafael E Melgar - is also loaded both with people and with shops.  From there, I could get a nice picture of the two big cruise ships here today.

We found another Cozumel City Sign in front of what appeared to be a fake Mayan Ruin.

In the same shopping plaza, we were treated to a brief show involving Mayan Flyers.

We passed the Casino and the Hard Rock Café.  Our goal today is to find a nice inexpensive spa.  We did see several spas on the main street but they were pricey.  We kept walking until we literally ran out of town.  I asked a local about spas and he said there was one down the street where we were standing.  I looked down there and I did see a sign that said massage.  

We took a left down the street and passed several shops selling mostly trinkets.  Across the street was either a car dealer or a car repair shop.  The street ended with an empty lot overgrown with vegetation.  We negotiated a price of $40 an hour with the owner, a very nice lady (I think we started out at $60).  The spa was small - just big enough to hold three table separated by sheets - that seems to be the set up for Cozumel.  My therapist was dressed all in black and wore sunglasses the whole time - a new one for me.  But the bottom line was that the massages were really good and the place looked clean and we got the full hour.  I took down their name and phone number for future reference.  

The place also had a "fish spa', where fish nibble away the dead skin off your toes.  I would never do that (might kill the fish) but for a buck, Ellen got a five minute taste of how that works.

She seemed to like it.  From there, we walked back to the ship, through the shopping maze, and on to the ship.  We did make it time for a late lunch and after lunch, we tried the open deck for some reading and views.

We had a nice dinner once again in the Opus Dining Room - this time, we got a window seat, which gave me a chance to catch the sunset as we sailed away from Cozumel. Perfecto.

After dinner, we caught Dan Wilson's comedy show in the theater.  We have seen him before and he has always been a hoot.


A beautiful day in Cozumel.

March 19, 2019 - Costa Maya, Mexico - Mostly Cloudy - 80s

Costa Maya is historically not one of our favorite ports of call.  There are several reasons:  The port is mainly a commercial stop, with literally a hundred plus shops selling everything from trinkets to tequila.  The port is also a party port with its "Margaritaville" complex (pool and lounge chairs).  Costa Maya also has arguably the longest pier of any of the ports we have been to.  It's a long walk and, in the heat, even longer. Mobility challenged individuals most likely need a lot of help to get from ship to shore and there is no trolley or shuttle. Finally, there are usually several ships here and that just makes the shopping village a sea of people.  Today, we are the only ship here - that will help.

After having another nice breakfast and letting all of the tour folks off the ship, we disembarked and started our long walk on the pier.  The pier is a good spot to take pictures of both the ship and Costa Maya.

We are planning to go to the village of Mahahual, which is just a couple of miles or so South of the Port.  We had originally decided on a taxi because my research indicated that it was about $5-8 dollars to get there.  We made our way through the maze of stores (literally a maze) to the back part of the complex where the taxis are supposed to be.  As it turned out, the taxis cannot get into the shopping complex parking lot so the only way to get to Mahahual is by a tram pulled by a truck.  The fare in this case was $10 per person.  Having no choice and not wanting to spend the day wandering through the stores again, we hopped on the tram.

The bumpy ride, which took only about 10 minutes, took us through streets with empty lots and some buildings under construction.  There were plenty of bars and little eateries.

The tram let us off at the beginning of the town and about one block from the Malecon and beach. 

We walked a few blocks on the main street and even found an actual upscale spa (run by a woman who spoke perfect English - expat maybe) that was both pricey and booked for the day.

The Malecon is lined on one side by shops, bars, restaurants, and some hotels.  On the beach side, there are beach massage establishments, one after the other, that run the length of the Malecon.  There are girls trying to drum up business from the cruise folks walking through.  The price at each of the places must be set as it is $20/hr everywhere.  We were both a little hesitant to try the beach massage as there is no privacy and you are among scores of people getting massages in their swimsuits.  The various companies have distinct t-shirts - it's a very organized business set up.

We asked one of the women if it was possible to have a massage indoors away from everyone.  The beach massages seemed noisy and not that relaxing.  She thought about it for a while and her solution was to use of the rooms in the hotel across the street. They would haul two heavy massage tables into one of the empty bedrooms and the price would be the same.  Besides, the hotel had a washroom which was a bonus.  

That's what happened.  The room was cramped and the girls could barely fit into the room with us.  Bottom line. The massages were OK but we will probably not do something like this again - the logistics and ergonomics did not work out.  The price, however, was right.

We walked a little more down the Malecon and then grabbed some nice chairs under an umbrella on the beach.  The chairs are free and the views are great.  

