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Cruising Experience

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To cruise or not to cruise – that is the question. (No, not that type of cruising!) Taking an ocean cruise is a popular way to spend a vacation. Many Prime Timers have found it an excellent way to relax and get away from the daily activities at home. Prime Timers Worldwide and other groups and travel agents offer a wide range of cruising options. Besides ocean cruises, you can enjoy river cruises in the US and overseas. Here's a description of the recent West Caribbean cruise aboard the Celebrity Silhouette.

About 65 Prime Timers from throughout the US, Canada and Europe were among almost 3000 passengers on this mega-ship. Geographically the largest contingent included fourteen Chicagoans counting several snowbirds from Florida.

The cruise left from Ft. Lauderdale, which along with Miami is one of the most popular departure points for Caribbean cruises. Most one-week cruises tend to leave on Saturday or Sunday. There was a chance every evening to meet for cocktails at one of the ship's bars. On this cruise, there were two other gay groups aboard, plus some separate gay couples. We had signed up for the early dinner seating and had a chance to attend a show in the large theater after dinner. Typically, those who sign up for the late dinner seating watch the entertainment before dinner.

The first stop was Key West, which showed little sign of the recent hurricane activity. That day, the weather was overcast and a bit cool. Not typical weather. Optional shore excursions included tours of Key West, kayak nature tours, pub crawls and snorkeling. Or you can just stay onboard and enjoy the pools and hot tubs, game rooms or casino.

Then we spent a day at sea. That gave the Prime Timers a chance to hold a Meet and Greet Mixer and later an Icebreaker Party.

The next stop was Costa Maya, Mexico. You'll have a hard time finding Costa Maya on a map application unless you go to a geographic view instead of looking for roads. Then you'll be able to see the piers extending into the ocean. Costa Maya is a destination created by the cruise industry. There's not much to do there except visit the various shops. Shore excursions here included Salsa Cooking and Dancing, with Beach Break, inland trips to Mayan ruins, beach activities, snorkeling and scuba diving. I've been on other cruises with special cruise destinations that had more to do.

The following day we went to Cozumel. As with most Caribbean ports there were many options for trips ashore. Some travelers simply find a local cab driver to tour them around. Others go on one of the ship's excursions. A popular choice was a submarine tour of the nearby coral reefs. Lots of ancient ruins to explore, beaches to enjoy, geographical wonders (such as an underground river), etc. Several of the tours featured local chocolate. And as always, plenty of places to shop.

The final stop was the Grand Cayman Islands, with dolphin encounters, tours of the Turtle Lagoon Hatchery and Education Center, and a plethora of beach activities, Indian ruins and shops. This was followed by another day at sea. We took a tour of the ship's kitchens and had a "Wild Head Party" where several of us decorated ourselves "from the neck up" for prizes.

If you do take a cruise, be sure to plan some time to see the sites near your departure point. This is a great opportunity to spend some time with other Prime Timers.

Bon voyage!

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Marvin Levin

primarily to use for updating the Chicago data


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