10.03.2017 - 17.03.2017
Our cruise headed back to Fort Lauderdale. This time we had 2 days before getting on our final ship the Regal Princess. So, we headed into Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the B Ocean Resort. We had a relaxing day at the hotel. This is the view from our balcony.
This morning we were picked up from our hotel to head to the Everglades. The trip began with a stop at the Everglades Safari Park.
This is the airboat.
The driver hopped on above us.
We had a great 40-minute airboat ride over and through the sawgrass prairies and pond apple forests of the Everglades.
There was quite a bit of bird life.
We were able to see a few alligators.
We returned along a narrow channel where we were able to see more bird life and alligators.
We then hopped in a van for a wildlife drive through the pine savannahs and cypress forests of Big Cypress National Preserve. We looked for alligators, turtles and birds and kept an eye out for the elusive Florida panther. We drove along a road called the Tamiami Road. It was the original road from Tampa to Miami. There was a canal on the side of the road with alligators everywhere.
See the cars driving past the alligators.
We were also able to see a soft shell turtle.
This turtle was swimming around the garfish. These fish were everywhere and the alligators and birds live on them.
This is an Anhinga.
This is an egret.
Next, we enjoyed a nature walk below towering bald cypress trees.
There were lots of bromeliads in the trees.
We found this little bird.
There were some baby alligators.
Shane found a dragon fly.
We even found a snake.
We then had lunch, which included alligator appetizers. I thought they tasted like calamari. We then hopped on board a scenic boat ride into the Ten Thousand Islands mangrove forest in Everglades National Park.
This is how a mangrove area starts, with just one plant.
Then after a couple of years it looks like this.
During the cruise, we got to see quite a bit of wild life. Including:
An osprey in the nest. There were also chicks but they popped their heads down when we turned up.
The brown pelican.
Then the beautiful Roseate Spoonbill.
We then got to see two manatees, but they only came up for a quick breath and then they were gone.
Last of all we saw two dolphins and one of them followed our wake.
Today, we said farewell to our hotel and headed back to the port to board the Regal Princess. This ship is sister to the Royal so we had already become familiar with the layout of the ship. Boy the port was busy today. There were 7 cruise ships in.
So we headed out of the channel of Fort Lauderdale once again for more adventures.
Earlier on in our trip we had watched the vegetable and fruit carving. It is something that we never get tired of watching as they are so clever. Have a look at these work of arts.
This morning we arrived at Montego Bay in Jamaica.
Stunning natural beauty and a unique society molded by British, African, Spanish and Asian influences supposedly make Jamaica an unforgettable Caribbean port of call. I guess it will be unforgettable. We were extremely disappointed with Jamaica. It was dirty and poor.
We decided to have a look around Montego Bay and acquaint ourselves with the history and culture. We visited the historic waterwheel. This still functioning cast iron Water Wheel is said to be over 200 years old. It apparently suffered serious damage in the slave revolt of 1831 and has since been restored.
We viewed the estate of Greenwood Great House where the Barretts of Wimpole Street fame took pleasure in plantation living. The Barretts were a hugely wealthy and respected family. The Barrett family treated their slaves relatively well and provided them with education, this was unusual at the time. As a mark of respect, Greenwood Great House was spared from damage during the slave rebellion in Christmas 1831 which saw many plantation buildings burned to the ground.
We then learned about Annie Palmer, the infamous “White Witch” of Jamaican folklore. According to legend, a "white witch" called "Annie Palmer" who murdered three husbands haunts the Rose Hall Great House. An investigation of the legend in 2007 concluded that the story was fictionalised. We stopped at Rose Hall Great House but didn’t go inside. Rose Hall is widely regarded to be a visually impressive house and the most famous in Jamaica. It is a mansion in Jamaican Georgian style with a stone base and a plastered upper storey, high on the hillside, with a panorama view over the coast. It was built in the 1770s.
There wasn’t too much else to see so we stopped at a shopping centre for a wander around before heading back to the ship.
Today we arrived back at the Grand Caymans. While getting ready to get off the ship they made and announcement that it was touch and go whether we would be able to get ashore today. This was a tender port and there was a 5-foot swell. After a few trial runs they made the decision we would go ahead but warned us that it was going to be pretty bumpy. Having the tender smashing against the ship and hearing cracking noises does not bring confidence, but Shane said that fibreglass is pretty tough. So, after we all slowly boarded the tender we had a rough trip to shore. They then tried to dock and had similar problems, but we eventually landed.
On our last visit, we had encounters with stingrays and dolphins (we were glad we had done that on our last visit here as due to the seas these trips got cancelled this time around). Today we decided to go and see some of the island.
We took a scenic drive straight to Hell, a community just outside West Bay, on the northwest tip of Seven Mile Beach. As we pulled in to this small town, we were struck by its teeny size. It may look like half a soccer field but it's big on photo opportunities.
