Mitsugirlys STAR end of the world/pre-Christmas cruise detailed review & pictorial

Day 3: Costa Maya Port Day

I woke up about 7 am to the sun gleaming in the windows (just the crack in the curtain, no we didn’t sleep with the curtains pulled) and I think from the excitement of being at our first port, my automatic alarm clock woke me up. I started getting ready for the day then went out on the deck below to see what was out there. Then back up to the room to wake up the family and get ready. I double-checked everything to make sure we had all that we needed since I had been such a screw-up for this vacation already, I didn’t want to disappoint again.

 

We headed up to the buffet for breakfast (which is usually what we do every day on every cruise with the exception of the Pearl where we went to Cagneys a few times for breakfast since we were VIP). We like the buffet since you can get in, eat, and get out quickly and watch us pull in to the port.

 

We pulled in to the port and I decided to not take any pictures since this was a new camera and I didn’t know how long the batteries lasted on this thing AND no back up batteries were coming along with me this trip. When I first purchased my other camera, I learn very quickly that back up batteries are a must and I had taken so many snorkeling pictures that my camera was dead by the time we headed to the next destination that trip (which was a very picturesque view of the island looking down at all the cruise ships in port in St Thomas)…dead battery, 2 pictures taken, then done for the rest of the day. Bummer.

 

We did have some time to kill since we were not arriving at this port until 10am. My husband wasn’t too happy with me that I had woken him up so early that day. So we sat on the deck with him glaring at me giving me that “You’re lucky I have tons of coffee in me right now after waking me up this early when I could be sleeping” look.

 

When they made the announcement that it was time to leave, we headed off the ship (it wasn’t too bad getting off at all) and walked our way down the VERY L-O-N-G pier. The Star decided to park all the way out at the farthest part and around the corner pier. I’m not sure why. There weren’t any other ships there. When we docked before on the Spirit, she was at the closest. The walk was LONG. We missed the little “tram” that takes you up to the land…boo hiss. It would have definitely been worth it today. They take tips and it’s pretty big. So if you dock far, catch that tram if you can. It will save your legs!

 

I decided “hey, this would be a great opportunity to stop and take a picture of the hubby and daughter with the Star in the background and had them “pose” several different times…in reality, I just wanted to stop walking and take a breath but I wasn’t admitting to that and used this as an excuse.

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Once we made it to land, we quickly went through the pier (still more walking…whew) to get to the part that you go out of the tourist area.

 

I couldn't help myself and managed to take 2 pictures along the walk out of the pier. One is having a problem downloading, so I'll add it at the end of the Costa Maya review.

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Now I remember this place from before. We were eaten alive by no-see-ums and mosquitos that time around. But no bites yet. I looked ahead and knew we were supposed to keep walking forward to find the taxi station. I had no idea where I was going because I had never been any further than right there outside of the pier and then I was picked up to go to Maya Chan. I’m not sure why this new place we were going (Almaplena) couldn’t pick us up at that spot. Maybe they have to pay a charge to be able to enter the port area? We had read that you walk to the Hard-Rock-Café building for the taxi’s, but the Hard-Rock was out of business, so we were doing this blindly. We had also been warned by the staff at Almaplena not to let any taxi’s drivers try to lure you in to their cab before we get to where we were supposed to be going because they did not have contracts with Almaplena and then we would be responsible for the fare. It’s kind of hard to know if you have the right cab or not then if you a) don’t know where you are going b) never been outside the port c) there are taxi’s everywhere and d) the Hard-Rock Café is gone now (with no signage) so it was hard to tell “where” we were actually supposed to go.

 

It was very pretty there along the walk. The locals there would ask you take you somewhere or to do a trip with them, but a simple “we already have reservations” shut them up and they never said another word.

 

We finally made it to where we were going and I kept thinking “man, this was more of a walk that what I had originally thought” and of course looking at the pre-printed map I had in hand, it didn’t look as far as it was.

 

We made it to a spot where we thought THIS “might” be it. We ask one of the locals standing there and our luck had it that he didn’t speak English. Yes, he was the taxi driver. There was a young boy there with him and he relayed the information to him on what we were saying. “Si” he said, he would take us there. However, in the back of my mind I kept wondering if THIS was the cab we were supposed to be taking or not. I pulled out my reservation papers and handed them to him…just hoping to get some type of confirmation that he was indeed planning on taking us there under this contract they had with the taxi drivers. “Si”.

 

(On our way back, I tried to snap a picture of the "taxi meeting" spot for reference as to where to go)

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See the markings on the curb? Yello and black? That's where they will all be at. The rest of the curb before getting here are the other taxis.

 

We loaded in the taxi and away we went…and went fast. The taxi was equipped with seat belts, however they did not work (they would not stay locked in). We turned right coming out of the main road to the port, which for some reason I thought we went left. I had tried to look it up prior to going (remember that planning OCD I told you I had? Well, I will go to google earth, pull my yellow body down on to the street and “walk” the street looking around. I had thought that Maya Chan was to the left of the cruise port and Almaplena was just a little further down the road past it. I guess I was turned around or something.

 

We zoomed down the road…the ONLY ones on the road. All I could think about was what happens if you get a flat out here in the middle of nowhere? The taxi driver pulled out his radio and started talking to someone (who knows what about since he didn’t speak any English, but that reminded me that this would be what he would do if we had car problems and I was relieved). About then, I seen a truck pulled over on the road…with a flat tire…with no one around. Oops. I wondered what they would do since they probably didn’t have a radio to call for help.

