I recently wrote an article about my experience on the Carnival Magic 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise, but in that article I only covered the ship itself and the activities and food we found on board. Today, I am talking about our experiences off the ship— at the ports we stopped at and the things we found and did during our adventures.
Our 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise had an itinerary of stopping in Mahogany Bay, Cozumel, Belize, and Costa Maya. However, unfortunately due to a medical emergency with a passenger on the ship, we had to cancel Mahogany Bay and ended up visiting Key West instead. I really didn’t mind as I had never been to Key West before.
I would like to note that the staff and Captain on the Carnival Magic handled this situation as flawlessly as they could and we appreciate they were able to get the person who needed medical care off as quickly as possible, without skipping a beat (or wave).
If you are curious about the de-boarding and re-boarding process at the ports on the Carnival Magic, it is quite simple. All you need is the cruise card they give you when you check in to the cruise. The card, once scanned, shows your photo and information so the staff knows who you are. There may be a line to get on and off the ship, but they always move very quickly. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes in line.
KEY WEST, FLORIDA
Our first stop took us to the port in Key West, Florida. While this wasn’t an international destination for us and a place I never even considered visiting, I am so happy we ended up there.
Because we weren’t planning on this stop, we had no chance to look up fun things to do or book there, which actually worked out in our favor. Once we got off the ship, we ate lunch and walked around the local shops there. After about an hour we were “shopped out” and decided to just head back to the ship and relax. However, during our walk back, we stumbled upon a place that rents motorized vehicles and figured we would rent a golf cart. After all, we had several hours left in Key West and knew it would be a fun way to explore the area.
I can’t recommend renting a golf cart enough. Getting to drive around and explore at your own pace is an amazing experience. We learned so much more about Key West than we thought possible.
Did you know that it’s the state’s southernmost point, lying roughly 90 miles north of Cuba? I didn’t, but I quickly learned when we found this gem letting us know.
Key West, Florida is also the home of Mile 0. Where Highway 1 begins and ends (yes, there are signs for both).
We also learned this place has chickens rooming all over. So be prepared to see a lot of chicken and rooster items for sale.
And of course, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without eating a slice of delicious Key Lime pie. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which place makes the best, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. Maybe I will have to come back just to do a key lime pie tasting trip. That’s a good excuse, right?
Our second stop was at the Port in Cozumel, Mexico. While it’s known for beautiful snorkeling and scuba experiences, we decided just to walk around and explore. We took a cab in to town which was about $8 USD. Cheap, quick and easy. There were so many stores to shop at and restaurants to eat at.
The buildings, while many run down, add so much life, culture, and artistic vibes to Cozumel. We couldn’t stop taking photos and appreciating the area around us.
When we had about an hour or so until we had to board the ship again, we headed back to the port. There were so many exciting things happening there. Live music, tourists dancing to a DJ inside restaurants, great shops, and more.
There is even a restaurant with swings as seats, that overlooks the gorgeous water. Definitely my favorite spot at the port.
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE
Our third stop was in Belize. Belize has always been a destination on my bucket list to visit, and I am so glad I was able to visit. This port experience was a little different than the others, as big cruise ships can’t dock there. Instead, they send smaller boats to transfer passengers to and from the port and ship.
I can’t say much for what to do as we booked an excursion while we were there, but I can tell you about cave tubing in Belize.
We had about 10 minutes at the port to use the restroom before heading on an air conditioned bus. The bus ride to the tubing location is about 40-50 minutes long (so make sure you utilize that bathroom before getting on the bus). If you want to nap, I highly recommend staying awake and listen to the tour guide on the bus. We learned a lot about Belize— history, culture, money, and more.
Once we arrived at the destination, we had a chance to rent lockers, rent water shoes if you didn’t bring any, and use the restroom. Be sure to bring some form of money if you plan on renting a locker or shoes, and lock up all your personal items as you won’t need any of it. Also, if you don’t want to wear water shoes, I recommend wearing comfortable sandals that can be worn in the water. Flip flops won’t work for this, so make sure to wear ones that will be secure on your feet.
They break you up into small groups where you, then, get your tube, life vest and a fun hard hat with a flashlight on it. Then you embark on your hike to the caves.
I had read prior to the trip that the hike was brutal, however, it really wasn’t bad. There was one part we had to walk through a small lagoon and then the rest was mostly a flat dirt path that took us about 25 minutes to walk. The only thing I can agree with about the complaining is you have to carry your tube with you the entire hike. But it really wasn’t that bad, I just wish they had them stacked in an area closer to the caves.
The entrance to the caves are beautiful.
It’s pretty dark inside the caves (which is why the flashlight comes with the hard hat), but still really cool. My only complaint is that the actual cave tubing part is really short, like 20 minutes short, and we couldn’t really hear our guide so we don’t know much about the caves and the history behind them.
After tubing we headed to a small buffet that was included. There wasn’t much there, just rice and beans, chicken and coleslaw. There is also a little food shack where you can purchase nachos, soda, and some alcoholic beverages.
My final verdict: Would I do it again? Probably not. Am I glad I did? Absolutely! I just wish there was more included. Maybe next time I will purchase the cave tubing/zip lining combo so I have more time doing things instead of waiting for the bus to pick us back up. Also, keep in mind this takes up most of your port day, so you most likely won’t have time to do any shopping if that’s your thing.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO
Our last stop was in Costa Maya. I have never been to a port as cool as this one. Sure there are your typical shops and restaurants there, but there is also a POOL. Yes, a pool! One you can jump right in and order food while you are swimming. So make sure to wear your bathing suit if you feel like cooling off in a refreshing pool.
At the port you can see some awesome Mayan shows and find police officers who are friendly and let you take photos with them. Yes, we are THOSE tourists.
We did find the restaurants at the port were very pricey for what you get, but if you don’t feel like venturing outside of the port area, this is a good option for you. How we ended up paying over $100 USD is beyond me, especially when there were only two of us and we only had one margarita, so make sure you look at the prices before sitting down to eat.
We originally had an excursion booked to the ruins while we were in Costa Maya, but ended up canceling as we really just wanted to relax and get some beach time in.
We rented a golf cart while we were here and drove 3 miles to a popular area with lots of shops and food, which I highly recommend doing. I am not sure exactly what this area is called, but the taxi drivers and golf cart associates can tell you. I am pretty sure I would come back again, just to go there. The beach is beautiful! There are hammocks above the water, massages on the beach, and affordable food and beverages. You can even get a yummy pina colada made inside a pineapple (which you may have seen me hold in the photo above with the officers).
The port experiences were incredible. You get enough taste for a location to know if you want to return for longer. Definitely a memorable trip and I can’t wait to do it again, but with my kids next time.