Should you (still) go to Maya Chan? YES!

I was excited to return to the port of Costa Maya, a relatively new stop on my cruise radar. This purpose-built port is designed for cruise ships and their passengers and the surrounding area has a ton to offer — Mayan ruins, swimming with dolphins, cultural tours, etc. Mostly, I was excited because my friend and I had a reservation at Maya Chan beach, which I’d heard great things about.

The resort sent detailed instructions on how to get to the pickup site – one big advantage of Maya Chan is that transportation is included in your all-inclusive fee, which is not always the case. We had to walk out of the port and through a security gate – a little daunting! – and then another two blocks up on the right, we found the sign for the Maya Chan representative. This is where we were met with a bit of a dilemma:

It seems we had run into a bit of bad luck. The beach was experiencing a high amount of seagrass that day, something they told us often happens in the winter months. The representative explained that they had been cleaning throughout the morning, but that there was still a lot of seagrass on the beach and in the water. He told us that we still had the opportunity to cancel our reservation and receive a refund if we didn’t want to go because of this.

My friend looked at each other and decided to go to Maya Chan anyway – I’d really been looking forward to checking out the place, and I like to visit somewhere myself before I recommend it to other people. (If you’d like to, you can read some other blogs’ opinions of Maya Chan here and here.) What’s the matter with a little seagrass, anyway? (Answer: it’s kind of slimy, and it does tend to attract a lot of gnats. But hey, whatever.)

Even with the sliminess and the bugs, we definitely made the right decision by sticking with our plan to go to Maya Chan. As the blog posts I’d read ahead of time mentioned, it was definitely a rough ride over to the beach, but we’d been warned, and I knew it was worth putting up with. We were met at the entrance by an employee who told us that the worst of our day was over, and that we wouldn’t even notice the bumps on the way back after we’d enjoyed the beach and a few cocktails. Spoiler alert: She was right! Haha.

As other reviews of Maya Chan have mentioned, the service here is really exceptional. We were greeting with a snack of guacamole and chips and a rum punch, and the drinks flowed freely from there. They even have a floating bar out in the water, as well as some floating chairs that are anchored down so you can relax with a cocktail in your hand. We were set up in an amazing spot just next to the bar and right by the ocean.

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As good as the service at Maya Chan is, the real standout is the lunch, a freshly prepared make-your-own-taco bar. This is possibly some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten, and its flavors are a welcome change from cruise ship food, which can be somewhat institutional at times. If you come to Maya Chan for the day, make sure to come hungry!

So if you’ve also had our bad luck and run into a spell of seagrass, and the rep asks if you still want to go to Maya Chan, you should definitely say YES! You need to make a reservation for Maya Chan and you can do so at the website. It’s a popular destination and they do sell out, so make sure to make your reservations early so you’re not disappointed!

Cozumel, three ways

The port of Cozumel, Mexico is fast becoming one of my favorite places to stop on a cruise. This port is well-designed for tourists and offers a lot of fun and frankly, very affordable options. There are a variety of things to do that can suit different types of travelers. In this post I’ll talk about three things I’ve done in Cozumel that I’d definitely recommend.

Cozumel has become known for its all-inclusive beach clubs, where a set fee per day gets you admission, chairs, food, and drinks. (Note: You still have to bring your own beach towel from the ship!) We tried out two of these and found them to be great options – but significantly different.

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Nachi Cocom Beach Club, which you see above, feels like a tropical paradise. It’s great when you want to just relax under a palapa and have some cold drinks, or take a swim in the beautiful blue water. The lunch was top-notch (watch out – the salsa is spicy! If you’re a wimp like me, ask for the “Americano” version) and the shade was plentiful – perfect for a ginger like me. You have to make a reservation at Nachi Cocom (which you can do on their website) and they limit the number of guests, which leads to a nice, uncrowded atmosphere.

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Another popular all inclusive is Mr. Sancho’s, and we found this to be a great place to spend our day in Cozumel as well. The vibe here was a little different – much more fun and fast-paced, and I would definitely recommend this option if you’re traveling with a group. The service here was excellent and they’ll make every effort to put your group together on the beach or around one of the two pools. You don’t need a reservation here, but you can make one. At both of the all-inclusives we tried out, you put down a deposit online and pay the remainder when you arrive at the beach club. We arrived both times via taxi, which cost about $18 for the group each way.

