2018 SEASWEPT BREEZES

Oceania


THE SCENT OF THE CARIBBEAN
The warm kiss of the sea breeze brings with it the scent of nature’s wonders on this lighthearted jaunt along the western shores of the Caribbean.
* Lounge on the pristine white sands of Seven Mile Beach along the clear waters of Grand Cayman
* Learn how to prepare an authentic and elaborate three-course Mexican meal in charming Cozumel
* Indulge in chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick in eclectic Key West


In late November, 2017, Oceania announced a special "Winter Sale" with special prices for singles. I decided to do this cruise and even managed to end up with a Veranda prison cell. The ship is again that huge RIVIERA. It is only a 10-night cruise but it fits in nicely between the "Abominable Peasant" croooozzze and the February Olympics which are before the "Seaside Sojourn" cruise in April. Unfortunately, as I found out on the first RIVIERA cruise, internet access is doubtful for notes updates. At best, a brief note from the ship's internet kennel. We need the help from the SPCT (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Travellers). Horrors: many of my booked or planned Oceania cruises are on either the RIVIERA or the MARINA meaning limited (no) Internet.

Day 1, Sat, Jan 13 – Miami Embark (1PM)
Fly to Miami and meet the Cruise West agent at the airport for the transfer (pre-booked) to the oversized cattle barge, the RIVIERA. At least I did get an upgrade to a Veranda cell at a special price. My cabin is a "B4", #7017.

It's the usual early shuttle to the airport, but it gets me into Miami in plenty of time to get onboard the big cattle barge.

United UA 1641IAH – Miami7:25A – 10:50A2:25

Meet the Oceania agent and transfer to the ship - a bit higher priority boarding since I'm in a veranda prison cell.

Day 2, Sun, Jan 14 – Cruising the Straits of Florida #1 of 2

Day 3, Mon, Jan 15 – George Town, Cayman Islands (8AM – 4PM) Tender Port
Swim and snorkel with shy and gentle stingrays, see the underwater world from a semi-submersible sub, send a postcard from "Hell," visit a turtle farm where green sea turtles are raised, or just relax on miles and miles of white sand beach.

Cultural Express (GCM-003) 3½ hours 9:30
This was a not-bad but very disappointing excursion when I took it in 2016. I could avoid the tendering, skip a boring excursion, and stay onboard saying “To H*** with This One” and BOOK THE KEY WEST WALKING TOUR INSTEAD as a start to the “Do It Myself” walk-about. Here I'll just sit out on the veranda (weather permitting) and watch whatever. I can even get an early start on the "food trough" (buffet) lunch.

Day 4, Tue, Jan 16 – Cozumel, Mexico (11AM – 8PM)
Enjoy a day snorkeling, diving to fabulous reefs, exploring the jungle with an ATV, relaxing beside the pool at a beach club, strolling a vast beach and visiting an ancient Mayan temple.

(PBk) Island Discovery And Chocolate Experience (COZ-019) 3 hours 12:30PM
I can't pass up an excursion featuring chocolate! Gain a greater understanding of the Mayan culture at the Mayan Cacao Company, where you will learn how the ancient Maya made chocolate from the cacao tree. After departing from the pier, you will soon arrive at the Mayan Cacao Company, an interactive attraction where you will discover the importance of the sacred cacao seed to the Mayan civilization. The Mayans were drinking chocolate made from cacao for ceremonial and medicinal purposes as far back as 500 B.C. They also used cacao as currency.

Chocolate was also essential to Mayan cuisine, and you will sample a local version of the sweet treat along with some traditional handmade tortillas. While touring the grounds, you will see flourishing cacao trees, a typical Mayan residence and a botanical garden of indigenous plants. To further your understanding of the ancient Maya civilization, be sure to stop at the replicas of a Mayan calendar and a stone stela adorned with hieroglyphics and carvings.

Following your immersion into the Mayan lifestyle and traditions, you will settle in for a panoramic drive around Cozumel. Much of the route will follow the beautiful coastline, which is rocky in certain areas and rimmed by great stretches of sugar-white beaches elsewhere. In time, you will pause for photos at El Mirador, a spectacularly scenic lookout where the pounding sea has carved a large stone arch out of the rocky shore. Afterwards, you will return to the pier.

Day 5, Wed, Jan 17 – Costa Maya, Mexico (8AM – 6PM)
The cruise port of Costa Maya in Mexico's developing Costa Maya region is surrounded by dense jungle and turquoise waters and blessed with radiant sunshine. No wonder the ancient Maya lived nearby, building ceremonial centers like Chacchoben, where you can climb among the ruins, many of which are still being excavated. Look for raucous toucans in the trees.

