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!

Going to Mardi Gras…on a cruise?

It’s true: You can go to New Orleans for the famous Mardi Gras celebration on a cruise, thanks to Celebrity Cruises. The hubby and I just returned from Celebrity’s 10-Night Mardi Gras and Caribbean cruise (we also stopped at Grand Cayman and Cozumel) and we agreed that it was a tremendously unique experience. For us, it was also surprisingly affordable – more on that later.

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Our cruise left Ft. Lauderdale on Friday afternoon and took about 48 hours to make it to the port in New Orleans, including a transit of the Mississippi River (unfortunately, it was pretty rainy) that took about 9-10 hours. The ship docks at the convenient Julia Street Cruise Terminal, from which you can walk or take a cab or streetcar to just about anywhere. Your ship is docked for two whole days, from Sunday night until Tuesday night, and as I’ve written about before, having an overnight cruise stop is an awesome experience – incredibly freeing!

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When we arrived in New Orleans at around 7 pm on Sunday night, the parades were in full swing. We were able to walk just a few blocks to see the Bacchus parade, and then we walked to the other side of the French Quarter to visit our favorite jazz clubs on Frenchman’s Street. We came back to our cruise ship a little after 1 am and walked right back on to the ship and back to our cabin – no problem!

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Over the next two days, we got to see four parades and visit many of our favorite places in the Crescent City (although it’s important to note that a lot of places were closed due to the Mardi Gras celebration). Having the cruise ship as a home base was an excellent way to experience my first Mardi Gras – we could come and go to the ship as we pleased, grab a quick bite in the buffet, or take a few minutes to relax before heading out to experience more of the fun.

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Now, about the price: I’ll be the first to admit that we were a bit lucky to get such a good deal on this cruise. We booked the cruise in mid-December 2018 (about two months before the sail date) and Celebrity had lowered the prices significantly to fill the rooms on the ship – you find this often happens when the date for final payment has passed and there are still a lot of unsold cabins. We paid a total of $1900 for two people in an inside room for our 10-night cruise; this is a good deal under most circumstances anyway, but when you think about what we might have paid for a hotel room for two nights during the busiest parts of Mardi Gras, the value is even better.

The 2019 cruise, which leaves on March 1, might not offer such a great bargain – March is traditionally a more popular month than February for cruises. The cruise is a great way to visit Mardi Gras at any price, however, and who knows – maybe early January will find some good deals! You can contact me if you’re interested in taking a cruise to Mardi Gras in 2019.

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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