April 1-2: Day 6 & 7 – Carnival Valor – Cozumel and Day at Sea

Cozumel is an island located off the Gulf coast of Mexico and it’s a popular cruise port as well as nice tourist destination.    Its been described as “a tranquil oasis, abundant with warm welcomes around every corner.”  I’ve got to say that I really enjoy Cozumel from a cruise ship, and every time I’m there I like to think I’ll come back for a week however I generally end up on another cruise ship instead.   This was my second trip on a cruise ship to Cozumel since July, and we had some excursions planned.

Since DH only gets one trip a year he asked about deep sea fishing.  Cozumel seemed to be the best place for it during our trip and the cruise ship had a decent excursion.  He and DS (age 16) were going to go fishing, while DD (age 14) and I would take the Playa Mia Mexican Cooking class.  The fishing had a meet time of 9:30am at the end of the pier while cooking was at 11:30am.  

Our cooking excursion had six guests from our ship, and we were taken in a taxi to Playa Mia, which is best described as an “all inclusive” resort with beach activities, food, and beverages.  Once we arrived we were taken to a large pavilion and other people from the rest of the ships came in to join the group for the activity.  Other ships in port were the Carnival Legend, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and an NCL ship at a pier further down.  From our pavilion we were taken to a nice room with many kitchen stations.  Beverage orders were taken (beer and mixed drinks were available as was soda and bottled water) and our chef, Luis, came in and introduced himself and told us what we were going to do.

First thing we had to do is wash our hands properly, and after that was done we went to our stations to start our meal.  We started our dessert first, which was going to be a rice pudding.  Ingredients were already portioned out so we just had to follow instructions and cook it.  After the dessert was prepared we put our names on the plate and they wheeled the cart to a cooler for later.  Then we got started on the meal, which was a fish Veracruz.  Guests who did not like fish were given a piece of chicken to prepare the same way. 

By now it was sort of fun because many attendees were busy enjoying their adult beverages (since these beverages were rather strong, I thought moderation was going to be pretty important so I ended up switching to bottled water after two.)  Luis was rather entertaining, and there were some cooking disasters on some of the stations which he had to handle so we didn’t see too much of him.  However we were just doing what we were told and cooking our meal.  We had to brown our fish and place it in a banana leaf on foil, add some vegetables and then wrap everything up so the kitchen would finish cooking it.  Another round of writing names on the plates (decoratively) and we started with our appetizer. 

The appetizer was a homemade masa concoction that we were going to turn into a tortilla of some sort, with chorizo.  We do not care for chorizo so Luis gave us some refried beans to use instead.  We cooked our tortilla and assembled the appetizer, and again put it on a cart. 

After the cooking was done we were sent to the dining area to eat our meal.  It all was pretty tasty too!  More beverages came through (including those of the adult variety but I had switched to bottle water) and we enjoyed conversation with our table mates.  The Playa Mia folks came through selling photographs, which we declined.  Luis thanked us for coming and then we were free to enjoy the beach and resort area until bus time. 

I had made friends with a solo adult from our ship named Dorothy and we started talking.  Next thing we knew is that they were calling our ship to the busses.  The Carnival ships use the Puerta Maya pier—which is really nice and new with lots of nice shops.   When I was at Cozumel in July I was with Royal Caribbean, and that pier was not as good.  They sent all of the guests back via bus to the appropriate pier and we ended up with Dorothy on a bus with a bunch of people who obviously got their money’s worth of adult beverages.  After about 10 minutes on that bus not moving I was contemplating a taxi, and was ready to ask Dorothy if she wanted to go with us.  However the bus driver finally boarded and we were on our way.  It was just a long 15 minute bus ride back to the pier, and thankfully it was mostly uneventful but it was pretty loud. 

After browsing around the shops we headed back to the ship and found DH and DS in the stateroom.  Their excursion was somewhat uneventful until about 15 minutes before they were to head back.  They had been gone for four hours and there were six guys fishing, and two crew members on the ship.  The ship had said that the excursion crew would speak English, however that wasn’t the case here.  Fortunately the guests on the excursion included two guys from Chile who spoke English and Spanish, and they translated for the other English speaking guests.   According to DH, the waters were pretty rough and it was impossible to walk around on the boat—and it was probably a good thing that I stuck to land as I don’t deal with small boats or motion very well.  The deckhand would set the lines and they were trolling back and forth.  Each guest sat in the chair for 10 minutes to actually fish.  If something bit, they would then reel it in.  Unfortunately nothing bit until they started pulling the lines to go back to port, and needed someone to sit in the seat immediately.  Since DS was the only one around, they told him to sit in the chair to do the fishing.  After about 5 minutes, DS pulled in a 3 foot Barracuda.  Not a terribly exciting day fishing but at least the crew would eat that night. 

We headed to the buffet area for some pizza.  Carnival pizza is quite good and we had to wait for it to come out of the oven—and I will say that its worth the wait.  After pizza we walked around for a little bit and decided to wait up on top deck railing to watch late people run up the pier as we had reached our “all aboard” time and were supposed to be sailing. 

You probably know where I’m going with this… the ship started paging passengers, which means that they’ve not boarded.  After about 15 minutes we see people running out of the shops down the pier—and it’s a pretty long trip to the ship.  By now there were a lot of people on the upper decks, and in the balconies, applauding these guests for finally reaching the ship.  We sailed about 30 minutes late.  

Nothing memorable to report for dinner that night as we were all sort of tired of five course meals.  I did some laundry, checked email and worked and we went to bed. 

The next day (April 2) was a Sea Day—which meant packing and getting organized.  DD had her “Teen Sampler” spa/salon appointment and I did manage to get in there and get a Frangipani hair treatment.  The Spa on Carnival is fine, and run by the usual Steiner group—but its not exactly what I call a luxe experience..  The staff wear polo shirts and khaki shorts so it’s a more casual atmosphere.  Just didn’t seem to be a very pampering place to me—and I’m not what you call a spa person.  It was clean, but the public areas looked more like the styling salon at JCPenney rather than an actual “spa”.  This spa setup is pretty typical of all Carnival ships except for the Carnival Dream (which has a stunningly beautiful spa area more in line with what other cruise ships offer.)  From what my spa therapist told me, just about “everyone” who is part of Steiner and sails Carnival wants to go to work on the Carnival Dream.  After being in several spas on Carnival for ship tours (including the Carnival Dream) and as a passenger I can agree that the Carnival Dream has a gorgeous spa. 

Packing was not a problem for us because I have long since decided to skip the whole cruise ship luggage process and haul my own stuff off the ship.  We also had a plane to catch—in Tampa—and had to pick up a rental car and begin driving from the Port of Miami.  We needed to do the walk off and a taxi to the car rental place to avoid the rush. 

Next up:  Last day/Debarkation, and home.

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