 

Then we see the sign that said “Almaplena 3 minutes this way” and we turned. The 3 minutes turned in to a lot longer because this road was pot-hole hell. The driver must have taken some rally driving classes because he was weaving in and out of these holes like he knew exactly what he was doing….at the expense of scratching up his car. Avoid pot-hole=save tires but pull so far over in to the bushes along the side of the road=scratches up and down car. Hmmm The hubby quickly learn to keep his arm far inside the car. Their website says it is a 20 minutes ride from the port…guess what…I timed it…20 minutes!!! If they would fix the short road leading to the resort, I bet they could shave off a good 5 minutes of the ride. Now it is not a “bumpy-throw-you-around” ride at all. These weren’t really pot-holes as we know it. They were more like craters and you wondered what atomic bomb hit there type of holes. (Well maybe an exaggeration, but still). Remember I said our driver must have been a rally driver? He managed to miss the holes and did an excellent job at the expense of his paint job…but still it wasn’t bumpy at all.

 

Then there it was…Almaplena. From the outside it looked very nice. It was nicely decorated with greenery and flowers everywhere and the buildings looked nice too. We had a pretty good feeling about this choice at this point.

 

Information on Almaplena for those of you (and it’s probably MOST of you) that don’t know about it. They are a NEW beach resort. They just opened up in January or February of this year. They are a ECO resort and beach club. Since it is an Eco resort it is designed to be well…Eco friendly. The design of the buildings and rooms uses the shade of the sun and breeze of the sea, rain water collected for daily use, bottled water for drinking and cooking, and a wind turbine for electric energy.

 

There is a restaurant and bar facing the beachfront and has a raised terrace. This gave us a beautiful panoramic scene of the beautiful crystal blue water while we ate. It was extremely hot out that day (remember that walk that I thought was too long to the taxi station? Well that was also due to the heat along the way) but the breezes were nice and kept you at a comfortable temperature all day.

 

They have dressing rooms, straw umbrella (palapas), showers, and bathrooms. The owners also live there on the premises and they are Monica and Andrea. They had just had a baby 2 months ago (I think they said her name was Sophia). Monica had told me ahead of time that she would probably not be there that day to meet us with taking care of the baby. She has good contact with you from before booking, to booking, to answering questions, sending confirmation, giving updates and even right before the cruise with directions. Great service!

 

I believe they only have 8 rooms at this hotel, so it is very small and there is next to no one there. They only take 20 people a day (cruisers) so this limits the amount of people on the beach as well. VERY NICE! If you want to go somewhere quiet, not crowded and relaxing, you have found your place. If you want to stare at the crystal blue Caribbean ocean water with soft sand, you have found your place.

 

We were thrilled with our choice this time around if you haven’t figured that out by now.

 

You can find their web site by typing in their name almaplena beach resort dot com.

 

I didn't manage to get any pictures coming in...but on the way out I did the "swing around snap" picture thing.

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We were greeted at the door by the owner, Andrea, and he welcomed us to Almaplena and offered us a drink at their bar (located as you walk in under the huge thatched building that was all open. They had a bar to the right as you walk in and seating and a Christmas tree to the left. I took a picture of Sakari by the tree but it turned out absolutely HORRID! I’ll post a small pic because I’m so ashamed and don’t even know what happened there.

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As you walk out, you are in the “dining area” and in had the most wonderful view. YEP, I had found that nice little Caribbean slice of Paradise here. As I patted myself on the back I took in the beautiful site of the white sand and crystal clear Caribbean blue water. Ahhh…yes, this is what I’m talking about! I quickly snapped a picture of my first scene as I approached the dining area.

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We were told we could go out and find a spot and they would bring our drinks out to us. We started walking out toward the water and palapas taking in all of the scenery. I loved that this place not only had the white sand and blue water, but there was some greenery, which makes for wonderful pictures.

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**DISCLAMIER*** Remember that I am now going along this journey with a NEW CAMERA in hand that I know nothing about. I might as well be blind at this point. I have no idea what each of the settings do and how to work them. Of course I have a screen to “kind of” see the pictures as I take them, but I really have no idea how good (or bad they are at this point) until I get home to upload them on to my computer and see them full screen. I messed with the settings back and forth all day long from landscape to a “bright food” setting, beauty, sand/snow, water setting, sharpness and so on. You get the picture. So it’s a mixture of settings. Keep this in mind when viewing the pictures. The bad part is, with all of the pictures I love, I have no idea what settings were used to obtain them either. (Sad face inserted here)

 

In some of these pictures, the sky looks as if it’s going to rain and dark…trust me, if NEVER looked like rain, nor did it rain or even come close. It was BEAUTIFUL and hot out that day.

This is what you see looking toward the left…see the Star parked at the dock in port? It’s really not that far away and it was neat to know that we could see her.

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Looking up toward Almaplena. We decided on the spot here to the right of the picture.

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Looking toward the left from the ocean:

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Our little "spot" for the day, which we didn't spend a whole lot of time there unless we were snacking on that great Mexican food or putting our snorkel equipement on (until the hubby got internet access and had to check his mail)

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You could not drag my daughter out of the water. She played there just about all day and we had to act like we were leaving her just to get her out of the water to come up and eat lunch later in the day.

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At this point she had her goggles on and had been going under water and was thrilled. (I think she was getting use to the salt water again and it didn't bother her anymore).

For some reason, I just loved these 2 little palapas and where they were situated with the greenery behind them. It just looked like something you would see in a postcard. It made it nice that there were no chairs under them, so no warm bodies there to intrude on my picture. I would continue to take pictures of these throughout the day. LOL I’m not sure how many pictures I took, but there were a lot. I wanted to make sure I got a good one.

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Our drinks came and they were yummy. They brought my daughter a non-alcoholic version of mine and she enjoyed it thinking she was a big girl.

