As Dr. Seuss might say, “Oh the places we’ll go!” Just see what awaits us on our 2022 Hafla cruise. . .
Our cruise experience is much more than that photo op as we eagerly embark on the Celebrity Summit. We begin and end our Hafla in ‘The Magic City, as Miami is nicknamed, and then two exciting Caribbean destinations await our arrival. The first is Cozumel, Mexico, on Nov. 3rd and the second is George Town, Grand Cayman, on Nov. 4th. In future articles, we’ll learn about the 63 tours we can choose from, but for now, let’s look at our Caribbean destinations.
Isla Cozumel, once a secluded island hideaway, is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico’s Caribbean region. Boasting white sand beaches, coral reefs, modern amenities, and an enormous array of wilderness areas, it is an island paradise. With countless activities both below and above the waves, you’ll find yourself challenged to select from the 46 tours Celebrity offers here. Alas, there’s not enough time to take them all!
Cozumel is the third largest island in Mexico, with its 181 square miles (467.9 square kilometers). The Island of Cozumel is located by the world’s second-largest barrier reef system, known as the Mesoamerican Reef, which stretches for nearly 700 miles (1,126 kilometers).
Fortunately, November is an ideal time to visit Cozumel. The hurricane season has ended by this time and the humidity is low. On average, the evenings cool to about 73 degrees, but the daytime temperatures warm up to around 84 degrees.
For history buffs, the original settlers on the island were the Mayans, some 2000 years ago. Spaniards gave the island the name Cozumel, derived from the Mayan “Ah Cuzamil Peten” which translates to ‘land of the swallows’. In 1519, Hernan Cortez landed to begin his conquest of Mexico and Belize. In addition to destroying many of the Mayan temples, his men left smallpox behind, resulting in an epidemic that decimated Cozumel’s population to less than 300 by 1570. By the year 1600, Cozumel was abandoned.
But, of course, that’s not the end of the story. It wasn’t long before British logwood cutters arrived to settle in Cozumel and in 1848, the island started attracting refugees from the Yucatan mainland. Fast-forward to more recent times: Cozumel was still largely a fishing community until a documentary by Jacques Cousteau in 1961 introduced it as a diver’s paradise. It is currently ranked as one of the top five scuba diving and snorkeling sites in the world. With the construction of a commercial airport and the island’s first cruise-ship dock, tourism began to flourish in the early 1980s and development continues.
The island’s fame and attraction continue to grow. With its parks, nature preserves, beaches, water sports, resorts, entertainment, and its rich culture, Cozumel is a coveted destination for travelers like us
GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN
When we bid farewell to Cozumel, our ship will navigate 486 nautical miles to arrive in the United Kingdom. No, there’s no crossing of the Atlantic on this cruise! As a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union, the Cayman Islands are part of the UK. (Remember that for Trivia night.) The territory consists of three islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. George Town, where we will arrive on Grand Cayman, is the capital and is the largest city with a population in 2019 of 40,200.
The Cayman Islands were sighted by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503. The Spaniards at first named the islands Las Tortugas because of all the sea turtles present, but by 1530 the islands were known as the Caimanas for the alligators (caimames) native there. Turtles are featured on several of the tours, so you’ll have the opportunity to learn much more about these fascinating creatures.
The Treaty of Madrid in 1670 ceded the Caymans to Great Britain and the first permanent settlement was established on Grand Cayman. Most of the inhabitants were British mariners, privateers, shipwrecked passengers, African slaves, and land-grant holders from Jamaica. The remoteness of the island, and emancipation of slaves in 1835, resulted in a socially homogeneous society.
For some time, the Cayman Islands were a dependency of Jamaica, but when Jamaica declared its independence from Britain in 1962, the Caymans chose to revert to British rule. A new constitution providing for autonomy on most domestic issues was approved in 1972. By then, the Caymans had developed offshore banking and tourism, enabling the colony financial independence from Britain.
If you wish to update your financial portfolio, the Cayman Islands are renowned as an offshore banking center with liberal banking laws, absence of direct taxes, and confidential transactions. Hundreds of banks and trust companies, including most of the world’s 50 largest banks, are registered in the Caymans.
If, however, you’re into beaches, you will be rewarded with one of the Caribbean’s finest, the Seven Mile Beach. This beach is just north of George Town and it’s free for us to enjoy with just a 10-minute taxi ride from our cruise terminal.
While in George Town, you can dabble into history, art, restaurants, and bars, wonders of the sea--and then, don’t forget to bring home a few souvenirs from the many treasures you’ll find.