We woke up early on day four of our MSC Meraviglia cruise for our excursion to the Xunantunich (pronounced Shoe-nan-tu-nich) Mayan ruins and Marimba lunch. Our excursion was set to meet at 8:00 am in the Broadway Theater, and we wanted a good breakfast before we left. Little did we know the crazy start we’d have.
After breakfast we went to the theater to sign in and wait till it was time to leave. The weather looked dark, so they gave us rain ponchos just in case. Also, in Belize, the ship anchors five miles from Belize City and boats called tenders pick you up at the ship and take you to the port. The waters are too shallow close to town. So, we had to wait till it was our turn to tender.
At about 8:20 am we were led to our tender and we boarded her. It was a ferry type boat with two layers of seats, and it was packed full. We boarded, and then we had a really crazy start to that excursion. We had an escort from the ship, who was carrying a ping pong type paddle with our excursion number on it, which was number 37.
We saw him on the dock after the tender, and we started following him as he walked quickly away. He was walking with the paddle in front of him, which made it very hard to see since we were at the back of the line. And then, as we walked as quickly as we could, other people got between us and the rest of the group, and before we knew it, we had lost him. We had no idea as to where he had gone. There were four terminals in the port area, and he could have turned into any of them.
There were other ships in port that day, so we searched for an MSC employee on the dock. He said to go to terminal four, because that’s where he probably was. We went into terminal four, but no one there had seen him. We were sure that we were going to miss the bus to Xunantunich. The man there told us to wait, our guide was sure to show up, but since he was in front of us, we figured he’d have been there by now.
Time to panic yet?
I was definitely panicking by then, and ran back out to the shopping area. We finally found a different MSC employee who sent us to Terminal two. We went to the front, and thankfully saw a paddle with the number 37 on it and the rest of our group standing there. Not the best start to this excursion. Thanks for watching out for us, Mr. Tour Guide.
The other tour guide, Carolyn, told us to use the restroom before we went, but there was a line, and before we could get to the front she said they were boarding. It was a large Greyhound type bus, and it did have a bathroom, and air conditioning. Pretty comfortable, and plenty cool.
Two hour trip
It was a two hour trip to Xunantunich through forested areas and small towns. I really don’t think that there are speed limits in Belize. The bus driver was really flying and passed many trucks even though it was only a two lane road. We passed some nice areas in Belize City, and some small houses and not so nice areas. Many of the houses had bars on the windows and doors. The tour guide told us that in Belize, first the people work and save money for their house, then they build them. They add on as they have the money. No home improvement loans for them.
Carolyn, our guide, told us about the area as we rode along. Since this was an MSC cruise and a lot of Europeans were on board, they had prerecorded audio tours for anyone who did not speak English, along with headphones, so they could follow along.
Xunantunich (Maiden of the Rock)
Once we got to the pyramid we got out of the bus, then had to get on a hand cranked ferry to cross the small river. On the other side we got into vans and went the last mile up the mountain. In this area you will find clean restrooms and a small store with snacks and bottled water. You will see armed guards walking around the area.
After that you still have to walk a good distance up the mountain to the ruins. There are several small ruins, and we were told that everything here has been restored, so it’s not all original. The best part was getting to climb to the top of the man pyramid. You can see all the way to Guatamala from up there. I’m not overly fond of heights, but I climbed to the top. It’s not an easy climb, there are a lot of stone steps and not much to hold onto. But the view is worth it! I only stayed up there long enough to take pictures and come back down. Getting back down is easier because you take a back way with more handrails.
Our tour guide told us about the entire area, the we walked back down the hill, took the vans back down to the bottom of the mountain, and waited for the ferry. This is also an automobile ferry, so we had to wait for cars to come and go, then get on ourselves. There were some tiny little blue birds sitting on the ferry. Don’t know what they were.
On the other side of the small river, they had a small straw market with local venders. I would have liked to shop, but the tour guide rushed us past because we were running late. We had no time to shop before lunch in San Ignacio.
I’m not sure of the name of the restaurant in San Ignacio, but I believe it was called the Marimba Cafe. We’ve eaten there once before, and liked it. We only had 30 minutes to eat, but as soon as we sat at a table in the open air restaurant, they served us. We had Jerk Chicken, rice and beans, and cole slaw. I would have loved plantains. The food was good, even though it wasn’t a huge portion.
Last time we were there I picked up some Sweet and Spicy hot sauce that I loved. But they were out of it this time which was very disappointing. I ended up with some spicy sweet pineapple hot sauce. They also had vendors with hand made goods outside the restaurant selling their wares. We didn’t buy anything, but they have a variety of goods, including Mayan calendars. Everyone takes American dollars. I would recommend this excursion. We’ve done it twice already, once on Royal Caribbean and this time on MSC.
Back to the ship
Then it was back to the bus for a two hour drive back to the ship. There was no guided tour on the way back, we just had some quiet time to relax. We got back around 4:30, and the last tender back to the ship left at 5 pm. We had just a couple of minutes to pick up a quick souvenir, then got on to the tender to head back to the ship. It was a busy day, but it was a good excursion. And we saw rain while we were on the bus, but never had to walk in any. Here’s a video of us tendering back to the ship in Belize City.
Dinner time already
We got back onto the ship, ran to the cabin, freshened up quickly, and headed to the Waves restaurant. We arrived just a bit late, the other two couples had already ordered. Our waiter took our order immediately, and we finally relaxed. One thing about the Waves restaurant is that it’s very noisy. Sometimes it’s hard to talk above the din. For someone who likes quiet, this can be hard.
I ordered some sort of tortilla as my appetizer, but it turned out to be four tortilla chips with some guacamole in the center. Not too impressive. Creole meat and potato stew was my entree, and it was very good and tender. Dessert was Key Lime Pie, also very good. My husband had a rum cake with coconut ice cream. He said that he could not taste any rum.
The show at the Broadway Theater
After dinner we headed to the early show of the evening, called Way. It started out with songs from Elton John and ended up with songs from Frank Sinatra,and turned out to be a very enjoyable show. There was a hodgepodge of songs, with a couple of opera numbers between the other songs. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it, but it is a talented group of entertainers.
Our evening decaf and dessert
We enjoyed going to the Marketplace buffet every night for some decaf coffee and dessert. If you want decaf in the restaurant, you get a packet of coffee that you mix into hot water, like Sanka. But, if you go to the buffet, you can get brewed decaf. Plus, they have a few different kinds of creamers to add to it. We walked to the outside tables, but somehow bugs had been attracted to the lights of the ship five miles from shore, and there were dead bugs all over the tables. We decided to eat indoors that night.
Calling it a night
We went back to the cabin. Our room steward told us to change our clocks back to the original time before we went to bed. I still have no idea of why we had to change our clocks to match Belize time, we’ve never had to do that before. Maybe it’s an Italian ship thing.