Today we are in one of my favorite ports to visit in the Caribbean, Cozumel, Mexico! What I like about Cozumel is it offers a lot to choose from and in terms of the port being able to support cruisers well, there's a lot of great infrastructure.
We were docked in Cozumel at 7am but we decided to sleep in today make up for getting up early the day before and hoping to wait out the masses leaving.
Navigator of the Seas was hardly the only ship in port. We were across the dock from Allure of the Seas and there were two Norwegian ships (Epic and Dawn) at the other dock in town along with the Carnival Sunshine.
As per usual we had breakfast in the Windjammer but after breakfast we were going to do something different and leave our daughter at the kids club while we left the ship. My wife suggested it the other day because we were planning a day in Cozumel with shopping and walking, two things that my daughter doesn't deal well with. Plus, my daughter's acclimation to Adventure Ocean made it an easier decision knowing she was going to enjoy it.
So we dropped her off, when at the time she was the only one there although later more kids did show up (only 4-5 total).
We disembarked from Navigator of the Seas and walked into the port area, which was packed. Also, the port has become a maze (on purpose) to try to get out of. I've been to Cozumel at least 4 times and I had trouble finding the exit to the street.
We made a bee-line through the port shops and out to the street only to find a gargantuan line for taxis! I called an audible and grabbed my wife and we exited the port area, walking about 30 feet up the street and nabbed a taxi waiting at the El Cid hotel next door. No wait and we were on our way!
Our basic plan was to do shopping and eating, with emphasis on eating. We love good Mexican food and over the years we have come to really enjoy Cozumel's authentic Mexican food.
Our driver dropped us off somewhere we'd never been, well into town. There was a detour on the main road but I told him in my terrible spanish "Center mercado", which may have contributed to it. Regardless, we were dropped off right in front of an amazing open air restaurant and instantly regretted having a full breakfast onboard. I vowed to my wife next time in Cozumel we would skip eating breakfast onboard.
We walked through town, turning down various streets to see what they have to sell. We didn't have anything in mind to buy, we just like window shopping.
My advice for anyone shopping in Cozumel is get off the main street and do your shopping on the side streets two to three blocks from the main street. It's far less crowded and the prices are better in my experience.
We did stop when we came across my favorite bakery in Cozumel. We had been here a few times before after also stumbling upon it. They sell fresh baked breads, croissants and rolls of all kinds for pennies. You just grab a large metal saucer and tongs and then place what you want on the saucer, give it to the person behind the counter and wait for them to tell you how much. I think we paid $3 for two rolls and a bottle of water. So worth it!
It was time for our first food, which was a stop at the Chocolateria Isla Bella. It's a chocolatier I found on TripAdvisor that was insanely high rated. After a bit of searching, we found it and walked into a small store and greeted by two American ex-pats. These women live in Cozumel, one living in Mexico for almost 25 years.
They had a wide assortment of chocolates to choose from such as guava, white chooclate, nutella, peanut butter, coffee and more. The owner offered us a few samples as well and we picked up a half dozen chocolates for $8. Taking them outside would risk it melting, so we had "no choice" but to eat them there.
You could tell quickly why Chocolateria Isla Bella was so highly rated. Once again, freshness made a difference because I watched the other woman pounding cocoa into chocolate and there wasn't anything we bought that wasn't very good.
Back to shopping we wandered some more and something caught my eye, which was a Mexican/Spanish style dish that I thought looked nice. My wife and I looked over the wares and decided on a nice looking spoon rest and split dish.
We haggled with the owners, like any good shopper in Cozumel should, and got them down from their asking price. I don't think I got the rock-bottom price that perhaps I could but I thought it was a fair deal and bought it.
We came across an internet cafe next and jumped in to use their wifi. Two devices on their wifi for about an hour, plus a bottle of water cost us $3. I love Mexico!
By now it was time to eat lunch and I had planned earlier to go to Diego's, but realized it was very far from town and decided let's stick with our absolute favorite Mexican restaurant Comida Caseras Tonita.
We had eaten at Tonita back in 2011, loved it and dreamed about going back so despite my yearning to always want to try new things, I was happy to go back. The place looked exactly as I remembered and we sat down to look at the menu.