No one knows how the town got its name but it could be from the various limestone formations rising out of the ground. Short spikes of eerie-looking black rocks look like lava in the aftermath of a volcano.
Apparently at dusk, the rays of the setting sun cast a supernatural glow onto the spikes, resembling burning hellfire.
We then, experienced a taste of the Caribbean's original world famous rum cakes with a visit to the Tortuga Rum Cake Centre. We found many varieties of freshly baked rum cakes, including chocolate, coconut, banana and coffee, and of course they encouraged us to have a sample or two.
Our next stop was at the Blow Holes, these are rugged coral rocks that have been carved by the Caribbean's rough waves. When swells converge against the rocks, it creates a spectacular waterspout that can gush as high as 30 feet! This side of the island the water was pretty tame so there was nothing coming out of the blowholes unfortunately.
The next stop was the site of the Wreck Of The Ten Sails. In 1794, the British merchant ship Cordelia, part of a convoy on its way to Britain, ran aground on the coral reef at the island's East End. Although it sent a warning signal to the other nine ships, each one ran into the dangerous reef. Happily, the lives of the crew and passengers were saved due to the bravery of island residents. Legend says that King George rewarded Grand Cayman with freedom from taxation.
Our final stop was Rum Point on the north coast of the island. Here we had time to stroll along the soft, white sand, dip our toes in the warm water and linger under a shade tree. Then it was back to the ship for another interesting and bumpy tender back to the ship. It took quite a long time so we ended up leaving a bit later than expected.
Today is St Patrick’s Day. When we arrived for breakfast this morning there was a Mexican leprechaun serving Irish Coffee. Today we arrived on the island of Cozumel which is part of Mexico. Mayan myth claims that Cozumel was home to the gods. Of course, the gods weren't the only individuals attracted to this terrestrial paradise: during its long and colorful history, Cozumel has been home to pirates and buccaneers. Cozumel is 6.2 miles off the mainland Yucatan peninsula. It is Mexico’s largest island – 30 miles long by 10 miles wide.
We couldn’t come to Mexico without visiting the famous Chichén Itzá. It was going to be a bit of an adventure taking 10 hours in total, but one we thought worthwhile. Our day of ancient discovery began with a 45-minute ferry ride across the Channel of Cozumel from Puerto Maya to Playa del Carmen on the mainland of Mexico.
Upon arrival at Playa del Carmen, we boarded a bus for over a 2-hour drive around 180 km. The road we took was a toll road so no locals can afford to use it. It was empty of traffic.
Chichén Itzá, once a massive, complex city built by the Mayan people, was most active between the years 600 and 1250 A.D., serving as both a bustling urban center and a religious site.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by an awe-inspiring maze of structures, including huge stone pyramids, columned arcades, dramatic temples and other monuments that made up this ruined city, the core of which covers more than 1.9 square miles. As we studied this fascinating archeological complex, we understood why it was given the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
We saw the impressive Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, which demonstrates the advanced astronomical skills of the Mayan people. The pyramid has exactly 365 steps, one for each day of the year, and twice a year, only on the days of the spring and fall equinox, the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramids main stairway. This causes 7 isosceles triangles to form, imitating the body of a serpent roughly 37 metres long descending the pyramid until it joins the huge serpents head carved of stone at the bottom of the stairway.
Tzompantli is called The Wall of Skulls.
The platform of Eagles and Jaguars
The platform of Venus
We continued our exploration at the Temple of the Warriors. The Temple of the Warriors is one of the most impressive and important structures at Chichen Itza. It might be the only known late classic Maya building sufficiently big enough for really large gatherings. The temple consists of four platforms, flanked on the south and west sides by 200 round and square columns.
The Temple of Warriors is approached by a broad stairway with a plain, stepped ramp on either side, and each ramp has figures of standard-bearers to hold flags.
There is a reclining chacmool and serpent columns.
We viewed the Great Ballcourt. Here it is believed that participants tried to put a 12-pound ball through a stone scoring hoop during a series of ritual games. Accuracy was certainly important, as it is believed that the losers were put to death!
The pictures prove the beheadings.
At the entrance to the ballcourt is the temple of jaguars.
Iguanas live at the site.
Both a religious site and a busy urban center, Chichén Itzá was a hub of trade in the region for centuries, but during the 1400s the site declined, though it is not known exactly why. A subsequent Spanish conquest found the city largely undefended and divided the lands around the city among its own soldiers.
After this unforgettable 90 minutes at this Mayan architectural wonder, we boarded our bus for another couple of hours back to the ferry, which took us to our awaiting ship. By then it was dark.
Those 10 hours went by pretty quickly. We were in awe of the amazing site and have another thing crossed off our bucket list. It was totally worth all the travel to get there. We only got a small glance at this part of Mexico but have already fallen in love with it and hope to come back.