River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018
River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

At Sea and Cozumel, Mexico - Nov. 29 and 30, 2015

Sunday: Our first full day at sea and we are loving our balcony stateroom. We spent more time exploring the ship, but ultimately ended up sitting out on the balcony reading for a few hours. 
View of the balcony and ocean from our room
Our stateroom
The sound of the ocean and the fresh air were wonderful. Except, that is, when someone upwind of us decided to smoke on his balcony. No smoking is allowed on stateroom balconies and incurs a $250 fine.

I saw the guy hanging over his balcony smoking and reminded him of the no smoking policy. He acted like he was above the rules and kept on smoking. I told him we were downwind of him and it smelled terrible on our balcony. He still kept smoking. Blech! We went inside until he finished.

The Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ships have what they call "Freetyle Cruising." One of the coolest features of freestyle cruising is you can choose in which restaurant to eat, and where to sit. You're not assigned to the same table or waiter each time.

The restaurants that are complimentary on the ship are the Garden Cafe buffet, Blue Lagoon, Grand Pacific, Alizar, Great Outdoors buffet, Topsiders Grill (by the pool), Bali Hai grill, and Jasmine Garden (Asian - dinner only). There are specialty restaurants (Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro [French], Moderno [Brazilian], La Cucina [Italian], Sushi, Teppanyaki [Asian]) on board, but you pay extra for them ($19.95 to $29.95 per person per meal). We didn't go to any of the specialty restaurants.
Great Outdoors seating area - aft of ship
Talk about view tables! We loved eating out here
(when it wasn't rainy, windy or cold).
Carnival Freedom going same way we are
Our very favorite dining room is the Grand Pacific. It is decorated in the style of grand sailing ships with a Hawaiian theme.

At opening time, there was always a line to get in!
Grand Pacific dining room
A beautiful sunset from our table in Grand Pacific
Bob and I dressed for dinner
Started finding charming towel animals
on our bed when the room was turned down.
Entertainment options when you're at sea run the gamut from games (Team Trivia, Bingo, Deal or No Deal), to the casino, to dancing, to live shows in the Stardust Theater, movies, seminars, sports (shuffleboard, basketball, tennis, soccer, walking, work-out room), karaoke, music, dance classes, art auctions, you name it...so much to do. Bob and I enjoyed playing Team Trivia and watching game shows like "Not so Newlywed Game" in one of the lounges.

Sunday night's entertainment in the Stardust Theater was "Illusions with Cripton and Renata," a thoroughly engaging magic show with lots of drama and "how did they do that?" At 10:30 pm we went to Norwegian's Night Out Party for dancing with a live band. We had a good time. Then it was light's out. Our shore excursion to Tulum will leave at 10:00 am Monday.

Monday: We got up in time to have breakfast before our seven-hour day trip to Tulum: Mayan ruins built on a bluff overlooking the ocean. After we debarked the ship, we walked over to a passenger ferry to take us from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, 45 minutes away on the mainland of Mexico. That's where our tour bus would pick us up and drive us 50 minutes to Tulum. We had many choices for shore excursions, but we were most interested in Mayan ruins.

Cozumel, Mexico

We will be in the yellow and blue ferry on the right.
One of the ferries we saw from our stateroom
Disney's Fantasy and our ship, NCL Jade
Impressions of Playa del Carmen, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico: Cute next to the ocean, but very third world a couple of blocks away. Lots of dilapidated buildings, broken down cars in yards. Once we left town, we were in the country where there are lots of cenotes, caverns, underground rivers, and tourist attractions (Xel Ha, etc.).

Trip Advisor has a good description of cenotes: "The Yucatan peninsula has the unusual feature of resting on a bed of limestone. Over the centuries, as rainfall was absorbed into the ground, it created subterranean caverns filled with fresh water pools. Sometimes the 'roof' of these caverns collapses in, leaving the pool open to the sky and creating a fresh water swimming hole in the jungle. Whether enclosed or open, these pools are known as cenotes (say- no-tays). These pools were an important—sometimes the only—source of fresh water for the Mayan people. As such they were regarded as religious sites. Today they remain an important part of the ecosystem of the Yucatan while offering a place of unique natural beauty to be enjoyed by visitors and locals alike"

Anyway, our bus took us to Tulum. When we exited the bus, there was a whole village of vendors selling everything from food and water, to Mayan calendars, liquor, and lots of souvenirs. Our guide walked us through and pointed out where we could eat lunch, have our picture taken with Mayans in native dress (for a fee), then led us to the site of Tulum. Lots of tour buses were there, so there were many people at the ruins. Tulum is a Mexican National Park.

Iguanas everywhere - this one was on the roof of the restroom
Our tour guide - Saul
Spiny bark on this tree
As I said, Tulum was very crowded. Three busloads of people from cruise ships were there today. Below is the line to go through the tunnel into the walled city of Tulum. All the lords and upper class people lived within the walls of Tulum. Second class citizens lived outside the walls.

