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Cave Tubing in Belize: My Favorite Shore Excursion for a Caribbean Cruise

Summer is finally here and for those who like to procrastinate (ahem, like me) it’s time to start making last minute vacation plans. I was at a rehearsal dinner last night for a friend’s wedding and travel plans were a hot topic of discussion.

I am usually pretty shy around new people, but when the couple next to me said they were considering taking a cruise I had to speak up. The husband was all for it, but the wife who described herself as an adventure lover was worried that the pace of a cruise would be too slow.

“Aren’t cruises only for people past retirement age?” She asked.

This is where I spoke up maybe a little too loudly to say, “Whoa! No way!”

It’s kind of ironic that I found myself spending the next half hour talking up cruises because a few years ago I posed the exact same question to my husband when he suggested we book one. It only took one 7-day trip to the western caribbean to change my mind about them and four cruises later I am hooked. They are designed for those who love adventure. 

With a mother in the Army and a father that was born and raised in East Germany, I have done a lot of traveling in my life, but some of the very best memories occurred while on shore excursions during a cruise. My most favorite travel memory, and the story I recounted for the reluctant traveler last night, was the time my husband and I went cave tubing in Belize.

I feel I should tell you up front that I am afraid of the dark, terrified really. So what possessed me to go traipsing through the caves of the Maya Mountains I will never know, though I think it was the promise of a hike through the rainforest.

Our day began with a 37-mile bus ride through Belize, an eye-opening experience in itself and one that challenged a misconception I had that having only  a day in each port of call wouldn’t be enough time to see much. We saw a lot of Belize that day, both city and country.

Our bus trip ended at the Caves Branch National Park where our guide gave us all headlamps and tubes before we began our hike through the jungle. I’m not sure there are words to convey the untouched beauty of Belize’s rainforest. It was nature defined and I spent the entire hike dragging my jaw along the trail behind me and frequently bumping into the person next to me because I was looking around me instead of watching where I was walking.

Our hike ended at the mouth of a cave where our guide instructed us to hop in the water and link our tubes up with the other hikers. The water was crystal clear and the temperature of bathwater. Heaven.

Once everyone was settled we were on our way. I was nervous as we reached the tunnel and my anxiety increased when we lost sight of daylight as we floated further and further underground. That’s when our guide began to point out the the sites of the cave to us. I had been in caves before in the U.S., but had never experienced them quite like this.

From the safety of my inner-tube, floating lazily along, the beam of my headlamp illuminated the breathtaking crystalline formations all around me while our guide explained the history of the cave system. Every turn of my head revealed something new and interesting to look at that was previously cloaked in darkness and the attempt to shine light on every nook and crevice of the cave passed the time quickly. Re-emerging into sunlight was bittersweet.

Cave tubing in Belize was our very first shore excursions, but it is still one my favorites.

What’s your favorite shore excursion memory?

Photo credit: Flickr

A big thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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