Without even thinking about it, we knew we wanted guacamole, salsa, chips and two cokes. Did I mention fresh food makes a difference? Right away the women in the kitchen started making all of it from scratch (minus the cokes, those came in sweet glass bottles). Even the chips were made fresh for us. Amazing!
We looked over the menu and decided for entrees to get grilled chicken for my wife and Mexican style fish for me. The staff does not speak English at all but with enough broken Spanish we managed to order.
The guac and salsa did not disappoint and were so fresh. I'm pretty sure they had to wait to make the salsa because another woman brought a bag of groceries including tomatoes and our salsa came out right after that.
Another table ordered a whole fish and the woman actually brought over a platter of fresh uncooked fish for the men to choose from. That is something to see.
Our entrees came out and once again very good all around. My fish was a white fish of some kind and was delicate and juicy. I really can't convey how good the food was in this post so it's just somewhere I cannot more highly recommend for lunch if you are in Cozumel.
After lunch we picked up a necklace for my daughter from a shop owner and grabbed a taxi back to the pier.
Back onboard, we went to pick up my daughter from Adventure Ocean. I wasn't sure what to expect because it was about 2pm and she hadn't napped so she might be out of her mind exhausted and crying. When we arrived she saw us, made a sad face, dipped her head down and covered her face with her hands.
I asked her if she wanted to stay longer, to which she instantly sprang up with a resounding "yes" and we said okay, we will be back later. My wife and I decided to go to the pool alone and get some time there together.
We changed quickly back in the stateroom and went to the Solarium to have a round of drinks and opted for the hot tub instead of the very cold pool.
After we picked up our daughter from Adventure Ocean, this time she had to leave because she needed to nap (although she refused to admit it) and of course cried until we told her we bought her a present. Then she was all too eager to leave.
Back in the cabin, she got her present (which she was disappointed with because it was not a toy) and took a nap while we showered and relaxed.
At 4:30, Navigator left Cozumel and we began our slow trip back to Galveston. Where did this week go?!
Right at 5:30 I raced up to deck 12 to get the best sunset photos I could finally get. Each time this week sunset has been blocked by clouds or land but today we had no clouds and an endless horizon. Success!
Like every other night, we took our daughter up to the Windjammer for dinner and then dropped her off at Adventure Ocean. I have to say that Adventure Ocean has been wonderful and she's really enjoyed her time there.
Tonight was the top tier Crown and Anchor Society event where all Crown and Anchor Society members Platinum level and above get another hour of free drinks. That's really what it amounts to because otherwise you have an officer or two talking about booing more cruises. It's nice and I appreciate it but I won't make it into something bigger than it is.
It is Valentine's Day and so we had booked Chops Grille a while back to celebate.
Chops is not new to Navigator of the Seas but it does have an all-new menu that is only on Navigator of the Seas. Among other changes, it offers now dry-aged steaks. If the new menu proves popular enough, it will be rolled out to other Chops Grille's across the fleet.
When we arrived at Chops, it was packed and you could tell they were running at capacity. Luckily they had a table open for us and we got right in.
Food-wise, the new menu isn't a huge departure from the old menu, with many old favorites back again. The big difference is the dry-aged steaks have been added and they have an additional fee. $18 for the dry-rub NY Strip Steak and $19 for the dry-aged portherhouse.
As per usual with these live blogs, I will save the full review for a different blog post in the coming few days but I can say the food was great and service good despite the crowds. I will be the first to admit I am not an expert at gauging how good or bad a steak is. For me, there's a certain point in the "how good a steak is" scale and once I pass it, I can't tell the difference between a $20 steak and a $50 steak.
I think the big thing is the dry-aged steak additions and the fact the additional cost nearly doubles the cost of eating at Chops. At $35 per person to start with and then add another $18-19 for the dry-aged steaks, you are running into an expensive meal.
I'll save the debate for another day but is an interesting change. Also, for those keeping score at home, the red velvet cake is still on the dessert menu.
After dinner we went to the casino and once again won a little bit of money on roulette and then promptly lost it all when trying to double it. Best 4 minutes of the night.
Afterwards we wandered between bars to find something to do. Probably the best option was the Cosmipalitan Club on Deck 14 that was playing nothing but love songs to dance to in honor of Valentine's Day.
Tomorrow is our last day on the cruise and it's a sea day. The last day is always bitersweet but I keep reminding myself it's one more day I'm not at work!