A third option is the Cozumel Bar Hop, a great way to explore a little more of the island of Cozumel. This tour takes you to the uninhabited “wild” side of the island, where there’s no electricity and the beach bars and restaurants bring in their food and supplies every day. The tour and its operators are fantastic; guests who have previously taken the tour are welcomed back as “FOHOs” (former Hoppers) and the atmosphere is friendly and fun. You visit four different beach bars in about five hours and if you like margaritas, this is the tour for you – the bars serve them in abundance, authentic and large. You’ll definitely make some new friends on this tour. (The hubby wants me to note that this is not the tour to take if you want to swim in the ocean – the surf is pretty rough on this side of the island!)

All of these options have a price point around $50-$60, which is pretty low in comparison to some cruise ports. I’ve started looking for itineraries that take me to Cozumel (usually these are Western Caribbean) because I know I’ll have a good day in port!

Why you should go on a group cruise

I’ve recently returned from an awesome week in the Caribbean (one might say it’s the BEST WEEK EVER) with the yearly Team Cocktail cruise. While the hubby and I love to travel solo, it’s also fun to join up with groups on cruises, and here are a few reasons why.

This particular cruise is now in its (*counts on fingers and toes*) 13th year, and about half of this year’s group were returning members. I only get to see a lot of these folks once a year, but we always pick up right where we left off. We also had almost 50 new members this year, so a group cruise is a great way to meet new people.

Group cruises have a lot of different themes – there are cruises for fans of Star Trek and fans of the workout-dance craze Zumba, for example. Music cruises have become quite popular and cover a range from boy bands (New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys) to heavy metal (Kiss, Monsters of Rock). (I haven’t been on a music cruise yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list!)

Although I love planning adventures and excursions, occasionally it’s nice to let someone else do the work! On our Team Cocktail cruise, there were planned excursions in most of our ports – you could choose to participate or not, but mostly it was nice to just show up and have a great time on a beach somewhere.

If you’re thinking that group cruises are only for extroverts who like big groups of people, think again – even on a cruise called “Team Cocktail,” we still had some folks who liked to relax and take it easy, along with the folks who liked to enjoy a cocktail or two. With a group cruise, you can drift in and out of the group as you want to – no questions asked.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can join the Team Cocktail Cruise in 2019, you can click here to learn more!

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Majesty of the Seas Live Blog: Day 3

Day 3 was our port stop in Nassau, which I’ve been to about four or five times in the last year. As a result, I wasn’t totally gung-ho to get off the ship right away, which made for a nice relaxing (and productive!) morning.

I woke up early and chugged a cup of coffee before heading to a 7 am class in the fitness center. (I told you I was one of those early-morning people!) The class was at the same time as our sail into Nassau, meaning that I would miss my opportunity to take some pictures, but that was ok. After the class ended around 8 am, I sat on the deck and drank a couple more cups of coffee before going back to my room to shower. It was a beautiful morning for Nassau, fairly cool and not nearly as humid as I was used to encountering at this stop, with some clouds keeping down the heat.

I spent the morning writing blog posts and enjoying the quiet of the ship. I’d heard from some frequent cruisers that many of them don’t even get off the ship in Nassau because they prefer to enjoy the day on board, and I can see why – the venues were uncrowded and the pool deck was fairly unoccupied. We were parked next to the Liberty of the Seas, an unusual sight to see in Nassau since this ship usually does Western Caribbean routes out of its home port of Galveston.

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Around noon, I wrapped up my writing and headed to the Windjammer for some lunch. I had thought about trying out the Johnny Rockets on board, but decided instead to be healthy and opted for a big salad from Windjammer along with soup and a sandwich from the Compass Deli. (I understand that the Compass Deli might not survive the next round of refurbishments on Majesty, which are scheduled for early 2018, which is a shame!)

After lunch, I grabbed an ice-cream cone and lounged for a bit on the blissfully quiet pool deck. Around 2, I decided it was time to head into town, so I went down to the cabin and collected what I’d need for the day. The port in Nassau is incredibly convenient to the downtown area, and to make things even better, we were parked in the very closest berth to the terminal building. Without a crowd of departing cruisers to slow me down, it only took me about 10 minutes to go from my cabin on the ship to the main street in Nassau.

