An Unexpected Day at Sea on the Viking Star

Having the right travel mindset is crucial to enjoying travel when things don’t go as planned.  Today, for instance, I’m on the Viking Star, and I expected to be photographing the beautiful ruins of Selunite on the island of Sicily.  Instead, I am sitting enjoying some cappuncino and planning some cha cha lessons with my husband for later this afternoon.


View from the Viking Star as we pass the Sicily area

Last night we left the port of Civitavecchia (about 2 hours outside Rome) to travel to the port of Trapani on Sicily.  We had rough seas; I’ve got a cast iron sea stomach (as does everyone in my party) but we definitely were doing zig-zag walking all over the boat. We woke to seas that were still rough; rough enough to close the therapy pool in the spa (which we had planned to use when the spa opened at 8). We (my husband and I) instead used the steam room and snow grotto (yep, real snow!) and saunas.  We did have the place to ourselves.

After a fine buffet breakfast and two Viking talks in the main theater on the ports of Tunis and Cagliari, we were heading back to our room to get ready for our stop in Sicily, when the captain came over the loud speaker.  The news was not good…due to high Continue reading

Excursions on the Carnival Breeze, Western Caribbean: Beaches, Ruins and Snorkeling

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Passion Island Beach, Shot with DXO ONE Camera from the boat as we approached the shore.

I am definitely a person who takes ship excursions whenever possible. I am well aware that you can often find cheaper, similar activities on your own, but just once in my life when off on my own activities at port I had to run to catch a cruise ship. This was in Turkey, and I decided right then and there that it was worth any extra money for the security that taking a ship excursion gives you (if your excursion gets back late, the ship will wait).  Yes, watching runners trying to catch a ship can be entertaining for everyone on board the ship, but trust me, it’s not very entertaining if you are the person doing the running. So, I took three excursions on the Carnival Breeze on my recent Western Caribbean cruise (September 25 to October 2) Here are my reviews of those excursions, plus some thoughts on excursions that other people in my party took.

               PASSION ISLAND: In Cozumel, Mr. Travelholic and I decided to have a romantic day alone on Passion Island, which is really just a far peninsula of Cozumel.  We took a 40-minute smaller boat to our location, and then had an idyllic all-inclusive day on a perfect Caribbean beach. Turquoise water, soft sand, and all drinks and food included. And hammocks; right in the gentle warm water. We spent a good part of the day in those hammocks and it was wonderful.  There were water activities and dancing activities for those who wanted to do more than we did. The food was typical and tasty Mexican fare, and the drinks were tasty (don’t ask me about quality of alcohol because I can’t tell you…I’m not a big drinker and my husband doesn’t drink at all, but I had a couple of the margaritas and enjoyed them). My only criticism of the excursion is that it wasn’t long enough; we certainly had enough time to stay for another hour and I wish we had.  This was a particularly uncrowded excursion when we were there, but we were the only cruise ship in the port, and I’ve been to Cozumel when there were seven, and I asked one of the operators and they said on a particularly busy day there could be as many as 1,000 people so your results may vary.  One reminder: my husband and I knew all was included for the excursion fee ($69.99 each) and we are not big shoppers, so we didn’t bring any cash or credit cards with us, just our ship cards. This turned out to be a mistake, because the absolutely best picture of us on the cruise was taken there and we didn’t have $12 to buy it. We took some money with us on the next two excursions. Finally, typical cruise music was played on the boat ride back (Wobble, Macarena, etc) and crew and cruisers who were so moved danced.

