Jan 12, 2003, 10:47 AM
Post #1 of 3
IN BRIEF: Eugenio & Milena (3 1/2 months pregnant) started this trip from Tampa, and our plans were to visit the beautiful colonial cities of Merida and Campeche (SW from Merida). We left on Friday December 20th, arrived in Puerto Progreso (25 minutes away from Merida), we used public transportation to go to all places (except to Campeche -that was a family trip), and then finally we traveled by bus on a direct route from Merida to Puerto Morelos to take the ferry back to Tampa. We left Yucatan on Wednesday January 1st., 2003, at 11:00 pm (one hour ahead of the ferry's schedule do to high tides, so we were forced to skip Mexican Customs at Puerto Morelos). By the way, we posted some pictures on the following site: http://groups.msn.com/palomo Look for "Yucatan Express" on the left column.
Trip Report: Ferry Florida to Yucatan, Mexico! [the Yucatan Express ferry]
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GETTING READY TO GO: After leaving our car with our good friends from Tampa, we followed the map that the Yucatan Express sent us in the mail. There was a lot of road construction going near and around Tampa's Terminal 7, but we followed the map and the small Yucatan Express white signs placed on some of the medians without problems. Terminal 7 used to be a cargo terminal, so don't expect Tampa's modern terminal for big cruises. However, it is a nice and clean temporary terminal. We had to make a line to get into the building, there was an x-ray machine that checked all our luggage and they were confiscating food from people (although we had closed cookies and chocolates in our suitcase and it got through).
Once our baggage was checked, we made the line to check into the boat. We followed the advice of asking for the fun pack and received it. It gives you free money for the casinos, 2 free drinks in the casino bar and $5 off in the gift shop. The girl who checked us in was friendly and efficient. We were told there were 250 people and 45 cars registered to travel. Once we checked in, they gave us our luggage tags and we placed these on our bags, the porters would take them on the ship.
We walked onto the ship with a couple of carry on bags at 4:30 pm. The ship was bigger than we expected when we first looked at it. We went to our room (441) which was on the main deck (just down the hall from the reception) to check it out. The room steward was there and he introduced himself and was very friendly. We had an upgrade inside cabin, with 4 beds and full bath. There is a small closet and desk with a stool. One word of advice, take a bar of soap because there is only liquid soap from a dispenser outside the shower. The room was small but comfortable and very clean. It was big enough for 2 people who can get along. The bathroom is also small, especially the shower which was difficult for Eugenio to manage (since he is 6'1", it was fine for Milena but she's only 5'1"). We only used the room for sleeping and stopping in to pick up our stuff anyway, so it was enough room for us.
We began to explore the ship. We walked on all the decks, which were all wide open. The hallways inside the ship are narrow, similar to a train. The restaurant (the Princess lounge) was large and elegant with white tablecloths, lots of windows all along the sides. Cafe Royale had several tables to sit with windows as well, and a small counter area to order food. They also had board games there. Sandwiches were $4.50-$4.95, small pizzas $3.25, muffins $1.75, milk, bottled water and juices $1.75, coffee $1.25-1.50. The dolphin lounge was like a large cocktail bar, kind of dark since all the curtains were closed. There's a small stage in the center and a place for a band. It has a nice atmosphere, and a great place to sit, relax, read and watch the view of the front of the ship during the day (especially if it's raining outside). There's also another area outside the lounge that has tables and chairs (called the atrium) where they show movies. We went up to the top deck of the ship, and saw the jacuzzis, the tiki bar, 2 stationary bicycles and 4 elliptical machines, and the sunning areas with lots of lounge chairs. This is a great area to take in the view, and we watched as they put the cars into the ship. We also went down to the car holding area just to see how cars are arranged during loading times.
