Miami, officially the City of Miami, is the cultural, economic and financial center of South Florida. Miami is the seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida. After a stop along the causeway for some cityscape photos, we drive through Little Havana, Miami's vibrant Cuban heart with Latin shops and restaurants followed by a stroll through Little Haiti, known for its colorful street murals and fruit stands. At sunset, we walk through the Wynwood District, known for its many colorful murals before walking the Miami River Path Walkway. The following day, we embark upon the Carnival Magic for a 7 Day, 4 Port of Call cruise in the Western Caribbean.
The Carnival Magic entered service on May 1, 2011 and was christened in Venice by its godmother Lindsey Wilkerson, a former patient and current researcher at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. With a Gross Tonnage of 130,000, a length of 1,004 feet, a beam (width) of 122 feet and a cruising speed of 20 Knots, she has a guest capacity of 3,690 and a staff of 1,367. Equipped with a miniature golf course, a waterpark, a fitness center, a half-mile outdoor wraparound promenade deck, swimming pools, Jacuzzis and several shops and restaurants (including our favorites, Guys Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina), with 19 decks, it is a floating city.
A part of the Greater Antilles Archipelago and the largest of the three Cayman Islands with a population of around 63,000, Grand Cayman Island includes five of the six districts of the Cayman Islands. Upon our arrival, we hire a taxi to drive us around the island. Bodden Town, founded in the 1700's, comprises the central part of Grand Cayman Island and was the original capital of the Cayman Islands until George Town, the current capital where we dock, replaced it. There, we visit Gun Square, believed to be one of Bodden Town's historic defense points. Next, we visit the East End District, known for its blow holes. There, we visit the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park that contains the Floral Colour Garden, a Cayman Heritage Garden, a lake, an orchid boardwalk exhibit and a Blue Iguana Habitat.
Roatán is an island in the Caribbean about 40 miles off the northern coast of Honduras and is located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja. After disembarking at Mahogany Bay, we hire a taxi to drive us around the island. The island rests on an exposed ancient coral reef and is located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef).
Located along the eastern coast of Central America with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west, Belize is home to Mayan ruins like Xunantunich, meaning "Sculpture of Lady" in the Mayan language, an archaeological site set along the Mopan River and less than a mile from the Guatemalan border. The temple here was once a civic ceremonial center for the Mayan people. This site is an hour from Belize City and in order to reach it, we have to cross the river by a hand cranked ferry. One we arrive, we explore and climb the tallest Mayan ruins in the Belize City port and enjoy the best panoramic views of the highlands of Western Belize. We also see Guatemala atop the highest structure of El Castillo (castle) before returning to our port.
Upon our arrival in Cozumel, we exit port side and embark upon a water ferry that takes us to Playa del Carmen where we board a bus to the ancient city of Tulum. Known for its beaches and well-preserved ruins, Tulum is a town on the Caribbeans coastline of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. The main building is a large stone structure called El Castillo (castle), perched on a rocky cliff above the white sand beach and turquoise sea. Other temples include the Temple of the Descended God, the Temple of the Water and the Temple of the Frescos. Near the ruins is the Parque Nacional Tulum, a coastal area with mangroves and cenotes, natural limestone sinkholes.
Floyd Schleyhahn Photography www.floydandjodi.com