We all fully expected Cozumel to be the highlight of our cruise. Everyone was looking forward to the horseback riding. My wife was also looking forward to jewelry. She had not gotten anything on Grand Cayman. But, she did purchase a couple of gemstones on board, and she had been told about a shop in Cozumel that would mount them for her. It sounded to me like some type of tourist set up. Cheap gemstones and an expensive mounting. But, she wasn’t obligated to get any setting, and it made her happy. So what was the harm?Yes, I know. I’m a bit of cynic, but it keeps me warm on cold days.
But, back to the horsies.
Our guide, Tony Baloney. He did a great job!
We had orders to meet at the piano bar, Diversions, at to gather with the rest our group. But, first we needed sustenance. We had made a habit of doing Topsiders for breakfast and today was no exception. We had always eaten outside, and as this was another 70 plus day, we were not about to break the trend. Decembers in Colorado, while sunny, are not noted for 70 degree days, let alone mornings. We were definitely enjoying this.
We made it to Diversions in plenty of time, and sat around and waited for our entire riding group to show up. There ended up being about 20 of us. At the appointed time, we followed our Disney leader who lead us to the gangway, and we went through the now familiar ritual of having our Keys to the World card scanned, and reminded that we needed our ID to get back on the ship.
Back at the ranch, after our ride, we found our nomination for "The World's Ugliest Dog"
After all, it would be tragic if someone were left behind in such a dismal place. They might have to soak up the sun and drink beer for weeks.
Once on the dock we were introduced to our guide, from Ranchero Buenavista. His name was Tony Baloney. Somehow I think that may have been just a clever alias, so we might remember it. But, he spent a few minutes telling us what would be happening. We had a long trek through town to get to the bus that would take us to the ranch, well outside of town. It would take about an hour of marching and bus ride to get there.
We followed Tony, who had done this once or twice before, as he carried a sign to hold up, as we walked through Cozumel, that could be seen 50 yards away.
Jolene vs a shot of Tequila
He did not want to lose a customer before they even saw a horse. Once in the bus, Tony told us some history of Cozumel, and pointing out a few of the sights and restaurants. I recall specifically that he said Cozumel had no other industry, except tourism. That could be both good and bad from a tourist’s perspective.
Good, as in order for the Cozumelians to make a living, we (Mr. & Mrs. American Tourist) had to be harvested. It can be very pleasurable if great skill is used to harvest the American tourist. You must stoke him, and flatter him, and entertain him, getting his guard down, and making him feel completely at ease. Then his is ripe for the picking. But, if you are too heavy handed, and bruise him, he won’t come back so you can harvest him again, and his yield on this occasion will be low.
Surfer girls, Jessi & Jolene
Mr. Baloney had chosen his nickname well. He could spread it around, and brought a smile to your face as he did it. He got many chuckles, and shortened the drive considerably with his banter. He was a good Cozumelian Harvester Later, we will have an example of a poor Cozumelian Harvester.
Upon arrival at the ranch, he set us all around in a circle and spent about 15 minutes going over safety rules and finding our the riding skills of the group. He also had to factor in the size of his guests, so as not to mount me on a Shetland sized animal.
Aaargghh, Mateys! It be us; Captain Bill and his crew. Wench (shh! don't tell her I said that) Margo be holdin the tequila she plundered in Mexico.
That part went quick, too and soon all four of were mounted and doing trying to convince our mounts to go where we wanted them to. These horses were well trained, as they had done this many, many times. As such they seemed to gravitate to the same general area, without any prompting. This, as it turned out, was where the ranch would take your picture. I love pictures. I think they are one of the best souvenirs you can bring back from a trip. What is better than a memory? I wanted to at least have the proper safety equipment for riding. Boots, long pants, and a hat. But, I forgot to bring a cowboy hat. So I had bought one in the little shop, as we mulled around moments before. It is too big inside, and too small outside, but I felt like a real cowboy anyway. I was on Trigger, had my boots and hat, all I needed was a six-shooter and a bad guy. When all four of us had our mounts, the picture was snapped, and that image is preserved for posterity.
Now it was time to ride.
Me daughters, Jessi & Jolene. Captain Jack don't stand a chance.
