Monthly Archives: April 2016

A day in Cozumel, Mexico (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 6)

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Just one of the many stunning shots on the paths inside the caves.

Our final day in port wasn’t actually spent on the island of Cozumel, but on the mainland in Playa Del Carmen, on the Riviera Maya. A 45 minute ferry ride and 15 minute bus ride took us to our destination of Xplor Park. Here, we spent a few hours ziplining, swimming through underwater caves and exploring the jungle on an ATV. We sped through the treetops on the Jaguar Run, which was the faster and higher of the two lines. Our final zip splashed us into an underwater cavern, which was an exciting way to end the ziplining part of our day.

Never having been ziplining before, here’s what I have to say on the matter:

Get ready to climb a lot. How else do you expect to get up high enough to experience the rush of careening through the treetops? I didn’t quite expect the magnitude of stairs, but just remember not to rush, stop if you feel winded and just take your time and enjoy the experience.

Wear a comfortable outfit. We knew we’d be getting wet, so we had bathing suits on (thankfully I left my board shorts on over my bikini), but if you’re just doing a zipline tour, wear comfortable shorts that will protect you from the unforgiving harness. And guys, consider a pair of compression shorts under your regular shorts, those harnesses tend to rub, and I imagine chaffing there can’t be much fun. Also make sure you wear comfortable shoes. I recommend sneakers because of all the climbing, but also because, if you wear flip-flops, you’ll be holding them every time you go down a line, and that will just get annoying.

If you have a Go Pro, bring it. I wish we’d had a camera to snap photos and video along our run. The facility took photos, but I wasn’t pleased with their package options, so we went home without any pictures of the ziplining.

After the ziplining was done, we donned life jackets and floated down the underground river, which took us about 30 minutes and wound through a large portion of the cave system. This was probably my favorite part of the day, because I think caves are awesome and I love exploring them. The water was brisk and refreshing. We kept our shoes on, which I’m glad we did, because there were some spots that got shallow enough to stand (off to the side) and explore a little further and take pictures. I had an underwater camera, but without a flash, (and with facility lights only so often along the river) who knows what actually came out. I guess we’ll see when I get the film developed (in 2-3 weeks, because apparently Walgreens doesn’t develop single-use cameras in house anymore). There’s an antiquated ritual though; who gets film developed anymore? Oh wait, I do.

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Our meeting point, the heart, the center of the cave system.

After the river swim, we got in line for the amphibious ATVs and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Just when I thought we’d have to abandon the line to make a dash back to our bus, we finally got on one. It was a cool drive through the jungle and into more caverns, but I’m not sure the wait was worth it. When I booked the tour, reviewers said you could tell employees you were on a cruise and had limited time and they’d bump you to the front of the line, but I didn’t see anyone to even inquire with until we were already far enough up in line to be next for a truck. I think our tour guide Jesus was supposed to shuffle us through, but another group had cut us off at the ziplining, so we had gotten separated from our group and had to solve it on our own. We ended up coming out of the ride exactly at the time we needed to leave, which worked out well (so that we didn’t get left behind) but it meant we didn’t have enough time to get our complimentary lunch. Thankfully I’d eaten a complimentary banana when we got out of the river, so I was able to not die on the ride back to the ship, where we were able to finally get some food.

Even though it was a very rushed day (3.5-4 hours wasn’t enough time to do everything in the park), we still had a great time. It was definitely much different than Xcaret, which I’d done as a kid with my family. The main difference (at least from what I could remember, it’d been 10+ years since I was there) was that Xcaret was mostly above ground fun (although I know there was an underground river, I just never went in it) and Xplor was more for adventure-seeking individuals, in which all activities included the caverns somehow. Just getting inside and around the park required walking through vast underground paths that wound through the caverns so immensely that, in some places, you’d be completely alone and feel so turned around you were positive somehow you’d wandered into another dimension (or at the very least, another town). Except when we were up on the ziplines, high above the trees and could visibly see the highway and other forms of civilization, everything else about the park was nestled in between the jungle vegetation or tucked away underground, giving it the overall feeling of being deep in the heart of some lost world, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

Favorite moment: splashing into a refreshing cavern at the end of our zipline run. It was a bit of a shock at first, but afterwards it was a lovely end to a fun, albeit hot and sweaty, zipline experience. That, and our tour guide Jesus (pronounced Hey-Seuss, not Jesus like not the dude on the cross; we were in Mexico, not America, after all) constantly looking for us to make sure we didn’t get left behind, since other tours kept separating us from our group. He was a scrawny, 19-year-old with a lot of enthusiasm, who liked to use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” before and after everything he said. He was good people.

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If you haven’t yet, check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post to help you plan your own cruise vacation.

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A day in Costa Maya, Mexico (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 5)

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Photo with the locals.

Our third country, Costa Maya was our 1st of 2 Mexican ports of call. We had originally left this day open to just wing it and wander, but when our snuba in Roatan was canceled due to weather, we rebooked a catamaran and snorkel excursion for Costa Maya (since the weather forecast was better). But of course, in true vacation fashion, things always change from what you planned (especially where weather is concerned) and when we got off the ship, our trip had been canceled (again). Everything else was already booked, except a beach day excursion, so we took it. As annoyed as I was to not be able to snorkel and to have to pay $65/person to go to a nearby beach, it turned out to be perfect. Our fee ended up including an open bar tab and a taxi ride back to the ship, so all we spent once at the beach was the $8 on chips and guac (which was authentically Mexican and delicious) and the $15 to tip our server, Juan. We spent several hours relaxing on a beautiful beach, sipping pina coladas as fast as Juan could bring them. We also had access to a swim-up bar and, of course, the Caribbean Sea. Laying under a palm hut, it truly felt like our own piece of paradise.

Favorite moment/memory: Juan. He was this big teddy bear of a Mexican man, super friendly and instantly likable. He definitely made our beach day that much better.

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Check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post to help you plan your own cruise vacation.

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