Cruisin to Cozumel

 
I decided that I wanted to do a quick get away with the kid to someplace warm.  Miami temps weren’t warm enough so leaving the country was a must.  Entered a few destinations in my handy dandy cost estimate spreadsheet (2 flights, 3 nights hotels, activities, food, etc)  then entered the cost of a cruise into my spreadsheet and cruise won Hands Down.  I’ve never been inclined to take a cruise before, but the deal was so sweet I figured, “Why the hell not?”  Cruise was $159/each + $100 taxes + $100 gratuities + $110 excursion = $628 not bad for 4 days of fun for 2 people.

Now don’t forget to book through http://aa.cruises.com/ or http://www.skymilescruises.com/ or the other airlines versions so you can earn airline miles for your cruise.  You know I’m all about earning airmiles when I’m on the ground. 
I booked a cruise to Cozumel because my daughter had been asking me for a while to go back to Mexico. So that meant that we had to take a road trip to Tampa and if you know me, you know I am NOT about that road trip life.  Luckily gas is practically free now a days.  Parking at the Tampa Port Authority is $15/day so I researched alternatives and found a highly recommended The Parking Doctors for $8/day. 

Cruises provide juices during breakfast and Ice Tea & Lemonade during lunch/dinner but other times through the day you have to buy your own drinks. They allow you to bring non alcoholic drinks with you so I brought OJ, Pineapple juice and Capri Sun. I also bought my daughter the "Bootomless Bubbles" package on the ship for $5/day so she could get drinks whenever she liked.  Now the most important thing for me was to get booze on the cruise.  So I purchased these 32oz bottles that look like shampoo/conditioner (Cruise Flasks on amazon/ebay) and filled em up with plenty booze.  My power surge got confiscated by security, but my booze made it safely to my room.  Amen Halleluiah! Luckily I traveled with a smaller power surge because there was only ONE outlet in our room and as you can see that will do me NO GOOD!!!

My kids aka gadgets

My daughter and I are VERY attached to the matrix so it was very hard for us to detach.  We spent the first 3 hours of the cruise sitting by the window as were still in Florida and still had a strong signal.  After we lost signal we ate dinner and then went to take a nap because we had been awake since the crack of dawn driving down to Florida.  Upon waking up I tried to convince to my child to go to the teen club, but she was like, “Naw son, I don't want to talk to people!”  the only other option was BINGO and she decided we should do that instead.  REALLY KID???   Low and behold we ended up winning $500 in BINGO that night. 

Looking at the ship schedule of activities I knew we were going to have a rough few days ahead of us.  I described the cruise as, “One of the most monotonous, controlled environments I've ever been in, but man o man did I get my drink on! “ 

boring, boring, boring

I asked my daughter, “If you were here with your BFF or cousin do you think you could have fun?”  She said, “Maybe”  I think if I was there with my closest chicas I still probably couldn’t have fun.  When on vacay we usually set up shop with Mr. Bose and lots of Bacardi and just booze and chune out, but the ship was too confined for all that.  There is no place that we could be separated from other passengers and I’m sure someone would “rat us out” for blasting our soca and dancehall too loud.  I think I could probably have a good time on a cruise if I was there with my guy and we spent about 40% of the day in our room just “Doing it!”


The best part of our trip was our day long excursions in Cozumel.  I did some research and found an excursion package that was better and cheaper than what the cruise ship was offering.  ATV tour through the jungle,  explored some old mayan caves,  visited a sacred cenote (mayan sinkhole),  relaxing on the beach, snorkeling in clear blue water filled with friendly fish that didn’t mind swimming right up to you




My action camera started dying which is why the snorkeling pix look crazy.  Not having the best luck with my cameras on recent trips.  Now I can finally buy that GoPro I’ve been wanting. 

We really dreaded getting back on the cruise ship. If only I was rich and could have just bought us a plane ticket home instead.  We get back on the ship and everyone else seems to be having a blast and all I could think was, “What’s wrong with these people?”  lolololol   Yes I refuse to accept that the problem is ME! I described the experience as being trapped on a moving Alcatraz, but I was informed that I was just being Dramatic! To those that have never been on a cruise, don’t let my words deter you, as you can see the other passengers enjoyed it.  I am just an odd ball. 


Conga line

The kid and I decided that we will give cruising another try on either an urban or Caribbean themed cruise or a Disney cruise.  Also we decided that 3 days is the most we can spend on a ship.  It was beautiful, just too confined for my taste.

 One plus side is that Hennessy White is dirt cheap on a cruise.  Only $35/each when you buy two. 

 
 

How to attend Trinidad Carnival on a budget

 
Dear AngelaPanama,
How can I do Trinidad carnival for the low low? 

