Caribbean Cruise — Taking off!

Before leaving on the cruise, we had to leave family.  Leave Cocoa Beach, leave Florida, leave land.

After leaving the dock in Tampa on Jan. 5th at 4 p.m., OF COURSE it started clouding up. All of you who would eventually FREEZE last week just couldn’t stand it. You HAD to send that cold front down to play havoc with our cruise!! hehe! But we were “fine” up until Wednesday night.

Here are a few shots of getting out of the Tampa Bay Harbor, which took over 2 and a half HOURS to accomplish!! ARGH! Because the channel for large boats is SSOO narrow, we had all of that water, but had to pass other large ships much closer than I would have liked. Getting out of the harbor was the entertainment for that first evening, other than walking all over the ship to see what we could see the next day!


Here are some of the miscellaneous pictures from the cruise that we didn’t want to spend  the money to transmit aboard ship. Unfortunately, though they are more or less in time order, that makes them out of order on here and kind of hard to follow. Just read the descriptions with each and you’ll get the general flavor of visiting the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.

Approaching Paradise. Literally! The name of the ship was the “Paradise”!

Leaving Tampa!


 They’ll never catch us now!


We made it UNDER the Skyway Bridge going out of the Tampa Bay Harbor.  Looked like we “just barely” made it!

  My favorite color!

RULE OF THUMB for computer time onboard a cruise ship. You can buy internet time, using your own laptop OR the computers in the “Fun Hub” or a similar computer center onboard ship. Averages about $.65/min, so you need to keep the transmission of photos to a minimum. Words transmit quickly (for emails), but accessing the internet for “surfing” purposes or Facebook perusal can be VERY costly! Even if you’re a speed reader, the speed of changing screens and downloading info or uploading pictures is at the speed of DSL or something slower, which will eat up your minutes RAPIDLY. Sending pictures really SHOULD wait until you’re onshore in the USA. UNLESS the picture you’re sending is to INTERPOL of some international jewel thief or terrorist. Then your money might be well spent!

Phones and texts are a different kettle of fish. AT&T will sell you an International package starting at $30 for a month’s worth of unlimited texting (to add to your regular calling plan, whatever that is). We could send all of the texts that we wanted to, from our phone (not iMessage), but any pictures would fall under the 120 MB of data transfer, so we didn’t send very many attached to texts.

Caribbean Cruise – Day 1

Y’all AIN’T GONNA BELIEVE THIS!! Click on this video to see what happened while we were in Cozumel! The most exciting thing to happen on our trip and we were sleeping through it (on another ship)!!

While we were in the harbor at the Cayman Islands (on Wednesday, 1/7/15), we saw 3 other cruise ships out in the water with us — another Carnival ship (Freedom), a Holland America ship (Nieuw Amsterdam), and a Disney ship (we couldn’t see the name). It’s a “tender port” which means that the harbor is too shallow for large ships to dock, so they send little boats out to the moored cruise ships and bring passengers ashore. All four ships were in the water off Cayman, and three of the ships (the two Carnivals and Disney) headed toward Cozumel within hours of each other at the end of the day on Wednesday.

All ships coming into Grand Cayman port have to anchor off-shore and passengers are put on water-taxis to get to the shore.

During the wee hours of Thursday morning, as we were steaming toward Cozumel (we were on the last of the 4 ships to arrive in Cozumel), a 22-year-old man “fell overboard” off a Royal Caribbean ship (Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world) as it approached Cozumel port from elsewhere. Don’t know how far out to sea the ship still was, but in this video, the waves were “open water” waves. Shortly (not sure yet how long the man had to tread water) after he fell in, the Disney Magic was making toward port. David Hearn and his daughter, on the Magic, were on deck at 6:30 a.m. to watch the Magic come into port and they heard a “weird bird cry.”

Out in the open sea, they could barely see arms being waved at the ship, and they contacted a crew member, who propelled a life preserver overboard (it has a gas cartridge beside it on the ship’s railing) toward the man in the water. The crew member then notified the bridge, which sent an immediate order (and signal throughout the ship — MOB [Man Over Board]) to release the “instant release rescue” boat and to stop the ship. 20 minutes later, the man was rescued. Ironically, the two ships were docked next to each other at Cozumel when we arrived.