My first stop was my favorite place to go when I’m in port here: the Pirate Republic Brewery. Friends, I’m a bit of a beer snob, and I’m here to tell you that their brews are not just surprisingly good for a brewery in Nassau, they’re flat-out good, period. I started with a flight so that I could sample some of their new seasonals, then switched to my old standby, the Island Pirate Ale (IPA, get it?). I found a nice couple who were on the Liberty, and talked with them for a while as we drank our beers. I made a stop in the brewery’s excellent gift shop to bring back a present for the hubby, who didn’t get to make this trip with me.

It was getting a little late, but I decided to walk a little more around Nassau before heading back to the ship. I found myself at an Irish-themed bar called Shenanigans, which was near the end of Bay Street, the main shopping street. I found in talking to the bartender that they had only opened a few months ago, and the bar certainly had two important elements: good wifi and cold air conditioning. I paid a lot for my Guinness ($11!), but if wifi and a cool place to sit down are what you’re looking for, this is a good place to stop. (Just don’t get the Guinness – I think the other beers are cheaper.)

As I finished up my beer, I realized that it was nearly 5 pm – and my dinner time was a 6! Overall, I’ve enjoyed having the early dinner seating on this cruise, but it can cause one to adjust the schedule somewhat, especially on port days. I headed back to the ship, but there was only one problem – after all that beer, I was getting sleepy! I made a beeline for the Windjammer and filled up two water glasses all the way to the top with ice, then filled them with coffee. Hey, it’s not the best iced coffee ever, but it works! I happened to catch a lovely sunset on deck while I drank my iced coffee and listened to the reggae sounds of the house band.

After recharging, I got changed for dinner, then headed to the dining room. I stopped at a bar on the way to dinner to use one of my Crown and Anchor deals to buy one, get one free on a glass of wine for dinner. Well, two glasses of wine, to be honest – which I then proceeded to combine into one very full glass. I got a few looks from my dinner companions!

After dinner, I planned to visit the casino for a few minutes, then head up to a vantage point to watch our departure from Nassau. Well, as it turns out, I should have just skipped the casino entirely, because I wound up losing back all my winnings from the first night (and then some) – but there’s always today, haha! And to add insult to injury, we sailed away earlier than scheduled (that happens sometimes when all passengers have gotten back on board, especially for a late evening departure), and I missed that too. By the time I got up on deck, the lights of Nassau were just a speck in the distance off the back of the ship.

Oh well! I decided it was as good a time to any to head back to my cabin for the night. (It was definitely better than heading back to the casino!) I watched a bit of a basketball game on TV before turning in around 10 pm. Another early night, and no one to tease me about it. I was thrilled!

Going to the C&A event (again)

I’ve written before about the Crown and Anchor Top Tier event (for Platinum level members and higher) that the hubby and I attended on our Majesty of the Seas cruise in the Bahamas. I was intrigued to attend the similar event on the Explorer on the Seas because this is a much bigger ship, and I was curious how many people would attend.

One thing that was different on the Explorer cruise: we didn’t get our invitation to the event until midway through the week, and the event was held on the last day of our cruise. No problem – the event was held on our last sea day, and we had a pretty clear calendar. 😉 We attended the event, which was held in the ice rink, a feature found in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis, Freedom, and Voyager class ships.

(Side note: I just don’t get ice skating on a cruise ship. You can both attend skating performances and participate in an open skate yourself, but I’ve never found myself wanting to do it. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference!)

Indeed, there were a lot more people attending this Top Tier event, which was not surprising as it was a much bigger cruise ship. Waiters were walking around with the usual drinks (I opted for champagne again) and even some small hors d’oeuvres. The program was similar, but with one noticeable difference: The top cruisers had far fewer nights at sea than did the ones at the Majesty C&A event.

I didn’t mind attending the event because we really didn’t have anything to do, and we got a few free drinks out of it. I think the hubby is getting a little sick of them, though – he opted out of the event on our next cruise. (As it turns out, I kind of wish that I had too….)

Buying a 10 drinks card

Although I’ve bought Royal Caribbean’s unlimited drinks package before, I tend these days not to, especially when it’s just me and the hubby cruising by ourselves. He only drinks one or two a day, and I tend to do the same when we travel together. So I bring my two bottles of wine, and maybe a few mini booze bottles in my carry-on, and then I just pay as I go. (Oh, and along the way I look for free drinks, like at the Crown & Anchor events!)