 

 We decided to explore around a little bit. I had noticed this palm tree hanging out over the water on the lot next to us and thought it would make for a nice picture so off we went.

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I know it's probably hard to see in the picture, but I was trying to get this shot with the Star in the background. It's small in the picture, but I can see her.

 

The hubby put the munchkin up on the palm tree hanging over the water and she was a little unsure about this at first. It really doesn't look that high up, but as you can tell from the picture and the hubby standing by her, it's as tall as his shoulder and he's about 5'10".   We talked her in to letting go of daddy to get a picture, she cooperated, but was definitely ready to get down once mommy snapped the picture.

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"Oh come on, you can sit for just one more while I take one showing how high up you are and what a big girl you are right now. I got the "just one more mom"

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Then it was my turn for a picture according to daddy. Now, I’m the type of person that is always behind the camera (hence the reason I had to buy a second camera, because I just don’t ever give mine up…of course this cruise proved that I would have to be a big girl and share like I was taught to do growing up) so when we are on vacation, I never really get a lot of pictures with me in them. Then of course I complain how it doesn’t even look like I was on this vacation. However, when the hubby does take a picture, I complain that I hate to have my picture taken because I just don’t like the way I look in pictures…especially after all the weight gain I’ve accumulated over the last 4 cruises averaging around 6-10 per cruise. Did I mention that I gained 7 pounds THIS cruise? Yea…I did. But, he talked me in to a few. I tried to attempt to hide myself by putting my daughter in front of me. haha

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Then he managed to get one of me after the daughter ran off...oh come on.  I talked the daughter in to one more and off we went...

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(Still trying to get a good shot of the Star)

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I have come to the conclustion that point and shoot cameras just don't have an excellent crispy clean "zoom" feature on them. I'm never satisfied with them.

 

Sakari was happy to be headed back to "our spot" so that she could resume playing with her sand toys and in the water:

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Some people had asked if there was a "drop-off" at the beach area. Where we were sitting (at the end) right in front of us there was. But in most places it was gradual. Nothing major. I don't know if this was erosion or not. To me, it was easy to walk down and nothing that would prevent me from going here that's for sure. The picture below is on down a little where no one is sitting. Remember the palapas I liked taking pictures of? Yep, these are them but from a different direction. Not a pleasing huh?

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A little tour of the grounds. It was NICELY landscaped and the buildings were nice too. It would definitely be a place I wouldn’t mind spending time here (like for a vacation).

 

 

This is the restroom facility (to the right of the picture obviously) and the showers to rinse off with to the left):

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The sinks are located there on the outside with the restrooms to the left and right of the sinks behind a closed door of course:

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Once again, the eating spot...just a different "view"

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There are hammocks to lounge in...however we didn't try it...it was just a little too hot right there. If you were down by the beach, there was a nice decent breeze to keep you cooler. If you were in the dining area, you were out of the sun and a nice breeze there as well. Anywhere else...well, just plain hot if you were in the sun. Also a few more of the grounds.

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I found that my new camera had a panoramic button. I thought I would try it out. It is definitely "different" from my dslr pano button by the way that it works. You snap a picture and then arrows appear asking you which way to go. You just start moving your camera toward the direction you want and then this round circle appears. When you "dot" on the screen goes in to the "circle", you've made it to the next picture and it snaps the picture for you. Then you keep going. It's like a pano for dummies type of thing. (Although several of them I took throughout the cruise proved that the camera is not as smart as it thinks it is and did not stitch them together too good).

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I was watching a pelican flying across and he kept coming back. I never did see him dive down for any fish, but managed to snap a picture of him. It's kind of hard to see since he is right at the light-meets-dark part of the water in the picture

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I HAD to take my Santa hat with me on vacation since it was a Christmas cruise and all and I had to help Santa remember to bring Sakari a few gifts while we were on the cruise to remind him where we were. I brought it to every port with me because everyone likes Christmas themed pictures at the beach, in the sun, on vacation, in the Caribbean pictures while they are in the snow and cold weather right??? Yep, I thought so. This would continue during the remainder of the cruise…sending pictures of us in the Santa hat on the beach to my facebook. Cheezing right now.

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When mommy says "picture time Sakari", she knows to stop whatever she's doing and pose, then go about her business. LOL I have her trained. Then she'd go back to what she was doing...

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At this time, Andrea had come around and asks us what time we were interested in eating lunch and what we would like to have. We told him it really didn’t matter and would leave it up to him. He said that another group was going to be eating at (I think) it was 1pm so he would have ours ready around 1:30. We said that was fine. When he asks what we would like to eat, we had no idea what they had, but told him what ever everyone else would be having would be fine. He asks if beef, chicken and shrimp tacos would be fine with chips and guacamole. It sounded wonderful and we agreed. Although I told him to just make Sakari the chicken only and if he had some fries, that would work as well (since she had been living off the fries and pizza on the Star, I knew she was going to want some fries with her authentic Mexican meal. Lol)

  

We went back out in to the water for a while before it was time to eat. There was a Palometa fish (which you see these all over the place when snorkeling) and he was a “loaner”. He would not leave us alone (not that we wanted him to). He followed us where ever we went and would go between our legs and brush up on us…kind of like a cat. Sakari was missing her cat at home; maybe this was a “sign”. Hehe I took tons of pictures of him, I’m not sure why when it was the only fish and 1 picture was quite sufficient.

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Andrea brought us an "appetizer" to hold us over while we were waiting on our lunch to be made (while the other group had already headed up for their lunch <-- they were on our roll call too)

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THESE WERE DELICIOUS!!!! I wish I would have had just an entire stack of these for lunch!!!

