Cruising the Caribbean: from Miami to Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Grand Cayman

Stefano is 2 and a half years old… we are ready to cross the Atlantic and take our first long-haul trip. After having sworn for years and years that never (ever!) we’d be seen alive on a cruise ship, we ended up thinking about how nice it would be to be comfortable (with no suitcases to pack an unpack)… and a cruise was booked!Our departure city is Miami, heading to Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Grand Cayman. We’ve chosen to travel on an American cruise line , The Carnival, basically because it called in ports we had long been interested in, but also to have a couple of hours to ourselves: the kids club, unlike Italian cruise lines, accepts children starting from 2 years old.

Miami, USA
Once we land in Miami we discover it is hot – incredibly hot. Too hot for us adults, even hotter for a child, so we stay in bed until late, soak in the swimming pool in the hottest hours or go to the sea, late in the afternoon visit something, and enjoy South Beach at night, taking in the amazing Art Deco buildings, eating at restaurants, drinking in bars and spending hours at the playground on Ocean Drive. During our short stay we tried to visit the city (a little) and said to ourselves we would come back in a few years, and in a different season.

What did our son like? First of all the Miami Children’s Museum, a museum “planned” for kids. There are plenty of kids activites and dedicated halls: interactive rooms, manipulation and music workshops and music, places where kids can run freely and climb over… Definitely a great place to spend a few hours…

We also took a 90 minutes long boat trip in Biscayne Bay; at first sailing in front of large cruise ships and then passing near little islands full of fancy villas… VIP villas, of course. Stefano enjoyed the tour very much, mostly because he could not wait to board the big ship that would sail us far.

Our last visit was to Little Havana, where Cuban immigrants live. Our aim was to head to Calle Ocho between 13th and 17th Avenue, to admire the colourful murales outside the Cafeteria Guardabarranco and the Walkway of the Stars, the Latin-American version of theWalkway of the Stars in Hollywood. The icing on the cake: a massive and tasty ice-cream bought at the Azucar Ice Cream Company.

Cozumel, Messico
Our first port of call is the island of Cozumel in Mexico. The original plan was to visit one of the archaeological sites, Caracol or San Gervasio. The sky is grey and it looks as if it may rain soon, so instead we go to the main town, San Miguel De Cozumel. The town center is tiny, the main square nice, but other than that you can only shop. Eventually we decide to visit the little Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, where Stefano can discover what corals are. After that we take a taxi and go to Paradise Beach, which is an artificial beach (not great, but maybe it is because of the rough sea) and also has a swimming-pool and a few colorful parrots. We have lunch and spend an enjoyable afternoon, when it starts to rain, we return to our boat.

Belize City, Belize
Belize is famous for its amazing coral reef, its tiny islands and cays, and Mayan sites. Unfortunately, none of them is near Belize City, and we really do not fancy a long ride with a small kid in tow, so we thought we would figure out something more “child-friendly”. We take a taxi and head to the city center: colorful and chaotic. What impressed me most is the number of cables and wiring all over. We stroll around; admire the cathedral and Governor Home, then a quick stop to the zoo to meet Baird the tapir, the national animal. Our son, however, liked the monkeys most.

We have lunch at Cucumber Beach  and spend the afternoon there. It is the nearest to the city, and it is not a natural beach… but that is ok, given that there are no other choices.

On site you can visit a kitschy type of museum called Old Belize, which vaguely looks like an old wild west town with emphasis on the local history and a fake rainforest. As you can guess, we were not impressed, but at least the shop sold bottles of local rum, which we need for our collection.

Roatan, Honduras
In Roatan we found heaven. The island is incredibly beautiful, with a lush green forest and hills. The sea is crystal clear.

We look for a taxi, set a price, decide to route and off we go… After 5 minutes Stefano screams: “I want to see a toucan!”. Ok, change of plan: “driver (I don’t remember his name, sorry), let’s change the route: please give us natural sights, beaches and at least a bloody toucan”! We drive over hills and reach a very panoramic viewpoint and then make our way to the Butterfly Gardens, where we find a cosy garden, quite tiny (the perfect size for us), very few butterflies (who cares?), stunning flowers and plants, exotic fruits. We also see parrots, monkeys, deer and… toucans! They are in a cage and I go near it with my camera to take a photo without bars, and the bloody birds tries to bite it off my hands. My son laughs! He’s happy and ready to move on.

We start our quest for the perfect beach. Sandy Bay is very beautiful but you can still tell it was ravaged by an hurricane a few years back, West Bay is picture-perfect with fine white sand and the  most impressive turquoise sea. It is also very crowded and full of aqua-scooters… Next stop is West End, a tiny village with a beach shaped as a crescent… it is empty, the water is shallow, and colourful little fishes come swimming next to us. We fell in love with West End.

The very last stop is a briedf one in Coxen Hole to buy our usual bottle of rum. The we return to the boat terminal in Mahogany Bay. The beach there is quite pretty, so we enjoy the sea until the very last second. Of all our ports of call, Roatan turned out to be the one we liked best.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
We decide to spend the day on one of the world’s most impressive beaches, 7 Miles Beach which… well, it is really 7 miles long and covered with a perfect white sand. It is the main attraction of the island, and for a good reason, I would add. We swam, ate outsoors at Calico Jack’s Bar & Grill and bought a large coconut from a beach vendor, which we turned into a makeshift but delicious Coco Loco, pouring a glass of rum in it.

In the afternoon we return to the capital to explore it a little, admire Heroes Square in front of the Parliament, chat with some fishermen selling their catch of the day from a few stalls and then run to Cayman Spirits Co. Distillery to buy our last bottle of rum.

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