Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Day 6: Cozumel on the Carnival Breeze

Believe it or not, I actually wanted to get up by 8 this morning. Even though I wrote about not being a morning person on weekends or vacation in yesterday’s blog, I got enough good sleep last night to justify waking up to the alarm. Our arrival into Cozumel won’t be until 10, but we need to be ready to jump in line pretty close to 10 so we can get off the ship as soon as we are allowed. I didn’t want to have to rush through breakfast just to get stuck at the end of a lonnnng line of people itching to get off the ship and start their day in Cozumel.

It seems, though, that the Breeze was taken over sometime in the early morning by a heard of towel animals. When we went up to Lido for breakfast, I noticed this heard had completely taken over the midship pool area. Then again, I kind of expected this, as I witnessed a similar phenomenon on our last cruise.

I always enjoy seeing the towel animal invasion on Lido. It’s as much a part of cruising as the hairy chest contest. Barbara, Keith, Cindy and I were able to enjoy a relaxed breakfast on Lido, not worried a bit by the time, and talk about our upcoming dives today.

Around 9:40, we were performing the ritualistic slathering of sunscreen and making sure everything in our dive bag was ready to go. One advantage of our cabin being on Deck 1 is that is where the line to get off the ship starts. We as passengers aren’t allowed onto Deck 0 (crew spaces) until given clearance by the ship’s staff that we may disembark. The line grows quickly, though, and we have the advantage of already being somewhat close to where the start of the line will form. Luckily, the ship arrived just a little early and the Mexican officials cleared the ship for disembarkation very rapidly. We were off the ship just a couple of minutes before 10 and walking down that long pier to the taxi stand.

In Cozumel, we prefer using one of two dive operators. Depending on availability, we’ll book with either Scuba with Alison or Chucho Divers. Both are top notch dive operators and both will accommodate cruise ship schedules. The last couple of times we’ve been in Cozumel we’ve used Chucho. As I mentioned about Cayman Turtle Divers, both Chucho and Alison treat us more like friends and family than just another customer. Both used to be based out of Caleta Marina, but both are now at the “new” marina adjacent to Caleta. It’s a short cab ride from the cruise terminal to the marina, so traffic isn’t a problem.

We could easily see our ship from the new marina. Of course, it’s not like the Breeze is a small ship, and it does tend to tower over the terminals we dock in while visiting the various islands in the Caribbean.

As our cab drove up to the new marina, Chucho was waiting for us, and insisted on carrying Cindy’s dive bag to the boat. I wasn’t going to let him carry my bag as well, so I carried it like I’d normally do in other places.

Meet Chucho

We were diving with 4 other people from Oklahoma, who had been diving with Chucho all week. Today is their last day of diving before they fly home. Hhhhmmmm, four Texans and four Okies on the same dive boat?  I wish I would’ve known this ahead of time. I would’ve made sure to wear my UT Longhorns shirt.

Hey, I know that boat! Looks like we are diving off the Choco-Ha again. We were on that boat in 2013, the first time we used Chucho. Chono, the boat captain, was still behind the wheel like he was the first time. It’s like a family reunion here. Once the Okies arrived and got settled on the boat, we talked about where we wanted to dive first. We are diving nitrox 36 (air with 36% oxygen) today for both dives, so that will limit our depth to about 100 feet. 

Note: Before one of you dive professionals comments with something like: "Oh, come on, Patrick, you know the MOD (maximum operating depth) of Nitrox 36 at 1.4 ppO2 is 95 feet, not 100 feet." Yes, I do know that. Hence the "about" qualifier. See, Dave, I did pay attention in class. Besides, my dive computer would start griping at me if I exceeded my MOD.

Since Keith and Barbara haven’t had a chance to dive the C-53 yet, and since we haven’t found the geocache there, that was my first choice. Chucho said the current there today would be a challenge, so we decided on Paseo del Cedral for our first dive. We’ve done this site twice before, so I knew this would be a drift dive. The last time we dove this, which happened to be with Chucho, we were flying along the reef! The current was ripping along that day and it made me feel like Superman flying above the city. Today, though, the current was more sedate, and we had a nice, slow drift along the reef. I like slower currents, as it makes it much easier to swim against it if I need to go back for a better photo angle.

Being the conscientious diver, I monitored my computer frequently during the dive, as I do with every dive. Did I mention that I already like diving with my new GoPro Hero 3 (white)? This dive makes only the third dive using it. Grand Cayman yesterday was the first chance I had to dive with it. Any of the stills in this and yesterday’s blog that were taken under water are captures from the GoPro.

Yep, looks good to me!

