BY: JANET STEINBERG
was lucky to “get out of Dodge” just in time. Well, it
wasn’t really Dodge City, Kansas, but it was Cincinnati, Ohio just
before the ice and snow piled up. I headed south, way
south, for fifteen glorious sunny days which I am about to share with
Day 1: As Silversea’s Silver Spirit set sail on the first leg of its
1726-nautical mile round-trip Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale,
Florida, the ship’s 476 passengers and I settled in for a relaxing
evening at sea.
Day 2: Another day was spent sailing the Florida Straits and
Caribbean Sea as we continued our 536-nautical mile cruise to
Cozumel. By this second day, I was already so pampered and
spoiled that I didn’t care if I never got off the ship.
Day 3: The Silver Spirit docked at Cozumel,
Mexico at 8 AM. Smaller than Cancun, Cozumel is a
marriage of commerce and Mother Nature. When it came time
to select a shore excursion, I chose Silversea’s “Living History –
Mayan Traditions and Island Tour”.
SPIRIT DOCKED IN COZUMEL
During our visit to the Mayan Village we saw traditional thatched-roof
Mayan houses, medicinal gardens, cooking techniques, and
Mayan ceremonies. We also learned about the myths, histories and
beliefs of the Mayan World.
Following our tour of the village, we traveled across the island to the
eastern shore for stunning views of the island’s undeveloped
coastline. Traveling past ancient black rock formations protruding from
the sea, we saw beautiful white-sand beaches, tropical low-jungle
vegetation and the iridescent waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Day 4: Having sailed 116-nautical miles from Cozumel, we arrived
at Costa Maya, Mexico where I opted for a
Silversea fun tour called “Salsa & Salsa Beach Break”.
TO COSTA MAYA
We were transferred to a beach restaurant for a hands-on Mexican salsa
cooking class. We were each given a plate of fresh ingredients and
then taught the steps of making authentic Mexican salsa and guacamole. We
then devoured our concoctions with tortilla chips and washed them
down with complimentary margaritas.
CHEFS MAKING AUTHENTIC MEXICAN SALSA
Afterwards, our guide showed us how to step, sway, and get into the groove
of Latin America’s most famous dance…The Salsa. Following step-by step
instructions, those who were ready for the dance floor did their
THE SALSA GROOVE…AFTER A MARGARITA
5: When Silver Spirit reached Santo Tomas de Castilla,
Guatemala, some 212-nautical miles later, we opted for the Amatique
Bay Resort tour that allowed us to chill out completely in one of
Central America’s finest resorts.
TO SANTO TOMAS DE CASTILLO, GUATEMALA
Departing the pier via a panga boat (a modest-sized,
open, outboard-powered, boat) we sailed to the
five-star Amatique Bay mega-resort. The Amatique Bay
Resort features a botanical garden surrounded by
Mayan archaeological sites, exotic landscaping, and a wide array of
lush flora and fauna.
Upon arrival, we could do as we pleased…sunbathe or swim at the pool with
wet bar and water slides…explore the private beach, butterfly and
turtle gardens…visit the Jade Museum…shop for souvenirs…or join in an
invigorating game of beach volleyball or soccer (if we were a few,
few, few, years younger). A barbecue buffet lunch was served
before we boarded the panga boat to return to the pier.
SHIP CONCEALS A WATER SLIDE INTO THE POOL AT AMATIQUE BAY
Day 6: Belize,124-nautical miles from Santo Tomas, is nestled between
Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean coast of Central America.
Formerly known as British Honduras, the colony’s name was changed to
Belize in 1973 in anticipation of its independence. On September 21,
1981 independence finally came to Belize.
Belize,the only English-speaking country in Central America, is one of the
few remaining unspoiled places on earth. Silver Spirit
anchored in Belize waters and we were tendered ashore to Belize
City, home of the country’s commercial center and the
largest concentration of Belizeans.
Sarita, from S&L Tours, zipped us around to Belize City’s many sights
of interest that included the following: Museum of Belize that was
built in 1857 as “her Majesty’s Prison”; Baron Bliss Lighthouse,
built in honor of the benefactor who left Belize $2-million; St.
John’s Cathedral, constructed in 1812 from red bricks originally used
as English ship ballast; and the Swing Bridge that has connected
the downtown area since Colonial days and is one of the few manually
operated bridges still in use in the world.
BE laid back…BE unleashed…BE-LIZE!
Day 7: Once again we were cruising the azure Caribbean Sea and the Straits
of Florida. We had to sail another 566 nautical miles before reaching
Key West, Florida. And I loved every minute of it…more time to
be coddled and indulged on Silver Spirit.
Day 8: I can best describe our final port stop, Key West, Florida, in
three letters: F-U-N! This island of contrasts is a place
where pirates once preyed and presidents once played. It is a
place where straight meets gay, where drunk drinks with sober.
Sloppy Joe’s, the favorite haunt of the late Ernest “Papa” Hemingway,
is much more than a honkytonk saloon. It is a symbolic
personification of Key West. One order of their heavenly Havana
Nachos, with Sloppy Joe Mix, is enough for two. Add to that an Original
Sloppy Joe Sandwich and their award-winning Sloppy Rita (“Best
Margarita in Florida”) and I guarantee you, you won’t be hungry for
AND HUSBAND LUNCH ON HEAVENLY HAVANA NACHOS
Key West is Caribbean and continental, traditional and avant
garde. It is the Conch people, conch fritters,
conch chowder, the Conch Tour Train, Conch High School, and
Conch cheerleaders known as Conchettes. By the time you
leave this end of the Florida Keys…this end of the highway…this end of the
rainbow…I can assure you, you’ll be conch-ed out. Only 172
nautical miles remain until we return to Ft. Lauderdale and our
heavenly cruise would be over.
waters of the Caribbean for eight glorious days, I was not ready to
face up to the icy winter weather that awaited us back home. So
what did I do? I checked back into the Embassy Suites Ft. Lauderdale
(where I had spent several pre-cruise days) for a few more days
of sunshine, thus allowing the icy reality to sink in slowly.
Days 10-15: Our 2-room suite at Embassy Suites Ft. Lauderdale was
beginning to feel like home…like a place at which we could spend the
entire winter. Complimentary home cooked breakfasts every
morning…maid service every day…complimentary cocktails
every evening. What’s not to like? We
lazed around the beautiful pool area, hung out with our kids and
grandkids who live minutes away from the hotel, and ate at simple,
down-home restaurants such as: Coco, Tamarindo, Joes Cafe,
17th Street Grill, Marina Deli, Il Mulino, Pomperdale Deli, and
Greek Islands Taverna.
LUSH VERDANT POOL AREA AT EMBASSY SUITES FT. LAUDERDALEdd caption
then, before I knew it, it was all over.
Day 16: Back home………Brrrrr!
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national travel-writing awards and an
Independant Travel Consultant with The Travel Authorit