Engage all your senses and experience true bliss with Virago Journeys on our next cruise to the Caribbean. Cruises offer a delightful way to travel, and cruise ships are a mainstay at many Caribbean ports, like the one in Cozumel, which was first constructed in 1996. The cruise terminal lies on the eastern side of the island, about 12 miles from Playa del Carmen, which boasts an hourly ferry to and from the island.
Cozumel has three piers and Carnival cruise ships dock on the Puerta Maya pier. The ideal time to visit the Caribbean is February through June with its ideal temps (72-84 degrees F average for March) and loads of sunshiny days. For myself I like February and March, a chance to escape the winter and rain of the mountains of Western North Carolina. And with our annual WTZQ Caribbean Cruise departing Hendersonville, North Carolina, in March 2020 on the Carnival Legend, I thought I’d give you wonderful ways to create bliss in Cozumel, which is our first Caribbean port of call on March 3, 2020.
Cozumel is Mexico’s largest island, believed to have been settled by the Maya people in the first millennium. Now Cozumel has been rated #3 of the Best Cruise Ports in the world so I shall expect it to be hopping. Shore excursions book up fast, so it’s best to have a plan and book those excursions early to guarantee a seat. Don’t hesitate to talk to me about Carnival’s Shore Excursions. I do often consider it best to go with a cruise excursion while on a cruise. Yes, it can be a few dollars more, but it’s a fair price to pay for peace of mind - any excursion booked through me or Carnival is guaranteed that the ship does not leave port without you!
Looking for the perfect place to relax and enjoy the day with the best sand? Take a 25-minute boat ride to the southside’s El Cielo! Which translates to “heaven,” one of Cozumel's best kept secrets, and touted as “the most magnificent place in the Caribbean Sea.” El Cielo lies 1 mile offshore and is only accessible by boat. Step into its soft powdered sand and wade in its shallow crystal-clear water as far as the eye can see. Starfish and stingrays will glide past, but don’t worry, these stingrays are harmless. Talk to me about booking this, otherwise Carnival offers this as a delightful Reef Snorkel excursion, where you board your boat and cruise to Colombia Reef, arguably the most beautiful reef of the island. After a quick safety briefing, grab your snorkel gear and join your guide for a first-class snorkeling tour amidst tropical fish, abundant marine life and colorful coral. Continue your journey to El Cielo, a unique place of true bliss. With its crystal-clear waters, sandy banks and abundance of starfish this is a must see for any visitor. Following your snorkeling adventure, head for its shallow waters and enjoy a light snack and refreshments before heading back to your ship. ($90, 4 hours)
Are you a foodie like me? This is the time and place to delight in something different from Carolina BBQ and Asheville’s craft beer. I highly recommend TABASCO’s Chef Maestro, Cooking & Tasting. Located on the second floor of the prestigious Blu facility, with the Caribbean ocean as its prime view, cook, drink and have fun with Chef Luis. You’ll cook a 3 course-meal and learn the secrets of traditional Mexican regional cuisine, and how to prepare the best Margarita. After cooking and tasting with the Chef Maestro, spend the rest of your day in the Infinity lounge pool or at the bar enjoying flavored margaritas and drinks. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and towel to engage in this pleasurable pursuit. ($90 per person, 4 hours)
Perhaps you want to just stay in town and do something easy but still delightful? You can explore San Miguel, visit Cozumel’s Island Museum or the Ruins of San Gervasio, take a picture with WWII Fighter Planes, or…
Shopping anyone? Tons of artisans with handmade wares reside in Puerta Maya, and don’t worry about bringing pesos, they prefer the American dollar here. No need to go any further, numerous restaurants will fill your belly and throughout the day dancers and musicians will keep you entertained in the courtyard. Puerta Maya also has its own beach with complimentary beach chairs, just bring along your handy Carnival beach towel and delight in some rays.
How about a walk on the wild side? A Jeep Tour is the ultimate way to see Cozumel so it’s a jewel on my list of things to do - and these tours tend to include lunch and snorkeling, what more could you ask for?
Ecotourism is huge in the Caribbean, so I invite you to see the best Ecological Reserve in Cozumel: the Punta Sur Park. This place is a step back in time with no developments and no electricity, so leave your iPhone on airplane mode and just use it to take pictures. Drive your off-road Jeep along dirt roads between the Caribbean Sea and the interior jungle lagoon where you'll spot the king of Cozumel’s wildlife - the crocodile! Visit a small Mayan ruin and learn about the history and culture of the Mayans. Continue to the Punta Sur Lighthouse with its 7 miles of stunning beach and Navigational Museum. Explore the amazing array of sea life that the Punta Sur Marine Park is famous for during an optional guided snorkel excursion* or you can stay on the beach, go for a swim or tan under the sun. I recommend exploring the beach, because there are hidden areas where the rock formations are truly marvelous. Find hidden caves and various spots where you can witness blow holes. On the way back, enjoy a Mexican buffet and sample Mexican tequila and learn about the production of this iconic Mexican drink. (*They recommend a Lycra shirt, NO sunscreen because of the coral, and you must be in good physical health. $100 per person, 5 hours)
You can also take an Off-Road Jeep through the jungle to Passion Island (a secluded private paradise): Once on the island, relax in a hammock, enjoy a Mexican Buffet and open bar, grab a kayak and glide on the calm clear water bays bordered by mangroves giving way to amazing views of flora and fauna or participate in one the many other blissful activities awaiting you. ($105 per person, 5 hours)
Feeling even more adventurous? Did you know there’s a secret river on the mainland? This is my go-to-choice for Cozumel. Like my wonderful experience swimming with dolphins in February, this is the experience of a lifetime. Explore the region’s most unique natural treasures - a series of caverns connected by underground waterways! Begin with a ferry ride to the mainland where you take a short van ride into the jungle to Rio Secreto Natural Reserve. Follow your guide into a subterranean world that had remained unexplored for millions of years. You’ll marvel at the natural formations around every corner as you walk, wade, and swim through the caverns. Enjoy the crystal-clear cenote framed by beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. After 1.5 hours of exploring, enjoy lunch with drinks. You will have the opportunity to spend some free time in Playa del Carmen before the ferry ride back to Cozumel. (Note: It’s a 45-minute ferry ride so two hours of your day is spent on transport. They outfit you with everything, just bring bathing suit and water shoes - seabed is rocky and uneven. $110 per person, 7 hours)
And you don’t need to reside in Hendersonville, North Carolina, to partake of this delightful Caribbean cruise. Virago Journeys is your go-to source for all your travel needs, crafting truly carefree vacations - one call to me, your professional travel agent, and I’ll take care of the rest. So I invite you to sign up today for our WTZQ Western Caribbean Cruise and allow me to create blissful memories for you in 2020. And stay tuned, because next month I shall share information on Belize, our second port of call on the WTZQ Western Caribbean Cruise 2020.
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W. Anne Jones
A curious explorer, learning and growing. Join me as I travel the world one day at a time.