Funny thing about diving in Cozumel. I never really thought much about this, but after watching video from both Cayman and Coz, it occurred to me how much “noisier” the reef is in Cozumel….at least to me. The reef crackles like Rice Krispies and with more boat traffic, it’s definitely not as quiet as Grand Cayman seems to be. Any other divers out there reading this that would like to add their comment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Chucho deployed his SMB and those in our group lowest on air started ascending to their safety stop under it. Most of us carry our own SMB, but the typical protocol is for the divemaster to deploy his. Cindy and I were the last out of the water and once everyone was back on the boat we cruised over to a beach resort for our surface interval. Chucho had fresh watermelon and cantaloupe for us along with bottled water. My favorite fresh fruit on a surface interval is pineapple, but watermelon is a close second. Cozumel has many resorts with piers for dive boats, and it is common practice to tie up to one of these piers and let the divers relax on something besides a dive boat. The Choco-Ha is a Panga style boat, so it isn’t overly large to begin with. By letting us relax at the resort, Chucho and Chono had room to change our tanks out.

Our second dive site today was Yucab, another site we’ve dove before. I like Yucab, and the reef is quite beautiful. There’s practically no current there, so it’s a very easy dive. Keith had some equipment issues from his last dive, so he sat the second dive out. I enjoyed listening to his and Barbara’s conversation about whether or not she would dive. Since getting her certification, she’s only had Keith as a dive buddy, so Keith was concerned about her being uncomfortable diving with someone else.

Keith: Now honey, even though I’m not diving, you should still dive without me, I won’t mind, in fact….

Barbara: SPLASH!

I guess that settled that. Cindy and I splashed right behind her and off we went. I wish I would’ve had my GoPro going so I could record the look on his face. Barbara did just fine, though, and had not only Chucho looking after her, but Cindy and me as well. She was never more than a couple of kicks away from any of us.

This dive lasted just over an hour, and felt like 15 minutes. There’s always so much to see, and if your head isn’t on a swivel, you are going to miss something (although chances are you’ll still miss something cool anyway). Chucho is good about pointing out interesting fish, though, so pay attention to your divemaster, boys and girls. Having said that, I feel no shame taking the obligatory selfie once in a while. Why not, digital photos are cheap.

Scuba selfie!

Climbing back in the dive boat after this dive, I was contemplating asking Chucho to return to the marina for a third tank for us. Since Keith would have to sit that one out as well, I thought the better of it and we called it a day. Chucho had a cab waiting for us by the time we got back to the marina and unloaded our gear. If you need a recommendation for a dive op in Cozumel, you won’t go wrong with Chucho. He’ll take great care of you and give you some fantastic dives.

We got back to Puerta Maya (the cruise terminal area) and did a little shopping there. Cozumel is a great place for souvenirs, especially t-shirts. Wow, it’s almost 3:30 and even though “all aboard” isn’t until 5:30, we still need to rinse our dive gear. The best place to do this, at least for us, is the Lido pool. I’ll usually go to the aft pool because it is less crowded. There are fresh water showers by the pool, so I’ll stay in my swim trunks and just stand under the shower rinsing our gear. We’ll then spread it out on the sun loungers and let it dry in the sun while we get back in the pool. It’s too close to dinner for a big lunch, but I’m hungry! A slice of pizza will do nicely and it’s just a short walk to the pizza place on Lido.

We let our gear dry until 5, then hauled everything downstairs so we could get cleaned up for dinner. It was mostly dry, and more importantly had all the salt water rinsed off. A cool shower felt good and got all the salt water off of us as well. We got dressed and headed to the MDR.

Carnival’s “American Table” menu features cuisine from the ports of call, so since we are in Mexico today naturally one of the entrĂ©e selections is steak tacos. I’ve had these before and they are actually pretty tasty for being something prepared on this scale.

Appetizer: Baked meatballs in a smoky tomato sauce – Yummy

Main: Steak tacos (2 orders of 2)

Dessert: Blueberry pie a la mode – most excellent!

Barbara, Keith, Cindy and I said goodbye to our other tablemates, as tomorrow night we are having dinner at the steakhouse. You’ll hear more about it in tomorrow’s blog. After dinner we strolled around on Promenade Deck (deck 5) for a bit and eventually made our way into the Ovation theatre on Deck 3 forward for the main show. This was a magic act featuring two magicians called “Two Men Without Assistance.” They put on an entertaining show, and I’m glad we decided to watch them. There’s just one more sea day left before our cruise ends. Time really does fly when you are having fun.

It’s been a long, but fun two days of diving, and all of us are ready for a little down time in the cabin. I want dive back in, no pun intended, into Heart of the Maya to see what other trouble Mike Scott has gotten into. Mr. Douglas, you’re killin’ me here. I’m losing sleep because I can’t put my Kindle down until it keeps hitting me in the face.

Coming up tomorrow, our last “fun day at sea” and my final thoughts on this wonderful cruise.

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