 

Sakari was too busy playing in the water and we could not get her to come up and eat her snack. Mommy was glad to help her out with that. No problem!  And daddy discovered the internet...

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Andrea told us that he would have lunch ready for us in about 20 minutes so we could start heading up there some time around then. The hubby continued to play catch up on his mounds of emails and I continued snapping pictures.

 

Look at the baby Trumpetfish that someone on our roll call found? They said it was just jumping out of the water on them and they finally got it in their hands. How cute. I don’t think I would have ever spotted it because it was so tiny and looked like a small stick in the water.

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Having a little fun in the sand and I wanted to send a message back home since we had internet...in case you are wondering...yes, it took me about three tries to get this. The water kept coming up and washing it away. You know how the water comes up so far, goes out, comes up, goes out, then you get that really big UP and it's more than usual? Well I was timing it…and let’s just say my timing was off 3 times! I wanted the water rushing up to it as I snapped the picture. (I’m usually a perfectionist when I get something in my mind and I want it to turn out just right).

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It had been about 20 minutes and we were ready to head up to the dining area and see what was in store for us. Yes, we once again had to threaten our daughter that we were leaving without her in order to get her to come out of the water. I mean you know how hard it is to drag a child away from having this much fun???

We got up to the lunch area and the hubby had another Modelo beer and I order a “light” Coke (which they serve in the can). My husband had ask for the "Mexican" beer and that's what they served him. He seem to like it a lot. Then shortly after that our food arrived. Hmmm, I started with the shrimp taco because I love seafood. It has some type of yellow sauce all over it and it WAS messy! I thought it was VERY VERY VERY tasty whatever the sauce was. I gobbled it up quickly and stared at the hubby to see if he was going to finish his. He said he did not care for it and I quickly made sure it didn’t go to waste. Sorry, I started chowing down as soon as it arrived because I was starved by now and only got a shot after several bites and I remembered I hadn't taken a picture. I do have to mention…whatever this “yellow sauce” was, it completely STAINED everything it touched. I could not wipe, lick, or wash this stuff off. You don’t have to ask me if it did the same to my teeth right? The only thing that got it off was more ocean salt water swimming.

Sakari ate some of her fries but for some reason wouldn’t touch the chicken tacos. She was just in one of “those” moods and not wanting to eat for some reason. She was only worried about getting back out to the water to play. Then they mentioned ice cream. Bad choice. Given the option of regular food sitting in front of you and ice cream…what do you think most children are going to pick? Hmmm. I’ll leave at that.

I tried my “beef” taco and I didn’t not care for it at all. I’m really not sure what type of “beef” it was supposed to be. Was it steak? You all know I don’t like steak and this was no exception. However, I do have to comment that the bite I did take was VERY hard…like overcooked hard and not juicy at all. It was like biting in to beef jerky kind of hard. I offered it to the hubby and he did eat it and never really mentioned what his thoughts were on it.

I tried my “chicken” taco. Hmmm, I wasn’t too sure about it either and I love chicken. They had some type of vegetable mixed in with it that I didn’t care for and ended up picking it out. I had hoped there would be some type of cheese or something on them. (I’m a cheese freak and eat it with everything…especially tacos). As you can see, every plate came with beans (which I don't like beans, so I never tried it) and also rice...plain rice. Nothing special at all and very bland.

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I can’t say I was too thrilled with what we had at all. I really didn’t feel full and I’m not the rude kind to say “hey, I don’t like the food can you make me something else?” type of person. I did look over at the other table where people on our roll call was finishing up eating and I noticed they had something that resembled a quesadilla. It looked good and my first thoughts were that when he originally ask what we would like to eat 1) we didn’t have a menu to pick from 2) I did say we would take whatever everyone else was eating and 3) I would be satisfied with his recommendations. I started to rethink these statements. Maybe I should have ask for a menu or checked out what everyone else was eating prior to see if it was something we would be interested in. I have NEVER had a bad experience with ANY of the places we’ve been to and had their meal. I have to say, this was probably the exception.

They also severed us nacho’s and guacamole and it was good (not as good as others we’ve had in Mexico, but definitely acceptable!)

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So back to the whining child now wanting ice cream… it came and boy was it special looking. Half of it was gone before I was able to snap a picture.

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After we were done with our meal, we sat there for a while and I updated my facebook with a few “tempting photos” for the people back home to salivate over. Sakari decided she wanted to swing in the hammock that was on the deck sitting behind us.

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Another thing that I noticed is that there is a little bit of a language barrier too it seemed like. I know several times throughout the day we had said something that they did not understand at all. You know when someone says something to you and you just smile or nod as if you heard so not to be rude but you have no idea what they just said type of situation? Yep, that was them a few times. Kind of awkward sometimes.

 

We headed back out to our “spot” and of course the water. People have said that there is excellent snorkeling here and the reef is about 50 yards??? Out. I’m sorry, but I don’t deal with “yards” and have no clue how far that is compared to “feet” so… you could look out in to the water and see where the reef was and from the shore and it didn’t look like it was really too far. We geared up. I had spoken with the other people on the roll call and they had already been out and said that there was a reef and plenty of fish. They had gone out before we ever got there and said while they were out there they spotted some dolphins out a ways. That would have been neat to see.

