Cruise to Cozumel and Progresso - Chitzen Itza is very cool

2/8/08 Friday – Met Aaron and Dezina and drove in their van from 6 am to 7 pm, from St. Louis to New Orleans.  To kill the time we watched DVDs of Scrubs and Frasier.  We wanted to have lunch at Corky’s in Memphis; the GPS couldn’t find it so we drove back and forth around the area until we finally just asked directions.  Corky's was great as usual.  Drove on to New Orleans and the GPS could not find our Queen and Crescent hotel either, so we missed it a couple of times.  After we checked in Aaron and Dezina drove over to see their friends.  We walked around looking for a place for dinner.  Kay Paul’s had a long wait, so we ended up at Pierre Maspero’s.  Had stuffed pistolettes, BBQ shrimp po’boy with baked potato salad and Crescent City sampler – everything was great!  Simple food prepared just right.  Walked over to Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets, and took the extras back to the hotel.  

2/9 Saturday – Discovered that Beignets do not keep well over night.  We walked down to the dock area to find where the ship would be.  Then Aaron and Dezina met us downtown and we went looking for breakfast.  Café Du Monde was too busy to get a seat so we went elsewhere for omelets – they were just OK, not very good.  Walked through the shopping district of the French Quarter.  The guys got pralines.  Checked out of the hotel and went on board the Fantasy cruise shihp.  Got handed a drink as if it was a welcome-aboard freebie, then asked to sign for the charge, so we handed the drink right back.  Had lunch on the Lido deck – burger and fries.  We walked around the whole ship.  For dinner we had steak, tilapia and chocolate melted cake.  Randy and I got in the hot tub, and later went to the 10:30 show, which included singers, dancers, the entertainment host and a comedian. The singers were excellent – found out later they were married.  Our cabin was inside and near the back.  It was quiet, and very dark when the lights were turned out – excellent for sleeping.

2/10 Sunday – day at sea.  Breakfast in the dining room.  Sunbath.  Workout and walk around the track on the upper deck.  Dress dinner – lobster.  The evening show was a tribute to various musical styles.   The boat rocked during the night, but not too bad.  

2/11 Monday – Had room service for breakfast.  At Progresso we got on the bus to Chitzen Izta for a 2 hour drive.  The land we drove past was very poor, with dilapidated buildings, some with ruined thatched roofs or no roofs.  The driver’s name was Manual.  The bus guide Andre was very proud of his Mayan past – his father was full Mayan, his mother was part Spanish.  He said that almost all Mexicans are "mixed blood" like him.  He didn’t have much use for the Spanish of the past.  He told us most Mayan books were burned.  Three known remaining books are on astronomy, algebra and rituals, and are in various European countries.  He said that Orientals, Mayans, Alaskans, some Africans and some American Indians share physical traits which indicate a common history – short, stocky body type, straight black hair, no body hair, but most important - they share the Mongolian spot – a green/purple spot that looks like a bruise at the base of the spine at birth, which disappears as they grow up.   Eventually the bus stopped at a ‘rest stop’ which was really a shopping stop, and it was only about 5 minutes from the ruin site.
At the ruin our tour guide was Felip.  I loved how he worked to give is a great tour with extremely limited resources.  He had several carefully folded pictures from National Geographic which he used as visual aids during his recitation.  He brought paprika from him mother’s back yard to help us understand how the buildings were colored red, eons ago.  He shared coco beans (also from his mother’s back yard) and sea salt for us to taste, explaining that it used to be used as currency.  He shared a natural gum substance (not sweet) for us to taste, explaining that it was used by natives to generate salvia because water was scarce.  He explained that "Chitzen" means mouth of the well and "Itza" is the name of the family that owns the land.   The buildings are from the decline period, which included human sacrifice.  The main monument is in the middle of a flat bare plain. 
Until recently people were allowed to climb the pyramid, but now it’s roped off, either because some tourists fell, or because of damage to the structure.  

Scattered around this structure and up to the forest line are other buildings, including a ball field. The ball field includes a couple of stone porch-like areas up at the top of the wall.  One has a bas-relief sculpture of a man with a beard; this is hard to explain because the local people did not have any body hair.

