Saturday, June 6, 2009

Port Call - Cozumel, Mexico

COZUMEL, MEXICO - The Westerly winds that caused our early departure from Grand Cayman yesterday created rougher seas as we traveled West to Cozumel, Mexico. During the night I realized why the sliding closet doors had Velcro on the edges, it's there to keep them from sliding open and shut as the ship rolls.

Arriving early we docked at the Punta Langosta Pier on the island of Cozumel, Mexico's third largest island. The two larger islands of Mexico, Tiburan Island and Isla A�ngel de la Guarda are in the Gulf of California.

One of the more popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean , Cozumel is renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling, with underwater visibility reaching 100-200 feet. In 2005 the island was hit with two category 4 hurricanes, Hurricane Emily in July, and the much slower moving Hurricane Wilma, in October. It was the slow moving Wilma, which hovered directly over Cozumel for many hours, that caused the most damage. The island lost billions of dollars to damage and lost revenue as the result.

There was no need for boat tenders in Cozumel, we docked right next to the pier. We met our excursion director and fellow adventurers in the Rockin Bar D, deck 3, for a short briefing and to sign in. Outside the ship we traveled via taxi to the Adventure Park for what turned out to be a cross between S.W.A.T. training and a Fear Factor challenge, but without the bugs.

Our excursion was called the "Adventure Park, Zip-line & Snorkel Combo". We were met at the entrance to the facility by Charlie, a former Mexican Army soldier, who was the perfect host for this adventure. He was enthusiastic, friendly and instilled a sense of confidence in us that he knows exactly what he is doing. After a brief tour of the beachside facility we are given a safety briefing and then outfitted with a climbing harness, helmet and climbing shoes. Charlie and his expert crew checked everyone a couple of times to make sure everything fit properly. We were then off to the six climbing towers, with 3 different heights, up to 60 feet. The tallest tower that we later rappelled off is reportedly the highest climbing tower in Mexico.

My teenage daughters are the first to tackle the towers and move up without any problems, it's nice to be young and healthy. As they made their way to the middle tower, about 40 feet tall, they noticed that I had been hiding behind my camera giving them encouragement. Now was my turn. Thanks to Charlie's experts, the belay safety man, not only made sure I didn't fall he went the extra mile and pulled on the rope to help me move up the tower.

My wife scaled the wall and we we're doing high fives when we're told to move on to the largest tower in Mexico. Again the girls did great. I could have enjoyed just watching, but peer pressure being what it is, I succumbed. Halfway up with my hands cramping so much I could hardly open them, I felt the extra tug on the rope from the belay man and knew I could make it. Thanks Charlie.

Next it was on to rappelling off the 60 ft. tower, there were two assistants helping people, both very professional and safety conscious. Just to be on the safe side I lined up behind the man named Jesus. More high fives all around. I was now ready to try out for the local police S.W.A.T. team when I returned home. We did some rope bridges and zip line flying before we moved on to the snorkel challenge.

Again, the team led by Charlie were great. We were issued very good fins, mask, snorkel and life vest and were to follow Charlie as we jumped into the clear azure blue water. With the gentle current we drifted down the beach for several hundred yards checking out the stingrays, eels, and barracuda, as well as many sergeant major fish, named for their brightly striped sides, which look like the military insignia for a sergeant.

After a shower and drink we returned to town for a little shopping. I was looking for a shirt with a pirate theme since tonight was pirate night on board the ship. We stopped at several shops, which had the best prices of the entire trip, especially t-shirts, 5 for $20.

The jewelry stores had great prices on watches and gold necklaces and the clothing shops had quality merchandise at great prices. My daughter wanted one of the thread I.D. bracelets with her name on it, which was for sale by many of the street vendors. Her name is not very popular and they offered to make on for her in five minutes. I didn't believe that was possible because it looked machine made and there was no machine in sight. He said he would do and began pulling thread from a thimble. She chose the colors and he moved his hands around and around until, within five minutes, there was a finished bracelet with her name. He used a lighter to melt the ends to hold them in place. It was worth the price just to watch how talented he was. I am still amazed when I look at the bracelet that he did such a great piece of craft work.

Back on ship we attended the screening of Walt Disney's Race to Witch mountain. We then donned our pirate shirts, fresh from Cozumel and got ready for the Pirate dinner to kick off the Pirates in the Caribbean Party. Dario and Petra, our servers from Ukraine and the U.K., were dressed as pirates. Some of the patrons must have planned ahead for this party, they were in 3/4 length leather coats, high top leather boots, and of course the three pointed pirate hat that would have made Jack Sparrow envious.

After dinner it was an all out party on decks 9 and 10 with dancers, jumbo LCD screen, Mickey and his pals, and even fireworks. Another of the many Disney firsts - they are the only cruise line that shoots fireworks at sea. It was like the fourth of July in the Caribbean.

I'm a bit over my 1000 word limit, so I'll sign off until tomorrow when we spend another day at sea, as we head to the Bahamas and Disney's own private island - Castaway Cay.

No comments: