Note: We are live-blogging each day aboard Carnival Vista on the first Carnival cruise to return to sailing since March 2020. You can read other days here:
- Day 1, Boarding and Sail Away
- Day 2, At Sea for the First Time in 15 Months
- Day 3, Gorgeous Weather For a Second Day at Sea
- Day 4, Roatan: First Port of Call Post Pandemic
- Day 5, Belize and the Biggest Drink on the Ship
- Day 6, Cozumel and Our First Excursion
- Day 7, Heading Home (and a COVID Test)
Today is the sixth day of our cruise aboard Carnival Vista — the first Carnival ship to return to sailing from the United States. The ship docked in Cozumel today, where the weather is warm, partly cloudy and a bit breezy, creating a chop on the water.
So far the overall experience has a lot of similarities with cruising before the pause — especially if you are vaccinated. In fact, you may not notice much that’s changed on the ship, apart from the crew being masked up.
If you are sailing unvaccinated or with an unvaccinated member in your group, however, then things are much more different than before.
Case in point: Sailing with a child who is ineligible for the vaccine, day 6 is the first time we’ve all had the chance to be off the ship together. I’ll detail that experience below, but first: towel animals.
If you’ve sailed Carnival before, you know that one morning you head to the pool deck, and it’s been taken over by towel animals during the night. Don’t worry, that hasn’t changed.
We headed to breakfast, and everywhere you looked were white towel animals perched on any flat surface. Our son absolutely loved seeing them and walked every row of pool chairs to examine each one.
I can’t imagine the man-hours that go into folding the hundreds of animals, but if the goal is to make a great memory for guests, then mission accomplished.
Docking in Cozumel a bit late — around 9 a.m. — we were actually beaten to port by another ship. Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas is also docked in Cozumel today. After so long without sailing and a limited return of ships so far, having two in the same port at the same time is surprising. It’s a definite sign that the eventual return of cruising is underway.
Towel animals and other ships aside, Cozumel has been a port we’ve circled for days. With bubble tours required for us all to get off the ship together, this is the port of call we decided to visit. The excursion — Passion Island by Power Catamaran — was the best mix of something for everyone at a price that didn’t break the bank.
This trip features a boat ride from the cruise dock over to “Isla Pasion” that sits just north of Cozumel. There, you hang out on the beach along with an open bar and lunch is served. It’s not much more than a beach day, which is exactly what we were looking for. Good thing because the trip was the only bubble excursion offered in Cozumel for our cruise.
It is listed at $79.99 per adult, $59.99 for kids, with those five years and younger free. Since our son meets the age limit, we only needed to pay for two adults, and the price actually rang up at $69.99 each.
This morning we headed to the excursion meeting place in the ship’s theater. Now, during this cruise we’ve been mindful of distancing since our son is unvaccinated. Even though the vast majority of people are vaccinated and we aren’t required to distance, keeping some space seems like the courteous thing to do.
For the most part that’s been no issue. Most times we’ve been able to find seats outside or with some distance from others to eat. In the theater we’ve been able to sit near the back during shows. We’ve mostly taken stairs instead of sharing elevators. So while we aren’t in a “bubble” on the ship, we’ve definitely tried to give more space.
Given that this was the only tour for Cozumel that allowed unvaccinated passengers, it was a little surprising that everyone on the tour met in the lounge and no distancing was required. And when it was time to head off the ship, we slowly made our way down the stairway to the gangway all together in a large group. That’s not a complaint (we knew distancing wasn’t required on the ship before we boarded), it’s just not what we expected since the tour was designed for those without the shot.
Things changed, however, once off the ship and on the tour. There, we were all required to wear masks — both inside or outside — even if vaccinated. The same rules apply in other ports. As we walked to the boat to take us to the island, line minders reminded us to distance from each other. While loading on the catamaran we were each given a squirt of hand sanitizer and then seated on the boat with space required in between each of us along the bench seats.
If life on the ship is similar to what it was before, this excursion definitely was not. During the beginning of the ride over our guide ran down the rules of masking, distancing, and using hand sanitizer. The rules make total sense, but he emphasized them over and over again.
At one point he even went so far as to ask for more space between a parent and their child sitting on the boat. Keep in mind this is on an open-air catamaran, and this was two family members.
Even for someone who is vaccinated but wears masks indoors on the cruise ship and keeps distance when possible, it seemed a little excessive.
As mentioned above, it’s been breezy today in Cozumel and the water had a heavy chop on the ride over. It led to a fun ride, but not one where you want to be sitting in the front of the boat. The first three rows (including us!) ended up getting soaked with spray as the waves picked up once we made it around the tip of Cozumel.
Arriving at Passion Island took roughly an hour. We were given another reminder about the rules, got off the boat, and led in to our roped-off area of the beach. The rules required us to stay in our area and not visit the other parts of the beach. Here, we were able to go maskless unless going to the bar or restaurant.
Now, when it comes to beaches and water, it’s hard to beat Passion Island. The water and sand look straight out of a postcard. And while there would soon be other excursions joining other parts of the island, we had a relatively large area for the size of our excursion group. Tables and loungers were available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We found a couple of loungers and pulled them under a palm for shade as our camp for the day.
With the excursion there was lunch served and an open-bar. We got to the island around 10:30, which when you’re on vacation isn’t too early for a margarita. Then, we hit the sand and the water.
After days on the ship, it was amazing to take a dip in the ocean. Seemingly everyone on the excursion had the same idea and soon the beach was nearly empty and everyone was in the water.
Once we grabbed a drink and put on sunscreen, we weren’t in the water but for a short time before lunch started to be served. The menu consisted of what you’d expect on a beach day in Mexico — guacamole, pico de gallo, rice, beans, and tacos. In this case, you didn’t order, just pre-packaged dishes came out and you picked up what you wanted.
It had an atmosphere of eating airline food, however, as each plate came wrapped in cling-wrap for health reasons. The food was decent, but the presentation could definitely be better.
Following lunch, we took a walk around the beach to just let our food settle. Then it was sunscreen, grab something to drink, and back to the water. It’s hard to overstate how nice the water felt and how clear it was in this area.
About 45 minutes later our guide gave us the warning that the boat was coming to head back to the ship. We were then all lined up to get back on the catamaran.
All told, our time on the island was two and a half hours — arriving at 10:30 a.m. and leaving at 1 p.m. — and seemed even shorter than that given the time spent eating, putting on sunscreen, and then packing up to go back. We would have loved to have another hour or two to enjoy the beach.
One bonus is that on the boat ride back we had a great view of both Adventure of the Seas and Vista from the water.
Overall, the excursion seems like it would be a great option in normal conditions. In current times, we thought it could definitely be better. The beach and water are gorgeous, and the boat ride is a fun time as well.
However, having the rules about masks and distancing (which I think are good) repeated over and over again — along with lunch served pre-packaged like in a middle-school cafeteria — took some enjoyment out of a low-key day at the beach. We were happy to get off the ship for the day, but the atmosphere onboard is definitely more relaxed and fun.
Tomorrow is the final day of the cruise as the ship sails back to Galveston from Mexico.
Continue Reading: Day 7, Heading Home (and a COVID Test)