For those that don't like to read, I recap'd the info below in a vlog



The average masquerader spends about $3k-$4k on Trinidad carnival, it really depends on their lodging and costume situation.  So when I say low low, I’m talking around $2K, it can be done but will take a some work on your part.   
Lodging:
Lodging is what is going to break the bank, you want to secure lodging before you spend money on anything else carnival related.   Major hotels are about $300-500/night, multiply that by 7 nights and you get OUCH!!!  I’m not kidding  $300-500/night X 7 = OUCH!!! 

You can secure low cost lodging, but you need to be ready to pay 100% of your lodging a year in advance. There are many bed & breakfasts near Ariapita Avenue aka The Ave, where you can get a room for under $200/night.  The Ave is the hub of the nightlife and central to the parade route.  There is nothing awesome’r than being able to walk to your hotel on the afternoon of carnival Monday or Tuesday and take a quick powernap.  Chip’n sun up to sun down E No Easy!!!  

For those that prefer the amenities of a major hotel, there are several:  Hyatt, Hilton, Radisson, & Courtyard Marriot. Here is how you stay there on a budget. 

In my Nov trip to the Florida keys I spoke briefly about travel hacking.  For those that didn’t read it Travel hacking is the art and science of free and discounted travel.  I earn airline miles and hotel stays when I’m not traveling.  I have a “Love em and Leave em” method when it comes to credit cards.  I get the bonus offer and then I move on to the next card.  Some say that this method of travel hacking is unethical, I say otherwise.  The credit card companies lure people in with those bonus offers and many of stay because they are either loyal or just lazy.  Travel hackers capitalize on the bonus offers, and then move on.  The credit card companies are using us and we are using them, it’s the American Way! 

That being said if you sign up for the credit card of these major hotels most will automatically gift you 2 free nights after you spend a certain amount of money within the first 3 months.  As I said in my last blog, Spending $3k in 3 months is easy if you charge every single thing you can to the card (household utilities, grocery shopping, insurance, vehicle fuel, dining out, boozing, etc.).  They key is to only charge what you would normally spend and pay the card off in full, not acquire debt in the quest to get points.  If you live this lifestyle for a good year, I imagine you will have accumulated several free nights.  Throughout the year you also have the opportunity to purchase discounted points from these hotel chains. 

Wait for a Hilton 2 for 1 sale,  you can get 3 nights at the Hilton Trinidad for $800 (normally $500/nite

Flight:
You need to be ready to buy your flight when 10-11 months in advance, that’s when they are the cheapest.  The dirt cheap flights (Caribbean Air and JetBlue) fly out of MIA/FLL and New York.  If you are not lucky enough to be located in those places you may have to take the train, megabus, or a budget airline there.  Travel hacking can also be used if you want to acquire an airline credit card although it is more beneficial to hack towards lodging in this case. 
Enough points to fly FREE


Fetes: 
What you are going to want to do is not do too many All Inclusive fetes.  You are going to want to do food inclusive fetes or Cooler Fetes. Cooler fetes is where you bring your own cooler and booze.  All inclusive fetes range from $100-$200, whereas cooler fetes range from $30-$60. I have an inflatable cooler (can be found on Amazon & eBay) that I bring on vacation for occasions such as these.  You also may just want to lime on di Ave a few nights.  Remember earlier we discussed the Ave being the hub of the nightlife.  Pay a small cover to get into a club or enjoy one of the may spots that charge no cover.

Lime'n on de Ave
 
Mas Band: 
The large bands are gonna cost you between $650-850 for backline, frontline being $1k+. My suggestion for those on a budget is to join a medium band.  The bands can be found the page of the National Carnival BandsAssociationAlthough listed in the Large Bands, Paparazzi is an affordable band I played with in 2011 & 2012 and enjoyed.  Wee International is another affordable band that comes with good recommendations.

Jouvert Band: 
As Kerwin and Farmer Nappy said, “we don’t want come in yuh band, we chippin on di pavement”  Maybe instead of paying $100 to join a jouvert band you instead bring your own booze and just chip alongside your favorite band.  We all know that a couple hours into jouvert the stormers are all in UP the band.  

Jouvert morning
Transportation:
Stay far far away from taxis, especially the ones parked in front of the major hotels.  They are convenient but pricey.  There are many transportation services that you can hire for the entire length of your stay.  Of course this needs to be done in advance of your arrival and will require a little Google’n on your part. 


*UPDATE*  Uber is now in Trinidad





This is not an exact science, only a guestimate:
Budget flight $400 or free if you get an airline credit card
Budget lodging $200/night divided by 3 or 4 people $400
Medium Band: $400
Transportation:  $200
Fetes: $400
Total: Under $2K

2014 - A Year in Carnival Review

Trinidad, Jamaica, Atlanta, Barbados, Miami, & Raleigh (not pictured)
I have a secret shame associated with my carnival addiction.  Mainly the amount of $$$ I blow and the elaborate trips I could take elsewhere if I wasn’t so determined to attend carnival after carnival. In 2014 I realized that there are many many other people that share the same carnival addiction and I would like to introduce you to a few of them.  The pix below are only from 2014, these carnival loving folks Get It In!