By now it was 5 o'clock, and it looked like we weren't going to leave on time. They called us for the emergency drill, so we went to our meeting place in the dolphin lounge. We actually went out onto the deck to learn how to put on the life jackets and what to do (they have since stopped taking you out, and on our return trip everything was done in the dolphin lounge). After the drill, we went to the reception desk to find out when we were leaving. The woman there (2nd purser) was the only person we met on the ship who was not helpful. She told us we would leave in 15 minutes. It was then 5:30. They had a presentation in the dolphin lounge of some of the crew, so we met the cruise director, entertainers, and got a summary of some of the activities there would be for the cruise. We sat in the lobby waiting for our luggage to arrive, since it was not yet in our room. The lady at the reception desk could not give us a reason why. Our room steward was helpful in finding out what was the holdup, and getting them to get the luggage on board (for some reason, some of the luggage was just sitting outside on the luggage carts). We then heard that we were waiting for some passengers to arrive with their cars. The last people to get on the ship were on at about 7:00, and we watched them load the last 3 cars a few minutes later.
THE SAILING: We left at about 7:10, and were on the top deck when we headed out of Tampa Bay. Another word of advice, be extra careful when going down the blue metal steps from the top deck to the next level. Milena slipped and fell on these steps 10 minutes after we left port. A casino employee took her to the infirmary, where we had to fill out an accident report, etc. The doctor said she was fine but going to have a big bruise on her leg (which she did). He told her to rest and we missed that night's activities. We also missed seeing the Skyway Bridge that night. We bought pizzas that night for dinner and ate in the room. A few minutes after eating, a guy we had met, Leo, came by our room and let us know the buffet was FREE for the rest of the cruise. He said the food was very good. We were excited about this, since we were worried about not eating enough during the trip (Milena can eat a lot). That night, you could feel the ship moving, and it was a bit difficult for Milena to get used to the motion (but she didn't get sick). Eugenio didn't feel the ship's movements at all.
Get up early to see the sunrise, it was worth getting up at 6 am! The breakfast buffet was outstanding and abundant, with lots of fresh fruit, juices, eggs, breads, etc. The servers were very attentive and we made lots of friends. A lot of them are Hispanic but speak English very well. They told us about life working on the ship and seemed happy with the company. That day was loaded with activities, we saw a movie at 10, and then spent the rest of the day on the sun deck, talking with other passengers, listening to music, reading and enjoying the beautiful day. By 3 pm, the ship was hardly moving at all and we had a smooth ride to Progreso. That night we had a great dinner buffet then went to the show which was a comedian/impersonator. He was very funny and did great impressions of famous actors. They then had karaoke and dancing. We were told that night to leave our suitcases outside the room by midnight, so we got our stuff ready and got to sleep. They told us we'd arrive in Progreso at 8 am the next day.
PROGRESO: We started to see Progreso at around 7 am, and arrived at 8 am. They told us it would be about 30 minutes before we disembarked, and this was the case. Meanwhile, we stood on the deck and watched the entertainment from Yucatecan dancers dancing the Jarana as well as a trio that played typical ballads. It was very enjoyable while we waited. We were impressed by the terminal in Progreso, it's very new and modern. Once we disembarked, we went through Mexican immigration and customs (just like at the airport). Make sure you fill out your forms by the time you get to the line to save other people the hassle of waiting for you (customs is 1 per family, but immigraion is one per person, even kids). For US citizens, you get a tourist visa when you go through immigration, let them know how long you plan to stay (90 days max although you can later extend it). The officers spoke English. Our luggage was then waiting for us in the next room, we got it all together, gave our customs form to the officer, and pressed the light button (green light you go through without revision, red light you get searched). We got the green light so we could go! Eugenio's family picked us up at the terminal, but we did see lots of taxis, Auto Progreso buses (public transportation), and other tour buses. We suggest to take Auto Progreso if you want to go to Merida quickly, cheap and easily. To get to the town of Progreso, if you don't have a tour package, you could also take the Auto Progreso or a taxi. The terminal is about 1 1/2 miles in the ocean (it's the longest port in the world) from downtown Progreso.
Progreso is a small fisherman's town not full of tourists, they have a walkway along the beach and several restaurants with delicious seafood. Our favorite is the "cocktel de camaron" (shrimp cocktail) unlike any shrimp cocktail you've ever had in the US.
To be continued....