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MSC Meraviglia- Adventures in Belize and Roatan

The halfway point of the cruise has arrived and brings us to a destination that I visited almost ten years ago with Danielle, Belize City, Belize. One of the fascinating things about this port if the nature in which you have to get into the port. It almost feels like a slalom run, back and forth, back and forth as we navigate our way into the port though the barrier reef. As stated before, this is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Visiting Belize City also means having to take tenders into the port as there are no piers for cruise ships to dock at. Now this is not really an issue except that it does make planning your day in a destination like this even more important. We were in port from 8 am until 6 pm, but you needed to factor in a 15 to 20-minute tender ride into town. On the docket for today, Lamanai and The New River Safari. This was again another tour that we planned through the ship since we had limited time in the port, and it was a 7-hour tour. I always recommend booking through the cruise line for longer tours unless you are in port all day. The guarantee to get back on the ship is extremely important.

After breakfast, we headed down to the Broadway Theatre and waited for our tour to depart. The tour boasted coach transfers, a river cruise on a riverboat, a guide around the Lamanai ruins, and a buffet lunch. By all accounts it was going to be a fun day. As we gathered for our tour, I soon realized that there were going to be a lot of people on our tour, so many people in fact they had 4 loads of people. We soon headed to the double decker tenders that would take us ashore. While on the tender, I met with two couples from North Dakota, one of which who knew our family doctor. Now talk about a small world. As we got into the port, we met with our guide Carla who would be with use the entire day. As we headed to our coach bus it was clear we needed to discuss the meaning of a coach bus. It felt like those ads that display large luxurious vehicles for your transfer somewhere and then a broken down 1990 Plymouth Voyager, held together with duct tape rolls up. It kind of felt like that. A multicolored Blue Bird school bus rolled up, stop sign and all, and I had to chuckle a little. I thought to myself, this was going to be a long 45-minute ride. As we climbed on board, I realized why they called it a coach bus. Instead of normal school bus seats, they pulled chairs from a 1970s coach bus and installed them instead. Most of the seats were broke and would not stay in one place and the AC was suspect at best. They also installed the seats closer together then a school bus, which was fine unless you are 6’ 3”. But these are the situations that make the best memories or cause the most heartburn. Once we all boarded, we were off for our 45 minute, wait, nope now it was 60 to 75 minute transfer to the boats. Our guide gave us a history lesson on the country as we traveled to our destination.

Once we arrived in Tower Hill, the starting point of our journey, we were met by our boat captain Isidro and our other guide Elvis. We were each provided with a bottle of water, which was nice as it was hot and humid out, and then we all boarded a river boat for the hour journey down the river to Lamanai, which stands for submerged crocodile. On our journey, Isidro pointed out various wildlife and interesting facts along the river. I noticed a crocodile sitting on a log and when we went back to pet it, it decided to move. Apparently crocodile’s don’t like to be pet, who knew. It also meant I could not get a picture of it and I was not interested in seeing if I could find him and his friends. Off we went back down the river to Lamanai. The boat, which was carrying approximately 40 of us, moved rather quick down the river with tight turns and narrow passages. The ride was fun and the breeze defiantly keep it cooler.

Upon arriving at Lamanai, we were escorted around the site and saw three separate temples- the Mask Temple, the Jaguar Temple, and High Temple. We also had a chance to see howler monkeys and parrots in the area. At the site, you were able to climb several of the temples if you dared. The High Temple unfortunately had a stair collapse and you were not allowed to climb to the top. The site itself was very impressive especially since it was one of the earliest and largest temples built. The tour was pretty much like any tour to a Mayan ruin, a bunch of tourists with their cameras taking selfies and group photos wandering all over the place not having any idea what they were photographing. After hiking two and half of the temples, it was time to head back to our starting point of the boat ride for lunch. Based on the heat and humidity it was also time to get some of the natural air conditioning from the boat. Upon our return to the boat launch point, most guests grabbed some lunch and then loaded the buses to head back to the pier before our 6 pm departure. Now the 6 pm departure is a little misleading since the last tender to the ship is at 5 pm. We arrived back at the port around 4:45 pm, with just enough time to do a little shopping and catch one of the last tenders back. The tender ride back was interesting as the wind was making for some interesting seas and we were traveling in an overloaded boat. Nevertheless, we made it back and did not have to swim back, which was good. We ended up being the second to last tender for our ship, so I was definitely glad we were on a ship sponsored tour.

Tonight, the plan was to enjoy our second of three specialty dining experiences that we had booked. We would be dining at Ocean Cay, MSC’s Seafood Restaurant. We decided to arrive a little earlier and found the restaurant almost completely empty. We both were really looking forward to dinner tonight. How could you mess up seafood? Oh let me tell you the ways. Now I know that MSC is a more Mediterranean cuisine, but how do you have a seafood restaurant without really any sort of shrimp on the menu. So after carefully weighing the options, I decided on Crab cakes and Black Cod for dinner. The crab cakes were good and the cod was fishy tasting. I guess because it is a fish. The dessert was good but all in all the food fell flat for me. The restaurant had the same kind of set up at Butchers Cut. They had a limited menu and then you could buy better dinner items for an upcharge. I kind of thought I already paid an upcharge when I went to specialty dinning.

