Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cozumel! Manatees! Day 6 2/13/15

Cozumel....I love this port, and I love Mexico in general. We were docked for a nice long day - 8am - 7pm, with an all aboard of 6:30, so plenty of options! Actually too many to choose from! On a past cruise we did The Amazing Race, which was so much fun! But today, what would we do? I went back and forth among so many options....Keith and I had done the dune buggy tour of the island many years ago and we really enjoyed that. I considered something along those lines. Jeep tour? Combo jeep/snorkeling? Head over to Passion Island? Initially I was thinking maybe Mr Sanchos, but after Labadee, I didn't know if we'd want another full beach, what did we decide?

Chankanaab! Chankanaab and the Manatee encounter! Well, we also threw in the Sea Lion Encounter as well! How often can you interact with a manatee? We've done the dolphin experiences before, but never a manatee and that sort of just sealed the deal. We didn't do a tour, or a ship excursion. Having so long in port, we booked the encounters through Dolphin Discovery before we left so we would have a guaranteed time slot and then we took a taxi over to Chankanaab so we could arrive and depart when it was convenient for us.

The Cozumel port is very easy to navigate. You just follow the signs out to where the taxis are and everything is pre-priced for where you want to go. I believe it was $12 USD to go to Chankanaab. I didn't take a picture of the sign, but that is what is sticking out in my memory. It may have been $10 though....It's a short ride, maybe 10 minutes tops and we were there! We arrived, checked in and got our wristbands and waited for our encounters. We had it scheduled to do the manatees I believe around 10:00 and the sea lions at 11:30.

It was actually pretty chilly that morning! We were hoping it would warm up!

This is the area where they do the encounters

We were given keys to two lockers to put our belongings in and we went to wait. We did have a pretty long wait, and during that time the tours started to arrive. Tons and tons and tons of people started coming in. I would say mainly cruise ship passengers. There were some people from hotels as well. And the majority of them were for the dolphin encounters. Chankanaab seemed to be pretty organized as to getting them through the check in, life jackets and into the encounters, and there aren't a whole lot of people in each group it's limited. 

Our group for the manatees only had the 4 of us and one other woman.

There is a photographer taking pictures, and no, they do not let you or anyone else take pictures at all. I do believe they say that people have dropped their cameras into the water, and I am sure that has happened, but also, they do want to sell you their photos as well. 

During the interaction you have a "guide" and we were told ours was a marine biologist, and maybe she was - she did seem to know a lot about the manatees and she was really great with our group. It was not just about touching or seeing the manatee, but also about learning about them as well. But there was definitely a lot of making sure to get in position to take the proper pictures!

So, first we had a little introduction about manatees before we got into the water. And our guide asked if we had any questions

We all stood on the platform and got to pet the manatee as we learned more about their behaviors and things like skin, faces, mouth, eating etc...

He was the sweetest thing ever!

And just like when you do a dolphin encounter, there's the "kiss"

And then a kiss on the cheek too

More posing with him

Holding him like a baby

And then we all got to feed him some lettuce

And if all of that so far wasn't one of the coolest experiences, we got to get into the water with the manatees, and feed them, and swim around with them! We put on face masks, so we could look into the water and see them swimming down below us too! 

Alex with three manatees all hanging out with him! He really could not have been happier!

All of us loved this experience....absolutely loved it!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sea Day #2 on the Allure, Penguins to Classical Concert in the Park! 2/12/15

So we left off as we finished off our cupcake decorating class.  Totally worth doing!  Tonight was the 2nd formal night and we went back to our cabins to get ready for dinner.  

Here's a picture from the kid's cabin looking out at the Boardwalk - it's one with the "miniature" filter setting used on the camera....kinda a cool effect!

So, after the cupcake decorating class, and before our formal night dinner, there was one very important thing the kids and I just had to do....

That's right, we had to get our pictures taken with these adorable penguins! The timing really couldn't have been better. Megan and I had seen the movie just a couple of weeks before, and darn if now they weren't above the minions on my list of characters that I would stand in line to get a picture taken with! 

They were true to character, I mean, they were the real penguins, right? Giving Alex high 5's and everything!

And no, we weren't the only people there over 7 years old getting our pictures taken!

Of course, I wanted one with just me, I mean I was getting the photo package right? Why not!

And just Megan and her penguin friends!

