Cuba Sailing

First allow me to get the negatives out of the way:

The boat is small, well its big for a Catamaran but small for 14 ppl to live on board for a week.  So you won’t have a lot of options for privacy. Especially as you are usually sharing a cabin. 

The cabins are small. Especially when people bring large suitcases, theres just no room for them.  My case lived for the week outside my cabin with just my essentials inside with me.  Others had theirs squashed under the ladder or slept around their cases on the bed. This only worked for those on the bottom bunk though. 

The top bunk (my bunk) was smaller than the bottom and because of the curve of the boat you could not lie straight in bed, it was too small. I eventually found a strange looking position where I would wedge myself into the corner of the bed and could sleep with a slightly bent waist but straight legs with my feet only just hanging off of the bed.

Its not quiet. Remember: small boat / 14 people. On top of the noise of the other guests and staff there was the water pump and the motor which ran at times.

The bathrooms are small and when you use the shower everything in the bathroom gets wet. Including toilet paper if you don’t put it in the cupboard before you shower. 

The toilets are pump action. This isnt too bad actually, unless your roommate doesn’t listen how to use them properly and doesn’t flick the switch after using it which means everything comes back up into the bowl again.  (Not a pleasant smell for the first 2 days.)

Its sunny and there’s not a lot of shade. The shade that is there is deceptive too. I spent the whole first day lying in it with sunscreen on and still got burnt. 

Its salty. I would wash clothes and peg them to the side to dry and the waves as we move meant I’d come back to find little dried salt flakes on them.  Also on my skin after rough waters with lots of spray.

The rough waters.  Left a few people feeling sick a bit of the time. 

Speaking of feeling sick after a week living on a boat I got land sickness when I got off and it took me 3 days to stop feeling like I was still on waves. 

Now that I have those points out of the way let me tell you slit how amazing the whole experience was and how I would do it again in a heartbeat:

The view! Wow what a way to wake up.  What a way to sit and eat meals. Water so blue and in varying shades to make an artist weep for joy.  Being treated to amazing skies as thunderstorms rolled past in the distance and spectacular sunsets at the end of the day.

The activities!  You might think that a week on a boat could get boring. It was definitely relaxing however the crew made sure to fill the day with plenty of optional activities, from snorkelling, kayaking, beach walks, mangrove tours, impromptu costume parties and more.

The food! Not only was the seafood often freshly caught (fish and lobster) but the chef was great at making everything taste delicious.  Even a simple pasta salad.

The Wildlife! Plenty of snorkelling stops gave time to see fish and turtles and lots of reeflike. Dolphins joined us at times while we sailed playing in the water off of the bow. Stops on local beaches gave us plenty of access to Iguanas and even a cute local giant tree rat with big whiskers called a Jutia. The absolute highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to help release baby turtles though.

The prices! All of the food was already included in the price so it was only drinks we had to pay for.  Cocktails were only 2cuc ($3aud) and delicious. 

The people! I was absolutely blessed in the group that I had.  The staff were amazing and the other travellers too. There were no dramas and everyone was friendly and welcoming. 

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Planning, planning, planning!

Dear Fellow Holiday Planners,

I know that I like to take my holiday planning to the extreme. After all, why would I spend my actual holiday planning my holiday? I like to have the main details all worked out and locked in before I go, while still leaving free time to explore and relax while I am there.
Perhaps this comes in part from knowing that I am indecisive and often will just opt not make a decision when I am put on the spot meaning that neither option eventuates. Perhaps it comes from my anxiety which doesn’t flare up as often when I have considered all my options and when I have clear expectations. Probably it is both.

There is now less than 3 months until I head off on my biggest trip yet and the details are finally all coming together. Back in February, I locked in my flights at the start and end of the trip and the last 4 nights accommodation, leaving 66 nights to plan. The next step was booking in my tours, after spending hours playing around with different options I settled on 3 tours and the shape of my trip came together. In the last month I have since booked all of my internal flights and in the last week finalised most of my accommodation.

 

So for those of you who are playing along at home my trip so far looks like this:

Flying with Virgin Australia from Melbourne to LA and then onto Cancun. I have splashed out a little on my flights and booked the Economy Plus seating for the long haul sections. This should give me priority boarding at the airports and extra leg room on the flights. There are a few other perks but these are the ones that I wanted.

Arriving into Cancun I will spend 3 nights here at the Krystal Cancun, booked because they were the cheapest option in the right area and the hotel looked nice enough. I really wanted something in the hotel zone and on the beach. The fact that the hotel is close to the ferry terminal for Isla Mujeres was a bonus as well because this is what I want to do on the second day of the trip. The hotel is also good for it proximity to some of the nightlife. My friend Luis will be joining me here and it is his birthday on the 3rd day of my trip which is why I am staying in Cancun to begin with. We are going to take a trip to Chichen Itza on his birthday and possibly end up at one of the aforementioned clubs if the long day and jetlag don’t conspire against me.

Day 4 sees us move down to Playa Del Carmen where I will spend the next week and Luis will spend another few days with me. While he is there we will go to see Cozumel, enjoy the Caribbean Sea, the food, the drinks and the culture. There might be a trip down to swim with some local Sea Turtles and to visit Tulum too.
After he heads back to Mexico City I will have a few more days here and I will definitely be checking out Xcaret which looks like a lot of fun. I am still trying to decide what other places I need to make sure I see while I am here. I am 80% sure that I will book to swim with the Whale Sharks while I am in Playa too.
I have chosen to stay at the Hacienda Real Caribe, again this is a cheaper hotel (I am going for 10 weeks, I needed to keep the price down) but I really liked the atmosphere in the photos of the property and it is a great location, close to the nightlife and heart of Playa.

