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We arrived in Cozumel early in the morning. We were booked on an Atlantis Submarine Tour, but the sea looked pretty rough. I suspected that the submarine shore excursion might be cancelled, so I stopped by the shore excursions desk before leaving the ship. Sure enough, almost all ocean-related shore excursions had been cancelled. The poor guy working the desk was taking all sorts of abuse from a couple of passengers upset about their shore excursion being if the rough seas were somehow his fault. Eventually, they left without booking any shore excursion. They seemed to think that they could find an independent tour operator that would take them snorkeling, and their backup plan was to find a bar and drink. I decided to book the Cozumel Highlights and Shopping Tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Our tour met in the central plaza, just a few minutes walk from the ship. We boarded a large motorcoach and headed out for our first stop, Discover Mexico. Discover Mexico is a park that allows visitors to explore the history and culture of Mexico through a series of movies, exhibits, and some very impressive and detailed models of Mexico's major historical sites. First, we stopped at a giant wall map, where our guide gave us an overview of Mexico's history and geography. Next, we watched a short film showing incredible scenes from all over Mexico. After that, we walked through a gallery displaying local arts and crafts. There were a lot of beautiful and colorful pieces here, but one of my favorites was a rooster made out of chili peppers.

Discover Mexico Cozumel - Rooster made from chili peppers

We then went outside and looked at some of the incredible models of various historical sites located throughout Discover Mexico's park. I'm not sure if these models are laid out in chronological order, but our tour started with some of Mexico's most famous ancient Mayan sites. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Mexico's history, and you could tell he was passionate about his job. The information he provided was very interesting and detailed, yet he kept everyone entertained.

Discover Mexico Cozumel - Mayan sites

Although our guide had a very diverse ethnic background that included Spanish, Italian, and Chinese, he said he was "mostly Mayan," and he was clearly very proud of his Mayan heritage. He talked at great length about the ancient Mayans and their traditions, and he also explained how misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar has led many to incorrectly conclude that the world is going to end in 2012. In 2012, the current Mayan long count calendar will end, and a new one will begin, just as other counting schemes in the Mayan calendar do. He added that the ancient Mayans made calculations that extend well beyond 2012, and he found it strange that non-Mayans are obsessed with the Mayan calendar and 2012, yet completely ignore what the ancient Mayans actually believed.

Next, we drove to Cedral, which is the oldest settlement in Cozumel. Here there was a small Mayan temple ruin, which is the only remaining part of a once much larger complex. Next to the Mayan ruin was a small Catholic church. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer allowed inside the Mayan temple because of vandalism. Next to the Mayan temple and Catholic church was a plaza with shops along one side. The focus here was jewelry as well as more typical souvenir type stuff.

Mayan temple Cedral Cozumel

After a short visit, we got back on the bus and headed to a very interesting rock formation called El Mirador. Located along Cozumel's beach on the "wild side" of the island, these formations include blowholes, tide pools, and spires. We stopped at a popular photo spot, and like anywhere in Cozumel with a large number of tourists, there were shops selling souvenirs, snacks, and beer. Since our next stop was going to be a Tequila Hacienda, I decided to buy a bag of Ruffles potato chips so I would at least have something in my stomach before sampling their tequila.

El Mirador Cozumel

Hacienda Antigua is a visitor center owned and operated by the company that makes Cava Antiqua Tequila. Here you can see how tequila is made, although they don't actually produce tequila here. Just like you can't make authentic Champagne outside the Champagne Region of France, authentic tequila can only come from the area surrounding Tequila, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Unlike inferior brands like Jose Cuervo, Cava Antigua Tequila is made from 100% Blue Agave. I have never been a fan of tequila before, but I actually liked all of the different types of tequila available here for sampling. These 100% Blue Agave tequila's didn't have that somewhat nasty taste I typically associate with tequila. Some of their flavored tequilas were downright tasty, and their plain varieties were powerful but very smooth. If you have never tried a 100% Blue Agave tequila before, I suggest you give it a try. It is vastly superior to the stuff usually passed off as tequila here in the US.

Tequila Factory Cozumel

After walking through the educational section, where a guide talked about how tequila is made, we paid a visit to everyone's favorite part of the tour...the tasting room. They had all of their varieties available for sampling, and many visitors (including myself) sampled all of them. Unfortunately, I had to pass on buying a large bottle because of weight and the potential for breakage. However, I bought a few small bottles including a plain, chocolate, and cream-flavored tequila that tasted a bit Bailey's. Unlike larger bottles, our guide said these smaller bottles don't need to be checked when passing through ship's security. Since I didn't intend to drink them in my cabin, it didn't really matter to me, but I guess some guests want to drink them on the ship. Usually passengers want to brink their own alcohol on the ship because they feel alcohol on the ship is overpriced. However, considering the cost of Cava Antigua Tequila, saving money would definitely not be a good reason for bringing a bunch of tiny bottles onto the ship. Personally, I've never been too shocked by the price of alcohol on cruise ships. Although it certainly isn't cheap, it generally isn't any more expensive than in a nice bar in a big city.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time sampling all the tequilas, but it was time to move on. We hopped back on the bus and headed for a shopping area not far from the cruise port. Our guide did an excellent job pointing out important and interesting sites along the way. As we drove through the shopping area, he recommended a restaurant named Tiki Tok, located along the main drag. Since I was a bit hungry, I decided to give Tiki Tok a try.

Tiki Tok Restaurant Cozumel

Tiki Tok is a Mexican-style tiki bar featuring Mexican food, hamburgers, sandwiches, and some South Pacific-inspired "international" dishes like "Pineapple Curry Fish Fillet." The service was good and fast. I opted for fish tacos, which were listed on a section of their menu called "Traditional Mexican Food." They were excellent, although I did get them with cheese, which probably isn't very authentic. At least they used Mexican queso blanco instead of the yellow cheese sometimes found in Mexican restaurants in the US. Prices here were not cheap by Mexican standards, but my tacos, a Coke (made without high fructose corn syrup), and a Dos Equis came to less than $15.

Fish Tacos Tiki Tok Cozumel

After finishing my tacos, we got back on the bus for a short ride back to the cruise port. Here we had a few minutes to shop before heading back to the ship. Cruises provide an excellent opportunity to sample a bunch of different vacation destinations on a single trip. While some tourists find cruise visits frustrating short, I consider them very helpful in finding future destinations I would like to explore in more depth. I will definitely be returning to Cozumel.



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