Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trip on the Carnival Breeze

Although I have posted most of our vacation pictures on Facebook, I wanted to post them here with my usual rambling commentary because when I am in my 90s and can't remember much, I can pull this up and relive some of my past. I throw my computers away when they get slow and buy another one, but my blog stays forever in cyberspace--I guess.

Now anyone who knows me well knows my dream vaykay does not involve an ocean, a boat, or a beach. I should live in the mountains, and prefer going there for any vacation time. But Dana loves the beach and was all in favor of a cruise--one that my father and his girlfriend, as well as my younger sister and her hubby were going on. I'm a good sport. The dilemma was that the cruise embarked from Galveston the Sunday before Rocky Raccoon, and got back at 8:00 am Sunday as the RR 100 milers were finishing up. This was disappointing, but Dana suggested we leave a day early and just run the RR traiz for fun the day before boarding the boat.

So we left Friday, drove to Huntsville and got a motel for a couple of days, and spent quite a bit of time Saturday running at Huntsville State Park.

I have three Rocky Raccoon starts, and made it 80 miles the first year and just quit. :-( My second try, I ran a strong race and finished in 28 hours or something like that. Then my last year there, it was a mud fest, and I threw in the towel after 60 miles.

Huntsville State Park is one of my favorite places to run. It's far from hilly, but if you run the 20-mile circuit, you will get in some pretty significant elevation without really noticing. There are almost no rocks on the course, but there are roots that seem like rocks. Stub your toe on one of these, and you're falling down or collecting a black toenail.

Lots and lots of TALL pine trees give a blanket of pine needles to run on, and they sing as the wind blows through the tree tops.

When you're not running on pine needles or jumping over monster roots, you're trotting across wooden bridges. Many of these bridges are used to traverse wetlands during the rainy seasons. In Oklahoma, we call them mud holes and just plow through them.

It was a bit on the warm side. I had brought my Salomon pack, but at the last minute decided to just go with a water bottle since we were only going 4-5 miles--or so I told Dana. As it turned out, we went 10, and we barely had enough water for the run.

Dana really likes running here. She has two 50K finishes here back when the Sunmart 50K was going.

I thought after crossing a long wooden bridge crossing the north finger of the lake that it was only 2-3 miles to the dam. I was wrong. Expected a mutiny, I was happy that Dana never complained, and after going nearly five miles we reached the dam only to find they had the trail closed for some sort of construction. 

Going on around the lake might have gotten us back to the car a little bit sooner, but I counted it a win-win: more miles, and more miles.

I stepped over a trail closed sign to take the two above pictures. Wasn't gonna come all that way and not get them.

The run back seemed to go a little quicker. There were not as many pee stops since I, for one, was conserving water; and since it was an out and back, I didn't need to take as many pictures. Plus, we were getting HUNGRY.

It was a fun day indeed--previewing the course so many of our friends would be running the next week.

Sunday morning, we got up, ate a quick mediocre continental breakfast at the motel, and set a course for Galveston. On the way and not paying attention, we missed stopping at Buc-ee's, but had a rest stop as some quickie store just after crossing the bridge to Galveston Island. There, I entered the location of the port on my phone while waiting for Dana. To do this, I had to take off my uber-cool clip-on sunglasses, and instead of putting them in the case which would have been smart, or putting them on the dash which would have also been ok, I must have put then in my lap. Then, of course, the next place I got out, I must have knocked them out of the car onto the ground. We had stopped at a couple of tourist trap places along the seawall and they were probably crunched in the parking lot of the first place we stopped. I tried to not spazz out, and I give myself a C- grade on that endeavor.

We boarded the Carnival Breeze, and every place you go on this ship or on the excursions, there are "photographers" wanting to take your picture. Then they'll display these pictures on the promenade deck, and sell them for 18.00 a pop. If they are not sold (and most of them aren't) they are destroyed. Suckers that we are, we bought a few. The one above was a good picture, but the colors were awful. It was like they put a blue filter on it, and the colors looked far from natural. So, I photo-shopped it, and I think it made a good black and white.

This is my dad and his girlfriend Rebecca. Dad loves cruises. He has the relaxation routine down pat.