          LAMANI RUINS: In Belize, we had our longest excursion, a 7-hour jaunt to the lovely and remote Lamani Mayan ruins. imageThe ship tendered us in at Belize City, and to get to the ruins took a lengthy bus ride and a 35-minute boat ride up a jungle river. Just a note that the river is wide, so if you are imagining wildlife over your head in trees along the river, you will be disappointed. The ruins themselves, however, are surrounded by jungle and we saw very interesting flora and fauna while we were there including howler monkeys and leaf cutting ants.  The ruins themselves were outstanding; very scenic due to the jungle all around them, not crowded the day we were there, knowledgeable guides (our guide had actually worked on excavation at the site) and you get to climb the High Temple for a fantastic view (most Mayan ruins I have been to do not allow you to climb them). On the way back you get a classic Belizean lunch and the opportunity to purchase beverages (I did one of those rum drinks in a coconut, because it is a law that if you come to the Caribbean you must drink rum at least once and have a drink in a coconut at least once as well). The lunch was at a relatively new tourist facility on the river that was very nice.  The bus ride was interesting; you could see this area of Belize was poor, and you could also see the damage that a recent hurricane had caused to trees and some buildings.
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Post-Vacation Depression

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Vacation memories may fade a bit but some will always be in technicolor. Carnival Breeze.*

My cruise vacation is over, and I have a classic case of post-vacation depression. My cruise was everything I hoped it would be, I had a huge amount of fun and sun, and now I am home and reality hits hard.

The trip back was uneventful although a little more difficult than the trip out; on the trip to Galveston we had a direct flight from Sacramento to Houston on United, but due to timing issues, on the way back we had to travel Houston-San Francisco-Sacramento. Plus roughly 1.5 hour drives each way to the airports. We had some minor travel delays due to air traffic control in San Francisco (typical) but nothing too troublesome.

The most troublesome part of my trip home was that I had somehow sprained my ankle dancing away the evenings on the Carnival Breeze. I attended the line-dancing deck party, and then the fabulous Rock-N-Glow 80s party, and danced twice at Club Liquid.  As an ex-dancer, I’m going to dance on vacation whether or not my RA is effecting body parts. I knew my right knee was bad due to the RA and also an old injury, so I think what happened is that I overly-relied on my left side (as I often do) while dancing all week. The last day of the cruise I woke up to a really swollen and painful left ankle. I didn’t feel myself injure it, but it definitely was sprained. Continue reading

Cruise Debarkation Day: All Good Things Must Come to an End

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Empty sun loungers on the Lido deck of the Carnival Breeze

There is nothing sadder than a cruise ship the morning of debarkation. The long awaited vacation full of sun, fun and friends is over, and to add insult to injury, you generally have to vacate your room pretty early so you wake up at the crack of dawn.

For our debarkation, Mr. Travelholic and I always choose to self-assist.  On the plus side, you get to keep your luggage with you instead of having to leave it outside your door before midnight the previous evening.  I’m always afraid I’ll be one of those cruisers you see the next morning debarking in their pajamas because they forgot to keep an outfit out for debarkation morning. Although they are entertaining.

Another plus is that the self-assist people get to debark before the people who ask for luggage assistance. For me this is a huge plus; some people like getting a leisurely breakfast and coffee and having a last cruise moment.  Not me; I wake up and all I can think about is getting home.  Continue reading

The Last Day of My Cruise

The Carnival Breeze at Carnival Port

The Carnival Breeze at Cozumel Port

I am siting on my balcony, cool breeze in my hair, looking at the vast and lovely ocean, with moody clouds in the distance (possibly the far outreaches of the Hurricane Matthew system?) but since it is the last day of my cruise, I really should be inside my cabin packing. And figuring out debarkation. And all sorts of other useful end-of-my-vacation things. But no, I’d rather sit here and enjoy my last cruising day, and leave everything to do in a mad panic later.

This has been a fantastic cruise! I really have had a marvelous time on the Carnival Breeze. I’ll be blogging about each day of the cruise, both sea and port days, and I have lots of images to share as well as reviews of the ship, excursions, food, and much more. But today, my last day on the ocean, I have to go back to gazing off my balcony into the distance. Plenty of time to catch everyone up when I am back home staring instead out of my office window.  If you want more information and you just can’t wait, I’ve been posting images on  The Tiny Travelholic on Instagram during the cruise. And for cruisers on an Eastern Caribbean cruise today, I’ve got an extra thought for you as I lift my glass–stay safe, stay out of Matthew’s way, and may most of your cruise continue uninterrupted (if a little changed, especially if you were heading to Jamaica).


