The Jewel is a neat ship built in 2005 and slightly smaller than others we have sailed on. One of the benefits of sailing in the off-season, is the clientele tends to be older and a lot fewer young children in the mix. But they still have the shows and clubs to visit and plenty of food (one of my personal requirements). Leaving Houston was a little weird in that it is a very narrow channel which has ships passing each other like a freeway.
The Jewel is a little low tech in that it doesn't have the rock climbing/water parks and big screen TV/Movie screen on the pool deck but it has all the other accouterments. One in particular was the Bar Hop. Since our Pub Crawl in Key West, we have decided to get into any Pub Crawl/Bar Hop stupid (but well supervised...yeah by other drunks) drinking activity we can attend. Thus the Bar Hop on the Jewel.
|Oh yeah, got the "Romance Package",|
something different everyday
|Look at all the bacon|
|Small enough for the purse or man-bag|
|Chocolate Strawberries are always good|
Now, as mentioned above, we have been to Cozumel on several occasions but try to get into a new excursion each time. In this case, I booked us into a Joy of Chocolate tour. It was described as an historical look at the discovery and production of Chocolate in Mexico.
Another Mayan grabbed his mortar and pistol (locally known as a Mexican Blender) and ground the crap out of the seeds then added some sugar (to thwart the bitterness) and vanilla to make a paste and, after drying them out, voila! hard chocolate bars. It became quite a cash crop for the Mayans who ended up using it to pay tribute to the Aztecs (kind of like what we do every year to the IRS) when they consolidated their power over southern Mexico and Central America.
After learning the history we were tasked with making our own chocolate. This was tougher than was advertised. Hey, we tourists are there to be taken advantage of, spend money and have fun. We really don't sign on for hard work. So our troop were all stationed at our respective grinders and after receiving our ration of cocoa beans, we were told to grind away to make a coarse powder. Our guide Eric then tightened up the grind wheel and we ran the powder through again. Did I mention it got progressively and significantly harder to turn that grind wheel? Three more cycles and tightenings and we were rewarded by a thick paste of chocolate (and a pulled muscle or two). But don't try to taste it....well, I did. Yes, I was told by my Mom, I was one of those kids who had to touch the hot stove or burning candle. It must have been my natural tendency to distrust authority (I am not paranoid..I know you're all out to get me).
The key is to add some coarse brown sugar and a splash of vanilla(Mexican Vanilla...the best). Another couple of grindings and a thick, bitter paste is transformed into delicious chocolate. We were given plastic forms to press our chocolate into, then passed to a freezer for a rapid cool. Once cool and dried, Dianna, because of her qualifications as a Crafter, (apparently Nick was unable to wrap a square piece of paper around a round object correctly) quickly wrapped our two pieces into a product ready for sale...in this case consumption.
Once done, we were escorted through the outdoor exhibit of miniature Mexican historical buildings and ancient sites (always cool when we visit but even we noticed the miniatures are not being taken care of...lots of little pieces falling apart or in need of repair).
There we watched the spinning guys doing their ancient rain ritual, Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (Pole Flying). These guys do this everyday and probably don't think twice about the danger but it was a little uncomfortable watching them climb up and make their preparations as we could hear the loud creaks and groans of the mechanism they freely dangled from with no net or back-up harnesses to prevent their fall. Then even weirder when you learn these guys only get paid with the Tips they ask for at the end. Or (I know..it's that paranoid lack of trust issue I spoke to above) it's a great marketing ploy...once they said that, just about everybody dropped something in the basket (yeah, me too). After some trinket buying, it was back to the ship headed for Belize.