Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and tropical island breezes? Join me on this 7 nights-cruise through the Western Caribbean aboard Celebrity Cruises´ Celebrity Reflection and visit exotic destinations such as Mexico, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Haiti.
For the sweet you will have to taste the sour sometimes, they say. And it´s kind of true as we stood in the endless line in front Cruise Terminal G on this warm but grey Miami Saturday. It was way past noon and our destination, Celebrity Cruises´ Celebrity Reflection that had just arrived from her Transatlantic crossing this early AM with major Coast Guard checks and health inspections still going on, delaying regular check-in and boarding procedures by hours and causing major waiting lines outside the terminal in the rain.
The absence of Priority waiting lines outside or the obligatory glass of sparkling wine as a welcome gesture aboard made this start a rather humble one. Instead, the first contact with the crew was an armada of waiters asking if we had already purchased a beverage package or if we wanted to upgrade to a premium one.
The ship sailed at full capacity as our journey marked Reflection´s Caribbean winter season opening for 2016/17. As Reflection is the largest vessels among the line´s highly popular Solstice Class (over 3,000 passengers), this particularly shows on sea days as there is hardly enough sun loungers to accommodate the amount of passengers onboard.
But why wasting energy to fight over loungers on the overcrowded pooldeck when you have the lush green meadows of the beautifully appointed Lawn Club as a tranquil refuge waiting for you at the stern of the ship?
This is where we always spend most of the time during sea days on this type of ship. Apart from the Boat Deck with its comfortable wooden deck chairs, the top hideaway spot onboard.
So no wonder that this was the place to be on our first day at sea after the departure from Miami. Feeling the grass underneath my fingertips while listening to the sounds of the waves making room to our massive German engineering masterpiece easily set my mind at ease. While the others were engaging in the questionable egg run competition, I was happy staring at the clouds in the blue sky passing by on their journey to somewhere.
Our first stop the next morning was the Mexican island of Cozumel.
Lying just off the coast of mainland Mexico, the island is a paradise for divers and beach lovers from around the world since French maritime explorer Jacques Cousteau raved about the beautiful coral reefs in the 1960s. Cozumel is the third largest Mexican island and lies approximately 60 km south of Cancun. Around 78,000 people live on Cozumel on a constant base and tourism is the main economic drive.
From the cruise terminal, take a collective taxi to downtown (2 US-Dollars pp.) where colorful side streets invite for shopping. Mexico is well-known for silver and leather goods, particularly leather boots. But be prepared to bargain!
I highly do recommend to bring Mexican Pesos already with you before you arrive to Cozumel as most free-standing ATM machines in the city only dispense US-Dollars. You will end up paying a lot more if you don´t use the local currency! Visit one of the legal bank branches´ ATMs downtown that allow you to choose which currency you would like to dispense!
Have a coffee or a refreshment at Agava Cantina Bar right at downtown´s main square Parque Benito Juarez. The bar has free WiFi so you can catch up with your friends and Social Media before you head for lunch with the locals at the city´s food market Mercado Municipal “Benito Juarez” for a little bite like Quesadillas, Guacamole or burritos.
By the way, to avoid any form of health risks in Mexico (and anywhere else) order your cold drinks without ice, only consume thoroughly cooked dishes and try to avoid any kind of fresh salads. This minimizes the risk to take home an unwanted digestive illness tremendously!
Don´t leave Cozumel without having visited any of the island´s beautiful beaches, even if only for one hour. Scooters and cars can be rented almost everywhere around town at reasonable prices if you wish to discover the area on your own. We opted for a taxi and agreed with the driver on a rate of 820 Pesos for the four of us (around 38 Euros/44 US-Dollars) to bring us to Chen Rio Beach on the other side of the island, wait there for 2 hours and then bring us back right back to the ship afterwards. The prices for locals in Pesos are far less than the tourist rates in US-Dollars! Every taxi has an official document about these local (pretty much fixed) prices along. Ask the driver for this list before agreeing on a deal.