After dinner we headed to the theatre for another well put together show. This show again featured amazing dancers and singers. After the show it was time for bed and to gear up for ziplining and snorkeling in Roatan.

Our day in Roatan started with a familiar sight and an old friend. Today we were joined in port by the Harmony of the Seas. Was actually nice to see the ship again. Had a great time on the ship with my daughter and have so many wonderful memories. Roatan was our first port where we did not book through the ship. I located a different supplier from last time to try out another option. This time we decided to simply do ziplining and snorkeling and did not do a private tour. This was a big mistake. As soon as we were off the bus, we headed to the meeting point to meet with our guide. Then we waited….. for an hour…. in the crowded streets of Roatan…. In the heat and sun. Could have been worse, we could have been waiting for a bus in 30 below zero weather in Minnesota, so I guess I will take it. We waited and waited until all the other passengers arrived. We booked our tour through Christopher Tours. The thing I found most interesting about this was that we were sharing a bus with folks who were just going snorkeling, some that were going to an animal park, some who were horseback riding, and some who were doing combinations like us. So after around 20 plus people squeezed, and I mean squeezed into this van we were off.

I booked this excursion because we would be traveling to a different area of the island then where Madison and I were. This time we would be traveling to the east end of the island. Our ziplining experience was through Pirates of the Caribbean Zipline. This adventure boasted the longest and highest zipline in the Caribbean. The ziplining course stretched for almost 2 miles. Our guides for this tour were great and very helpful. The ziplines were of decent length and height, but there were far fewer lines to travel on then before. We had roughly an 45 minutes worth of ziplining. Sadly the Gopro was not functional. Apparently you need to have a charge in the battery for it to work. So all I could get were still shots and video of my mom as she enjoyed the zipline. At least I have proof she did it.

After the ziplining, we headed to a “private” beach for lunch and our snorkel adventure. The beach was located at the office of Christopher Tours on the east side of the island. Prior to our arrival, I spoke with our guide about the best area to snorkel. She advised the west end offered the best snorkeling and diving of the reef however the east end had some nice locations as well. Upon our arrival, we ordered our meal and then headed out for a two-stop snorkel. The first stop was for starfish alley. This location offered several very large starfish, several over two foot across. It was also an opportunity to view a conch shell, not sitting on a store shelf. After starfish alley we headed to the main part of the reef on the east end and a sunken steamship that ran aground on the reef decades ago. The snorkel through the reef was nice however with such a large group and several not having any consideration for others or the ocean it made it difficult. I stayed at the back of the group and tried to keep from getting kicked in the head or other body parts by the other participants. As we followed our guide through, I photographed what I could with the now working GoPro. Unfortunately, this time water got into the case and blurred the images I had taken. Oh well, guess I must come back.

Upon returning to shore, we had a quick lunch before loading up into the van again. I spoke with our guide and asked if she could make a quick stop at one of the souvenir shops so I could pick up an item I failed to get the last time I was here. She said she would see what she could do. Luckily, she was able to make it happen. A quick in and out and we were back on the road to the port. Our tour was supposed to only last three hours, however by the time returned it was almost a 5-hour tour. We still had a little time to shop in the port shops before returning to the ship. Unfortunately, as we were getting back on the ship, we observed a passenger being wheeled off the ship in a wheelchair and her family pulling luggage behind her. I notice a bandage on her arm which appeared to be covering a fresh wound. Never good when you get off mid cruise and take your luggage with you.

Once back on the ship, we got ready for dinner in the Carousel Lounge with the first of two Cirque Du Soleil shows to follow. Tonight’s performance was Sonar and included a dinner beforehand. The menu selection for the dinner shows is very limited. This created an issue for us as most of the food selection was not real in our wheelhouse. Here’s to trying new things. I decided I would give the Maine Lobster Salad, the Roasted Sea Bass, and the Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse a try. All of the food was well prepared and was decent. The only issue was there was not much of it. This meant we had to make a stop at the buffet after the show to grab a little something extra to eat. Not exactly what I expected when paying extra for specialty dining. After dinner we were treated to a wonderful and high entertaining Cirque Du Soleil show. The show featured a beat box artist, aerial acrobatics, and interesting prop performances. While I would recommend the shows to anyone, the meals are a different story. If the menu choices are enticing to you and I know they are to some, then go ahead otherwise I would recommend eating in the Marketplace Buffet or in the main dining room.

After the show we headed up to the buffet to supplement our dinner. After finishing our second dinner, we headed to the Broadway Theatre for a magic show. We decided to change our seating positions today and sit near to the front to watch the magician close up. The performance was well done, but sitting close up gave you some insight to some of his tricks. The show was entertaining and did not have the magician walking off the stage after the messed up, which happened on another cruise line. Tomorrow we head back to sea for a full day and make our way to Ocean Cay, MSC’s private island.

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