Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From Manatees to Seal Lions! Cozumel continued - 2/13/15

We couldn't make up our minds when we picked Chankanaab as to if we wanted to do the Manatee Encounter or the Sea Lion Encounter.  I mean, really, who could pick?  So we were able to get a discount combo package and that sealed the deal!  After we finished up with the Manatees, we met our group for the Seal Lions and went over to where this encounter would take place.

This is done right in the theater where they do the show. This encounter was very different from the manatees. I assume because the sea lions are trained for shows they have to be handled very specifically and very cautiously. Not that they are more delicate exactly, but that the trainers don't want the encounter to interfere with the trained behaviors that they have learned. Everything was very precise. From where we could stand, to how we held our hands, to where we could touch the sea lion.

There were 6 in our group, my family of 4 and another family of 2. We were split into two groups, with 3 of us in the water, and 3 on the stage. 

The water group, ready!

So, first the sea lion would pass by them, and they could pet him as he went by. They had to keep their hands up and when he went by he would slow down and they could pet him gently.

Then the sea lion would swim up onto the stage and one of us would be in position for a kiss!

Then back in the water for another pass by pet

And back on stage for some more kisses!

Ooh - right on the lips!

Then we had some careful instructions on how to stand, kneel and then pet the sea lion

Back in the water, and they did a "hold" the sea lion pose

And they even did some in black and white!

And then we switched. This part was a bit challenging for Megan and me. Being short, we had a hard time standing because the water was just a bit too deep for us! We had to hold on to the edge of the pool so we didn't float away! Which made it hard to hold on and pet the sea lion! 

And then Keith got his kisses too

Alex holding the little guy

and me

And Keith petting the sea lion!

Megan wanted no part in trying to hold the guy. She figured she'd float all over the pool and end up hurting the sea lion or herself! The last thing she wanted was to be yelled at by the trainer! 

And that's sort of how it felt at that encounter.....while it was pretty cool, and a unique experience, it was nothing like the manatees. This was so precise. For example, when we knelt down to pet the sea lion when it was out of the water, you had to wait until it was already lying in front of you to go from standing to kneeling down. I didn't remember this, and I knelt down before he got in front of me. Which actually made me more comfortable - I have a bad leg/hip and if I'm going to go from standing to kneeling I'm usually pretty stable, but if I wobble, I'd rather not wobble ONTO a sea lion!! But since I did it in the wrong order, the trainer had to "reset" and have me stand up and have the routine start again, with the sea lion back in the water and me stand back up. 

We all enjoyed it, but I was really glad we also did the manatees, and if I had to only choose one, the manatees would definitely be my first choice, just because it was much more interactive and we learned more about the animals. The sea lions, while very unique and something most people never will experience, was a bit too methodical to be as enjoyable as I would have liked it to be. The sea lion was an amazing and beautiful animal, but the encounter felt a bit more like it was built around posing for pictures rather than enjoying the time with the animal.  Again, we enjoyed it, but it had a different feel to it.

So, after we were done there, we did go back to the photo area and looked at all of the pictures. There are probably over 500 between the manatee and sea lions. One of the customer service people asked me if I was going to purchase the photos and I told him that someone earlier told me they would work with me on the price, and that I couldn't pay the full price for two encounters for 4 people. He said no problem - pick your pictures and let me know what you want to pay. Bottom line here - the price they quote is very negotiable, so going in, if you want the pictures they take, make sure you ask what the actual price is, especially if you are doing more than one encounter. They turned out really well, and I would hate to have not asked and not have these memories.

And our day isn't even half over! We had lunch at the little restaurant by the lockers. I know there are are a few different areas there to eat, but this one was convenient to where our stuff was, and we could eat and then put stuff in the lockers and then go over to the beach and snorkel, or whatever!

Next up, our afternoon at Chankanaab!

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 day....so, 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 scene...you 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....