(PBk) Chacchoben Mayan Ruins (CMA-007) 4 hours 8:30 AM
Explore the ruins of Chacchoben, "The Place of Red Corn", on this half-day tour that brings you to this fascinating ancient Mayan pilgrimage location. Starting off from the pier, it's a pleasant 50-minute drive to the site, during which your local guide will share with you the interesting history and unique culture of the Mayans. Upon arrival, you will find yourself surrounded by the lush green jungle that still hides much of the complex and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys and many species of exotic birds. Here, in this lush tropical setting, the excavated sacred temples and other structures will fill you with a sense of wonder as you picture how it must have looked centuries ago when it was a thriving cultural center for the Mayans.

During your escorted tour you will have a chance to see the original red paint on the stucco walls of one of the pyramids and the temple where a mural was found showing the astronomical positions of the planet Venus. You will also have time to climb the Gran Basamento which takes you above tree level and is where archaeologists found ceremonial offerings dating to around 1000 B.C.

During your visit, your guide will also explain about the wildlife found in this region of Mexico and the medicinal plants that are still used by the modern-day descendents of the ancient Mayan people. Before re-boarding your coach for the return transfer to the pier, you will have a brief break to enjoy a complimentary beverage and perhaps purchase a souvenir.

Please note: This tour includes a considerable amount of walking over uneven and rough surfaces. Care should be taken as the surfaces can be slippery. Flat, comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes; sun caps; sunglasses; sunscreen (biodegradable only) and insect repellant are suggested. There is a government tax of $5-8 USD on the use of video cameras at the site. No tripods and/or professional video cameras are allowed. Flash photos are not allowed inside the ruins due to the delicate nature of the displays. No food is allowed in the ruins.

Day 6, Thu, Jan 18 – Roatan, Honduras (8AM – 6PM)
Luxuriate on the magnificent beaches, snorkel or dive and explore the superb shallow reefs, or discover the island's other natural wonders on a horseback ride on the beach and through a tropical forest past spectacular volcanic rocks.

I took this excursion on a cruise back in 2016. It wasn't bad but was very disappointing. I would only do it again since I can do it is "free" with the onboard credits. At least it will give me something to do.

Island Highlights (ROA-008) 3½ hours 8:30
Enjoy tropical Roatan by observing iguanas in a protected zoo-like habitat and then visiting an eco-park to interact with butterflies and tropical birds. Depart from the pier and enjoy a leisurely narrated drive through Roatan's lush countryside, which supports a diversity of wildlife. Few tropical animals are as iconic as the iguana, which you will see in abundance at the Iguana Hideaway. It's an excellent venue to observe these prehistoric-looking reptiles, as iguanas are threatened on Roatan from loss of habitat and being captured for the pet trade. Watch them basking in the sun, lounging in trees and munching on vegetables. Some of the iguanas are over three feet long, and while they may look imposing they're really quite passive.

Continuing on, you'll make your way to the Mayan-Eden Eco-Park for a visit to the butterfly and tropical bird section there. Take a magical walk through an enclosed area that contains a wide variety of local butterflies. Learn about some of Honduras' most vibrant varieties of butterflies and about this delicate creature and its intricate lifecycle. The garden is also home to tropical trees, plants and exotic rescued birds and animals. Hummingbirds dart happily from blossom to blossom and you'll no doubt see colorful parrots flying free. You can even have a photo taken with one of these birds sitting right on your arm! On your way back to the pier you will pass through the small capital city of Coxen Hole, once home to the pirate John Cox.

Please note: This tour includes approximately 1 hour of easy walking/standing plus any additional walking at the guests' discretion during free time. Casual, light-weight clothing; sun cap; sunglasses; sunscreen; a bottle of water from the ship; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Day 7, Fri, Jan 19 – Santo Tomas, Guatemala (8AM – 11PM)
Visit fascinating Quiriguá and its stunning Mayan stele. Take a boat ride along the Rio Dulce to Lake Izabal past riverside Mayan villages, lush tropical vegetation and Fort San Felipe. Or take a short flight to Flores for an unforgettable visit to incredible, mysterious Tikal, its soaring ancient temples rising from the jungle floor.

(PBk) Countryside And Rio Dulce BY Land (STC-004) 5 hours 9AM
Explore Guatemala's scenic beauty and storied past during this orientation tour through the Motagua Valley, and a visit to the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe. Depart the pier for the drive through the scenic Motagua Valley. Along the way, you will see an abundance of lush tropical vegetation in the countryside. Upon arrival at the bridge over the Rio Dulce, a stop will be made for spectacular views and photo opportunities of Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce National Park, a protected area and one of the most important ecological reserves in the country. From this vantage-point, you will also see Guatemalan weekend homes, marinas and small hotels dotting both sides of the river and lake.

