Carnival Celebration Live Blog (Day 3): Jeeps, Beach, and Grown Men on Waterslides

Note: Carnival welcomed its newest ship to the fleet earlier this month with Carnival Celebration now sailing from Miami. Cruzely was invited to sail on one of the first voyages. The seven-day cruise departs Miami headed to Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Mahogany Bay (Roatan). I’ll be live-blogging the experience each day to share what sailing the new ship is like.

You can view other days here:

The cruise’s first port of call in Cozumel gave us our first chance to stretch our legs and also see Celebration from land after being onboard. Thankfully, the weather was simply amazing all day.

Today Carnival Celebration continued the cruise with the first port of call — Cozumel. In fact, this is the first call on the port by the new ship, so technically it was a historic visit.

But of course, everyone on the ship looks forward more to a chance to get off and stretch our legs. Cozumel is always a busy port, but today was slightly quieter than the last time I was here when there were seven ships in port.

Today, alongside Celebration was Carnival Pride, Arcadia, and Brilliance of the Seas. That meant our ship was the largest around, and you could get an appreciation for the size of Celebration docked alongside what “used” to be large ships.

Hitting the Road and Getting Away From It All

Now I was actually in Cozumel just a few weeks ago during a sailing aboard Allure of the Seas. During that time we booked a speedboat driving excursion that was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. Today, we opted for something a little different.

The official name of the excursion was “Adventure Jeep, Snorkel, & Anemona Beach Club.” Starting bright and early at 8:30, it was time to meet up, sign a couple of waivers, and then we were put into groups of four to a car.

Each foursome gets their own Jeep to drive down to Punta Sur — the national park at the southern tip of the island. So we make a new friend with our group, get assigned a Jeep, and pile in.

And just as we’re about to go, the tour guide comes by with a dejected-looking group of four and asks if anyone in our group knows how to drive a manual transmission. Sure enough, my first car was a stick, so we volunteered. It’s all out of our car, and we trade with the other group who evidently couldn’t drive a stick shift.

Our Jeep for the day. Bald rear tire, speedometer that doesn’t work, stick shift… and a hell of a lot of fun to drive.

And wouldn’t you know… while all the other Jeeps were hard tops, the older model with the stick shift had a rag top. With a little help, we get the top off, hop in, and soon we’re cruising down the highway toward Punta Sur with the radio blaring and the wind in our hair. Definitely a fun way to start the day.

After about a 20-minute drive, we entered the park. Here, the highway turns into a dirt road. On one side is low-lying brush. On the other is the open water of the Caribbean. The first stop was a small Mayan ruin of what was once essentially a navigation marker. Ancient people would make a fire that would blow smoke up into the sky to help others come to the island in canoes.

From there, it was a quick trip to a viewing platform in a swampy mangrove that serves as a protected inlet. I’ll be honest, seeing brown, brackish water doesn’t interest me much. However, there were large crocodiles that live here, and we were able to get a great view of them… without being too close.

Back in the Jeeps, it was another five minutes down the road to the real destination for the day — Anemona Beach Club. Now, there are beach clubs all up and down Cozumel, and they each have their own personality.

The beach club we visited was extremely calm. To the right are a few palapas, the restaurant/restrooms, and not much else. Apart from a little music at the restaurant, all you hear are the waves on the shore. If you like quiet and less busy spots, this is ideal.

This one? It sits in the middle of the park. And it must be the most secluded and quiet beach club on the island. First, there’s literally nothing else around. No development, no highway, no buildings. It’s just white sand, palapas, and a few larger palapas hosting a restaurant, massage spot, and restrooms. And apart from a little music playing at the restaurant, all you hear is the lapping of the waves.

Once we had a little tour of the area and placed an order for lunch with the waiter (food and drink were an extra charge), we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed out.

On this part of the island the beach is spectacular, but the water isn’t that electric blue you see elsewhere. That’s because the bottom is made up of seagrass. So while the water is clear, it’s not ideal for swimming.

But snorkeling? That’s a different story.

With our gear on, we swam out about 150 yards from shore. Suddenly the bottom turns from grass to coral and the entire spot is like swimming in an aquarium. There are fish everywhere, with tons of different species and tons of different colors. A few highlights include some stingrays, a massive starfish and lots of fish sporting almost neon colors.

In all the snorkel trip took about 45 minutes to an hour, but as we were heading in, our guide called our attention to something in the water. Head down, I’m looking and then all the sudden… a large sea turtle was swimming only about 20 feet away. It’s always hard to measure distance underwater, but I’d estimate it was about 3 feet across from fin to fin. That was definitely the highlight of the snorkel tour.