The restaurants are constantly sending people over to try and get you to order something off the menu (and some of our cruise mates did just that).  We settled for a beer and a diet coke - together the tab was about $8.  The beer hit the spot and the fact that we had phone service was a bonus.  

Ellen had a chance to put her feet into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico 

and I got some great shots of the beach, the boats, and the area.  We are so close to the port that I was able to get a nice picture of Reflection docked.

We stayed at the beach for over an hour and then checked out a few more shops before hiring a cab to take us back to the port (I negotiated a $5 fare for this ride).  As we got into the cab, a squall passed through dropping a little rain on us.  The biggest problem with the rain is trying to take some final pictures of Mahahual.   I wanted to take a picture of the Faro, the lighthouse, but had to settle for a shot from the taxi.

The taxi took us up to the gate of the shopping complex and it was just a short walk to the back entrance.  As we meandered our way looking for the entrance, we came across a fake pond containing some flamingoes.  

The walk back to the ship was long and we were too late for lunch.  Pizza and ice tea did the trick.

We will come back to Mahahual the next time we are here - at least for the beer and the beach.

After dinner, we went to the Ensemble Lounge instead of the show.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

March 18, 2019 - At Sea (Gulf of Mexico) - Warm - 80s

Another beautiful sea day.

An unhurried scenic breakfast (I love watching the water) - the breakfast continue to be consistent - waffles, cottage cheese and sour cream, and jams.  Occasionally, there will be scrambled eggs or maybe some oatmeal.  Breakfast is the only meal that I can control the calorie intake.

I touched up my talk in the Aqua Spa Café - the coffee is always hot there.  Today, I am on at 2 PM so I have the whole morning to relax and enjoy the outside deck.

My third talk is "Forensic Detectives: The Search for Jack the Ripper" -

the crowd continued to increase to a pretty full Celebrity Central (It would have been nice to include the title of the presentation in the on-board phone app).  The comments are positive and the questions indicate that people are engaged.  
The rest of the day is spent in the usual way - warm ocean breeze, beautiful calm waters, and a good book.

The only photo of the day was of a beautiful sunset in the Gulf of Mexico.

March 17, 2019 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - Rain - 70s

I had high hopes for Puerto Limon but the weather has finally turned on us as the rain is coming down pretty hard.

We were planning to visit the huge market/vendor complex near the port but we decided to stay on board and not get wet.  It was raining so hard, I couldn't spot the market from the ship.

Tonight's show turned out to be the show we have been looking for.  "Broadway Cabaret" showcased the singers and featured songs from Broadway Musicals.  Emma, one the singers, turned out to be a fan favorite (applause when she came out),  She did "I Don't Wanna Show Off".

Two of the singers did the duet from "Spamalot", "A Song That Goes Like This", and did a great job.

The cast got together for "This is Us" (I never heard this song before) and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat".

This was, in my opinion, the best show of the cruise so far.  Wonderfully sung and the playlist was perfect.

March 16, 2019 - Colon, Panama - Mostly Sunny - 80s

We don't have any plans for Colon and we are not going to be walking around the town (we did that once and it was scary).  Today, we'll stay in the port area and check out the shops.  Colon is very much a commercial port - much like Cartagena.

After breakfast, we disembarked the ship and headed for the shopping mall area adjacent to the Radisson Hotel 2000.  There were many new shops and we actually found a very upscale looking spa that offered massages at prices higher than back home.  We wound up finding very little of interest with one exception - the new (at least to us) Colon City Sign.

We didn't stay long - it was hot also - and were back on the ship in time for lunch.  The rest of the day was spent reading and relaxing in the cool air of the Reflection.  

After dinner tonight, we did not go to the show but instead spent the evening listening to music in the Ensemble Lounge.

March 15, 2019 - Cartagena, Colombia - Warm - 80s

Today, we are in Cartagena, Colombia.

There was a bigger than usual crowd up at breakfast because of the port day.  Breakfast continue to be really nice - I've found the perfect table where the view is good and the screaming Muzak lady is not so overwhelming.

It's a beautiful day here today, but again we are going to stay on board.  With all the folks getting off for excursions, we will probably have the ship to ourselves for most of the day.  I couldn't get my usual nice shot of the Cartagena skyline because the HAL Volendam was in the way.

There was an interesting ship docked near the Reflection.  I couldn't tell what kind of ship it was - maybe a small cruise ship.

It was pretty hot today in Cartagena - another good reason to stay on the ship and bask in the A/C.  Got a lot of reading done.  It's like a day in your own hotel.

After a nice dinner, we watched the sail away out on the open deck.

Showtime tonight was the Production Show, "Elysium".  To be honest, I had little idea of what was going on in the show but the singing, dancing, and acrobatics were very entertaining.