I always treasure making memories with family – all the more when we’re bonding together over something unique. That’s exactly what I set out to do with my dad, as we embarked on a stunning cruise all over the islands of North and Central America. Together with my dad, come #JuanderWithUs as we travel from the coastal city of Miami down to the islands of Cuba, Honduras, and Belize.
From our hearty Cuban lunch at the Havana 1957 restaurant, we hurried down to the port of Miami by 3pm, where the large Norwegian Escape ship was waiting. As we aimed to go back to Florida after the cruise, we simply left most of our bags at the hotel.
Stepping inside, we were greeted by our porters, who were kind enough to offer us champagne while we waited at the lounge. With most of the employees here being Filipino, my dad and I both felt a sense of comfort – it’s like being at home away from home!
We were then escorted to our hotel room aptly called the Haven Suite. with the pleasant interiors and the convenient amenities inside, it was like staying at a relaxing sanctuary above the ocean.
Right after, we had our dinner at the nearby Food Republic, where we sampled a wide variety of Japanese fusion dishes – it’s like taking a bite of the Japanese and American culinary scene all at once!
I then called it a night, as we were about to sail off the United States and into the now-open Caribbean island of Cuba.
As day two of our relaxing cruise arrived, we had finally arrived to the town of San Felipe, right after we had our amazing Western-style breakfast by the sea.
Afterwards, I continued my day exploring the cruise’s various facilities, from the spa, the fitness center, as well as the Jacuzzi. I first went to the Pulse Fitness Center, and The Haven Courtyard, where one could enjoy peace and quiet away from the partying crowds. Then, I headed into the Mandara Spa and Salon for a stone therapy session. While I’ve had my fair share of spa sessions elsewhere, I’d say that this was the best I’ve had so far, with the expert services of the therapists and their high-tech amenities.
With my mind and body fully relaxed, I decided it was time to check out the Norwegian Escape’s notable entertainment, as I dropped by the theater in time for a concert by The Company Men.
As the day went along, we celebrated our second day with a fun cocktail party courtesy of our Captain, Capt. Niklas Persson who introduced us to his crew. Chatting with him, I got to know how fulfilling it is to run a ship when you’re with people you’ve come to treat as family.
I then came across a fun game show dedicated to the newlyweds onboard, where the contestants tested whether or not they truly knew their significant others.
It was then time for another delicious dinner, with a sizzling spectacle of teppanyaki prepared right in front of us – made even more exciting with the world-class humor of our Filipino cooks!
After dinner, I dropped by the beautiful selection of art at the nearby Park West Auctions area. While the auction itself was still a few days away, it was amazing to see the variety of contemporary American art together in the same room.
Then, I ended my night with another sweet treat: a strawberry chocolate surprise artfully prepared for me and my dad,
The sun then rose up on our third day, as we docked by the mysterious Roatan Bay Islands in the Central American country of Honduras. Not knowing much about the country, this proved to be a great opportunity to explore its culture and meet its people further.
Docking at the port, we then embarked on a day trip into the island’s green jungles and mangrove forests.
Our first stop was Punta Gorda, known to be the oldest inhabited settlement in the Bay Islands, being found way back in the year 1797. From the untouched foliage, to the charming cultural performances of the locals, to the colorful handicrafts, it was a great look into another unexpected side of Latin America.
We then visited the nearby Brick Bay, where we hopped on a boat ride across the bay’s refreshing blue waters and intriguing shipwrecks.
After our Honduras tour, we then headed back to our ship for a relaxing lunch, as my dad and I feasted on special entrees prepared for us by the kind Filipino restaurant managers, who often treat their countrymen with exclusive dishes onboard.
All that exploring and dining called for another spa treatment of course! Once again, I headed into the Mandara Spa and Salon – but this time for a revitalizing hydra-lift facial therapy treatment.
While I wanted to stay in the spa for the rest of the day, I soon felt the urge to get up and explore more of the cruise. Thankfully, there was the nearby Thomas Kinkade exhibit, where me and a handful of other guests admired the works of one of America’s most celebrated and collected artists. Looking at his contrasting paintings, I realized that I just had to buy some pieces for myself.
As dinnertime came, my dad and I headed into a steakhouse called Cagney’s , where we definitely set aside our calorie-counting to enjoy our fill of grilled meat and seafood creations.
After our dinner, we then paid the theater a visit once more, where we watched a nerve-wracking round of the cruise’s take on the famous game show Deal Or No Deal.
The entertainment didn’t end with Deal or No Deal however, as we also witnessed a series of great performances with the high-energy musical, which went on until after midnight. Soon, it was time for bed, with our fourth day having already begun.