Entrance into Tulum
Tulum Mayan ruins
Below is the Palace of the Great Lord. The most important inhabitants of Tulum lived here.  Several large rooms were covered with flat roofs supported by columns which supported crossed wooden beams and a mixture of gravel, limestone powder and sand known as "calcrete." Archaeologists call this type of construction "Palace" because it was where the HalachUinic or "Great Lord" and his family lived.

Palace of the Great Lord
El Castillo, below, is the most important building in Tulum. At ground level on both sides of the stairs, there are two small temples with inner altars where offerings were left that filled the space with smells and colors. In the upper temple, major religious ceremonies were held. More than 500 years ago, the facade was brightly painted and decorated with sculptures; in addition, at its corners it had large stucco masks, traces of which still remain.

El Castillo - The Castle
The Temple of the Paintings
The Temple of the Paintings is one of the most decorated in Tulum. The temple has two levels. The lower level consists of two temples, one within another, in which the decoration is concentrated.

The facade of the inner temple is decorated with murals, and the outside with stucco figures in relief: masks on the corners, sculptures in three niches of the facade. The upper level temple is very simple; it is decorated in red handprints. The painting pigments were obtained in different ways. The red and black were obtained from soil and minerals while others, such as blue and green, were obtained from certain plants.
Iguanas all over Tulum
El Castillo, from the side, on a bluff overlooking the ocean
Popular beach spot...tide was in, so not much beach!
On the bluff at Tulum
Bob with Temple of the Wind God in the background
El Castillo
Temple of the Great Lord
Temple of the Descending God
The Temple of the Descending God is one of the most unique in Tulum. Its name comes from a niche located above the door where a sculpture of a winged figure is falling from the sky. His legs are up, his arms below, he has a headdress on his head and he is holding an object in his hands. The walls and door are not completely vertical, rather they are inclined. This is not the result of the passage of time, it was originally built that way,

An important characteristic of Mayan villages on the Yucatan Peninsula was the construction of houses or temples near water sources such as wells and chultunes (cisterns) or altars inside caves. The House of the Cenote was built on the limestone, which then was extended with a room placed directly over the hole that forms the cenote. In addition, bones were found so maybe this was used as a crypt as well. The Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula faced a serious problem with drinking water, as there are almost no rivers or bodies of water on the surface.
The House of the Cenote
Bob in front of House of the Cenote
Mesoamerica is a geographical area with common features and cultural elements, comprising Central and Southern Mexico and Central America. In this area, there was a cult of the wind god, known by the names in the language spoken by each group. In Maya, he was known as Kukulkan.
Temple of the Wind God with
three miniature temples
Regarding the Temple of the Wind God, experts have identified that a feature of the temples built to the wind god was a circular shape - when seen from above. This is the case in Tulum, which is rare for Mayan architecture.

Another archaeological feature of this region, known as the East Coast, is the presence of very small structures that reproduce temples to scale. These constructions must have functioned as altars where offerings were left, because their size obviously would not have allowed people in.

Massive iguana
Lovely flowers

Lunch at Frosties - chicken quesadillas
Bob checkin' out the ladies
Christmas tree in Playa del Carmen
Our ferry back to Cozumel
The pretty part of Playa del Carmen
Aft cabins on NCL Jade
Back on board the Jade, we changed into dinner and evening clothes. Dinner tonight was at the Garden Cafe buffet. I loved that the buffet always had one line of Indian food. I love Indian food: basmati rice, papadum, lamb curry, and some of the vegetarian dal dishes. We ate lots of wonderful food at the Garden Cafe.
New outfit tunic and leggings
Leggings have lace inset.
After dinner, we played Team Trivia, then headed to the Stardust Theater for their "Soul Rockin' Nights" show. The production crew sang and danced their way through Motown, Soul and Rock 'n' Roll hits. From there, we went up to Spinnaker Lounge for "What's My Line?" game show.

After the big production and then the game show, we headed to the Garden Cafe for dessert. Then we called it a night and went back to the room to read. We were greeted by our towel animal for the evening.

Elephant or E.T. (Extra Terrestrial)?
Tomorrow: Belize City and Lamanai Ruins with river safari! Stay tuned.


  1. Great insight into life on the cruise ship. Loved seeing what you do on those trips. Looks like you are having a great time.

  2. I loved the ports before the cruise lines bought them up, now they all look the same. I was hoping when they open Puerta Penasco up it would be like the old ones but they have already modernized it.

  3. We will be in one of those aft cabins when we do this same cruise in January. We visited Tulum 15 years ago. We had a chance to visit a lot of other Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza, but Tulum was special because of its seaside location.

  4. Like your new outfit too - besides the daily reports.


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