Caribbean Cruise — Cayman Islands

Some “recently discovered” pictures from the Grand Cayman portion of the cruise.

The one important part was the wedding. We met the new parents-in-law, from Duluth, GA, on the front deck on the first night out. The wife had an accent that I could recognize, though her husband’s accent proved that he “wasn’t from ’round heyah.”

Their son would be getting married when we arrived in Grand Cayman. Never thought we’d hear about the wedding again, but we saw the bride and her maid-of-honor. Can you imagine carting all of that fur-fru and finery to another country to get married? Wait a minute! Seems like our DAUGHTER and SON-IN-LAW did that 17+ years ago!! In Jamaica! More power to all of those brave enough to attempt the high seas AND carry all of your finery with you to do that!!



Just basking on the walkway!


Heading out to swim with the sting rays, at appropriately named “Sting Ray City.”
Many different “excursion boats” at the time gather at “Sting Ray City.” You just have to remember which one you came on so you get back to the right place!
Local “residents” seen on the walk to swim with the Dolphins.


There’s a Margaritaville in every port!
We couldn’t dock at the shore, because the bay was too shallow. All shore visits at Cayman started with a “water taxi.”

NEXT TIME we go back to the Cayman’s, we want to take a TOUR of the island (Grand Cayman). Getting to play with stingrays and dolphins was phenomenal, but we spent so much time on the buses and boats getting to and from Dolphin Cove and Stingray City that we didn’t get to see/do anything else! Not EVEN to visit Margaritaville!!


Caribbean Cruise — on board ship

MORE miscellaneous leftovers…, including the cruise ship that lost the man overboard (Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas — the largest cruise ship in the world!) last Thursday (1/8/15), without realizing that he was overboard! The Disney Magic came by several hours later, threw him a life preserver and stopped to pick him up. Ironically, those two ships are side by side here, where they docked when we were all in port at Cozumel, Mexico.

I’ve gotta get down THERE?!?

 Kissing Cousins!



The place of our noon meal.
The looooong building you have to go through to get from the ships to the shore. “Affectionately” known as the “tourist trap.”
Our drinks arrive!

Feeding our faces.

If you’re on a cruise where the last day of the trip is a “day at sea” (no stops before you arrive home), check out the possibility of taking a “tour of the ship” as one of your excursions.  FASCINATING!  Ours lasted about 3 hours (you HAVE to be able to walk and climb stairs well, ’cause they go down to areas where the only elevators are to the kitchen or laundry rooms), and ended up on the bridge.  Of course, I wanted to be the one (in red) standing next to the Italian Captain in our “class trip” picture!

Caribbean Cruise (43rd Anniversary)

Some “recently discovered” pictures from the Grand Cayman portion of the cruise.

True left-hand driving!

The one important part was the wedding. We had met the new parents-in-law, from Duluth, GA, on the front deck on the first night out. The wife had an accent that I could recognize, though her husband’s accent proved that he “wasn’t from ’round heyah.”

Their son would be getting married when we arrived in Grand Cayman. Never thought we’d hear about the wedding again, but we saw the bride and her maid-of-honor. Can you imagine carting all of that fru-fru and finery to another country to get married? Wait a minute! Seems like our DAUGHTER and SON-IN-LAW did that 17+ years ago!! In Jamaica! More power to all of those brave enough to attempt the high seas AND carry all of your finery with you to do that!!

I wouldn’t want to have to CARRY all of this STUFF to another country!!

Caribbean Cruise — reflections on trip

Every night while on our cruise, our room steward, Tryana (from Indonesia), made us a different “towel critter.” I can only find 4 of the 5 pictures of the ones he created and left for us, during his “turn down” service.

I know that, on our last cruise, I attended a “towel class” where we were taught how to fold the towels like these creatures.

And I know that I bought a BOOK that shows you how to “create” with towels and washcloths.

