I have been a big fan of cruises since my first time on one at the age of fifteen. Cruising is one of the most accessible ways to travel and you don’t have to worry about anything really because all activities are on one big ship. Aside from being accessible, it’s also one of the cheapest methods of travel. Everything is already paid for upon getting on the ship, from food to entertainment to the countless activities that are on board. In the Summer of 2009 my mom and I set out from Tampa and were Cozumel, Mexico bound, hoping that Cozumel in a wheelchair would be a good idea!
After a day of cruising and enjoying the many activities on board the Carnival Cruise Lines
ship, we arrived in Cozumel. We had pre-booked a shore excursion with Carnival so we went straight to our scheduled tour bus. The bus was equipped with a wheelchair lift and tie-downs (safety first!) just as I requested to Carnival. For many destinations, there are not always accessible shore excursions, but I was very happy to see that Cozumel had one. We did not know anything about what all the tour had in store for the day, but were excited to see what Cozumel had to offer.
The first place that our tour group went to was Discover Mexico Park
. This park was located just a short drive from where the ship docked. When you first go into this park there is a museum that shows an overall history of Mexico and it’s many traditions. There are items throughout the museum and even huge canvases on the walls showing the layout of Mexico and the tour guide described the differences among the different areas of the country. She also went into great depth about the Day of the Dead and let us view some of the famous sugar skulls that are important to the holiday. The Day of the Dead occurs between November 1st to 2nd every year. It is believed that during this time the gates of heaven open and the spirits of deceased loved ones are able to return for the short time period. I always love learning new things when I go somewhere and it was cool to hear all about this holiday from a local that actually celebrates it.
After the museum tour, we made our way outside for the second half of the Discover Mexico experience. Outside, there are many replicas of Mayan temples. They aren’t life size of course, but they are large enough for you to get a good idea of what the temples are like and how incredible they are. The set up is pretty expansive and takes approximately thirty minutes to get through.
The next (and by far the MOST AWESOME) stop on our tour was the Hacienda Antigua Tequila Farm
. Upon driving in to this place, you can see hundreds of colossal agave plants in the field. As you may already know, tequila is made from these plants. After taking pictures of the plants, we made our way inside the factory.
The guide went over the whole process of how the tequila is made by showing us the machines that they use and describing exactly what each one does. Then came the fun part I had been waiting for – the tasting! The legal drinking age here in the US is twenty one, but in Mexico it is only eighteen. I was nineteen years old at the time and was way too excited to finally be drinking legally somewhere. The tour guide must have seen my enthusiasm because I swear he was trying to get me drunk. He let everyone sample all of the different kinds of tequila once, but he let me sample each kind two or three times. I ended up doing about ten shots (not even kidding). Needless to say, I was pretty tipsy by the time we left the tequila farm, but it was such a fun time and I’ll definitely be back if I’m ever in Cozumel again.
In a tequila haze, we then went to the beach and tried coconut juice for the first time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the juice, but the beach was beautiful.
After taking in the view for a while, we went to the main strip in Cozumel for some shopping and dinner. There are literally hundreds of shops, mostly selling souvenirs, and a majority of them are accessible and I just rolled right in. However, some shops did have extremely steep ramps and my mom had to help push me up the ramps. The Hard Rock Cafe, which happens to be the smallest Hard Rock in the world, was not accessible. My mom went inside and got me a tshirt though, since I collect them.
Soon, it was time for dinner and our tour guide from earlier said that Pancho’s Backyard had the best and most authentic Mexican food in all of Cozumel. Pancho’s was a nice restaurant with live music also. You can choose to sit outside near the music, but we opted for the indoor area since it was so hot that day. I ordered the chicken nachos with some habanero sauce. The waiter warned me how spicy the sauce was, but I wanted to try it anyway and when the food came out I finally tried it and… WOW! It was hot! That was my first and last tasting of it, but the food was amazing without it.
Cozumel, Mexico is one of my favorite Caribbean destinations and is easy to get to from Florida. Whether you just need a weekend getaway or something a little longer, go explore Cozumel in a wheelchair. And be sure to order a few margaritas for me, please.