On the second full day of our Pacific Coastal cruise, which was a sea day, I stopped in to the pub on the promenade and ordered a drink. The bartender told me about something I’d long heard mentioned, but never seen in person – the 10-drinks card, which offers ten drinks (up to a certain level) for a flat fee. So I bought one – in the name of research, of course – to learn how the whole thing worked.

The cost on my cruise for the card was $75 flat. This means that the 10-drinks card was actually around $63.50, plus the standard 18% gratuity for bar staff. Now as it happens, one of my favorite cruise drinks is a Grey Goose cosmopolitan, which can run on the expensive side. So the opportunity to pay under $6.50 a drink seemed like a great deal for me. (Note: I did not drink 10 cosmopolitans. Maybe 6 or 7. And not all at once, of course. 🙂

The 10-drinks card is lovely in its flexibility, and I wish it was a permanent part of the RC experience. I could buy drinks for both myself and my husband; if we’d wanted to, we could have bought one 10-drinks card for each of us. This level of drinking is much more suited to us than a package where one feels the need to “get your money’s worth” by drinking a certain amount a day.

The real downside is the card itself – it’s an actual physical piece of paper, and you have to have it on you, in addition to your SeaPass; plus if you lose it, you’re out of luck. We also had on this cruise the Café Selects card, which allows you to similarly prepay for coffee at a discount, and a few other paper drinks coupons. This made for a bit of paper management, but all in all it wasn’t much of a problem. (Tip: Designate one place on the desk, in the cabinets, etc to always place these lose-able items, to lessen the chance that you might lose them.)

Drinks on the beach in CocoCay, Bahamas

Nothing says “I’m on vacation!” like a beach and a frozen adult beverage. Fortunately, on Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay, you can get both of these things, and they’re (both) pretty awesome. (The floating bar, pictured above, is pretty awesome as well!)

I’d first visited CocoCay on a cruise with some friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. We’d all purchased Royal Caribbean’s deluxe beverage package because…well, it was my 40th birthday. We were excited to try the signature drink of the island, the Coco Loco. And try it we did! And we tried it again, and again, because…well, it was my 40th birthday.

When we returned to CocoCay on our Majesty cruise, I was excited to belly up to the bar and order myself a Coco Loco. I was surprised to see the bartender start assembling a plastic souvenir cup for my drink. I stopped him and said that I didn’t want to pay anything extra – I already have too many plastic drink cups at home! But I came to find out from the bartender that cruisers without a drink package pay a price for the Coco Loco that includes the cost of the cup – it’s only those cruisers with a drink package who receive it in a normal plastic cup.

So, now we have an additional plastic souvenir cup in our collection…guess I’ll remember to leave extra space in my luggage on future trips, unless I’m planning to get the beverage package!

Should you go to the Crown & Anchor event? (Heck yes!)

At the time of our Majesty cruise, my husband and I were at the Platinum level of the Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society, which gives frequent Royal cruisers bonuses for their loyalty. One of those perks is an invitation to some sort of onboard party, which we attended in the late morning of our first full day on the cruise.

I love going to these events because, well, I’m a cruise nerd. I like hearing about the industry and I often hear updates on advancements and improvements being planned by the company – this time it was discussion of the massive CocoCay renovation, which will include a pier for ships to dock at and other additional facilities on the island. (At our event, they suggested a salt-water wave pool would be among the additions – a neat touch as the water at CocoCay doesn’t have many waves to speak of.)

I also love going to the C&A events because, well, they give you free drinks! Most of them will have waiters moving among the crowd with a tray featuring a number of different drink options (mimosa, rum punch, etc) but if you ask nicely, they can often bring you something else. I usually drink champagne, myself – it’s not the best vintage around, but hey, it’s free!

I really love the camaraderie at these events – at the event on Majesty in particular, cruise guests and staffers were greeting each other like old friends. Clearly, our group included a number of very frequent cruisers – many were at the Pinnacle Club level, earned by cruising over 700 nights, and one cruiser had over 2800 nights! (Our cruise left from Port Canaveral in Florida, which likely contributed to the number of frequent cruisers, many of whom lived within driving distance.)

After an event around 30 minutes, my husband took our glasses of champagne up to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch the sail in to Nassau. Even though it was gloomy weather at the time, this was a very pleasant way to spend the morning!

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