 

One of my fears for some reason is being out in deeper/open water without others around. I love snorkeling off of the beach and especially places that have reefs like RIGHT THERE when you go in to the water or even after swimming really far out it’s still fairly shallow. Yes, I have done the snorkel tours before…you are out in the water, jump in and snorkel…BUT you are out there with tons of other people. I just feel safer that way. I mentioned that I would feel better if we were out there with others and the people on our roll call said they would go out. They geared up and the kids went out. I guess we were a little slower at getting ready (with a 4 year old and all) and wasn’t able to get out when they did. The hubby took FOREVER and Sakari and I were headed out when I couldn’t touch anymore, I stopped and waited on him. Once he caught up and we kept going deeper I started having problems with my snorkel. I could breathe in but it wasn’t letting me exhale. It was causing major problems and I was struggling with spitting water out of my mouth, readjusting my snorkel, treading water and at that point my 4 year old was wanting to hop on my back and hitch a ride (as she always does here and there while we snorkel). After a while, I had pretty much had enough of not being able to breath and handed my husband the camera and said “I’m headed back. I can’t do this. It’s too far, I’m having snorkel issues, I’m getting tired, I have Sakari on my back, it’s just too far to be taking her out there.” He took the camera and went on.

 

Now remember I have a new camera. I'm trying to get used to it. The buttons are along the entire right side of the camera. I'm right handed. So...I kept hitting the buttons turning on things when I didn't mean to. The settings kept getting switched and I had no clue what was going on. This snorkeling adventure would be one of those times. Somehow I managed to hit the "record" button on the camera and it was recording my "swim" or lack or being able to swim out to the reef. I think there was about 18 minutes of nothing but heavy breathing, legs, bathing suit, arms, hands, upside down video footage and fins. Ugh!

 

By the time hubby made it to the reef, it was still recording. He tried snapping pictures and he thought he was getting pictures of all the fish…instead he was just getting video. I’ll have to try to see if I can edit some of the b/s out of it so that you can get a look at the beginning of the reef area. I’m really sad I missed it and now wish I would have been able to make it out there.

After the hubby came back to the shore we decided to go walking the opposite way of the “hanging over the water palm tree”. We stayed down there for a little bit until we knew it was getting close to the time we should probably start rinsing things off and packing things up.

 

 These are some of the pictures we took there:

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The same driver that had dropped us off picked us up (No hablo Ingles vs No hablo espanol = another boring non-speaking trip back to the port).

  

They built this port for the cruise ships and I have to say it’s pretty there and plenty to do. The road leading up to the port is very nice. I was trying to snap some pictures as our driver weaved in and out of other vehicles and taxis like if we were in a race to get to the port before everyone else. Our driver did drop us off inside the port turn around area. I’m not sure why they are allowed to drop us off there but not pick us up there??? We just had to show our ship cards to the “guard” at the entrance. Maybe certain drivers are not allowed past the guard without a cruiser? But then how do the others get in there to take cruisers somewhere?

 

I tried snapping some pictures as we were driving (it wasn’t an easy thing to do so they’re not the best).

 

Pulling on to the main road that takes you to the port:                  Going down the road headed to the port:

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So we get out of the cab and NOW I UNDERSTAND…I know why this particular taxi driver was weaving in and out of the traffic and passing taxis like he was racing…anyone notice his number (for all of you race fans out there)? Yep, that explains it. This is a picture of the turnaround area for pick up/drop off of cruisers.

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When you walk back in to the port, it’s like a “grand entrance” welcoming you back. Could this be Costa Mayas “Grand Atrium”? hehe All it’s missing is the stairs and water fountains. Oh wait…those are inside. No worries.

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When they built this port for the cruisers, they took out their easel and splashed every bright color they could on each building. I love the colors everywhere. It’s so bright and cheery. However, for those taking pictures, it does create a color cast on everything around it. Depending on what building you may be by, you could end up with a yellow, blue, orange, red, or pink face. I prefer rainbow, but they didn’t have that building.

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I know there are always people on here asking if there was a place to go in port to hang out for the day instead of leaving the port area. Of course there is. It wouldn’t be my decision because just getting off the ship and visiting the “tourist” area is not experiencing the place you are at. However, there are some that just go for the cruise or ship instead of “where” they are actually going. I won’t judge you, it’s your choice. So, I thought I would take some pictures of “their” swimming facilities there and beach area.

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If you want to just hang out by the pool, it’s a rather large pool and has the swim up bar stools in the water that is at the bar. There are water fountains in the pool and steps to hang out on as well. There is a ledge all around the pool if you would just like to sit on the edge and put your feet in.

 

They have a man-made beach area around the pool with lounge chairs and hard fake type sand that they sit on. It is kind of made so that it is in the middle of all the surrounding shops, but yet kind of divided from it by a “curb” all the way around the chairs area. That way you don’t really have people shopping just walking through the area that you are lounging and swimming in.

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My daughter, being the fish, whale, or shark that she is (she pretends to by some type of animal every day so you just never know) decided she had not had enough water and swimming for the day and immediately headed to the pool. She did not get to swim in it last time we were in port, so we decided to let her hang out there a little bit before heading back down the long pier to the ship. That was my opportunity to go off exploring the port a bit more and getting some pictures that I had not been able to obtain on our last visit. I put on my shades in order to not be color blinded and off I went.

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Making my way around the area just taking random pictures because that's what I do...especially with a new camera trying to figure it all out.

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Of course I'm sure everyone has seen this picture floating around here, but in case you didn't...here it is, an arial view of the port. No I can not take credit for this picture. I have not been up in an airplane in Costa Maya.

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Of course the port has the normal souvenir shops for trinkets, tee shirt shops offering wonderful reduced prices “come in take a look”, obviously the WONDERFUL jewelry stores that are cruise ship stamped approved places that they really push you to buy when in port because it’s listed in every daily. They have a Senior Frogs and another bar that you can get food at as well. I did notice they had a building that said dolphin swims. I did notice this on our previous cruise but never paid attention. I just figured it was a building you could book the swims and then they took you there. I was wrong.

