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Cruising off the coast of Mexico

As I See It

off the coast of mexico — I wanted a special birthday surprise for wife Debra since she was rapidly approaching one of those “0” birthdays.

My friend, Vicki Greenlee, owner of For Travelers Only in Jackson, suggested I take Debra on a cruise from New Orleans to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. This sounded pretty special — and pretty expensive.

However, the cost was much less than I expected, and I booked the cruise.

We left New Orleans late on a Monday afternoon, on our way to Playa del Carmen. The ship’s accommodations are impressive, and the staff-to-guest ratio (about 1:2) assures pampering.

And pampered we’ve been.

Our ship is the Holiday, operated by Carnival Cruise Lines. On board are about 1,600 passengers and 700 crew. There are 10 deck levels in all. This is one big boat!

The ship has satellite TV, but, obviously, no cable. Newspapers are not to be had either. Therefore we’ve been pretty much out of touch with the news during the trip. It’s a little disconcerting for a newspaper publisher, but the many activities and some good books have eased the pain considerably. Plus, being out-of-touch for a few days has helped alleviate the information overload to which we are otherwise subjected.

We’ve toured Tulum, a Maya ruin site, and taken a submarine trip down 100 feet to a coral reef marine park. The water is very clear at Cozumel. We watched the fish going about their business as if they were in an aquarium. Of special interest, our tour guide for the Tulum trip was of Mayan descendent.

The ship has food available in several different settings. Formal dining and informal dining — your choice. For those troubled by hunger-induced insomnia, pizza is available 24-hours a day.

The formal dining is a neat experience. The waiters are from varied backgrounds and do more than just serve food and drink. In the restaurant we’ve been assigned to, the waiters were from 29 different nationalities. Our table waiter is from Rumania while the headwaiter is from Croatia. Each evening, the waiters do something a little special. Most nights they sang. Occasionally, they dance. In addition to the entertainment, did I mention the food was excellent? Well, it is.

Well, how much has all this cost? Less than I expected, but not an inconsequential amount. The cruise tickets themselves cost about $550 each. This covers all food and basic mealtime beverages. Beer, wine and liquor are extra. Tips for the hired help come at the end of the cruise and run about $60 for two passengers. So, theoretically, if you only cruised and skipped the alcohol, the total cost would be the ticket plus the tip. Probably nobody has ever gotten off that light.

Incidental expenses, in addition to beverages, include buying pictures of yourself taken by the ship’s photographers, excursions on shore and the standard coffee mugs and t-shirts available at shops on board. And, the Mexicans always have some stuff they would like to sell you.

Many Mississippians are probably not aware that a nice cruise such as the one we took can be enjoyed for such a modest price and in addition, departs within easy driving distance of our state. Many of the passengers we met had flown from Ohio or New York and, thus, had an airfare cost that we did not.

These cruises operate throughout the year and could make a nice bonus gift for an especially effective employee. I think that giving an employee a cruise as a reward for superior service may make a more lasting impression than a cash bonus of a similar amount. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and plan to cruise again at some future time.

Cruise tickets can be obtained from travel agents or over the Internet. I understand that the prices start falling as the departure date draws closer. So, a gambler could hold out until just a few days before sailing and save some dollars. However you arrange to go, the trip is relaxing and something that will be remembered for years to come.

Thought for the Moment —

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.

— President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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