By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/21/2019
Occurred: 5/18/2007
Topics/Keywords: #WesternCaribbean #Cruise #CarnivalLegend #CostaMaya #Chacchoben #Travel Page Views: 3578
Our cruise itinery stops at Costa Maya.

By the time our ship docked at Costa Maya, our vacation was beginning to wear on us physically.

Don't misunderstand: We were having a wonderful time and certainly weren't ready to go home! (My nephew, Kevin, and his wife Charlotte always return home early when they go on vacation.) But if it's possible to have too much fun, that's what we were doing.

To start with, the meals were just too delicious and there was no one to tell us not to eat too much: No mother, and no banker either; for if you craved both the filet mignon and the veal parmesan, it cost no more money to have both than to pick one.

Once upon a time, ocean voyages were prescribed to patients suffering from stress, because the pace was so slow, so relaxed. There was basically nothing to do but read or chat with other passengers, so one was forced to relax. A cruise is now the last thing you'd want to do to relieve stress, because the pace is nothing short of frantic (except during mealtime) and it must take a special kind of person to say "No! Enough!" when a dozen things are competing for your attention. If you don't want to attend a karaoke show, you might instead swim in one of the ship's three swimming pools or soak in one of the five Jacuzzis; you could watch a movie in one theatre or a Vegas-style show with live orchestra, dancers, and awesome singers in other. You can gamble in the casino or have a professional portrait taken or get a massage (these three cost extra, but the other choices I described are included). There's also ping pong, tennis, jogging, basketball, and "gimmicky" entertainments like Hairy Chest contests and Survivor-type challenges.

And all that's on the ship. Most days there are also the attractions of port, whether you just want to hang out in town and shop, or go on an "excursion" to some exotic destination like a Mayan ruin or cave tubing. It is, certainly, broadening (I overheard some people complaining because they'd been driven into poor sections of Belize, thus exposing them to poverty!) and educational; but it's also exhausting if you do it day after day.

So I didn't plan any excursions in Costa Maya. Michael and Karen were off to a Mayan ruin as usual; and I set up a wakeup call for Michael at 6:30 so he could meet the group leaving. But I slept in and that was as nice as anything I'd done on the trip.

I don't think I've mentioned anything about the beds on the ship. When Karen made the reservations, she was asked which rooms were being occupied by "couples" and would need their beds conjoined. Each stateroom comes with two twin beds with a nightstand between them; but the nightstand and one bed can be swapped so that the beds effectively make a king-sized bed flanked by the nightstands. Dottie and Frankie were a couple; Joe and Kathy were, and of course Mary and Karen needed twin beds. (Zachary was in a bunk in Mary and Karen's room; that room supported two bunks but they are optional, recessed into the ceiling unless needed. Michael's and my room had a sofa that could be made into a third single, with a recessed bunk above it. So each room can sleep four—five if they're really close friends.)

So Karen told the person on the phone that Michael and I were a couple. There was a deafening silence on the other end of the line. Helpfully, she added, "They're gay." There still wasn't much of a response; and when Michael and I arrived, we found the beds primly arranged in the twin configuration. I had to put them together myself.

Then there was the matter of our CPAP machines. Michael and I both have obstructive sleep apnea. I've been meaning to blog about this before but never got around to it. The treatment is to sleep while wearing pressurized masks; the pressure is provided by the machines. Obviously, the machines have to be plugged in; and we'd been assured by Carnival's web site that there were plugs in our cabins. It turns out that there is one plug offering 120 v 60 Hz AC current, as is used in American homes and as is required by our machines. So we were in trouble from the start: Either Michael and I would have to find an extension cord, or we would have to take turns with the masks like the old couple taking turns eating in the chestnut about the one pair of false teeth.

