First Time Cruisers
After much planning and more than 6 months of waiting, we were anxious to set sail on our cruise. My sister Colleen and her hubby Mike had experienced their first cruise the year before and decided it would be a good idea for us to go on one together. So we booked a February 2016 cruise for the four of us last July. Then my friend Jen and her hubby decided to come too. It was starting to look like a party – yeehaw! A few months later, my other sister Brenda and her hubby decided to join us as well. The excitement mounted – 8 of us vacationing together. 🙂
I was happy to have Colleen guide us in the booking procedure and planning excursions for the different ports. We decided on a 7 day cruise on The Norwegian Jade, leaving the port of Houston with stops in Cozumel, Belize and Honduras.
We spent a little extra to get a stateroom (cabin) with a balcony. It was well worth it. We enjoyed opening the balcony door to get the ocean breeze at night. It was roomy enough and the bed was very comfortable.
The Norwegian Jade
The Norwegian Jade is considered a mid-size ship. It has a guest capacity of 2,402 with a crew of 1,078. It is 965 feet long and was built in the year 2006. The ship is like a floating hotel complete with 19 different dining options, many and lounges and bars. It boasts an award winning casino, a swimming pool, hot tub and spa. There are many activities on board for adults and kids alike.
They offer an all-inclusive drink package and a specialty dining package. We added both to our package so that we could eat at any of the specialty restaurants and drink whenever and wherever we wanted. I highly recommend getting this, especially the all inclusive drink package if you like to indulge in a wee bit of alcohol while on vacation. 😉
Bring your own Lanyard for your key card.
Your key card is used for everything on board. Colleen brought each of us a lanyard for our keycard. She hole-punched the cards so we could wear them like a necklace. Quick and easy to pull out to pay for something. Prevents loss or trying to find them in your pockets or purse! You can’t purchase these on the ship, we had many people asking us where we got them. Spend a couple bucks at the dollar store before you go. 🙂 Good call sis! √
The specialty dining rooms were very good. I think our favourite was the Le Bistro, we went there twice that week for dinner. If you don’t have the specialty dining package, a surcharge will apply to those higher end restaurants. We had a 7 night dining package but could have probably gotten away with a 4 night package, because the food was good everywhere.
Most of our breakfasts and lunches were eaten at the Garden Cafe. It is a huge complimentary buffet with lots of choices. (I think we all gained weight on this trip – haha!). One of my favourite memories was being greeted at the Garden Cafe every morning by a crew member holding a squirt bottle (for hand washing). He would be holding out his squirt bottle saying “washy washy” all the while dancing and having a good time. We could tell he really enjoyed his job. All of us will always remember him as “washy washy”.
BRING YOUR OWN BOTTLED WATER!
Bottled water is very expensive on board. $6 for a one litre bottle. You are allowed to bring your own onto the ship. I highly recommend bringing as much as you need to get through the week. If you forget, pick some up in port, like we did. Water is not part of the all inclusive drink package. Go figure!
We set sail on a Saturday afternoon. We had the evening and the entire day Sunday to relax, check out the ship, get together and eat and drink, swim in the pool and just have fun. Did I mention drink?
Ports of Call
Our days in port were scheduled for Monday through Wednesday. On Monday we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico, then onto Belize on Tuesday, followed by Roatan, Honduras on Wednesday.
Four of us (Colleen, Mike, Rick and I) had pre-booked our shore excursion for Cozumel. It was a package that included a guided tour of the island in a dune buggy, time at a private beach, a guided tour of replica Mayan ruins, lunch and snorkeling. It was a 4 1/2 hour package. That was one of the best days of the trip. We had so much fun and the excursion was worth every penny and more. I will be writing a separate post soon to review our Cozumel Buggy Mayan Heritage and Snorkel – rated #18 out of 189 for boat tours on Tripadvisor.com
Jen and George are “foodies” and opted for a different shore excursion in Cozumel. They decided on a Mexican cooking class where they learned how to prepare authentic Mexican food. After preparation they got to enjoy eating their delightful dish. Don’t they look cute?
Brenda and Jeff are avid snorkelers. They did not have a shore excursion planned for Cozumel so they decided to hit the beach and do some snorkeling. Looks like they had an excellent time!
None of us had a shore excursion planned for Belize. We decided to wing it and go on shore just to check it out and do a little shopping. Belize is absolutely beautiful, well what we saw of it anyway. The only disappointment with Belize was that we could not go off and explore the island. Everything was set up for shore excursions. So we stayed in port, did a little shopping, and a little relaxation with some drinks. My hubby Rick had been trying all along to get himself a tropical drink with an umbrella in it. He was unsuccessful – until Belize!
Six of us decided to do a shore excursion in Honduras, which we booked on the ship. So Wednesday morning, Rick and I, Brenda and Jeff and Colleen and Mike headed out. Our shore excursion was to visit to Maya Key, a private island.
I was so amazed, I felt like “this must be earth’s paradise”. The highlight was feeding and petting the monkeys in the animal sanctuary. I will be writing up a separate post review for this excursion as well, because it was so amazing, it deserves it own write up. It was well worth the money we paid for another “day in paradise”!
Days At Sea
The balance of our cruise was spent on the ship heading back to the port of Houston. So we had two full days, Thursday and Friday at sea. We were supposed to get back into the port of Houston early Saturday morning, but ended up there about midnight Friday night.
This gave us plenty of time to unwind and relax on the last two days of our trip. We certainly needed it after 3 gorgeous days of sightseeing and touring the ports.
I was concerned about going on a cruise and being sea sick because I get motion sickness in the car. The first few days I needed to take Dramamine to help, but after that I was fine. If I can do it, anyone can!
The thing I enjoyed the most – spending quality time with friends and family! 🙂 Would I do it again? You bet!
I hope you enjoyed this post and found the quick tips helpful. Is there a cruise in your future? Comment below and share. Thanks,
PS: We booked our cruise through Lynette Wood at Cruise Holidays Chatham, Ontario. She was excellent and knows her stuff. I would highly recommend her to anyone booking a cruise. She can be reached at 519-332-2818