Back on land, it was time for lunch, where I enjoyed a massive plate of fresh-made ceviche. I love ceviche, but I’m picky about where I’ll order it. At home in a restaurant hundreds of miles from the coast? No way. On a white-sand beach where the fish was likely caught this morning? Absolutely.

Tell me a better meal than a cold drink and fresh ceviche on a white-sand beach. You can’t do it.

Following lunch, I simply laid out on the beach to get a little color before sitting in on a tequila tasting offered to our group. Then it was time to settle up the bill and get back in the Jeep (don’t worry, the tasting was nowhere near enough to hinder the driving).

As we started our way back to the ship, we first made a stop at the Punta Sur lighthouse. From here, we were able to climb up the 133 steps and get arguably the best view on the island. This vantage point has the Caribbean wrapping completely around you.

At the top of the lighthouse at Punta Sur. From here, it was back in the Jeep to head to the ship.

Not bad for a Tuesday.

Back on the Ship… And Time to Hit the Waterpark

Making our way back to the ship, we spent a little time doing the required souvenir shopping, grabbed a cold drink, and sat back on the small beach in the port area just staring at the ships. Feeling refreshed, it was back down the pier (through the crowded duty-free shop they make you walk through!) and onto Celebration.

Once onboard, we took advantage of many people still being off the ship to check out the waterpark at the back of the ship.

Now, there’s little doubt that this spot is made with kids in mind. But there isn’t a rule that you have to be a kid to ride. And if there were, I’d make them enforce it against me.

The afternoon meant a chance to do the slides onboard with no lines.

There are three slides here to ride (along with a couple of slides for small kids), and while they all have names, everyone — including the staff — just calls them by the color. So there is blue, yellow, and orange.

The blue slide requires a mat and you ride down head first. The yellow slide is a classic slide where you lay on your back. And the orange slide is a drop slide where you stand on a panel that drops out from under you, sending you into a freefall.

While these may be designed with kids in mind, they are not “kiddie” slides. Each one is a blast. One tip is to be flexible with the slide you’ll ride. The slides all operate at once, but sometimes there are fewer people for one slide versus another. So if you can jump to the shorter line, it means more rides.

Following the slides, it was the perfect time after fun in the water to grab a burger from Guy’s Burger Joint, and then some downtime in the cabin before heading out for the evening.

A Must-See Show on Celebration

The big draw for the evening was the production show of The Most Magnificent Circus. The best way to describe the show is Cirque du Soleil. It’s themed as an old-time eclectic circus. Hanging from the ceiling in Celebration Central are several cables with fixtures attached to each (a trapeze bar, a large picture frame, an angled ladder, etc.).

During the show, performers climb on these items as they rise three decks into the air. From there, they perform all sorts of acrobatics and contortions, spin, and more. Meanwhile, the video background screen offers even more visuals, while other performers move through the crowd and on stage. There can be so much going on that you literally don’t know which area to watch at any time.

“The Most Magnificent Circus” is the best show I’ve seen on Carnival. It’s a must-see. Unfortunately, it’s also really hard to find a seat.

This might be the most impressive onboard show I’ve seen on Carnival. It ended with a well-deserved standing ovation, and it’s one that I would say in a can’t miss.

There is only one issue…

The Carnival app recommends getting there early, and it’s honestly not really a suggestion. Celebration Central is a unique venue that essentially brings the theater out into the middle of the ship. But seating is a problem.

On Deck 6 there is the most seating, but spots toward the back can’t see the acrobatics in the air due to the deck above them. On Decks 7 and 8, seating is much more limited, and reserved largely to people that can find a spot on the rail looking down toward the stage.

We arrived about 20 minutes early and even by then there was nowhere to sit. Instead, we just stood for the entire performance at the extreme left edge of the stage.

Now, there are multiple showtimes on multiple days to help spread people out (so everyone should get a chance to see), but this is a popular show. Get there early (real early) unless you are fine standing along the edge.

Day 4 has the ship visiting Costa Maya, Mexico.

Interesting Observations

  • Wondering about Internet on the newest ship in the fleet? I’ve found it to be the best of any cruise I’ve sailed. Connection speeds have been fast (around 12-15 Mbps) and very stable. Even switching between devices has been a breeze. It’s nice to have wi-fi service that just simply works.
  • During the evening we caught the last portion of a game of Family Feud Live in the theater. It is amazingly well done. The set looks just like the Family Feud set on TV, complete with the contestant podium and the stands for each team. Win the game and your team gets $500 in Carnival Cash — a pretty strong prize. I hope to catch a full show later on.

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