After my week in the Riviera Maya I head over to Havana, Cuba. I am spending 2 nights here before my tours and am yet to decide which area is the best for me to stay in. These 2 nights are part of the 6 that I have left to book. While I am there I am going to book onto an old car tour for the day I arrive and a walking tour of the city for the next day. I am itching to take as many photos as I can of this beautiful city. If I still want to see more then I will jump onto the Hop On Hop Off bus for my third day before meeting up with my tour group in the afternoon.

My first tour of the trip is a week long sailing adventure with G Adventures. From Havana we are being taken down to Cienfuegos to board our Catamaran and spend 8 days sailing around the Cuban Isles. Can’t wait!

After this tour drops me back in Havana I meet up with my next new group of friends for an 8 day Intrepid Tour of Cuba that will take me to Vinales, back to Cienfuegos and on to Trinidad. The day that this tour ends I fly back to Cancun to start my third tour, also with Intrepid.

This time it’s a 17-day tour from Mexico to Guatemala via Belize, stopping for 3 nights at a place that has been on my bucket list for a long time: Caye Caulker and the Blue Hole. Here I am hoping to swim with the Manatees too. Which has also been on my bucket list for a few years; ever since I saw you could do it in Florida. (After I had already come home from my trip to Florida unfortunately, so this is another reason I like to be extra organised and thoroughly researched before I go anywhere now.)

At the end of my month-long stretch of back to back tours I will be striking out on my own. From Antigua in Guatemala I will spend one more night in Guatemala at the very exciting Guatemala Airport hotel (actually it looks really nice so I shouldn’t pick on it), for my less than exciting flight time of 5.30am where I will jet off to my actually exciting next destination of Roatan. Originally I had wanted to spend time in Utila the party island next door. But after carefully considering the prospect of multiple ferries after multiple flights and the need to do that in each direction while travelling on my own for the first time in non-English speaking country it seemed like less of an adventure and more of a hassle. Hence I have stuck with the equally as beautiful, less intoxicated and with more activities to choose from island of Roatan.

I am booked to stay here for 6 nights at the Lands End hotel in West End. While here I want to visit the Cayos Cochino which looks incredible and swim with the dolphins in their natural habitat at Anthony’s Key Resort. I might try a beginners Scuba Diving trip or head out snorkelling to look at the reef, hire a car to explore the island or just relax and enjoy the island vibes.

After my week in Roatan, I fly via El Salvadore to Panama City. Frustratingly I have a long layover in El Salvadore but not quite long enough to book the stopover tour that I found here which would take me to look at the town and the local Volcano. Hopefully, I will have seen enough Volcanoes in Guatemala though and I won’t feel like I am missing out.
I am only in Panama for 2 nights and as my flight arrives in at 11.30pm and flies out early when I leave I have decided to stay at another airport hotel but have yet to decide which one. On my 1 day in Panama, I want to visit the Panama Canal and I have found a tour that does this and takes you out to a National Park who have a large monkey population which sounds great. If this tour doesn’t end up running then my backup is a local food walking tour or just exploring the city for the day on the Hop On Hop Off bus.

My next stop after Panama is Jamaica, I have 7 nights here in an all inclusive resort, hello cocktails. I definitely want to do a trip out on the Bioluminescent Lagoon one of the nights that I am there and I am considering a trip to the resort town of Ocho Rios to visit Magic Mountain which has a roller coaster through the jungle themed like a Jamaican Bobsled. I also want to visit the town of Negril and see Ricks Cafe with its famous cliffs. Aside from that the other essential item I need to tick off while I am there is eating the famous Jerk Chicken!

From Jamaica I fly back to Mexico, it’s a long day of flying, however, I will have not 1 but 2 friendly faces to meet me at the other end. I am heading to Mexico City and will be staying with Luis again. Now my friend Yvette has booked to join me for the last 11 days of my holiday. So we will arrive into Mexico City at the same time (fingers crossed for no flight delays for either of us.) While in the city I can’t wait to visit Zocalo and take as many photos as I can of the beautiful buildings. We are going to hire a car and drive to some of the other sights further away on a road trip, visit Teotihuacan and the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque. I am still trying to decide if I book a nights accommodation in Pueblo but I am definitely booking a night in San Miguel Allende the UNESCO-listed city which looks incredible. These are the last 2 of my 6 remaining nights to book.

From Mexico City, Yvette and I will be flying to LA where we will spend 4 nights down in Anaheim and 4 days in Disneyland. While we have both been several times before there is always so much to see and do in the parks and I didn’t want to end the trip feeling rushed because we tried to pack too much in.
Our flight arrives in at LAX in the early afternoon so the plan is to go to the Pirates Dinner Adventure that night for dinner and a show of sexy topless Pirates, we might check out Medieval Times one on of the other nights if we feel like it.
I am also hoping while I am there that I might be able to catch up with my LA buddies Cornelius and Ben if they are around!

From LA we fly back to Australia on my birthday to arrive in 2 days later because of the date line. I had considering flying over my birthday so that we skipped it and so that I stayed a year younger (because that’s how it works right!) but decided that being in Disneyland on my birthday was a better option.

So far I have locked in all my flights, 64 nights of accommodation and a handful of activities. Once I have the last 6 nights, a couple of transfers in the harder to get around places and the final essential day tours booked in all I need to do it wait.
Actually, now I have to think about what I am going to pack!

– Jeanette