And Alex, can you just stand how cute they are? The penguins that is!

So these photos with the Dreamworks characters....they are listed in the Cruise Compass. And there are two types of photo ops. There are the photos with the ship photographers, which this was. So, yes you can bring your camera. And the crew will even use your camera if you ask them and it's not too crowded. So we do have photos with my camera. But there are also professional photographers there and they will take your picture if you want to purchase them later. Then there are just meet and greet type photo ops, which are also listed in the Cruise Compass. For those, there isn't a photographer. So bring your camera if you want a picture! As some point I do think all of the characters had a photo op, but you'd really have to schedule your time to make it convenient! And they don't last long. Maybe 20 minutes at a time, so you do have to get there when it's scheduled! 

And then it was time to head to dinner...formal night in the Main Dining Room. It was the often talked about "lobster night". I did get the lobster, and it was ok...a bit overcooked, but nothing to complain about. I honestly have no memory of what everyone else got, but I'm fairly certain Alex got a fish dish. Sometime on this vacation or the last one, he started eating fish....

And one of us had Baked Alaska for dessert!

After dinner Alex wanted to go to the Classical Concert in the Park. This was honestly one of the coolest things to experience on a ship. Picture this are sitting in what feels like a park, let's say "Central Park", at night, under stars, with a String Quartet, or maybe trio, playing Classical Music. It was truly an amazing end to the night. And I love, absolutely LOVE that it was the choice of my 15 year old son to spend the evening doing that....

Yet another pretty fantastic day aboard the Allure wasn't it? Tomorrow would be Cozumel....

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sea Day #2 on the Allure, 2/12/15

The time is flying way too fast! It's already day FIVE! Today is a sea day. Relaxing by the pool, hanging out....we do have a bit planned, but nothing like our past two days full of adventure! This is part of just why the kids and I love cruises so much. There are those days of island or port adventures that are so unique, and then you have the sea days to just hang out. And on a ship like the Allure, you can't possibly be bored!

After breakfast, we started out up by the Beach Pool. This was definitely our favorite place to be! We went to the Main Dining Room for breakfast and enjoyed that. By the time we got to the pool, it was fairly crowded and there were only "sitting up" type chairs left.

Eventually there was some space in one of the hot tubs and we all went in and decided to play around with my water camera

A photobomb by Alex going on here!

Definitely a rough life, someone has to live it I suppose!

And then we moved over to the regular pool for some underwater fun!

For some reason this boy did not want a picture with his mother, no matter what! Hmmmm....not too nice of him!

The kids and I went to Johnny Rockets for lunch...

And we brought back a hot dog from the Dog House for Keith.

Today was the Walk For Wishes day. For those not familiar with this, Royal Caribbean partners with the Make A Wish Foundation to raise money for them. This is a foundation that is very near and dear to me. Very coincidentally on the day of the Walk for Wishes, my very dear friend was participating in her son's WISH with the foundation. He was diagnosed with leukemia last year and while he was in remission at the time of the cruise we were on, and had an amazing wish thanks to the foundation, just around Easter he relapsed and has to fight this battle again. It's heartbreaking and touches me quite a bit as her son is Alex's age and she and I have been friends for more than 25 years. So, while I didn't do the walk this cruise, I have done it on past cruises, and this cruise I made my donation and I know that Royal Caribbean and its passengers raise quite a bit of money for this organization that really puts smiles on these kids faces! And that really is a great thing!

After our lunch at Johnny Rockets, which by the way was pretty much as you'd expect a Johnny Rockets lunch...cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings...tasty, filling and too much food! You do pay a cover charge, $5 I believe, but then can order off the menu for what you want, with the exception of the milk shakes, which are an additional charge. They will bring you refills on the onion rings or fries, and I would assume more than one burger if you'd want one. We didn't!

So, after lunch, we had our Cupcake Decorating Class at the Cupcake Cupboard! The kids and I were looking forward to this! We arrived and were all set up at our table. I think there were 6 or maybe 7 people in the class and we had decided to do the "Puppy" cupcake.

Our instructor was very thorough and went through the steps to decorate the cupcake slow enough so that no one fell behind. She was there to help out if needed.

Our finished cupcakes!

Well now, that was a fun way to spend some time! Well worth it in our opinion! We went back to the cabin and got ready for dinner. Tonight was the 2nd formal night!