Spring Break Cruise 2013
This post is a sort of “Part II” to the post I made showing some of the photos I got while visiting New Orleans. I went to New Orleans with my son as the start of our vacation together over his Spring Break. We arrived in New Orleans late on Friday March 29th and explored Bourbon Street, then did more sight seeing the next day. But soon it was time to head down to the Port of New Orleans and start the next leg of our Spring Break adventure – a 7 night Caribbean cruise. The first cruise I ever took was with my parents when I was just ten years old and it was a wonderful experience that got me hooked on cruising – I’ve been on many since then and always enjoy cruises. My son however had never been on a cruise, so I wanted to introduce him to this fantastic way to vacation and see the world. Here’s a photo of the Port of New Orleans and the city behind it I took from the deck of our ship:
I’ve cruised on several different cruise lines but prefer Royal Caribbean, so I set up our reservation with them. In terms of itinerary, we were quite limited by the dates of my son’s Spring Break – but selected a 7 night cruise on Navigator of the Seas with stops in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth Jamaica. The itinerary had very little appeal to me personally as I’d been to each of the island stops several times before on previous cruises. But it is a good itinerary for a first timer on a cruise, and did offer the benefit of sailing from New Orleans – a city I’d not previously visited. The other less than optimal aspect associated with having to choose this itinerary was sailing on Navigator of the Seas – one of Royal Caribbean’s older vessels, having launched in 2002. Again, for a first time cruiser like my son, everything was new and excitying. But for a seasoned traveler such as myself, I noted that the dining room, hallways to staterooms, and cabins are all definitely ready for refurb. Still, Navigator is one of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class vessels, and is among the biggest vessels in the world and had plenty to offer. Here’s a few photos of the ship’s interior we took on our way to see our cabin:
Here’s a photo of our cabin – I sprang for a cabin with a deck which in my opinion adds greatly to the enjoyment of any cruise:
The cabin steward service was was reasonably good during the cruise. As I’ve experienced in the past, the cabin steward often left a funny folded towel in our room in the shape of an animal after the evening room service:
With all the outbreaks of nasty illnesses on cruise ships that has been in the press, Royal Caribbean wisely chose to set up plenty of antibacterial wash stations which were mandatory to use prior to entering the dinning rooms:
Sorry that photo is a little blurry but it was taken with my phone camera. In fact several of the photos in this trip report were too, as well as with my fantastic point and shoot Canon PowerShot S110.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the quality of the food on board ship has unfortunately declined. The food on our cruise wasn’t bad per se – it just wasn’t spectacular like it was say 20 years ago. There’s so much price competition in the cruise industry that it’s no surprise. Still, the dining experience on board was generally good and we certainly never left the table hungry – here’s a few photos of the main dining hall and a few samples of the meals we enjoyed during the week:
On two of the nights in the main dining hall, the deserts they had just didn’t sound appealing (which has never happened to me before on a cruise…) and I ended up just having them make me a banana split.
To get a REALLY good meal aboard ship, you need to be prepared to pay extra ($25.00 per person) and dine in one of the on-board specialty restaurants like Chops Grille Steakhouse and Portofino Italian.
Chops in particular is fantastic experience and still prepares some of the best fillet mignon I’ve experienced anywhere.
A picture of my son having dinner with me at Chops:
John and I have birthdays which fell within a month of either side of the cruise, so we celebrated our birthdays one evening:
The deserts in the specialty restaurants are MUCH better than what you get in main dining:
Our first full day on board was spent at see as we made our way to our first port of call which was Cozumel. The ship was filled to capacity with families who were, like us, vacationing on Spring Break:
The following day we arrived in Cozumel Mexico which really is one of my favorite ports of call in the Caribbean. Here’s a photo of our cruise ship docked in Cozumel:
Here’s a photo of my camera shy son in front of the ship:
For our shore excursion in Cozumel, my son wanted to explore the Mayan ruins in Coba. Unfortunately, Coba isn’t the easiest place to reach requiring 6 hours of travel round trip to get there. First we took a one hour water taxi trip from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen:
From here, we took a 2 hour bus ride to the Coba ruins. Once there, you do about two miles of hiking into the jungle interior to reach the ruins:
Our tour guide was very well educated and did an excellent job:
The main attraction to this shore excursion is the rather large Ixmoja pyramid:
As you can see, the pyramid had steps going to the top and visitors could climb them, which we did:
The Mayan people we clearly advanced in many areas, but let me tell you – pyramid step construction was no their strong suit. The pyramid steps were vary tall, steep, high, and there are a LOT of them – 120 to be exact. I made it about half way up before my acrophobia and good sense kicked in and I headed back down. Even half way up the view was quite spectacular:
My younger and more fearless son made it all the way to the top – here he is carefully crawling back down:
We then hiked back to the bus and returned to Playa Del Carmen. Before boarding our water taxi back to Cozumel, we had lunch in one of the most unique restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing:
The restaurant is entirely subterranean and built into a naturally occurring cave:
While we ate our lunch, we were entrained by an authentic Mayan ritualistic dance:
Quite honestly, I was a little disappointed that we had to miss so much of what I like in Cozumel and endure long bus rides in order to visit Coba. But the dining experience at Alux really was a nice touch which greatly added to the enjoyment of the day. After lunch, we headed back for Cozumel. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit in Cozumel and had to get back on the ship.