  

I wondered off around the pool and out toward the ocean area that faces the ship. I had always wanted to see that “beach” area with the palapas to see what it was like. I had read before that it wasn’t really a “beach” that you could swim at or get in to the water. That is a definite correct statement. Nothing but a rocky area there and a small man-made like beach with chairs under the palapas. I knew this would be a good opportunity to get a picture of the ship at the port. BUT, I did discover THIS is where the dolphin swim was. I had no idea. The area was VERY small and just was not appealing at all. I felt sorry for the dolphins if this is the only area they have to live in. How sad.

I had to bring my daughter back so that she could see the dolphins. She had done the dolphin swim last year in Cozumel and loved it. We watched the dolphins interact for a while with the trainers and there were about 3 swimmers in there with them swimming.

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There is a neat bright yellow tall building in the port, if you have enough left in you after a full day in Costa Maya, you should walk up in to it and climb the stairs to the top. There is a wonderful view of the port and you can get a picture of the ship when up there too.

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To the back side of it, you can find an aerial view of….nothing on the other side of the port. Just all greenery and totally not built up.

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Caution: those of you they easily get dizzy may experience side-effects which may or may not be limited to: getting dizzy, feeling like you are on a spiral rollercoaster, the urge to not take another step, hallucinations that you are spiraling down a staircase and that the bright yellow sun is blinding you. Proceed with caution.

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Yep, there were a lot more, but I didn’t want to scar you for life.

 

All the fountains and areas around the port are beautiful as well, but I didn’t take any pictures of them since we did that last time around. If you want to see those, you’ll have to head over to my Spirit review.

  

I figured we had a full fun day and it was time for that dreaded walk back to the ship. No I take that back, an exciting long brisk skip back to the ship because I was having a burst of energy at the moment after feeling like Rocky once I had climbed to the top of the building on the spiral staircase. (Totally rolling my eyes right now and even my eyes were tired at that point).

 

Remember that tram I was telling you about in the beginning and how you should catch it if you can for your ride in to port because it will save your legs from a lot of walking? Well, this is that tram and as you notice it's coming TOWARD us, not away...which means once again we missed it and would continue to have to walk the rest of the way. No, I'm not complaining...I still have that burst of energy I mentioned earlier.

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The hubby stopped to take the cheezy "holding the ship in your hand" photo for me (I was just having another one of those "I need an excuse to stop before I drop moments).

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The Star sitting in port, still all by her lonesome so far away for where she COULD HAVE PARKED!!! She thought it was funny and was grinning at me when I finally made it to the end of the pier and at her side. She knew she had worn me out that day, but felt it necessary to make me get my exercise because she knows me oh so well with the food on the ship. I'm pretty sure it was her goal to have me gain 10 pounds, but was going easy on me and only made me gain 7 pounds because she had me walking everywhere instead.

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We got back on board and went to our room to shower and change then back out on the deck for some “going away” pictures.

  

Did I really walk that far? Twice?

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The sun was setting. I don't know why but the skies seem to have a powdery blue, pink, orange in the afternoons this cruise. I had never noticed that before when we cruised. It was different. Is it due to the time of year? It was really pretty.

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When we returned the beautiful Norwegian Star had a new Christmas surprise for us. They had sat up a gingerbread village while we were away. (I seen them carrying part of it in the morning down the hallway and knew something was up). I checked it out for a long time. All of the little details were just so cute. It was a busy Santa village for sure and so much to see.

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We ate at the buffet. Today was a good day and they had tons of different types of sandwiches and cold-cuts, which was all that I was interested in after a long hot day in the sun.

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Sakari is always the first to finish eating and some how we managed to sit in the "adult" area this time and wasn't forced to eat with our knees pressed against the munchkin table. She climbed up in to the window to look out and pretend her hands were now a dolphin swimming in the water. (Since the people at Almaplena had mentioned they seen dolphins that day...it was on her mind the rest of the day).

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For desert, I had pound cake and some type of “strawberry” something or other and let me tell you it was HEAVEN. It was so good I went back and repeated this plate again.

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There is something about NCL’s “cream” that I just love. I have yet to find it in any of the stores and I swear it’s not just plain whipped cream. They must add a pound of sugar to each tablespoon of cream. It’s addicting and I’m pretty sure this is where I find my extra souvenir pounds that I bring home with me each cruise. They use it for their crapes, they have it as a topping for the waffles or pancakes in the morning and now in the deserts too? I feel a sickness coming on from eating too much of this stuff during the cruise.

  

After our bellies were full we headed up to the Bier Garten to hang out for a while waiting for the sunset to get a few pictures. My daughter entertained me with a few pictures. She has a personality like mommy and daddy and in a split second she can change things up. Never a dull moment.

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I always take a lot of pictures of the sunset each cruise but I’m kind of to the point where a sunset in the Caribbean is a sunset. Been there, done that and they all start to look the same. I took a few this cruise, but not as much as I usually do.

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We took the munchkin to the kids club after she had begged and begged to go visit her friends and she had fun doing Nickelodeon Activities without Dora & Spongebob because they were busy on the Epic instead. (I wish they had the characters on all the NCL ships).

 

Daddy and I headed to the casino of course. I wanted to make sure that NCL was able to get their money’s worth out of me this cruise. My husband had other plans and like the last day, he did well. I think after the last 3 cruises, he has been a little upset at me for being the one to win all the time and he finally put his foot down and decided he was the winner on this cruise. (Shhh, don’t tell him, I secretly let him be the winner this time. I mean a man can only take so much right?)