On Lake Izabal, you will find the tiny Castle of San Felipe, or Castillo de San Felipe, the Spanish fort built to protect the Rio Dulce from invading pirates. You will then take a brief boat ride to the castle for an inside visit. Located just minutes from the bridge, the Castle of San Felipe was built during the 17th century in honor of the Spanish King Felipe II. The fort, with its powerful battery of cannons strategically positioned at the entrance to Lake Izabal, offered protection to Spanish ships crossing its waters, and transporting products and supplies to and from Spain and Havana. Its walls offered protection from pirates that used to navigate the river and attack the boats they encountered along the way.

In 1686, a pirate assault burned most of the fort, and the attacks continued until a series of treaties were signed between Spain and England. As a result, the Castillo lost its importance as a defensive fort, and was converted into a prison. It was later abandoned, and fell into a state of disrepair until its renovation by Architect Francisco Ferrus in 1955. Although rebuilt based upon its original plans, the Castle of San Felipe still retains two cannons dating back to the 1790s, and a pair of 400-year-old towers.

Following your tour, you will proceed to the Catamaran Hotel for refreshments before returning to the ship.

Please note: Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and bring sunscreen a hat, sunglasses and insect repellant from the ship. Guides will assist guests embarking the boats, but guests must be able to step into and out of the boat on their own; a challenging feat during low tide.

Day 8, Sat, Jan 20 – Harvest Caye, Belize (7AM – 4PM)
Featuring an enchanting range of environments such as tropical rainforests, marshes and coral reefs, Harvest Caye offers both relaxation and adventure amid lush landscapes. This 75-acre paradise invites you to explore it’s incredibly biodiverse surroundings, witnessing exotic wildlife or perhaps discovering the world’s second largest coral reef. Gain insight into the region’s Mayan and Garifuna roots, discover traditional arts and traditions at the local artisans’ village or simply soak up the abundant Belizean sunshine and relax.

(PBk) Mayan Culture & Medicine Trail (HAR-021) 4½ hours 8:30AM
Come join us for an educational tour of an authentic Mayan Cultural experience and watch a renowned Mayan Shaman conjure medicine from jungle plants. Board your air-conditioned bus for an approximate 45 minute ride to an authentic Mayan village, located at the entrance to the famous Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve. This quaint Mayan village is home to a very gifted Mayan Shaman, Aurora Garcia Saqui. Artist, herbalist and traditional healer, she is a direct descendant of the world renowned Mayan Healer, Don Elijio Panti. Don Elijio bequeathed to Aurora much of his knowledge while she served as his apprentice for many years.

Begin your traditional medicine journey, with a guided walk along a canopied jungle path used by the Maya to gather their medicinal plants and herbs. Along this tropical rainforest path, you will encounter many of the same plants Aurora uses in the traditional herbal remedies that she utilizes in her healing clinic. As you slowly walk along the trail, your knowledgeable Mayan guide will point out and explain many of these unique medicinal plants and trees. You will have a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the making of a Mayan herbal remedy by Aurora, she will explain the herb and its medicinal properties as she prepares and grinds it with a hand mill. You will also see a "smudge house", various bark and leaves used in curing many different illnesses, traditional dance costume and much more. You will also have an opportunity to sample the renowned Mayan Cocoa drink.

Authentic colorful handmade Mayan craft items will be available for sale. This unique tour affords you a glimpse into the secret life of the Mayan. You will return home with a greater appreciation for where many medicinal cures originated.

Note: Guests should wear comfortable clothing and comfortable walking shoes, long sleeve shirts and long pants recommended during rainy season (June – Nov). Bring camera, cash for souvenirs (no credit card machines) and a poncho during rainy season.

Day 9, Sun, Jan 21 – Cruising the Straits of Florida #2 of 2

Day 10, Mon, Jan 22 – Key West (8AM – 5PM)
Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which houses an impressive collection of flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and 50 different species of butterflies from around the world. Continue to the aquarium, Key West's oldest attraction, dating back to 1935 and home to hundreds of different species of local sea life. Don't miss the historic home of author Ernest Hemingway.

I’ve been here before so just do the 1-hour excursion as a start to my own walking tour. There are three locations of interest I would like to visit. 1) The Shipwreck Treasure Museum, 2) the Aquarium, 3) the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Hopefully they are in easy walking distance from the ship. The first 4 below should be close.

Aquarium: 1 Whitehead St;
Shipwreck Museum: 1 Whitehead St;
Audubon House: 205 Whitehead St.;
Mel Fisher Museum: 200 Greene St.;
Butterfly Conservatory: 1316 Duval St.

Key West Walking Tour (EYW-009) 1 hour 9AM $109
Explore the historic beauty of one of Florida's most popular destinations during this scenic and informative walking tour in Key West. Formerly one of the richest cities per capita in America, Key West is immortalized by a storied past that has been shaped by wreckers, spongers, cigar makers and the U.S. Navy. This thriving center of art, culture and entertainment has also been the home, or second home, of presidents, movie stars and writers.