But I also know that my granddaughter hasn’t digested that book yet to show me how to do these. So. I’ll have to settle for taking pictures of the ones that someone else does!



On our last day onboard, we took a tour of the ship.  AMAZING!  THAT was the best tour we’ve EVER taken!  Cost about $50/each and can only be taken if there is one full day before docking (“day at sea”), but it is WELL worth it!

The “Tour of the Ship” group. I’m never far from the Captain of the boat (on his left, in red)! hehe!

Caribbean Cruise — leaving

AFTER leaving the Port of Tampa, but before heading north to go home from our cruise, we detoured.

Southwest of Tampa, entrance/exit to Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island, the last inhabited island (south of Tampa) protruding from the mainland out into the Gulf of Mexico. Rich developers were turned away years ago and the island fathers refused them buying or building permits to build large hotels or resorts on the island. Thank the Lord for that, because every square inch of the island is covered in houses. Charming places, to be sure, but COVERED in houses. The island is no longer “pristine,” but it still maintains its “small town” atmosphere because there are no resorts there. No MASSIVE traffic snarls. No HUNDREDS of tourists walking the sidewalks to the 2-3 small restaurants and “touristy” properties on the island.

You’ll never know what you’ll see on the streets of Anna Maria Island!

It is a beautiful place, nonetheless, very peaceful and calm. At least in January it is. In June, that might be a different story. We saw “snowbirds” (Yankees that come down to “winter” in Florida) everywhere, as well as locals.

But there was a BIG difference between the snowbirds and the locals, as evidenced by their apparel. The snowbirds wore shorts and sandals in that 56 degree weather. The locals were covered with coats, hoods/hats, boots, and gloves/mittens. A parade of life!!

IF, and that’s a big IF, the island maintains its allure, even with the “carbon unit infestation” during the summer (see “Star Trek, the Movie” for that reference! hehe!), we might have to vacation there one day!!

The only hotel on Anna Maria Island
All of the houses on Anna Maria Island look similar — 2+ stories, big square houses, bright or muted colors, no yard but bricks.

Beautiful houses!  Very low maintenance yards!


The MOST interesting part of our visit to Anna Maria Island actually had nothing to do with the island, other than its attraction to other people.


On the Gulf beach, at the Visitor’s Center, we met a young couple from Hamburg, Germany. All because the wife was doing handstands on a blanket in the sand. Most of you know me and know that I talk to sign posts, so a simple little thing like someone, all alone, doing handstands on the beach, is NOT going to escape my notice. Or my conversation!! Antja (the “j” is pronounced like a “y”) was a few months pregnant, nearing 40, but a beautiful girl nonetheless. And quite athletic, too! Her husband, Christoph, was watching their small son as he played on the Jungle Gym set about 30 feet away. They each spoke excellent English, though Antja said that now that she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get to practice her English as often. Sharing with them our own experiences of living in Germany made Antja much more at ease, once we stood there for a while.

We got no last names, but after we left, we realized that the terribly tall Christoph (over 6’5″) “might” be someone famous over there, although you couldn’t prove it by us. When I told them that I would be writing about them, Christoph put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Ah, another book!” If I’d had the sense to take a picture of the three of them, someone here might be able to tell me whether we brushed greatness or not!! But by that time, Dorkus here was TIRED of travel and still had 5 hours of driving to get to our beds for that night (which was only 2/3 of the way home).

Hope you have enjoyed our anniversary, cruise, and vacation as much as we did!

NEXT, takeaways from this trip.

Caribbean Cruise (43rd Anniversary)

ANOTHER Take-A-Way from our recent cruise. NEVER take your debit card off the cruise ship. EVEN IF it’s in one of those RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) aluminum do-hickies.

Cozumel, January 8, 2015. We docked at noon, departed at 8 p.m. Our previously-paid-for shore excursion, a strip in a semi-sub (glorified glass bottom boat) to go out and see the reef, had been cancelled due to “sea conditions.” As I said before, the tour operator just didn’t want to risk his only form of livelihood, his semi-sub, on my entertainment. So be it.

