I just returned from a cruise in the Caribbean, tanned (well, burned, really) and rested. Thought I'd give my impression of the trip.
We cruised on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, a beautiful ship designed to bring in a younger demographic than RC's typical Ben-Gay crowd. It had things like a climbing wall, waterslide, ice rink, and mini-golf course on board. My four-year-old son really enjoyed the kid's play room and well-equipped arcade; my two-year-old daughter loved the waterslide, and all the attention from old people.
We cruised out of Miami to Belize (a newer tourist destination for eco-tourists), Costa Maya (a new dock in the middle of nowhere on the Yucatan... pretty nice), Cozumel (my personal favorite place in the Caribbean) and Grand Cayman (quite possibly the most expensive location on the planet).
Read further for deatils of each.
In Belize, I had wanted to go Cave Tubing, but since kids couldn't come we hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to a nice local beach. He drove us (in his 1990 Toyota Corolla) about fifteen miles to a spot where a local entrepreneur had decided to hack some trees down, truck in sand, and start a bar. The very friendly (and hungry looking) dogs were my daughters favorite--unfortunate, as they had fleas. My son enjoyed looking at the unhappy Boa Constrictors that the owner kept in a 2' by 4' plastic bin, and playing a Belizean version of horseshoes. After watching the owner's demo of cocunut husking, and contributing a small amount of money to the bar for numerous drinks, we headed off to a restaurant (I don't remember the name) near the cruise ship dock. We had an excellent meal in the quiet open-air restaurant, shaded by large Ficus trees. Total spent in Belize: ~ $200.
On to Costa Maya, where we took an early hour-long bus ride to the Chaccoben Mayan ruin. This was a Royal-Caribbean guided trip, so cost $62 each. My daughter got quite sunburned even though we carefully covered her in sunscreen; that's what happens when you bring an Alaskan to someplace where the sun actually shines. Anyway, the ruin was fun to look around, but the tour guide was too talkative--we ended up only having about ten minutes at the end to walk around and take the ruin in. After the long bus ride back to the dock, we took a taxi to a small fishing village called Mahahual about ten minutes away. We relaxed on the beach and enjoyed our time there a great deal. Total spent in Costa Maya: ~$400.
The next morning we arrived in Cozumel, where we took a taxi south about 14 km to Paradise Beach. It's a beautiful beach, with free entry, that provides chairs, umbrellas, snorkel gear, floating chairs, and all kinds of other fun stuff. We only paid for drinks and food, which came to about $45 for the time we were there. After about three hours, we took a taxi back to the port, where we bought a huge amount and variety of local vanilla (if you're in Mexico and looking for Vanilla, get Azteca... it's the best we've found) and a local liquor called Xtabentum. Xtabentum is a mixture of local flowers, anise and honey, distilled into a potent potable. You should try it if you ever get there. Total spent in Cozumel: ~$250.
Our last stop on the cruise was Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is famous for Stingray City, a sandbar several miles from shore that you can stand on and feed stingrays. As my wife and I had done it before, and as our kids are too small, we skipped that adventure (which I highly recommend) and just walked around town instead. It was a very relaxing day; we ate at a grocery store buffet (which seemed like ghastly food after the incredible dinners on the cruise), shopped, and generally puttered around. It was my wife's favorite day on the cruise. Total spent in Grand Cayman: ~ $60.
Finally, back to Miami, where we stayed an extra night. By this time, I think everyone was ready to get home, but we weren't really prepared for the 12 hour flight(s) back. We need a vacation to recover from our vacation.
Overall, it was fun. Next time, I might just fly to Cozumel and hang out there.