A Birthday like none other started with a train ride, a journey of over seven hours, from Birmingham to New Orleans. I had booked a last minute cruise that would call on ports in Mexico, Honduras, and Belize. I love trains and it was wonderful to simply board the Crescent in Birmingham, sit back, relax, and see lovely small towns along the route. The journey from Alabama, through Mississippi, to the final destination in Louisiana was so wonderful that I knew instantly that I would do this again, soon.
I love New Orleans. I love everything about the city, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This was my fifth visit to Nola, the third since Katrina, and it felt so good to be back. Meeting up with Millie prior to boarding the ship was all I could have asked for.
My first day on board the ship was exactly what I had wanted. There was no more cell phone connection, no more emails, no note phone calls, nothing. Nothing, but blue skies and the soothing waves of the sea. I loved it so much that when we arrived at our first port of call I decided that I would not join any shore excursion but simply walk around Cozumel for a couple of hours and enjoy the rest of the day onboard relaxing and enjoying a pretty much empty spa.
Our next stop was Roatán, an island in the Caribbean, off the northern coast of Honduras. I joined a group for a visit to Gumbalimba Park, located in West Bay. While I wish I could have gone there on my own, I found what I wanted: white faced capuchin monkeys. The monkeys were hilarious, absolutely cute, and I will never forget interacting with them.
The little rascals where so cute that even though I was warned I did not realize till it was too late that one of them had snatched my sunscreen right out of the pocket of my camera vest. But, as I said, they are so amazingly cute, that I would have give them pretty much anything but my glasses for a chance to interact.
There is so much more to see and do at Gumbalimba Park but the Capuchin monkeys are the highlight of any visit. The park has beautiful landscaping and and I loved the flora and fauna.
You can sign up for zipline canopy tours, snuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and more. The monkeys are the stars but I was amazed seeing the iguanas big and small.
Iguana or lizard, this is the question I never could solve but I sure enjoyed meeting some of the smaller little fellows.
Gumbalimba Park is also home to a huge population of parrots. They are so used to visitors that many will interact with you. They are stunning creatures and absolutely beautiful.
One of the things to remember when visiting Gumbalimba Park is that it is important to remember to respect wildlife. Do not approach the monkeys if they have a baby with them as the mom and dad might feel threatened.
The next port of call was Belize City. All I wanted was Mayan ruins, and so I signed up for a visit of the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Like with everything in life, the good stuff is not in walking distance and so I went on a long, long bus ride to the the Mayan site of my dreams. Be prepared for a two hours bus ride and another hour on a boat.
The reward, however, is a Mayan city in the middle of the rain forest. Lamanai means ‘submerged crocodile’ in Maya. The site is simply amazing but nothing tops climbing to the top of the 125ft High Temple to see the jungle canopy spreading beneath.
Check out the Mask Temple begun around 200 BC, modified several times over the years it has two 13ft masks of a man in a crocodile headdress. Our guide told us that the two mask are the same person at different times in his life.The masks are considered some of the finest big masks in the Maya world. In order to protect the originals from the elements, the masks seen by visitors are fiberglass replicas that have been placed n front of the original limestone masks. Deep within the temple archaeologists found the tombs of a man and a woman. Our guide told us that the women’s skull showed a fracture that indicates that she was put to death when her husband, the presumed leader of that time, passed away.
Next day I went for some more Mayan history when the ship was in port back in Mexico. I had visited Tulum before and decided that this time I would head for Chacchoben, also known as “The Place of Red Corn.” The Mayan culture, customs, language and beliefs are fascinating to me and I hope that I can visit many more sites in the future.
After another day at sea the ship returned to New Orleans where I enjoyed a few more hours of the Nola vibe. I am grateful for all the experiences I had. I saw people work so hard, for so little, especially in Honduras and Belize. I wish for a future where cruise ships will not only bring eager visitors such a me to their shores but real change to the destination. I want to see a day where the money that guests cough up for shore excursions goes to those who really need and so deserve it.