Cruising in Belize

For years, Marian and I have watched the television show, Wheel of Fortune. Many times the prize given to the show’s winner is a free trip to Belize and a stay at a five-star resort. The show’s host raves about the beaches. Over the years, I’ve occasionally said to Marian, ‘we should visit Belize to see for ourselves just what Belize offers’.

So, a couple of weeks ago, as we were planning a trip to Houston, TX to visit relatives, I noticed a cruise going out of Houston to the Caribbean, with Belize one of the three destinations. I said to Marian, “Let’s go on the cruise,” so we did.

I can honestly say, Belize City, and the nearby beaches is a worthwhile trip. It is beautiful. The beaches are magnificent. And, while neither Marian nor I are into snorkeling, we were told by several of our cruise buddies that the snorkeling and scuba diving is terrific.

Belize has its own barrier reef. The barrier reef stretches 185 miles, and it has been identified as the largest reef in the Western part of the world, but smaller than the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The reef is home to as many as 500 species of fish. The reef was popular for diving.

Belize’s main source of revenue comes from almost two million visitors to this tiny Central American nation annually from around the world. The day we docked there were four cruise ships in the port. Our ship hosted 3,200 people.

Belize was the third island we visited on our seven-day cruise. Our first stop was the Island of Cozumel, Mexico, the oldest port of the three we visited, and then onto the Island of Roatan, Honduras, which houses a family-owned iguana farm where more than 2,700 iguanas roam freely about the property.

We were three days at sea, but that’s okay with us. On those days, from the time we wake up — and that could be 11 a.m. — we are on the go. On a cruise there is a lot of activity provided for the guests. You could find us on the dance floor, we played the ponies a couple of days, won $10 on a wooden pony named Pacifica (yes, I named the horse and was also the jockey), final bingo game went for $2,750 (no, not us), watched movies under the stars poolside, listened to different type of singers in the eight night clubs, and of course, eat, eat, eat. You literally can eat around the clock. Nightly first-class entertainment is provided in the ship’s theater. We even had a reception with the ship’s Captain, who recognized seasoned cruisers. One lady was completing her 1,056th day aboard a Princess cruise line. That’s three years of daily travel! She got a bottle of champagne and dinner with the Captain. Then, of course, the casino was a popular place.

Cozumel was hit badly by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but the island has rebounded and many of its roads are now better than ever after reconstruction. A bus ride took us to the Cozumel Museum where we learned about the island’s rich heritage. Jumping back on the bus we visited the Chankanaab National Park, home to botanical gardens, a white-sand beach, where Marian waded into the Caribbean Sea, and Dolphin Discovery, a dolphinarium that allows you to come face-to-face with dolphins without getting into the water. We were even entertained with a folkloric show.

Going ashore at Roatan, we chose to just walk around the town and beach over a shore excursion. However, the minute we walked off the ship, it didn’t seem like a good idea as the 100 percent humidity and 90 degree weather made walking miserable. However, we trekked through the town where we watched riders take a fun-filled ride across 1,200 feet of cable suspended more than 67 feet in the air and landing on the sands of beautiful Mahogany Beach.

Our day in Belize City had us taking a tender (a small boat) from the ship, which was anchored several hundred yards from shore. We took a tour around the City via bus, driven by a gentleman who loved his native land. He was a great tour guide and made us feel welcome and comfortable. He was so proud of his city.

Belize was not always as independent as it is today. The British occupied the country of Belize for many years. For many years Belize was known as British Honduras and was an official British colony. The capital was established as Belize City during British colonization, and unfortunately, a severe hurricane, Hurricane Hattie, destroyed the city in 1961. It wasn’t until 1981 that Belize was declared independent.

The city is undergoing rebuilding. Our tour guide was proud to tell us they have a new mayor and he is making many changes, including building new roads. He encouraged everyone on the bus to return in a year and see the improvements. He truly loved his city.

Soccer is big in Belize and as we drove past the sports complex, the guide talked about how excited the town was when the team played the USA team. Historically, Belize has not had a strong soccer team. It is considered the weakest team in Central America according to the FIFA World Rankings with no World Cup appearances. In March 2013 it reached its highest ever ranking of 128th.

The Belize people have a unique style for naming animals. Some of these animals’ names include the False Vampire Bat, the Red Footed Booby, and the Owl eye butterfly. They might rival our San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog at the Sharp Park Golf Course! Animals constantly fascinate the Belize people, and their names reflect their love and appreciation for creatures.

Located in downtown Belize is the oldest swing bridge in Central America and the only manually operated Swing Bridge in the world still functioning.

We saw where the Wheel of Fortune winners spend that week vacationing. The resorts are not right in Belize but still within a reasonable drive. As I mentioned previously, if you love snorkeling or diving you will want to put Belize on your bucket list.

Source: Mercurynews.com

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