Dana and I got on board, went to our room, and then ventured out to get some food only to find ALL of the food joints were closed. We were told once the ship left port that things would open up--so we went back to our room.There was some disembarkment meeting that we were supposed to go to, but we decided to skip it and just hang out in our room until the boat started moving. Bad idea. Someone unlocked the door to our room and told us it was Mandatory and we needed to get up there NOW. They were nice-- but firm. Waiting for the meeting to start, they started announcing absent people over the intercom, and these missing people sheepishly dragged in--we called it the walk of shame. I suppose if the ship were to have a sea accident, there is a certain orderliness desired in getting people off the ship and into the lifeboats. No one wants to be shark food.

So--once the meeting of yada yada blah blah was over, we found a hamburger joint that was just opening and had the best burger and fries ever. After that, we ordered margaritas and spent the rest of the night chillin.

Two days at sea went by oh so slow for me. I worked had on relaxing, but I was bored. 

I brought a couple of books to read, and that helped pass the time. Our daily routine was sleep late, catch a late breakfast, go sit on the deck, eat a late lunch, eat many many soft serve ice cream cones, eat a late dinner, wander around the ship. Each night we'd catch a comedy act, a variety show, listen to some music, and we even got herded into a bar where they were trying to teach the Cupid Shuffle. It's a catchy tune, and I think it's what they call a line dance. 

To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right
To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left
Now kick, say what? Like This? Oh crap!
Now step on someone's feet, now step on someone's feet

Two days later, we woke up on a harbor in Honduras. It must have been quite a party and we slept through it. Our boat sunk, and we had to be put on another one. Just kidding. I am sure this burned out hull has a better story to tell than that.

My little sister Karen and her husband Gary were our travel buddies for the week.

Our shore excursion was to a private beach called Tabyana, We boarded a small air conditioned bus, and took a 45-minute ride through the Isle of Roatan and then along a mountainous (actually just hills) coastline route to the other side of the island.

Nice white sand, thick palm trees, and the sound of crashing waves. Just what the dostor ordered.
We picked a couple of chairs on the second row from the beach and enjoyed the sun and sights.

This was maybe the best Mexican beer I have ever drank. I sent this picture to my friend Arena and she was impressed. I have yet to admit that it was really Barena, and I had my thumb over the B.

All up and down the beach were locals who were selling trinkets, knick knacks, jewelry, and massages--and they wouldn't take no for an answer. On one hand, I felt like I should buy something, but the staff at this resort said to be very careful, and they had extensive security monitoring all the activity on the beach. We relocated a few rows back and had a little more peace.

With much persuasion, Dana got me to venture into the water. It was surprisingly cold for being such a warm day. After spending a while getting all the sand out of my shoes (New Balance Minimus shoes drain water really well but retain the sand) we ate a couple of surprisingly good hot dogs and boarded the bus for the return trip. 

Roatan got a little of our American dollars while we wandered around in the newer updated parts of town. We browsed the souvenir shops where I bought a Piranha Joe t-shirt and would have bought some tequila, but the liquor store there was closed for some reason.

Back on the boat, it was formal night which meant coat and tie required. I had a tie but I hate them, so I went without--rebel that I am.

The next day we were at Belize. The ship could not dock at any port at Belize City due to the water being too shallow for a 1003' long hunk of steel. (The Breeze is 120' longer than the Titantic.) So we boarded a small shuttle boat and jetted over to land.

My guess is we were a couple of miles away, and with the wind at our back, we were there in no time. From there, we loaded up into a van which took us an hour and 15 minutes inland to the edge of some mountains. (Again, not super tall, but there are a couple of peaks in Belize over 2000 feet. I did not know that Belize was an English speaking nation. The people there were super nice, and seemed to embrace the tourists that that visit their attractions.

There were tons of excursions to tackle in Belize--Mayan ruins, a jungle tour, zip lining, and cave tubing--which is what we were doing. I understood (incorrectly) that we would tube through the cave and stay in the river until it ended up at a beach. Now that I think about it, it might have been a zip line here or in Roatan that ended up at a beach. We were outfitted with a life vest (I needed that), a hard hat (bike helmet). head lamp (mine was crap), and huge tubes.

We had a water crossing!! 

The river, which came right out of a rock, was a little cold, but seemed about like the Illinois River--except it came out of a cave.

I might be mixed up on the pictures here. Where we waded across the river, water was coming out of the cave. We crossed and walked up and over a "mountain", and entered another cave, and that led us back to where we started. So actually, there was no way you could get lost, unless you forgot to get out after exiting the cave--which I would have like to have done.

