Monday, November 15, 2004

(A VERY Short Excursion)

Today (which was actually October 9th) I actually went into Cancun, Mexico. We were in Cozumel, for probably my last time. Dry dock was coming up, and I figured that I would be on vacation directly after that (boy, was I wrong).

The night before I had such emergencies that I didn't get to bed at all. The wonderful shore excursion manager was once again helpful in getting me a last-second tour to go to a place called Xcaret. I have to say, I can't possibly imagine something this nice in Mexico. I realize that I haven't seen much of it, but this is truly an incredible place that does not get enough publicity.

I'm going to interject a few things here (some in my defense about why there aren't more pictures). Number one, there just was NOT enough time at the park. I hadn't slept the night before, and hadn't slept more than 6 hours in the three nights before that (total). Number two, my plan was to look at things while walking with the group, then take pictures of things when I wasn't going to slow them down when I was on my own (there was never time for this). The last was that my underwater camera was having a problem advancing the film, so most of the "wet" pictures that I tried to take didn't work. This cruise was a bit different than most also.

This cruise was a full-ship charter. One group, called "The Rock Boat," rented out the entire ship. It was a really cool group, and a fun cruise. I really wish that I hadn't been so busy, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. There were no kids, so the "Camp Carnival" employees had the cruise off. All shows were cancelled, so the singers, musicians and dancers had the cruise off. There was a TON of drinking, so all of the bartenders worked twice as much, and twice as long. The group brought along their own pursers, so all our pursers had to do was replace room keys. There were around a dozen rock groups/singers on the boat, each of which got the main theater at least once. They also put on small events elsewhere on the ship. The bands weren't HUGE bands, but they were known by a lot of people, particularly in certain regions. I had heard of Shawn Mullins and Sister Hazel (about half of the boat were there as Sister Hazel fans, called "Hazelnuts"), but not any others. There was a rock/country band called "Cowboy Mouth" that I would HIGHLY recommend. They were really entertaining, and were amazing about creating their own energy (which they had to do, since few knew who they were or knew any of their songs). Ice House beer sponsored a lot of it, and lifted their own little "Ice House" onto the top deck. Because of the laws about bringing things onto a ship going out of the country, they weren't actually allowed to bring their own product on, so they bought around 10,000 cans from us. This was only a 4-day cruise, and they still used them up a day early.

The bands played every night until around 5 am. After the first night the captain actually had the nerve to come to the group leader and ask that the bands that played after 10 "keep it down" because the officers were sleeping above. The group leader laughed pretty good about that, and pointed out that his group had paid to rent the entire boat for the purpose of putting on rock shows. I am pretty sure that the bands purposely played louder that night, just out of spite.

So, after being up all night working, the shore excursion manager sent me to Xcaret. To be honest, I can't say enough about this place . . . except that I needed more time there. We took a boat to Cancun, and a bus to Xcaret. It took over an hour for the guide to show us the basic layout of the park once we were in. There were a ton of things that I wanted pictures of on the way back (which I did not get), and tons of things that I never got to see. You would have to spend at least two full days (probably three) to take advantage of everything. There are a ton of free things (once you are inside the door), only one that we got to do. We picked up inner tubes and went tubing down a very small river (or big creek, depending on how you look at it) that went through the rocks. A lot of the time, it was actually underground, with occasional shafts that went up. There were lights strung along it, but the shafts provided enough light with it being a bright day (the lights were off everywhere but one part with a bend and no light). It was extremely relaxing, and just what I needed.

The park is kind of like a zoo, outdoor museum, state park, and theme park all rolled into one. You can explore a lot for free (and do events like the tubing). There is a beach, a dolphin area, and then a bunch of extra-pay things (like going up in an ultra-light floatplane, parasailing, jet skiing, swimming with dolphins, etc.). There were a number of small-to-medium restaurants, and one large outdoor buffet. I did get three pictures. One was of some type of bird that they were hatching to release, a very cute animal of some sort, and of the fountain at the entryway for kids to play in. Around the entryway were scale models (each being about the size of four ping-pong tables) of all of the ruins scattered around the country. I wish that I had more pictures, and I wish that I hadn't been so exhausted.

On a side note, a few weeks ago a country/rock band came on and rented about half the boat, which wasn't as good but still entertaining . . .