Depart the pier for a guided and narrated walking tour of Key West. During a stroll through its enchanting streets and lanes, you will discover the island's rich maritime history, wonderful architecture and relaxed lifestyle. Tropical foliage will shade the walkways as you make your way through the heart of Key West. During your tour, a refreshment stop will be made for a bottle of water and an opportunity to sample the island's famous conch fritters.

Your tour will conclude with a climb to the top of the 65-foot tower at the Shipwreck Historium, which offers wonderful views and photo opportunities of the entire island. Following your tour, you will return to the pier. Instead, I'll now continue on my own Walk-About wanderings.

Please note: This walking tour involves 1.25 miles of walking over mostly flat surfaces, and includes a number of stairs at the Shipwreck Historium.

Day 11, Tue, Jan 23 – Miami Disembark (8AM)
After several expensive days at sea, get back to mainland US and fly home. This afternoon flight is a bit later than the usual one.

United UA 2073Miami – IAH4:40P - 6:42P3:02

Home by 8PM I hope.

EXCURSIONS:

Cayman IslandsGCM-003 Cultural Express3½ hours
CozumelCOZ-019 Island Discovery And Chocolate Experience3 hours
Costa MayaCMA-007 Chacchoben Mayan Ruins4 hours
RoatanROA-008 Island Highlights3½ hours
Santo TomasSTC-004 Countryside and Rio Dulce BY Land5 hours
Harvest CayeHAR-021 Mayan Culture & Medicine Trail4½ hours
Key WestEYW-009 Key West Walking Tour
Then do my on walk-about
1 hour


A LARGE CATTLE BARGE, THE RIVIERA



Stunning Riviera was designed to be distinctive and special in so many ways. Featuring the magnificent Lalique Grand Staircase, Riviera showcases rich residential design and furnishings. Riviera’s refined ambiance truly embodies the unparalleled Oceania Cruises experience. Ideally proportioned, Riviera still embraces the same warmth and charm of renowned Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena. Designed with the travel connoisseur in mind, Riviera offers guests multiple dining venues. Notably, the onboard experience continues to exude that comfortable familiarity guests have come to cherish. We look forward to welcoming you aboard.

Ship Specifications
* Length: 784.95 feet
* Beam: 105.646 feet
• Cruising Speed: 20 knots
* Guest Decks: 11
* Cattle Capacity: 1,250 (Double Occupancy)
* Staff Size: 800

Our 282-square-foot Veranda Staterooms are the largest at sea. Featuring a comfortably furnished private veranda, our most requested luxury, each stateroom also includes a plush seating area, refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a marble and granite-clad bathroom with a bathtub/shower and separate shower.

Prison Cell: Instead of a Category C room (large window but no veranda) which I would have booked, the Category B4 Veranda (lowest $ Veranda), 282 sq feet with private veranda were “on sale.” Mine is #7017, starboard side towards the bow. It will be a long walk/climb from deck 7 to deck 12 and “all the way” aft to the feeding trough. But the choice and the food in the buffet are very good. I won’t go to the main dining room.

Since we are “AT SEA” only two days to “watch the water go by,” the veranda may well get some good use on this cruise. It wouldn’t be $ worthwhile, for example, on the Amazon cruise with all those days “At Sea.”

* Refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water replenished daily
* Full bathtub/shower and separate shower
* Private teak veranda
* Belgian chocolates with nightly turndown service
* Flat-screen television with DVD player and extensive media library
* Wireless Internet access but poor signal so virtually useless unless in the “Oceania At Sea” lab
* Writing desk and stationery
* Security Safe

OCEANIA CRUISES:
1 Nov 16, 2016 - Caribbean Charisma, Regatta, 13 days
2 Dec 16, 2016 - Heart of the Caribbean, Riviera, 11 days
3 Jan 13, 2018 - Seaswept Breeze, Riviera, 11 days
4 Apr 22, 2018 - Seaside Sojourn, Marina, 17 days
5 Jun 15, 2018 - Panama Enchantment, Insignia, 11 days
6 Oct 3, 2018 - Cuba, Serena, 8 days
7 Nov 5, 2018 - Amazon Odyssey, Serena, 26 days
8 Feb 5, 2019 - Allure of the Islands, Rivieria, 13 days
(booked through here)
~ Dec, 2020 - Caribbean Pearls (Christmas), 15 days
~ Feb, 2021 - Reefs and Ruins, Riviera, 13 days
~ Nov, 2001 - Captivating Caribbean, Riviera, 15 days
~ ?? - Holidays Sojourn, Marina, 13 days