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Friday January 3, 2014: Costa de Maya, Mexico
We had scheduled another "sail and snorkel" excursion in Costa de Maya, so after watching the ship edge into the dock around dawn, we had an early breakfast as we were required to meet on the pier at 8:20 a.m. We split up to find things at the buffet and Monika said she would be at one of the window seats forward. I was still rather sleepy, and after I had my omelet I saw the back of her head over by the window. Well, I went over and plunked my plate down across the table from her, then noticed she didn't have any orange juice, so I said, "Don't worry, honey, I'll get the orange juice for both of us." and went to retrieve two glasses of OJ. But as I returned to the table suddenly a strange woman looked up at me and said, "You know, I'm not your wife." Oops! Quickly retrieving my omelet, I apologized and went off to find Monika for breakfast. (But what an odd pick-up line that must have seemed to her!)
After breakfast we collected our snorkel gear, disembarked, and walked to the shoreside end of the pier where we were met by "Ray", one of the guides, and asked to sign the usual liability waiver. But Ray also specifically asked about heart problems and after I detailed my history he had to consult with the boss about whether I would be allowed to go. They made me countersign the normal liability form AND the one on the back of our ticket, but in the end the boss decided I could go.
From the tourist shopping area on Costa de Maya we took a shuttle bus out to the main coastal highway and then drove maybe a couple miles South to a small seaside dock area that accommodated our sailing catamaran as well as one Mexican naval patrol boat and a couple of fishing boats. I knew the tour had booked out, but I was surprised that there was only one catamaran available for this type of excursion as the big cruise ship wharf where the Ryndam had docked had space for at least 4 large cruise ships.
Nor did our catamaran appear to be really full as there were empty spaces on the benches around the edges of the boat. Be that as it may, the 40 or so of us lucky enough to have tickets rode the catamaran out of the tiny harbor area and another couple miles South along the barrier reef before the Captain found a place to moor the boat and let us off for diving.
As on the catamaran we had sailed on the previous day, this one had a ladder for entering the water between the hulls up in the front of the boat. This ladder had nice wide rungs and a large platform as the bottom rung, however, so it was a LOT easier to get down into the water and back up from the water at the end of our snorkeling.
As on the previous day, the tour operator supplied masks, fins, snorkels and buoyancy vests, but we had our own, of course. The snorkels, masks, and fins definitely seemed cut-rate to me--no purge valves on the snorkels or masks, and most of the fins lacked adjustable straps. Rather than the lifejackets we had used the previous day, they passed out regular scuba buoyancy vests that you have to manually inflate. The good part about that is that if the vest is deflated, you can swim much better than with a life jacket and also effectively surface dive. However, some participants reported about snorkels that came apart and masks that leaked, so we were both glad we had our own. Although the tour operators were friendly and capable fellows, safety was less emphasized than on our tour the previous day. The tour guides did not seem to take the trouble to keep their groups together, and did not brief the planned dive route, nor did they have kayaks shepherding us from the sides. That lack was important because it was hard to see as the waves were choppy and we were treading water, and thus we both lost track of our group leader while snorkeling.
Probably as a result, we soon got separated from Group 2. For safety's sake we thereafter stayed in the vicinity of the catamaran while snorkeling and operated on the buddy system, keeping each other in sight at all times. That limited our traveling around, but our boat had anchored in a large section of healthy coral and we had a lot of pretty coral formations to swim around.
Possibly because we were on our own and not thrashing about like some of the other folks, we had a LOT of fish swimming below us and occasional right around us. They seemed curious about us but also shy and often hid amongst the coral formations as we passed over them, which made photography difficult.
I had found the "underwater mode" for our underwater camera, though, and by using that we hoped to get pictures with a better color rendition, and that proved to be the case. As it was cloudy, we didn't have quite the colors we would have seen under brilliant sunshine, but it was pretty nonetheless.
After about an hour the guided groups returned to the ship and we all stripped off our snorkeling gear to relax on the way back to the catamaran's dock. However, the wind had freshened and squalls were blowing in off the Gulf of Mexico and producing moderately heavy swells, so the ride back was quite exciting. The rolling and pitching reminded me of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at the old Disneyland amusement park in California, but the movements were completely natural in this case. This cruise did not come with food although they did provide complementary soft drinks or a good local beer called "Sol", so we were hungry by the time we returned to the ship.
Stopping only to shower off the seawater, we had a quick meal up at the Lido buffet and then headed back out to the tourist area for some shopping. In particular we wanted to purchase some vanilla extract as we were running out of the bottle we had purchased in Costa de Maya on an anniversary cruise we had taken about two or three years back. We found that the quart size was only $10 while the pint size was $8, and we weren't sure when we would get back again, so we opted to purchase the quart. We almost purchased a Mexican doll but when the price jumped from $15 to $25 when the sale was rung up at the cash register, we put that back on the shelf and just took the vanilla extract back to the ship.
Since it was our second formal night on the Ryndam, I could not go to the Rotterdam dining room and instead we had to make do with a quick evening meal in the Lido buffet. We both agreed, however, that the Ryndam made no effort to make the Lido buffet area nice for a formal night dinner, whereas on Princess Cruise Line ships, the decorations and service in the buffet area on a formal night were quite nice: white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers on each table, and that sort of thing. On the Ryndam, eating dinner in the Lido buffet made us distinctly feel like second-class passengers.
We watched the production show called "Heat" that evening, a rather ironic title given that the theater had the air-conditioning cranked all the way up and was actually quite cold. The song and dance routines were quite good all around, but both Monika and I preferred the section on African music and dance. I liked the complex vocal harmonizations involved in that music. After the show we finished up the "Love In A Nutshell" book by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly, another good read, before retiring for the night.
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