I promised some posts about our port days and here they come! We had a few days off because of Winter Storm Jonas, but that just made me more anxious to review these photos and do a little bit of warm weather dreaming! Disclaimer - on port days I did not generally take my pro camera gear, so these photos are all taken with an older camera, or with my waterproof Nikon Coolpix, which is great for underwater shots but not so great for clear shots above water. So if something is grainy, blurry or just a little off, that is why. But you know what they say, "the best camera is the one you have with you!"
When we scheduled our cruise on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas, we noticed that we'd be visiting some places that were new to us. Roatan was one of these new places and I have to admit that after reading some news reports out of Honduras, I was a little worried about how safe this port would be. I did a lot of research on the Cruise Critic website, and also Trip Advisor, to make sure that our day was going to be safe and fun for all of us. Traveling with a teenager who has autism means that everything has to be planned, with no surprises. Having said that, I have to commend Rony's Tours of Roatan for taking excellent care of us during our visit. If you ever visit Roatan, look them up! We took advantage of their "Freestyle Tour" which meant that we could pick and choose what we wanted to do, with a driver at our beck and call. I loved this option because it left us open to just leave and go back to the ship if we had any kind of issue. Rony gave us very detailed instructions so we could find our driver when we got off the ship, and we found him with no problem. Here's our new friend Arnold, who took awesome care of us all day:
I had heard that Roatan was great for snorkeling and also there was some kind of monkey experience, so we told Arnold that we wanted to see the monkeys, maybe some nice views and then spend the rest of the day on the beach. He did not disappoint! Our first stop was at Mayan Eden Eco-Park which was an amazing animal sanctuary with birds, monkeys and butterflies. They also have zip-lining available, which we did not try. To get into the park was only $10 each, and that included a private tour guide, a walk through their butterfly house (amazing) and time with the monkeys and parrots. Really a bargain and so much fun. We all loved feeding the monkeys sunflower seeds and having them jump around on us. This young monkey liked taking selfies.
I think I want to hire this guy to do my taxes. :)
The parrots were cool too.
My son with autism did not want to see the monkeys, so he started out just staying in the car and then migrated down to the hammocks they had available. This was a great part of doing a Freestyle Tour. We didn't have to pay for him to do something and then find out later that it was too hard for him. (I don't even want to tell you how much we once paid for a Disney character breakfast that was a disaster!)
After our visit with the monkeys, we were off to the beach, with a beautiful stop on the way to take some photos of the ship. Arnold took us to a mountain top area with several shops. All the vendors were very nice and had reasonable prices for everything. And what was really cute - because it was the week after Christmas, lots of local kids were off from school and helping their parents or just hanging out trying to earn a little cash. Since I have working kids myself, I admired their gumption and we made sure to tip as much as we could. We loaded up on water, tried some fresh coconut and even met a young lady with a rat (named Blanca) on her head!
And then we were off to the beach! We headed to West Bay Beach for some sun, sand, lunch and snorkeling!! As we drove, Arnold told us about the island of Roatan and before we knew it, we were there. We entered the beach near Bananarama Dive Resort, and Arnold got us a table at the beachside restaurant so we could start with lunch. We were happy that we could order a lunch for Oliver that was plain rice and grilled chicken. I'm not sure if it was 100% gluten free, but they cooked it without any gluten or dairy ingredients and he loved it. For more serious allergies, you'd probably need to ask more questions, but for our needs, it was perfect. Hubby opted to be a little more adventurous and get grilled fish. They said they would bring him a BIG one, and boy they sure did!! I'm pretty sure his meal was gluten free too.
I was a little less adventurous and I think I just got nachos, but I tried some local beer too.
And then it was time for the beach! I loved that there were occasionally dogs running through. The beach was not very wide, as you can see, but there was enough room for us. I was glad that we were the only ship in port that day - I think on a busier port day it would really be a crunch. The chairs were available for a $10 rental, but we didn't end up using one since we were in the water or at our table for lunch most of the time. There were also boats coming and going if you wanted to go out to deeper water for snorkeling or diving.
While the older boys used our snorkel gear, me & the girl rented a paddle board (only $10) and tried it out. She tossed me pretty nicely at least once (and somewhere on the bottom of the ocean, a fish is now enjoying the sunglasses I bought for this trip.) But by the end, she had perfected her balance.
And then Oliver wanted to try it too - he was happy to stay seated:
After the boys finally came back with the snorkel gear, us girls got to give it a try. Roatan is located near the MesoAmerica Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, so I was excited to see what was under the crystal clear water! We unfortunately did not have a lot of time, so we had to make it quick (the ship waits for no one!) but we still managed to see quite a lot. Just a short walk and then a short swim to a bottle (of all things) that was tethered to the ocean floor, and we found tons of coral and so many beautiful fish. Plus this little mermaid:
Look closely at this next photo - can you see what my daughter left behind? :)
Here's a short video so you can see how friendly the fish were.
And then the day was over. We wished we could stay longer but it was time for our ride back to the port. Arnold got us back in plenty of time and we were back on board getting ready for dinner before we knew it. Here's a nice view from the ride home, and a quick shot of the ship in port.
Stay tuned for our next port - Belize City, Belize! Another new place for us - how was it? You'll have to check in tomorrow!