We had all been riding before. Jolene was the most experienced, as she had a friend who had a horse. Jessi was the least experience, but she wasn’t afraid. But, she probably should have been. The horse she had been matched with was a spirited three year old. It had only recently been allowed to take customers on the ride. Not long into our ride, Tony, who had been keeping an eye on this combination, decided to swap horses with another of our party. The girl, my 18 year old Jessi swapped mounts with, was only 13 years old. So we razzed her about that later. In fairness the kid had much more experience.
Tony took us out for better than an hour. In parts we walked and in parts we had to trot to get where we needed to be. We saw a lot of the jungle on the ranch, and plenty of iguanas. They are native to the island, and are everywhere. We learned about the Mayans who lived there, and saw a few artifacts. But, really we were just enjoying the horses.
On the way back there were several stretches of the trail where we could gallop the horses. You didn’t have to, and it is actually a bit out of the ordinary for a trail ride group to gallop at all. They are almost always too worried about a lawsuit if someone gets hurt. But, Jessi, Jolene, and I were going to gallop. Margo preferred not to. We had a blast. At one point, I was trying to pass Jolene, and my horse leaned over to bite her mount. But, I reined him off, and went by. My horse did have a bit of ornery streak in him. He tried to bit several other horses, when we were stopped and listening to Tony tell us something earlier in the ride.
All too quick the ride was over and we were back at the base. Here they had a couple of tiny shops, a cantina, and several shaded tables with benches. When we got back we were told that we all had a free beer coming. And as it had been pointed out to me during my beer tasting class that Free Beer was the best beer, I was very pleased. And after better than an hour in the sun those Coronas tasted especially nice.
The surprises were not over. In order to earn a little more revenue, Tony has a raffle at the end of each ride. There were 8 groups in our 20 person ride, and 4 of those groups decided to buy raffle tickets. We bought a total of 12 tickets. I think there were only about twice that sold. With those odds, we figured on winning something. They were going to raffle off two shots of tequila, a Mexican blanket, and a whole bottle of tequila. The first number was called and the winner of the first shot of tequila was my youngest daughter. Jessi wanted no part of that shot, so she passed the ticket to her older sister. Jolene dutifully went up and downed her shot. The face she made was priceless, and I actually got the shot with my camera. We all got a laugh, and then it was time for shot number two. The winner was..me! I’m not a fan of tequila, and Margo “claims” she likes it. But, when I tried to pass her my ticket she grew feathers and chickened out. So up I went. I took it like a man, and showed no grimace. It actually wasn’t bad, for tequila. It was smoother than Cuervo, which my tequila-drinking friends tell me is not really a good tequila anyway. Maybe this was. The next prize was the Mexican Blanket. Our table was batting two for two. The number was drawn and this time Jolene won. The blanket was very pretty. The full bottle of tequila was last. I was hoping someone else would win, as none of were tequila drinkers. But, I knew if any of us won, we would have to take it. How could you turn down a bottle of tequila that you won in Mexico? The last number came up, and we hit the Grand Slam. Margo won it. Each person at our table had won something, and we had taken home everything. If there had been a Mexican lottery, we would have bought tickets to that too.
There was time for another beer and then it was back on the bus. We were going back to Cozumel, and more shopping. Margo really wanted to get her stones mounted, and we did want to get a few things for the people back home. Both girls wanted something for the boyfriends. Margo’s mother and brother were watching the house and feeding our menagerie. Plus I always like to pick up a pilsner glass (preferably full) when I go to a city with a Hard Rock Café. I had been unlucky back in the Caymans. The one on Grand Cayman didn’t have a pilsner glass. Anyway, a half hour or so later we were back in Cozumel. We were hungry, but as we had no idea how long it would take to do Margo’s jewelry we needed to do that first. As it turned out the shop was about three quarters of a mile from where we were. At least there would be plenty of opportunities to pick up our souvenirs. We got to the shop, and Margo was able to get one stone set in a ring, and the other in a pendant for about $270, and it could be ready in an hour or so.I was expecting even more, so I was happy. Now we could eat. After a twenty minute hike through town, and then waiting while Margo did her business we were starved. We ate at a place that Tony had recommended on the tour. He said it was authentic Mexican food, and I would guess he should know. None of us really liked it. But, it wasn’t terrible either. The exchange rate was 11 pesos to the dollar, and the ticket came back priced in pesos. That was my first experience in paying in a foreign country. The other times I have been to Mexico, it was in a border town, and American greenbacks were cheerfully accepted, and everything, as I remember, was priced in dollars.
After lunch we went about our shopping. Margo and the girls each got a hoodie that said “Cozumel”, so they could make everyone back home jealous. Gifts for all of the forsaken back home were procured and we headed back to the jewelry store. We got the jewelry, which turned out very nice and went back to the ship. Right beside the shop where we had gotten the hoodies we were introduced to our bad Cozumelian Harvester. As we were saying our good ��"byes to that shopkeeper, this gentleman say “OK. Now it’s my turn, right?” As we were shopping and this was a unique greeting we decided to go in. As we walked in he shut the wide sliding glass door behind him. Now maybe he did it to save on air conditioning, but it had the immediate effect of making all of feel like we had been locked in. Really, it felt like we were being locked in, and that there would be no witnesses to whatever was done inside.In no other shop had a door been closed behind us. It might have closed on its own, but those were normal 3 foot wide doors. This one was a wide patio style sliding glass door. It was very strange. There were no other customers. Just us and him, it was like he had caught us in his trap. As it turned out this was a jewelry store. Margo had her quota and I wasn’t going to buy anything. So he had no shot. He didn’t know that, but launched into a hard sell anyway. We stayed just long enough to be polite, and then I opened the door myself (he was not going to until a sale was made), and we left.
Our street tour of the shops of Cozumel netted one humorous moment as well. Both of my daughters had dressed in layers for the day. Meaning they had worn jeans and a shirt for riding and their bikinis underneath. Well there shirts did not stay on long on that hot trail ride, so for the rest of the day they were in their bikini tops. As they are sisters they have a similar, slender build and long blonde hair. That combination tends to get male attention. They deal with it much better than I do. But even this one got me to laugh. As we are all walking down the street, we see a guy walking towards us. The street is crowded, but it is evident where is looking. His eyes had locked on my daughters for only a second, when be all but yells “Oh Shit!”. Now ordinarily I might have been upset or at least on guard. But the stunned way in which he said it, just made me laugh. You would have thought he had seen his first female.He was so enamored that he continued to stare and gawk as we walked by. The girls just laughed.
We had not had to be tendered into Mexico, but we still had a line to wait in to get back on the ship. All aboard was at 6:30 PM. We made it with time to spare.
We were looking forward to the evening on the ship because it was Pirate Night. Everyone would be dressing in their best pirate garb, eating dinner in it, and then attending the party topside. Fireworks would follow. Sounded like fun. As Disney also knows how to harvest their customers as well, they had a couple of photographers set up. We definitely wanted to get our pictures taken in our pirate costumes so upon getting back on board we headed right to our cabin to get ready. Showers were needed as we were all hot, sticky, and smelly. With those done and everyone in the piratey best we were on our way down to Deck three for our pictures. Marin was doing duty as a photographer, but we weren’t going to bother her with the line of fellow buccaneers waiting to be photographed. So pictures were taken in a several poses, and we went back upstairs.
Dinner was in Animator’s Palate and was Caribbean themed, to go along with Pirate Night. They had a great appetizer, a banana rolled in coconut with a mango glaze. The rest of the dinner was good, too. I had been trying to eat chicken to at least maintain the illusion that I was watching my diet. Watching was all I was doing. And it all “looked” so good. Also in the maintenance of my diet I had been taking the stairs almost exclusively. It is no fun going from the 3rd Deck to Deck 9 that way. Margo has a bad knee, so one flight is her limit, and then only if there is a line for the elevator. The girls would sometimes accompany me, as it was usually faster. But they were not above wimping out and waiting for their mother and the elevator to catch up with them a couple of floors later.
We had chosen the late seating for dinner when we signed up. That meant . But we liked it, even though we never eat dinner that late at home. On the ship dinner usually lasted an hour and 15 minutes or more. Tonight was no exception, so we missed the start of the Pirate Party (officially called Pirates in the Caribbean), which kicked off at . But that was of little concern for Margo and I. We are not big partyers. We hung around for awhile and then went back to the cabin and changed out of our pirate garb. The girls had abandoned us right after dinner. We hung around the cabin for a little while, but did decide to see the finale of the party, the fireworks show, at . It was tame as far as fireworks go. Disney does a much better job at their parks, but I imagine they have much greater resources there as well.
That was essentially it for the night. We went back to our cabin, and watched a little TV to wind down, and went to bed. We had had a full day.
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