Carnival Valor – March 30, 2011: Roatan, Honduras

 A few years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines opened a port in Roatan, Honduras. They built Mahogany Bay’s cruise terminal, which plays host to the various Carnival ships and those which are part of the Carnival Corporation. This was my first time to this island and I had no idea what to expect. Other reviews have been favorable, and since it’s a small island and people spoke English, I decided to book a private driver for the day.

We arrived in Roatan around noon, and it’s a somewhat slow process actually getting in to the port. The ships have to navigate through a relative narrow channel as there are reefs on either side, and winds have to be ‘just right’ or they can’t dock. Fortunately they DO dock, and not tender, which means getting off is easier than in Cayman or Belize. Since we had booked the driver we had to get off the ship and head out of the port and “over the hill” to meet the guy. It was about a 10 minute walk, up a relatively steep hill, and it wasn’t too hot yet. We did our tour with Victor Bodden Tours, and our driver was a guy named Dolie Bodden (no relation per Dolie as his ancestors came from Bodden Town Grand Cayman.) Dolie was a native of Roatan and he asked where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. On my list was the Iguana farm and Cameo Factory, and we also wanted to go ziplining. Beaches were not important to us but we told him that we wanted to see what Roatan had to offer.

We got into an older van, non-US model, with a questionable transmission. Roatan is very hilly, and there are no speed limit signs—but I don’t think we broke 35mph all day. First stop was the Iguana sanctuary. For $8 per person (US) we got to go to a small area on a hill off the coast, and see iguanas of all sizes and ages. They were pretty much all over the place! When visiting Caribbean islands iguanas are commonplace, and I remember the ones in St Thomas (US Virgin Islands) as being rather cool looking and just about everywhere. We were able to feed them some sort of leafy green, and after that we went down to the shore and saw Tarpon and Barracuda, as well as a few lobster. They also had a couple of monkeys and an animal which is the cousin to the anteater. Total time there was about half an hour, and it was pretty interesting. Not too many people can say they have visited an iguana sanctuary! I also bought a wood bowl made of Mahogany and other woods like cedar for a whopping $22—and it was worth every penny.

After the Iguana place, Dolie brought us to the Pirates In The Caribbean Zipline. There were two experiences; one where you climbed ladders and went from platform to platform at $45 per person, and the other where you just zipped from one land based point to another at $65 per person . Since I am in no physical condition any longer to climb ladders and go between platforms we decided to do the basic zipline. Silly me thought it would be about 30 minutes and we were done. Oh no… it was about 2.5 hours and 8 lines! I’ve got to say that ziplining is pretty cool, and I selected this one because there were two cables and not just one. Having trust issues is a problem when ziplining, because you have to (1) trust that your guide has hooked you up correctly and (2) trust that your harness is going to keep you on the wires. After the initial “oh my God what the hell was I thinking” moment, it was sort of fun. No mosquitoes either on the mountain, although it was pretty hot. Since I didn’t want to deal with any bags I left my camera in a locker, so no photos.

After the ziplining—Dolie had waited in the check in area—we made our way for the rest of the island tour. Besides Mahogany Bay, there’s a cruise port Coxen Hole which is where the rest of the ships go. Also in port that day was a Celebrity ship, and Le Boreal, which is a “boutique” ship out of Europe that I actually had to look up. We finished up at the Cameo factory and I bought a rather unique rose carved out of a conch shell, and DS got a necklace with shell and black coral. I really liked Roatan a whole lot. Didn’t really know what to expect as its not a mainstream cruise port in that all cruise lines do not visit there. Roatan is known for diving, and there is not a whole lot of commercialism on the island and real estate is actually rather reasonable too. We enjoyed our guide’s insight on being born and raised on the island, and how things have changed over the years. On our way back to the ship he also took us by his house, which is directly opposite the sea outside of downtown. Was cute to see his little girl, age 7, jumping up and down and waving at her dad. We tipped him rather generously, because our money really does make a difference for these people. Finally at around 5pm we got back to the cruise port—the driver could bring us directly back to the port entrance—and we got on the ship.

Didn’t do much that night except have dinner (which was another superb meal), as I had to get caught up on some paperwork and email. DH and DD went off to the magic show, and DS went running. Next up, Thursday, March 31, 2011: Belize City, Belize. Ship excursion to Altun Ha Mayan ruins and River Wallace boat ride.

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