Beautiful Cozumel

Shot with DXO ONE Camera Processed with Snapseed.

Passion Island, Cozumel. Shot with DXO ONE Camera Processed with Snapseed.

I am in Cozumel, and I am happy.  For those of you who have been to Cozumel, I could stop there, and you would have visions of beautiful beaches, lovely weather, and tequila. Lots of tequila.  But since some of you may not have been here yet, I will tell you a bit about our wonderful stop at the Port of Cozumel today.

Today I spent the day taking a power boat along the lovely shores of Cozumel to a place called Passion Island. There, Mr. Travelholic and I walked on a pristine white sand beach, sat and laid down in hammocks right in the warm, turquoise ocean (pictured above), and basically did the most scenic, restful nothing you could imagine.

I’m back in my Stateroom now, but have to run because I’m heading outside to watch the runners.  You, know, the cruisers who drink too much and then have to make a mad dash for the boat before we sail away. I like to cheer them on. In any event I’ll have much more about my wonderful excursion to Passion Island, Cozumel, and yesterday my first day fat sea later this week.

Boarding Day on the Carnival Breeze

View from the Carnival Breeze at Galveston Port Sail Away

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas at Galveston Port, seen from the Carnival Breeze after boarding.

As our fabulous cruise director Mike has said, cruising is all about Food, Friends and Fun (I knew I liked Mike When he appeared in a suit made entirely out of Union Jacks last night), and my first day aboard the Carnival Breeze did not disappoint at all.

Let me back track to the morning of boarding the boat so I can catch everyone up. We (“we” on this cruise generally refers to Mr. Travelholic and myself, and often also to our theater friends Tamra, Rhonda, Darrin and Bill who are cruising with us) opened up our eyes at the Four Points Sheraton in Galveston. Although the hotel disappointed the night before (non-working WiFi) it was hard to stay cranky when opening our eyes up to the waves and water right outside our window.  We skipped breakfast at the hotel (eating right before you get on a cruise ship seems redundant) tried the free hotel coffee (blah) and packed into our taxi for the boat at 10:00 AM.

Two tips when boarding Carnival at Galveston. You get to pick your boarding window, so pick an early one if you are like my group and can’t wait to get going, and order your taxi the night before since thousands of people will all be heading to probably more than one boat the morning of your cruise (Liberty of the Seas was also leaving Galveston yesterday).

Our hotel was very close to the port and we made it by 10:15 (boarding window 10 to 10:30). We love Carnival’s new staggered boarding procedure…there were no lines at all, and we so breezed right through the boarding process. The Continue reading

My Galveston, Texas Cruise Port Experience

Storm clouds over Galveston, Texas as seen from our room at the Four Points Sheraton

Storm clouds over Galveston, Texas as seen from our room at the Four Points Sheraton on the morning of our Carnival, Breeze cruise

Our cruise week has gotten off to a good start. Our flight to Houston was on time, and pleasant enough (bonus points for United Economy Plus and the electric outlets at the seats, but we had a particularly grouchy flight crew that snapped at my friend for no good reason).  Houston (IAH) airport is huge. I mean, really huge. We had an enormous walk from the gate to our baggage claim (several moving walkways and past endless gates). We stopped for a Starbucks on the way, an even with all that, our luggage was just coming off the carousel as we got there; perfect timing really.  Getting our rental car was a cinch (shuttle to a big rent-a-car center). We tried Dollar for the first, and probably our last time. Although the initially quoted car rate was inexpensive, they nickeled and dimed until it didn’t seem so cheap after all, and when we inquired about a slightly larger car because we had 4 people and lots of luggage they quoted us a price that would have tripled the rental rate. This has not been my experience with either Avis or Hertz, my two go-to companies for car rental. Continue reading