A really fun cruise down to Honduras, Belize and Cozumel

Bienvenidos from Mexico, Honduras and Belize.

On Christmas Eve, our family boarded the Carnival Freedom and set sail on a seven-night cruise through the Caribbean.

It was a lot of fun.

Normally, we couldn’t afford for six of us to take a week-long cruise but we have cruised with Carnival before and got a discounted rate. Plus, we drove to Port Galveston and that saved us a bundle on airfare (Susan actually flew because she had some extra mileage points). Our costs were a bit more than $100 a day per passenger, which is reasonable for almost any travel these days. And one of the nice things about a cruise is that most of your expenses are prepaid (including tips) and that helps control costs.

A young couple with two young kids we met at breakfast said they priced other Christmas cruises and the prices were two or three times higher.

Previously, we had taken several cruises but they all lasted only four nights. And while we had cruised to Cozumel in Mexico and Nassau in the Bahamas previously, we had never set foot in Mahogany Bay Isla Roaton in Honduras or in Belize.

It was quite the adventure.

Carnival is the “fun boat.” That sounds like the cruises are filled with drunks who surrender to their hedonistic urges once in international waters. That’s not really the case.

This was the first time we were on a cruise during Christmas. There was a service in the big auditorium on board on Christmas morning and we attended. So did several hundred other passengers. We sang Christmas hymns and then a lay pastor from Texas eloquently told the true story of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save the world from our sins.

Carnival has a new liquor policy, too. If you buy a bottle of booze in the ship’s gift shop, they keep it until the cruise is over. Likewise, if you buy a bottle of liquor in a port, they confiscate it until you disembark. And, unlike in previous years, there are very strict limits to what liquor can bring on board.

Don’t misunderstand. There are many bars on board and passengers can drink pretty much all the time. But it will cost you a lot for those mixed drinks.

It seemed like the new policy cut down on the drunkenness a lot.

We were at sea essentially for four days and in port for three days. Each day in port was about eight hours, so you don’t have time to do a whole lot.

In Mahogany Bay, we chose an excursion to a private beach. They had a nice lunch prepared for us (although we had to stand in line for awhile because there were other passengers from other ships).

Then we went snorkeling. This was OK but I didn’t like it much. The water was somewhat shallow (maybe four or five feet) and the coral reefs weren’t real colorful. And the reefs were a bit hazardous. A woman cut her leg on one and needed medical attention.

But there were some ancient ruins on that island that were intriguing plus some exotic animals.

In Belize, we chose not to purchase an excursion but instead just shopped for souvenirs in the areas around the pier. There were some interesting shops with unique items. I did notice that many of the shops carried the same items – shot glasses, Cuban cigars, coffee mugs, T-shirts, coffee, wood carvings and refrigerator magnets, etc.

In Cozumel, we booked an excursion that included a ride in a glass-bottom boat and tours of a chocolate factory and tequila factory.

They weren’t really factories because the chocolate and tequila are not produced there. The guides told some interesting facts about the production of chocolate and tequila in Mexico but those stops were mostly opportunities to sell us over-priced chocolate bars and bottles of tequila. I bought a couple of candy bars but no tequila.

One of the best experiences of the whole cruise was the glass bottom boat. We floated over some fabulous coral reefs and we saw many brightly colored schools of fish. The water there is so clear that you can see the bottom of the ocean even when it was hundreds of fee deep. I would definitely recommend that excursion.

Back on the ship, my only complaint was that we had some significant motion on two separate days at seas. The Carnival Freedom is a massive, 11-story boat and most of the time you can’t even tell it is moving. But we were three hours late in leaving Galveston due to a fog delay and we had to speed up to keep on schedule. The boat moved a lot. When you walked, you had to be very careful not to fall over.

And then on the way back, we hit some rough seas and we had a lot of motion for a few hours. I had never been sea sick but I felt woozy on both days. I was OK once I laid down and napped for about an hour.

The food on the Carnival Freedom was outstanding. Every night, our dinner in the formal dining room was a lovely experience. The menus were new each night. Our wait staff was friendly and attentive. The portions were modest, but if you wanted more, they would bring as much as you wanted.

I spent a lot of time in the karaoke bar. I really enjoy hearing people sing (some good, some bad and some really good). I took the stage a few times myself and had a lot of fun.

Being on a Carnival cruise is like being rich for a few days. The ladies in our group spent time at the spa and had a great time. We played trivial pursuit and had a blast (we won twice and have the trophies to prove it).

Try a cruise sometime. Start with a four-night cruise out of Galveston or New Orleans. I’m pretty sure you will have a good time.