 

Now let’s discuss the bathrooms at the Casino. Hmmm…of course I can only vouch for the women’s restroom. Well, I could almost vouch for the men’s; my husband stopped me once or twice from entering the men’s restroom. I tell ya my GPS just was NOT working this entire cruise. One of the stall was constantly getting stopped up. I’m not sure if something about the Casino brought out an explosion in someone there every night of the week, but it was always stopped up or over flowing..then eventually out of order only for the same thing to happen the following night. The a/c or something must have been leaking in there because there were puddles on the floor (not beside a toilet or the sink) that would gather every day. There was a stall that didn’t have a lock on it AT ALL. Like we are talking no lock and just a peep hole. If you were the lucky one to have to use that stall, you better have a fast reaction to grabbing the door when others tried to open it. Thank goodness all my years of motherhood paid off for me and I have a pretty fast reaction. There was another stall that the door was kind of broken or at least off the hinge at the bottom and the door shut crooked and looked as if it was going to fall off. I find this all not up to par with any of the NCL’s I have been on. Not at all up to par. What was going on?

 

Drinks at the bar (for us soda card people)…never had any problems getting a drink when ask. I pretty much had my husband trained by the first few days. I would hand him the soda cards and he would go get them. They knew him in a short period of time and knew exactly what he was there to get and got it without him even telling them after a few days. As always, it was poured from a 2 liter and was always loaded with ice and tasted watered down. You want good fountain pop that’s not watered down? Head to the Red Lion or buffet. That’s where you will find it. There was only 1 other place that had the fountain soda and I never did hear where he said it was nor did I find it.

 

Ok, time to pick up our daughter and grab dinner at 10:30 and then back to the room to pack for our port day in Belize tomorrow. Away I went…the wrong direction again. Don’t worry, my GPS told me to “please turn around and head the other direction when it is safe to do so”.

 

Muchkin came back with her face painted. She claimed she was a giraffe tonight.

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It's too bad she ate most of her face paint off with her meal.

 

We went to the Blue Lagoon and I ordered the Fish and Chips. It was pretty good. I topped it off with my favorite…cheesecake made my way…plain cheesecake (no strawberry topping frou-frou or icky chocolate) and top that baby with some cream!!! Cream all over. Actually just give me a plate full of cream and throw a piece of cheesecake as a topping on it and I’ll be fine.

 

Remember that mixed personality Sakari has? She went from this:

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to asleep in about 5 minutes and had to be carried by daddy back to the room.

 

This night Santa had left Sakari chocolate mints on mommy and daddys pillows again and he made her an elephant. It had my Santa hat on. I guess he was feeling festive that day. She woke up long enough to eat her mints, scream with excitement about the towel animal, get her face washed off and she was out!

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I was packing and looking through all of my paperwork for the next port day (you know the OCD stuff I have in folders) and I looked down on our desk full of collected papers that I keep for use with my scrapbook after the cruise and what do I find? The tickets for the “Silver” latitude party that we missed today!!! GASP…oh no. We missed a meeting with more free drinks? How could this have happened? Darn. I could have been a winner this time around. The group had to be smaller than the last. Kicking myself now but what can you do? I’ll have to catch it next time around to see what is different about it compared to the Bronze.

 

For those of you that were following the Star when she had her little accident in Bermuda and hit another ship due to high winds several months ago…if you are wondering…nope, they did not fix her fender bender. I checked.

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Back at the room, I think this was the day I ran in to the room steward finally and told him about leaving the beds the way we had them and he had left them that way and guess what? I did notice the big dust bunnies on the floor had been captured and taken away to dust bunny heaven. That was a positive thing. However, still the same old wet towels from day one. I had finally had enough and took out my handy-dandy notebook (no wait that’s from Blue’s Clues)…I took out the card that the staff had given us the day before at the meet & greet and called to let them know our towels had not been changed since the first day and I was getting a little tired of using wet towels. They said they would send someone up with fresh towels. Now I’m a water freak, just like my daughter. But I like to take showers 2-3 times a day. I always take one when I wake up so that I can wake the body up and get moving and wet my hair so that I can fix it for the day. I take a hot shower in the evening so that I can relax my body and go to sleep easier. Then while on the ship of course you are talking more showers after swimming or being at the beach. I had some wet towels!!! Plus I need 2 towels, one to dry off with and one to put my hair up in when I get out. Two gentlemen dressed up like they were important arrived at the door about 20 minutes later with fresh towels. I ask if they wanted the old ones and then grabbed a couple that I had hung up on the outside of the door to attempt to dry them. One of the guys immediately said that I needed to throw them on the floor in order to get fresh towels. I told them they had been on the floor once, but I ended up having to hang them up because I needed dry towels to use since I didn’t get any fresh ones. He just kept telling me that I needed to make sure that I threw everything on the floor to get new ones in the future. It was kind of strange because he was telling me this all in a very argumentative way. Hmmm, I’m from a time that you don’t argue with a customer. Explaining is one thing, but this guy got argumentative and defensive. It was just weird and I had never been spoken to this way by any NCL employee. So after that…all towels, hand rags, washrags ended up on the floor! Guess what happens after I do that? My extra 4th towel went away never to return again and 2 of my washrags went away never to return again. Hmmm…were they punishing me? I also noticed funny little things that I could not do anything but chuckle at; my husbands clothes, no matter where they were at, would always been folded and put somewhere...either on the bed, the chair or the table. Mine...never touched. Still wadded up where I took them off at even if they were beside the hubbys. LOL

 

Like I’ve said, I’m not really the complaining type, so I left it at that and never said another word. I chalked this up to having the absolute worse steward service I’ve ever had on any cruise. More bad service to come…

