Currently we are in Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Belle Chasse, LA Temperature: 45 F, cloudy and windy This is third in a series of posts about our NCL cruise on the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. Read about our first day at sea here, and about our evening here.
Mo and I have cruised the Eastern Caribbean, and I did the Southern Caribbean with daughter Deb in 2011. For some reason we had no burning desire to cruise the Western Caribbean, but when searching for something to do from a port on our RV route this winter, this NCL cruise was our best choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again, especially to Cozumel. The water was gorgeous breathtaking turquoise and crystal clear on the northern somewhat rocky side of the island where we docked, and I have seen photos of the quieter south side beaches.
Having never been in this part of Mexico, we decided to simply walk the town, and see what we could see on our own. We heard later that some folks actually snorkeled near the port, but we will save that adventure for another time. In fact, after spending a day on the island, we decided that a nice little funky hotel on the south side beaches would be a great place to spend a couple of weeks in winter, minus the cruise ship.
We have a Rocky Point friend who does that for a few weeks every winter, and now we get it. Of course, Roatan is also a possibility for a winter getaway for us, but more about that later. There are three cruise docks on Cozumel, and we weren’t sure of our specific landing site. When it was announced that the landing was to be at the Punta Langosta Terminal, right in the center of San Miguel, we were delighted. The International Pier is more than 6 miles from town and would have required a taxi ride to get away from the cruise shops that are always crowded around the docking site.
It seems that walking is the best way to get a feeling for a location, and we set off early toward the central town Plaza and the artisan shops that are just south of the main square. The square was quiet in the early morning, and there seemed to be extensive refurbishing in process. With a bit of searching, we found the upstairs visitor center for a local map and information.
Especially enjoyable was the long walk along the beach promenade. In the process of being refurbished, the views of the sea were gorgeous. On the land side of the main road, the walkways were thronged with cruisers shopping and walking, but where we walked, we nearly had the walkway to ourselves. Crossing the street requires vigilance, however, since scooters and mopeds are in abundance and come up fast.
By 11 the plaza and restaurants were getting even more crowded, so we located the Palmeras Restaurant on the square and settled in for the recommended margueritas. Well, margueritas for me and wine for Mo. Only after she tasted her wine did Mo remember that when in Mexico, drink beer, not wine! I later read that I should have checked for purified ice, but I neglected to do that and it didn’t even occur to me to worry about it. Many years ago I did the same thing in Puerto Vallarta and was incredibly sick for a few days. How could I forget?! No problem here at all, however. Lunch was excellent, with a shared plate of chicken tacos that were perfect for the two of us.
After our leisurely lunch, we wandered into some of the back streets and bought a few little trinkets for folks back home. The shopkeepers are quite aggressive, entreating you to come into their stores, with the most common phrase being, “Almost free!”
Funny how you can ignore most of them, but then for some reason a particular person will strike you just the right way and in you go. We found that shop and that person for our simple purchases and it was a pleasant experience. In fact, too pleasant! After my marguerita I was feeling pretty happy, and after my purchase the shopkeeper offered me a taste of some kind of tequila. I had a shot, with no idea what kind it was and it went down as smooth as butter. Oh my. It was yummy…no salt or lemon required…and I got a lot happier.
The weather was absolutely perfect, gorgeous blue skies, crystal clear water, fresh air, it couldn’t be better. As often is the case, the little taste of a place that a cruise ship offers is only the beginning. However it does give enough of a taste that it is easier to determine if the area might be a place to return. Lahaina, Maui comes to mind. Until we dropped in one day on a cruise last year, we had no idea it might be someplace we would choose to experience in more depth.
We returned to the ship in late afternoon, with some time to enjoy a poolside lounge and great reggae music from the band that sings mostly in Spanish. Love the sound of that language in music.
Again, all the salads are fresh and tasty, with the choices from the Indian menu and the fresh made stir fry always excellent. Many times there are Thai choices as well, with a tasty Thai roasted chicken and Thai noodles high on my list of favorites.
MBZ said something to me recently about cruising Norwegian that sums up the experience perfectly. It isn’t Celebrity and doesn’t try to be. There were so many positives that outweighed the very few negatives, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go on this cruise again for a simple getaway.
- The food was great, with plenty of choices and kinds of dining available
- The crew was friendly and pleasant, and we especially enjoyed the diversity of the staff, from 60 different countries.
- The ship was easy to navigate, big enough to be entertaining, but not so big we got lost all the time.
- The entertainment was excellent and most of the time something was going on somewhere that was interesting.
- There was enough time in the ports to actually enjoy them and we only had to be tendered to shore once during the cruise.
- Embarkation and Disembarkation was slick and quick.
- The ship wasn’t glitzy but it was clean and in good repair. Launched in 2005 as one of the older ships, it was refurbished in 2009.
- The bed was great.
- We weren’t constantly harassed to buy alcohol
- “washy washy” I guess you had to be there to appreciate the singing, dancing staff dispensing antiseptic hand wash
- Freestyle cruising a positive for us since we are often spontaneous with our decisions and can’t get back in time for a formal scheduled dinner
- We enjoyed the lack of formality in the regular dining rooms
- Our steward made great animals!
- We missed the navigation channel on the TV which was out of order for the entire cruise
- The daily activities sheet was very limited, had no port history, and very little information about the area we were visiting
- There were no informational kinds of lectures on board during the cruise
- The ship décor was kind of kitschy.
- The patio and deck service was often very limited.
- The food wasn’t high end gourmet cruise food (not necessarily a negative thing).
- Regular dining room service was a bit sketchy and rushed at times.
- Freestyle cruising – a negative if you enjoy the formal dining room meals and service of a regular dinner seating
- Our steward was adequate, not great, he didn’t always refill our ice bucket and the mirrors were sometimes streaky