Left us to walk all over the Playa Maya, the little area near the dock for the cruise ships. Ya know, those people in all the gazillions of little shops at the end of the pier must sit there for HOURS, are just like spiders, waiting for those silly little tourist ants to come streaming out of those floating ant hills, right into their webs.

The shops are colorful and closely spaced, and the hawkers are in-your-face as you pass, while they are holding up pretties and dainties and delectables just to snare you closer to the center of their webs. And THAT’S on the dock!!! Tourists are REQUIRED to walk through their block long building, instead of by-passing it, as we were told “eetz rekwied by law.” That MAY have been an AK-47 hanging from that guy’s shoulder over there… Like sheep being herded into the stocks for their fleecing…

The reputable places, such as Three Amigos Restaurant, where our friend, Jorge Luis Rodriquez, worked and Ron Jon Surf Shop (out of Cocoa Beach, FL), will take your credit cards and provide you with a receipt that shows the dollar amount charged and the peso amount, if you’re interested. Don’t get them confused and have a heart attack when you see the peso amount — about 11-12 TIMES the dollar amount.

Our drinks arrive!

The disreputable places will show you the COOLEST bracelets that Carlos makes right there in front of you, charming you so easily that you refuse to see the snake oil oozing out of his every pore. When you pick out your purchases, he says he only takes cash because his little booth at the front of this store he’s standing in is NOT part of the store itself and he can’t take credit cards. But “eetz HO-K, dare ees an ATM just ofer dere. You can go geet de kahsh ofer dere.”

20 days later. You’re home. You’ve given out all of those delightful little bracelets and key fobs and other trinkets as souvenirs and FINALLY gotten all of your clothes washed and your life back in order. Then the other shoe drops.

That $-1,215.34 is in RED on the bank balance on that screen. And that’s a MINUS or NEGATIVE sign in front of the amount. And that’s just over the last two days. If you had not caught it today, it would have been worse tomorrow. Much worse.

A “skimmer” is a device placed on an ATM card reader which takes the encoded information from the credit or debit card inserted, capturing the information encoded on the card, and relaying that information electronically to the owner of the skimmer. Who is NOT the owner of the ATM machine. Once that skimmer owner has that info, he/she/it will take that information, make new cards out of it and sell those cards off to other sleezy, low-life, blankety-blank types who want to steal your money, the money of your financial institution, and the money of the owner of the ATM machine, without doing more than lifting a finger to get it.

Just as sure as in those wild-west days, you’ve been robbed of YOUR hard-earned money, but without the gun or knife at your throat. Unfortunately, the only one to blame for allowing that scenario to play out is YOU. You, and your danged ol’ Anglo-Saxon decency and goodness, which cajoles you to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Almost all of us have done it, because most of us truly EXPECT people to treat us fairly if we treat them so. So be it.

FAIR WARNING: Whether you came into Cozumel on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean or Disney cruise ship doesn’t matter. Half of the people on that dock are after your $$$$MONEY$$$$. And they ASSUME you have it, ’cause they saw the ride you came in on! Don’t give them a better than even shot at riding off to the Taco Bar with more than they were supposed to get from you.

1. Carry credit cards only, in an RFID container or between plates with RFID chips in them, so your cards can’t be “scanned” while you’re shopping. On-board ATM machines, though horribly expensive in terms of fees ($6 per cash withdrawal), are safe (theoretically). But the ones on LAND anywhere else, AIN’T!

2. If you insist on carrying cash, make it lots of small bills ($10s, $5s, and $1s). Sometimes they’ll tell you “no change” and they’ll try to give you pesos as change. Unless you are REALLY up on the exchange rate AND want to lose some of the pesos in the exchange back to dollars, you WILL get taken on that transaction.

3. Any guy that says, “Come over here, I want to give you a present” in a Russian accent, is NOT after giving you anything. He wants what you’ve got. Access to DOLLARS.


Here’s another set of tips I ran across that will help you in planning your cruise.  ENJOY!

15 Ways Cruise Ships Try To Rip You Off

BE SAFE while you’re overseas. And at home!!!