Since I’m on that “negative” side right now, I’ll go ahead and mention a few other negatives during the cruise. Those of you that are Star lovers, hide your eyes and just skip this part. I know there are tons of people who just LOVE the Star and have sailed on her several times and have additional sailings booked on her, but this is my opinion and what I experienced and I can only compare THIS ship to the others in the fleet I have sailed. So here goes…

 

Back to the restrooms. If you decide you have to potty when you are up at the pool deck area, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT go in to the ladies restroom and hit the first stall you come to. I disappeared for a while and panicked when I went in here one night and couldn’t get out. I was the only one in here and no matter what I did; turning the handle, moving the lock back and forth, nothing worked. What was I going to do? I did the only thing I could do…I kicked the door until it broke open. Whew…you talk about scared and wondering how long it would be before someone entered this restroom to save me. Now, later in the cruise, during the day, it was crowded and I bypassed this known “can’t get out” stall and another person was in there and…yep, locked in and couldn’t get out. Obviously another passenger in there had the same thing happen to her before. You hear the faint cries of someone saying “Can someone help me? I’m locked in and can’t get out. Someone please help me”. Another passenger told them “kick the door”. She did…nothing. She kept kicking and kicking and finally the door opened. What I had discovered was that the door handle opens and turns ONLY from the outside and not the inside. When you turned the inside handle the handle moved but not the “guts” to the door therefore not opening.

Other restrooms I witnessed locks missing in them too. These were public restrooms located in hallways on the main floors on the main decks (like 6, 7 & 8). I have never seen such despair on one of NCL’s ships before. This was really taken me and the hubby off guard.

The food I felt was really not up to par compared to our other cruises. I’m not sure why. There was a lot of “runniness” going on this cruise. I had them make me the alfredo sauce in the buffet one night and it was VERY runny/thin/watered down and just not like I’ve had on the other ships. The ranch salad dressing…very runny/thin/watered down as well. The food they had at the buffet was a hit or miss depending on what time you got there I believe. Some things were tasty, others were pretty bland. Not the normal for any of my other NCL cruises either.

Let’s talk about the cups the soda was now served in. All of my previous cruises, you were served in the hard plastic cups, which would vary in size depending on the bar tender or if you ask for a bigger/taller cup. This time…there was nothing but really thin, cheap throw away clear plastic cups. They were VERY small in size and of course they always load it completely full with ice and then give you a shot of soda in it. Guess what? They saw my face and husbands face about three times more this cruise than any normal cruise because 3 sips and it was gone. In my opinion…very wasteful if they are attempting to save money by using throw away cups now versus having to wash cups. It just seemed so cheap. Anyone know if this has went fleet wide? Or just this ship?

The soda cups that are provided by NCL when you have the soda program where changed a little bit (for the good). They use to have lids you had to peel off the top, which sometimes was hard to do. They have now switched them to a screw on type lid. That was a positive move and it was easier to open. Good job NCL. The shape of the cup did not change since our Pearl cruise in March, but there was a different design. (Previous cruises had different designs and types of cups).

 

Remember the picture I showed of Gatsby’s lounge in the upper level where Ginza is located? Did you look at the buckets all over the floor with the caution tape at the steps? Hmmm, wonder why there was a leak there? It showed up later in the cruise. More a/c leaking or something else? I never heard.

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The carpet…throughout the Star. It seemed like every time I turned around, there was either carpet coming up in an area causing a “hump” that I would trip on (or the hubby tripped once too) or a spot in the carpet where it felt like you “sank” down a little in a spot like the floor was weak? We noticed a lot of carpet issues like this all around the ship. Once again, not up to par with the other NCL ships that I’ve sailed. I thought I had read not too long ago someone posting that they read that the Star was for sale. I’m not sure if that is correct but every time we noticed something that just didn’t seem right, my husband said…”it has to be that they are just not keeping the maintenance up on this ship because they plan on getting rid of it”. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s just not the standard for NCL…or at least what I have noticed on any of the others. I was kind of saddened by this.

 

There were small little things here and there like lights burned out, but I understand things can’t be perfect all the time, especially when a light burns out or something. That’s not exactly a “safety” issue that would harm a cruiser. The carpet and the bathrooms…sorry that’s unacceptable.

 

Ok, enough of the few "ship" negatives that I wanted to mention for now. On to more “stuff”…(and yes there are more negatives...I will get to them later.) :rolleyes:

Time for a little more back tracking.

 

Here’s my problem…my NEW camera records using .mov and my old camera records using .avi.

 

Well, I’ve been trying, researching, and downloading things to help me edit my videos in between this review and finally had some success. When you have something that records in .mov, you can’t edit the video in a Windows editor, which is what I use.

 

With this new camera and the function buttons being different, we got a lot of footage that was “nonsense” and they needed to be edited. On my old camera, you had to go in to the settings and switch to “video” to record. On the new camera, there’s simply a button on the right side that you push and it starts to record. Since we are both right handed, that button got pushed by mistake A LOT.

 

We have a video that is around 18 minutes long of nothing but fins, body parts, water, backs of heads and so on from the video being on and we didn’t know it. Who wants to watch that to get to the “good stuff”???

So, I finally found a program that would change the format from .mov to .avi and have converted my videos and then had to edit them in windows. WHEW!!

 

Now I thought I would share some with you.

 

The first set is from ALMAPLENA.

 

Here is a video, shot down by the beach a little ways (toward the end of Almaplena):

Here's a video of the reef that the hubby took. This video was one of the 18 minutes long video of feet and body parts that I had to edit. The entire video he thought he was holding the camera up and taking pictures....WRONG. It was on video, so keep this in mind. But, at least it will show you that there is a reef out there and this was just a small portion at the beginning of it: