Carnival Cruise Recap | Cozumel Plus Itinerary + What to Do

*All views and opinions are my own. 

In May CJM and I went on our first Carnival cruise on the Carnival Sunshine out of Port Canaveral. This was a Cozumel Plus itinerary which was really attractive to us because we love Cozumel. The ship also visited three other ports we'd never gone to and was port-intensive so we'd have the chance to do a lot of stuff. I'll be honest, I was a little hesitant to do Carnival considering we've only ever done Royal Caribbean, but we really didn't start playing the comparison game until the very end. We always have a good time anywhere we go, so it really didn't matter which line is considered "nicer" or "more fun" or whatever. I do want to do a comparison post because there were some stark differences, but similarities too, and my ultimate take away is: you're on vacation, so it's fun!

We left on May 5, and I love cruising on Cinco de Mayo because there's always a little something fun about sailing on a holiday of any size. We drove half way to Port Canaveral the night before, and got on the ship right after lunch. With Carnival, you have to reserve a check-in time or be forced to wait. Luckily, we got to security right at 1 p.m. and walked on through. Our rooms weren't ready until 1:30 p.m., but as soon as they were we dropped our stuff, grabbed a drink, and started exploring.

Carnival Sunshine is an older ship with a semi-recent remodel, but I have to say, it's not like any other RCCL ship I've been on (old/new, big/small, etc.). This was very closed-in and hard to navigate, not a big open floor plan like I've become accustomed to. Unfortunately, there was a smell throughout many of the public hallways the entire week that was kind of awful. We tried to avoid those areas at all cost. If we cruise Carnival again, I'd have to try a newer ship. But overall, plenty of bars and things to do and see, and lots of dining options as well--something for everyone!

Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico, and since our itinerary was a "Cozumel Plus" one we got extra time in port! I searched on Facebook a few months prior and found an amazing photography couple in Cozumel that were so sweet and picked us up right outside of the port. They took us all around the island and took some update photos of CJM and I while telling us more about Cozumel and their experience working in the cruise industry themselves. I highly recommend Mik 'n Drik Photography if you're ever in Cozumel, and I can't wait to show you our photos--although most are a surprise as I've already designed our Christmas card for this year!

After a few hours with them, we spent the rest of the day at the all-inclusive Mr. Sancho's day resort. Of course it was beautiful; the water in Cozumel is absolutely stunning. There were multiple pools, swim up bars, and plenty of lounge chairs. We may or may not have had too much to drink on the ship the night before, so we were finally ready to eat lunch and enjoyed their famous coconut shrimp, some fresh ceviche, salsa, and guac, as well as plenty of margaritas! CJM and I laid out right by the ocean for a couple of hours before spending some time in one of the pools. We met another couple and convinced them to end our day in Cozumel at the Thirsty Cougar Boozery which is home to my absolute favorite margarita in the whole entire world. It's an amazingly fresh cucumber jalapeno that is potent and has just the right amount of spice!

The following day we were in Belize, where we took a very long and uncomfortable boat ride out to Geoff's Caye, a tiny private island that only holds a hundred or so people. There we had an awesome time snorkeling in the clearest water for about an hour, before spending some time napping in the sun. They do have some guys out there grilling food that you can purchase, but we didn't get anything to eat. Belize is a tender port, and one I'd recommend definitely having an excursion planned for, unlike Cozumel which is so easy to explore and very safe.

Our third stop was Mahogany Bay, Isla of Roatan in Hondouras. This is Carnival's private port, and it was stunning {and for some reason, I basically took zero pictures here--I blame the strawberry margaritas!}. Of course there's the usual suspects {Diamonds International!}, but take a quick trip on the "flying chair" and you're on a beautiful white sandy beach. Our "excursion" for the day was actually two tickets to ride the flying chair aka ski lift, two reserved beach chairs and a clam shell umbrella, and two foam mats for the ocean. This was the only excursion I booked through Carnival because it was a really good deal. We checked in, got our spot, grabbed a drink and took our mats into the water. We basically spent all day on our mats floating and swimming which was another reason I didn't grab any pics.

On our fourth and final stop, we visited Costa Maya, Mexico. This port is really kind of cool because there are tons of shops and eateries, pools to swim in, flamingos, little museums and other things to explore all right there when you walk off the ship! If we go back to this port, I probably won't plan an excursion but instead plan on having a pool day because I really have never gotten in the pool on a ship before {kinda freaks me out}. This time, I booked and excursion to see some Mayan ruins because we've never done anything like that before and usually by this point in the trip, CJM has had more than enough sun. We ended up being the only two on our tour which was great, but it was a solid hour drive out to the ruins. We had a private tour around the ruins and our tour guide offered to take lots of pictures. On our ride back to port, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand had some of the best pineapple of my life!

Our first and last days of the cruise were sea days and very fun and relaxing. I do think Carnival does a really great job at being the "Fun Ship." It was a lot of fun, and they definitely are heavy handed with their drink pours! But overall, we missed some of the I suppose higher-end experiences we've grown accustomed to. My biggest issue was the terrible debarkation experience we had, but I'm not 100% sure if that's a Carnival or ship-specific issue.

If you'd like to see more from our trip, head over to my Instagram page {@piperellice} and check out my travel highlight where I saved tons of photos and videos from our week away.

Here are the links to the exact excursions I booked, thanks to my friend Pamela who recommended them!

Cozumel: Mr. Sancho's Beach All Inclusive
Belize: Goff's Caye Island Getaway & Snorkel 
Mahogany Bay: Relax on the Beach Package 
Costa Maya: Costa Maya Chacchoben Mayan Ruins Excursion 

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  1. best time of year to visit western caribbean?


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