 

First is Charmaine, I met her on di road in Trinidad 2011 and we have been linking up at other carnivals every year since.  She joined me Jamaica, Atlanta, Barbados, and Miami this year. 

Next up is my bro Paco. Ages ago I wanted to get back into the carnival lifestyle and I couldn’t find anybody to join me, but my bro was all in.  His hectic schedule doesn’t allow him to join me all year long, but he did attend Trinidad, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Miami carnivals with me.   
Jasmine & Beverly.  We met these two lovely ladies at Bacchanal Jamaica this year and instantly clicked.  Ended up linking with them in Barbados and Miami carnivals and will be attending Bahamas 2015 with them. 
Jouvert Mike.  We have been hi/bye acquaintances for years, but ended up hanging out Caribana 2013 and decided to join forces for Cropover 2014. 
Michelle is another one I adopted after we hung out Caribana 2013, although I’ve known her for years.  She joined me in Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Atlanta, and Miami this year.  
Winston I met at Bacchanal Jamaica 2013. Ended up running into him in the airport on the way to Trinidad Carnival 2014 & we exchanged info.  He then helped me with logistics for Bacchanal Jamaica 2014.  I call him and his band of muscle homies my International Body Guards lol  Bacchanal Jamaica is held in Kingston, JA but the gyals felt super safe when the fellas were around.  He actually attended more carnivals than I have pictured here, but you know guys aren’t that great with the cameras.  Trinidad, Jamaica, Notting Hill, New York, and Miami.  *disclaimer*  When it is not carnival Winston is a straight up Clark Kent.  As soon as another carnival reemerges, he rips off his suit and switches to Super Fete Man*
Jermaine is not a mas person, but he still loves him some carnival.  He attended Trinidad, Atlanta, and Barbados carnivals this year.  You can always count on him to capture some great moments on di road. 
Next up is a Rhadi, but you may know him as the Trini Jungle Juice carnival doctor.  The writer of the www.TheUltimateRoadReadyGuide.com What Every Carnival Veteran Knows And Carnival Virgins Must: The 25 Things You Must Know About Trinidad Carnival.  Awesome awesome awesome guy, if you don’t already know him… I suggest you look him up. 
Madd Colors. Gotta shout out the leaders of my Atlanta Carnival mas band.  Linked with them in Trinidad, Raleigh, and Miami. They also took the show on the road to Houston carnival.  So if you want to play mas in Atlanta, Houston or Raleigh link www.maddcolorscarnival.com



 
Kortney I randomly met online cause all of us carnival lovers somehow end up gravitating towards each other.  She came thru ATL for a weekend of party’n, but sadly I was unable to link up with her.  I had to share her collage as well, cause I love her love of carnival. 


Next up are the guys that power us through the year and at carnival...  The awesome DJs.   First up is DJ Private Ryan. This guy right here I just adore, met him in person about 7 years ago and have been a fan ever since.  He is such sweet heart, its impossible not to love him.  And it doesn’t hurt that his mixes are frekkin AMAZING!!!!!  Got to link with Ryan in Trinidad, Barbados, and Miami this year.   
DJ Private Ryan
Dei Musicale : The Musical Gods, a dynamic duo of Ruan Legend & J-Lava.  They definitely keep me jamming through the year when I’m tryn to NOT listen to soca in between carnivals.  Got to link with them in Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, and Miami.
Dei Musicale : The Musical Gods

And a shout out to photographer extraordinaire Craig Chung.  Saw him Trinidad, Jamaica, and Miami but sadly not get a copy of the pic we took in T&T.  If I ever get married again, I would totally hire Craig to capture it.  His pix are the sh*t!  KABOOM
www.CraigChung.com
And I got to meet the boss Dre in 2014. He was actually seated on the same row as me on the way back from JA carnival, but he had someone with him and I didn't want to be rude. 

So a question I am frequently asked, “Which carnival was the best and why?”  Numbers don’t lie so I am going to let my Nike Fuel Band tell you which carnivals I had the most fun at.  Below are my Nike Fuel Points from the Road March from each carnival I attended this year.  At the bottom of each screenshot you can see how many step I took that day, you can also see what times of the day I hit my goal. I have also included a link to each carnival in case you are enticed to attend.   

Trinidad Carnival Monday


Trinidad Carnival Tuesday


Bacchanal Jamaica
Barbados Cropover


Miami Carnival


Atlanta Carnival
Raleigh, NC Carnival
So what does 2015 hold?  I’m thinking Trinidad, Atlanta, Bahamas, Los Angeles, and Miami.  Might throw in a small carnival like Jacksonville or Raleigh again.  Cant squeeze in anymore big carnivals with all the other non-carnival travel I have planned.  

Can I get a Whoop Whoop???