Since I'm the one to handle logistics, I ran up to the pursers' desk and explained that I needed an extension cord. Most extension cords, as you know, terminate in a three-outlet configuration. However, I was given a heavy-duty yard extension cord, such as you might use to plug in your weed-trimmer, and it terminated in a single plug. Moreover, I had been billed a $25 deposit for the use of the thing. As I've mentioned, this was an international crew and, although they all spoke English, some spoke it better than others. This purser was one of the latter. She didn't seem to quite grasp that I needed outlets enough for two CPAP machines. (Actually, I doubt she had any idea what a CPAP machine was—I'm sure she thought it was some kind of sex device, because she blushed slightly whenever I mentioned it. Maybe she thought it was somehow related to a PAP smear.) Anyway, she finally brought out a power strip whose consumer plug had been removed and replaced by an extremely heavy-duty one. I now possessed adequate cord and outlets to open up a woodworking shop in our stateroom.

So, back in the room, where the one plug is located just above the bureau (intended for a curling iron, I imagine), I pulled out one bed, slid the middle nightstand to the left, ran the extension to the middle of the beds, attached the power strip to it, and plugged in both CPAP machines, which were then placed at the far ends of the conjoined beds. Since I had a few outlets still available, I added the recharging cord for the digital camera, which I extended to the coffee table in front of the sofa. Then I put the beds together, and voilą! We had a king-sized bed, albeit sheeted twin-style. But at least Michael and I could hold hands as we slept.

The next night I asked the room steward to make up the bed as a king, which he did, and without blushing, I should add.

The sheets they use are extremely high-count, I'm guessing a thousand threads to the inch or so. They are like sturdy gossamer, smooth as silk. There's also a duvet, a European-style comforter that is extremely comforting because it's so soft, and it's thick enough to serve nicely as a blanket but not so thick as to make you overheat as you sleep.

My only complaint is with the pillows, which were soft and wonderful but smaller than I like. Still, I slept well; and apparently so does everyone else because Carnival sells a line of linens. They gave us a catalog before the cruise ended.

Zachary had had such a nice time with me in Cozumel that he wanted to sleep with "the papas" instead of in his room. We let him "this one time" so he snuggled between us with Chickie (a large, soft yellow duck) and Ellie Belly (Karen's childhood stuffed elephant, which Zach has inherited) and his Blanky, a scrap of shroud that is all that's left of his baby blanket. Since he didn't have an excursion this day, either, he got to sleep in, too. And that neither of us awoke until after 9 am indicates how much he needed to.

After breakfast, we checked in on Mary and then wandered down to Dottie and Frank's room to offer to take Cailey swimming in the pool. Instead, we learned that Joe and Kathy planned to visit the touristy place at the end of the pier that is the essence of Costa Maya; and we all decided to go together.

A long walk on Costa Maya's long pier.

Costa Maya is a made-up place. That is, it was made up by developers who looked at the blank spot between Belize and Cozumel and felt compelled to put something there…preferably, something that would make them a lot of money. So they built an enormous pier for cruise ships under the theory that, if they built it, we would come; and a shopping mall with pools and swim-up bars to give tourists a reason to get off the boat after it docked. There are Mayan ruins aplenty in the area for the more adventurous, and lots of reefs and dolphins and SCUBA opportunities for the more athletic.

There is no "town" of Costa Maya. Rather, the name describes an area encompassing about 100 miles of Caribbean coast in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

Actually, you have to be pretty athletic just to make it to the end of the pier. It's got to be a quarter mile from the ship to the shore, maybe more. And when you get to the shore, it's just like being on the ship: Lounges, pools, stores, and crowds of slowly broiling people.

I don't drink much alcohol. I hate shopping. I hate crowds. And, while I love to swim, I'm not a big fan of pools. So Costa Maya (which I quickly started calling "Costa Mucho" because I didn't find the prices in the stores to be much in the way of bargains) was pretty much my idea of Purgatory. Still, Zach and Cailey enjoyed the larger pool with its fountains enough to swim in it for a couple of hours, even though they did not take advantage of the swim-up bar.