Morning then came as we reached the small island country of Belize, a former English colony that felt more Caribbean than its Latin American neighbors. Breakfast soon followed, served to us by two fellow Filipinos with a charming sense of humor.
As we then boarded our tour buses, I felt excited the same way before we explored Honduras. Belize was another country I haven’t heard much of, which was why I was curious to see what sets it apart from its Latin American neighbors.
We then reached our first stop, the small but colorful Independence Village, whose houses were painted in lovely pastel pinks, greens, and blues. There were also ice-cold bottles of local beer prepared for us. I could certainly see the British and Caribbean influence here!
After staying at the village for a bit, we then headed off to our next destination, the secluded Mango Creek, a beachside community just close by where one could try out extreme sports like skydiving and swimming with the sharks.
Soon after however, we traded our peace and quiet for a more vibrant atmosphere at an island called Harvest Cay, a private oasis owned by Norwegian Escape itself.
From the Latin-style dinners we’ve had, it was nice to get an Italian dinner for a change at La Cucina, where we were served hearty portions of seafood pasta and cheese.
Heading back onto the Norwegian Escape, we spent the rest of our night in Belize at the Park West Art Auctions, where several high-profile pieces were presented and auctioned off to a few guests.
As the fifth day arrived, it was then announced that we had to skip the rest of our itinerary in Mexico, and head back to Florida so that the guests could prepare their homes for the incoming hurricane. With about four more days till our next flight, we had enough time to spare for some more relaxation.
For our next order of the day, we headed into the cruise’s photography studio for a series of lessons. I thought this was the perfect time to capture more memories with my dad, especially with the resident photography expert together with us.
From Japanese, to Latin, and Italian fare, it was then time to switch up our culinary palate once more at the Moderno, a Brazilian restaurant where we we delighted in the expansive buffet and massive slabs of meat sliced for us by the chefs.
I then called it a night with my dad, as we continued to enjoy and relax onboard the ship.
Day six then came, as we further explored what the Norwegian Escape had to offer. Craving for a breakfast that reminded us of home, I requested for plates of tapsilog for me and my dad, which the hospitable crew cooked for us right away.
As we headed back to Miami, we were informed that our cruise would luckily escape the impact of Hurricane Irma, which was projected to make landfall in Florida in a few days.
Receiving the good news, my dad and I were in for another surprise. We were told that our suite would be upgraded. Stepping inside, we were glad to see how grander the interiors were, even compared to our first suite.
With still a lot of time to spare onboard, I then helped myself to another spa treatment at the Mandara, this time availing their unique Ioniphermie, or detox treatment.
Then, I joined my dad for another seafood dinner, where we tried out a variety of elegantly plated prawn and fish dishes.
More entertainment followed, with the hilarious Dino Archie at the nearby Headliners Comedy Club.
Dropping by the Atrium theater, we then watched another live game show called Who’s The Boss, where the mood seemed to be more relaxed than usual.
Soon, we were about to leave Miami right before Hurricane Irma came. It was a good call, as we heard how many cities and towns in Florida felt the full impact of the storm, though the state was thankfully spared of the devastation other parts of the world are familiar with.
Waking up the next day, I tried to explore a few more amenities of the cruise I haven’t been to, including the mighty Rope Course and Aqua Loop water park, where my dad and I decided to simply look around.
Focusing more on wellness, I also dropped by a body detoxification seminar, where I learned a few useful tips from the fitness expert.
Afterwards, more quality time followed, as I surprised my dad with a heartwarming slideshow of our photos. Watching it together turned this supposedly frightening situation into something that brought us closer as father and son. More than any exciting sight or delicious plate of food, I thought that this was the biggest highlight of our trip by far.
After this great bonding moment, we continued our day with another Filipino-style lunch courtesy of our butler, who served us a special plate of ginataang manok.
More relaxation then followed by the pool, as I laid down to read a book. With a cold margarita and a plate of toasted peanuts by my side, I truly felt like a pampered guest onboard.
Finishing my poolside reading, I then visited the nearby The Cellars bar to sample a few wines, which tasted wonderful as expected.
I then followed it up with another detoxification treatment, just to make sure we haven’t been indulging too much on our trip!
Right after, I walked past by the pool area, where many guests were all ready to party. Still, my dad and I preferred another quiet dinner, this time with a plate of pork adobo, while we continued to talk about good times over even greater food.
Ending our tour of Central America, my dad and I were up for another exciting adventure in Mexico, as the Norwegian Escape docked at the popular beach city of Cozumel. #JuanderWithUs for part 3 of our blog, as we make even more spectacular memories and experience one of Latin America’s most popular destinations.