Key West and Mexico

Friday, February 3, 2017

I'm writing this post from the front porch at my grandma's house in Florida where it's currently 78 degrees and all kinds of gorgeous. There are herons sauntering across the road, Spanish moss hanging from the tree in her front yard, and little salamanders darting around in the mulch to my left.  I was planning to wait until I got back to Baltimore to share photos from our trip, but it's too nice here not to write a little about it now, while I've got the free time. Once I land at home, it'll be back to work and classes full-time, so let's soak up the vacation a little longer, shall we?

We set sail on the Brilliance of the Seas last Saturday for a cruise out of Tampa with my grandma, aunt from Chicago, and my parents. It's been forever since I've been on a long vacation with my mom and dad and I only get to see my aunt and grandma a couple times a year (if that), so it was wonderful to spend some quality time with them all.

Our first destination was a new one for all of us - Key West!

We were supposed to go parasailing when we got there Sunday afternoon, but the weather was awful and our excursion was canceled. It may have been 70 degrees, but with the clouds, rain, and wind, it felt like 40. We were all pretty bummed since this was only one of two destinations on our vacation and we felt a bit cheated out of the nice summery weather. I feel like I've gotten pretty lucky since this wast the first time I've ever had bad weather on a cruise, so I guess it was bound to happen at some point. While the rest of the family went out for a museum tour, Mike and I opted to switch to a historic bar crawl and it turned out to be the best decision we'd make all week.

Our tour guide was Trumpet Bob. He wore funny shoes, a colorful cheeseburger necklace, and a large top hat. He drank with us the entire way and was full of stories and dirty jokes. At each of the stops along Duval Street, where there are 117 bars in the 2-mile stretch, he would assemble our group when it was time to move onto the next bar by blowing a conch shell. Halfway through the crawl, he stopped in an alley to have a conch-blowing contest. I'm sure you can imagine the jokes already. He had us in stitches the whole time. Aside from the laughs, it was also cool to have him point out little historic tidbits about the buildings, streets, and landmarks around Key West. He's lived there his whole life, so he really had a wealth of knowledge to share.

Ernest Hemingway's frequent hangout

After spending the entire day drinking, it's amazing to me that we made it back to the ship. Of course, we ended up hopping on the very last shuttle, at the very last second, only to find out we were the very last people to check back onboard. (Thanks, Bob!) Needless to say, we barely made it to dinner and passed out pretty early that night.

Thankfully, the next day was a recovery day at sea. We spent most of our time on the ship hanging out in the pool, in the hot tubs, listening to the live music, getting massages at the spa, and playing games with our family. For us, this cruise was more about rest and relaxation than hitting all the events and entertainment.

Our second and final destination was Cozumel, Mexico. Mike and I have been to Cozumel a few times on previous cruises, so we decided to book an all-day excursion with my aunt to go snorkeling all over the Yucatán Peninsula. Our first stop was Dos Ojos Cenote, which is a flooded cave system in the northern area of Tulum, Mexico. Cenotes are basically large natural sinkholes that occur from the degradation of limestone, exposing the groundwater upon their collapse. The Dos Ojos Cenotes were located on a Mayan reservation and so the cultural aspects of the area were really apparent. We learned a lot about the Mayan people, their practices, and how they believed the cenotes to be the entrance to the underworld. 

We saw all kinds of rock formations, stalagmites, stalactites, and marine life in the crystal clear blue water. While the parts we snorkeled in consisted entirely of freshwater, the scuba divers we saw got to explore much deeper into the caves and saw where the heavier underground salt water meets the fresh water. I would love to get scuba certified some day to see it!

After the cenotes in Akumal, we headed to the beach to snorkel near Playa del Carmen. We got up close to mama and baby sea turtles, the coral reef, sting rays, and all sorts of colorful fish. The only downside is that the entire day, we went without sunscreen. Because of the reef and the health of the turtles, the government is pretty strict about not applying anything that could potential harm the marine life. Needless to say, I got burned and Mike got a nice tan. Story of my life. 

We had the best lunch at this little place right off the beach in downtown Playa del Carmen. I couldn't tell you what it was called or where it was because they literally drove us to the center of town, dropped us, and then we walked along the beach until we found the restaurant, but I do know it was somewhere near Calle 6 Norte. It didn't have any signs but the food was authentic and amazing and I could've stayed there eating cochinita pibil and drinking margaritas for the rest of my life. I love having a tour guide who actually believes in showing tourists how the locals eat. It's always disappointing when they drop you off in an area where the restaurant selection consists of only Hard Rock Cafes and Señor Frogs. This was not the case this time, and I was a happy, happy girl. 

Now it's February and time to get back to the routine but it was nice to let loose and thaw out down south for a bit. Hopefully we can get through these next few months quickly and hop into a nice warm spring at the end of March! Happy Friday everyone!

P.S. - We made a little vacation video to remember some of the fun. Please don't judge, we have no idea what we're doing and are basically complete morons when it comes to video technology, ha!


  1. Loved reading about your adventures on the cruise Laura! Lots of fun seeing the pictures and what my family is up too - much more fun than I'm having at the moment! Love to all .. thanks again for sharing and will have to browse around some more! <3 Aunt Carol

    1. Thanks so much Aunt Carol! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. I LOVED your video!! It looks like you had a great time with your family. Short cruises are so nice. This came at such a great time for you guys <3

    1. Thanks Macy!! Someday I'll be a real vlogger like you! haha!