Mary, on the other hand, still bruised and sore from her injuries and limited by having one arm in a sling, enjoyed it about as much as I did. She and I had gotten a wheelchair from the purser (another $50 deposit) but the wheelchair had no foot rests and was too wide for the gangway; so Mary kept having to get out of it to walk over obstacles. Then, on shore, we found our way blocked by pedestrians and tourists "covered with oil" sitting in plastic chairs strategically placed in the middles of walkways.

The final straw, however, was finding out we couldn't get fountain Diet Cokes at any of the dozen bars. They had plenty of canned soft drinks, but only beer flowed from their fountains. The ship didn't have fountain soft drinks, either; but at least it was cooler and less crowded there. So she asked me to take her back.

I had intended to return to keep Kathy and Joe company; but by the time I had Mary comfortable (she was ready for a nap) and had returned her wheelchair, Kathy and Joe and the kids had returned to the ship. So I offered to take them to the waterslide so Dottie and Frank could have a little adult time on shore.

Yes, the ship has a waterslide. It's probably three stories tall, starting from a point high above the ship's top deck and coming to an end in a small pool on the Sun Deck. Zach and Cailey both loved it, running up the steps and sliding down, then running up the steps again for more. I tried it myself, but didn't slip well so that I had to work my way down—more fun than it was worth. A number of other adults who tried it, each tried it only once so I assumed they had similar experiences. Still, the kids loved it and that's why we were there.

The waterslide on the Carnival Legend.

Eventually the ship pulled out of the dock—I could only assume the rest of our party had boarded—so we returned to our cabins to get dressed for dinner.

It being a little early, I spent the intervening time practicing my Elvis song for the end-of-cruise show. Actually, I spent most of that time trying to figure out how to work the MP3 player I'd been given. It didn't seem to want to turn on. Finally, I plugged it into Michael's laptop and was able to download the song file onto it—but there was only one, not two like there was supposed to be. I called Sonya the Karaoke Lady to let her know and she asked me to meet her. I did, and she looked at the MP3 player and swore at it in saucy British words that she probably didn't think I knew. Actually, I didn't know all of them. But the upshot was, I would have to make do with what was there.

Michael and Karen had gone to the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben. Well over 2000 years old, they are one of the most popular Mayan ruins with visitors to southern Quintana Roo. Most of the city is still unexcavated; but what has been unearthed is particularly well-preserved.

A Temple at Chacchoben. Chacchoben's Temple 2. A span of millennia: Mayan archetecture and American style. Michael feels the energy of Chacchoben.

After dinner, Dottie and Frankie got decked out in their wedding clothes, and for a few minutes I thought there might actually be a wedding! But the purpose was to have their formal wedding photos taken. Dorothy was exquisite in her gown. While waiting for the formal photo, we took some "candids"—just as one would at a real wedding!—in the vicinity of the hanging glass elevators.

But the formal photograph, as it turned out, was nothing short of breathtaking. I had always known Dorothy was beautiful, but a parent gets used to a childs' beauty, and now she was no longer a child.

The only person oblivious to Dorothy's beauty seemed to be Cailey, who may have been just a bit put off by the fact that someone other than she was the center of attention for a change. She refused to get into her wedding dress, and made a bit of a fuss while we waited for the photographer. But Dorothy got a picture of her with Michael and me, anyway.

After the photo shoot, Michael declined to go to karaoke, since he didn't feel too well. Neither did I, for that matter; the long walks up and down the Pier To Hell had made my sciatica flare up and my earache was worse than ever. On the way back to our cabin I tried to buy some Swimmer's Ear Solution in the shipboard shops and was told to go to the infirmary. They actually had it! (For $11, about twice what it would cost at home—but I didn't care.) I made a brief appearance at karaoke, where a group of women recognized me when I entered, grabbed me by the sleeve, and begged me to sing "You Were Always On My Mind" again. Of course, I couldn't resist. When one has as few fans as I have, one learns to make the most of them! But I was glad to return to my room, drown my left ear in Swimmer's Ear Solution, and go to sleep to the gentle rocking of the ship as it continued on its voyage back to Florida.