There is a wall that is filled with bas-relief sculptures; very creepy . . . but I like them.
I found the wall decorations to be fascinating.
A sack lunch was provided on the way home – ham on pretzel-like bread (pretty good), chips, apple, and something similar to a Ho-Ho, plus water.  Our bus guide said that Cozumil is the Spanish mis-pronunciation of the Mayan word which means Land of Swallows.  Back at the port we walked through the gift store before getting back on the ship and Dezina bought a beautiful multi-colored bracelet.  We had a late lunch on the Lido – grilled sandwiches and fries.  This might be when Aaron and Randy discovered the great goat-cheese pizza, which became a staple for them for the rest of the cruise.  We looked through the ship photos, then showered and napped.  Went through the shopping area on the ship to look at jewelry and booze; Randy bought booze.  Dinner included a duck appetizer, Mahi Mahi and Beef Wellington.

2/12 Tuesday – Had breakfast in the dining room with Aaron and Dezina, and met Norma and Aileen.  At Cozumel we had to take a tender boat ashore.  There was a long wait to get on the tender, and a longer wait on the tender.  We met a couple of guys on their first cruise – Clint and David, cousins.  Clint had been adopted when he was 2 weeks old.  He said he was Mexican, but he was as tall as David and didn’t look like the locals at all.  Aaron and Dezina went for a tour on a submarine.  Randy and I walked around looking at all the stores.  Randy bought some beer and I bought a couple of earrings.  We had agreed to meet Aaron and Dezina at Margaritaville for a late lunch.  We had to ask directions to Margaritaville and the guy who directed us there gave us a card for a free calamari appetizer.  And the calamari was so great that we ordered a second plate.  To go with the calamari we had margaritas, a daiquiri and a nacho volcano.
Randy and Aaron swam off the dock.  Dezina went out too but she slipped and hurt her shin - her operation left her without much tolerance for alcohol.  After lunch we walked around again, then shopped at the $1.00 shop while waiting for the tender.  Got back around 4:40 and took a nap.  Dezina wasn’t feeling well, so after dinner Aaron joined us for the show – a magic act and comedian.   Then we walked around to the back of the ship and talked.  Terri and Bob joined us to check out the midnight Mexican buffet.  I just got some chocolate cake.  

2/13 Wednesday – day at sea.  Breakfast in the dining room again, where we met Mary, who raises chickens.  Attended the de-embarkation talk.  Randy went for a massage so I lay out for a few minutes, then went in for lunch where I sat with Terri and Bob - ham and cheese on the Lido.   Aaron and Dezina joined me outside after lunch, but it was very windy and too cool to lie out for very long, so we got in the hot tub, where Randy joined us later.  Afterwards we went shopping and I bought a link bracelet.  Took a shower and attended the Return Guest reception with Terry and Kathy.  Later at dinner we shared our champagne (from Carnival for setting up the cruise) and Terry’s (he won at the hairy chest contest).  Later that night we packed up.

2/14/08 Thursday – back in New Orleans.  It took a long time to get off and through customs.  Then we could not get back into the building to use the restroom or wait for Aaron and Dezina.  Eventually everyone got out of customs, and we took Terry Disher’s bottles, so he wouldn’t have to take them on the plane.  We checked back into the Queen and Crescent, then had lunch with Aaron, Dezina, Bob and Terri at Pierre Maspero’s – stuffed pistolettes, seafood platter.   Then we all walked around shopping.  Eventually Bob went back to the hotel.  The rest of us continued to shop – mostly looked at artwork.  Went to Acme Oysters for dinner – it was great!  Oysters and smoked sausage sandwich.  

2/15 Friday – Terri and Bob were sleeping late, so Aaron and Dezina joined us on a walk to Café De Monde for coffee and beignets.  There was a gospel jazz singer who was very good, so we bought his CD and asked him to autograph it.   We walked across and down the street for breakfast, which was very good – omelets, grits, bacon.  Listened to a live band at the restaurant.  Afterwards we walked around shopping again in case we missed something - we didn't.  Bought some coffee, etc.  Made it back to the hotel just in time to check out.  Drove back to Corkys’ in Memphis for dinner, then home.  We watched every episode of the first season of Frasier on the way home.