The next stop for us was the island of Grand Cayman:
Navigator docked just off the coast and we took tenders into the island:
This shore excursion was my pick – I’ve scuba dived in the Caribbean before, but never had done so in Grand Cayman before. So I signed my son and I up for a beginners scuba dive. We started with a lesson and did some work in a pool before going in the ocean:
You can always see the cruise ships from just about anywhere in Grand Cayman:
Unfortunately, I forgot to check my GoPro video camera battery and it inexplicably ran down prior to the dive – I was pretty mad at myself because the dive was AMAZING…but I guess it happens to everyone sooner or later.
After our dive we had lunch at a sea side restaurant called Paradise:
A post-dive photo of my son John and I at the restaurant with our cruise ship in the background:
I had turtle soup, a smoothie and a seafood wrap:
After lunch we had just enough time to do some shopping in Georgetown before we had to get back to the ship. Georgetown has some of the best luxury watch shopping in the Caribbean:
Our final port of all on our cruise was Falmouth Jamaica. Talk to anyone who has had a Jamaican cruise stop and they’ll likely tell you that Jamaica is their least favorite – that’s certainly true for myself. In past cruises, we’ve gone to Montego Bay and Ochos Rios but in 2011, Royal Caribbean built the $180 million dollar port at Falmouth to accommodate their largest class of ships. Here’s a photo of the port I took from on board Navigator of the Seas:
The port is a walled and fenced in oasis amidst the poverty stricken community which resides outside its walls.
When we disembarked I saw that another Royal Caribbean ship was also docked in Falmouth that day. I wondered which one?
Upon closer examination, I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend:
My wife Karen and I sailed on Freedom of the Seas for our honeymoon back in 2006. When Karen and I sailed on Freedom, we were among the first group of passengers to do so and it was the largest cruise ship in the world at the time. Less than a decade later, Royal Caribbean now has two classes of vessels even larger than the Freedom class – the Oasis and Quantum class ships. Once inside the port, Falmouth is a veritable tourist trap collection of t-shirt shops and genuine island crafts made in China. We quickly made our way to the line for the buses transporting to the shore excursion once again picked out by my son – riding ATV’s.
This time I double checked my GoPro video camera battery and I got some excellent video footage of our very fun ATV ride (see below – bottom of article). This photo of my ATV after we finished should be testimony to the fun we had (despite the fact that the ATV’s were in less than stellar condition – my son’s ATV stalled several times). We headed back to Falmouth after our ATV ride and did a little window shopping and grabbed lunch:
I tried some Jamaican style chicken – it had some nice kick!
In some of the other Jamaican ports, you get mobbed as soon as you step off the boat by islanders trying to sell you everything from crafts and trinkets to illegal drugs. In Falmouth, there’s none of that – the wall port/mall is completely isolated from the rest of the island. It certainly felt safe…but it also felt like I wasn’t really on their island either. It was very strange. We quickly grew board of window shopping at the port and headed back to the ship.
The next two days were spent at sea – the first of which was very nice and we were able to lay out and get some sun.
We played putt-putt golf on the deck in the evening – my son is pretty darn good but I believe we each won a round.
We also played some table tennis (ping pong) but he smoked me. Our last day of the cruise ended up being cold and rainy – we barely left the cabin for most of the day.
We then woke up to find ourselves once again docked at the Port of New Orleans.
Here are some video highlights from the trip:
Overall, the trip was a success and I will always treasure the time I got to spend with my son on his Spring Break taking his first cruise. I can’t say it’s best cruise I’ve ever taken, or that I’m even all that excited about taking future Caribbean cruises. The best part of the trip for me was exploring New Orleans – something I really enjoyed. My wife wants to go on another cruise – I think we’ll try to do a Hawaiian Island cruise next or perhaps even a cruise to Italy and France. A return to the Virgin Islands might also hold some appeal.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.