This was cool. The cave had the stalactites and stalagmites. (A stalactite hangs tight to the ceiling. A stalagmite might eventually form a column.)

Each group had eight floaters and a guide. All of the tubes were tethered together and we went only as fast as the guide could drag us as he walked and swam. Still--it was enjoyable, and I'm glad we did it. I would not care to to do it again.

The reviews for this excursion were great--most gave it five stars. But there were a lot of complaints of the hike up and over a mountain to get to the cave. Some said it was a strenuous 45 minute hike. Of course I was thinking YES!!! Actually it was a wide trail--almost a jeep road, that climbed only 110 feet (yes I was wearing my Suunto.) It took less than 30 minutes and the distance was right at a half mile. Our guide moved at a very casual pace, but still his pace was enough to pass all the other groups on our tour.

We had some sort of taco-like dinner--or was it nachos? I don't remember. We bought some coconut rum, after tasting several different kinds--maybe that's why I can't remember what we had for lunch. There was some conversation on the way back about the Panty Riper. It's a drink that originated in Belize, and we tasted it--kind of like pineapple juice with a splash of rum.

On the boat ride back, I started my Suunto to see exactly how far away our ship was from the dock. I guessed two miles--no more that three. It was almost SIX miles. The ship is still two miles out in this picture.

We skipped the formal dinner, and ate prime rib at one of the buffets, and then settled in to the Dive In Theater--a movie screen around the pool. The screen could be viewed from three different decks. We has comfy sofas to sit in, but HMMPH!! They did not recline like they do at AMC. The movie: one of the Jason Bourne flicks. It was ok.

For the last shore excursion, we went to a private beach on Cozumel. I have been to Cozumel three times prior, and have enjoyed it each time as long as we stay away from the peddlers/hustlers in the old part of town. For our excursion, we went to Mr Sanchos--a day-all-inclusive resort that just happened to be right next to Iberostar where we stayed a couple of summers ago.

This pair met us at the front door. I took a quick picture, then my sister was told we were not supposed to take pictures of them. But hey--I got mine!! It turns out, a guy carries the parrots all around the resort and charges for you to take their picture. An honest way to make a buck I guess.

The beach here in Cozumel was much like the beach in Roatan, but the water was prettier, and the swimming seemed better. The water did not get deep as quick--a plus for me. We rented snorkel gear, and I saw a few fish. I can also see the same fish at Wal-Mart though without getting salt water up my nose. Mr. Sanchos was an all inclusive which meant unlimited food and drink. We drank quite a lot. Drink not strong enough? They'd pour you all liquor--make it as strong as you like. I had a good buzz, but Gary about put them out of business. He's a hoot when he's drunk. The poor cab driver that took us back to the boat was a nervous wreck. Gary kept kidding around and giving him a hard time. It was hilarious (for us.)

I finished A Walk In The Woods, then started another book. I guess I have to go on a trip to read a book.

No one tried the climbing was or the slides. I think that was an extra cost anyway. I saw a few wiry surfer-dude looking guys trying to climb the balloon rock wall, and no one made it. I am guessing a super white old fat dude would have not done any better.

Some of the games and contests on the ship gave a Boat-On-A-Stick trophy for the prize. I got a picture of a boat on a stick right here.

This has to be the most awesome thing we did on the trip. Someone came by to ask if we wanted a fish pedicure. WHAT??? They explained it, and Dana jumped in. Karen followed. I said well why not? It was 20 bucks, and these little fish went to work on our feet. It was amazing. And it tickled!!!! An American couple of modest income retired and moved to Cozumel, and they live like royalty on the savings they accumulated. This is their life now--having people come in to have these fish nibble at their feet. What a life!!!


We boarded the Breeze for the final time and had two days at sea to reach Galveston. I guess it was relaxing, but I would have appreciated a speed boat.

Our last night out--and we got our pictures made again. This one was fun, and the photographer took her time to get the lighting right, and to make sure Dana's mustache was hanging straight. She did good work and we bought her picture.

And we'll probably do another cruise again someday. But now, it's time to go to the mountains.


  1. Sounds like a great time. I like cruises also, kind of, they give you a taste of things. Glad you got some relaxing done.

  2. Excellent site you've got here.. It's difficult too find quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!