How do you want to celebrate your 30th birthday? My husband, Bill, asked me this a while back and I couldn’t come up with a good answer, so we tabled the discussion for a long time.
Then one of us mentioned it would be nice to resurrect a dream we’d had at 25. To celebrate that milestone birthday, we had wanted to take a big trip together. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out then for a multitude of reasons (a serious loss in the family, money, timing), but we found ourselves wondering if maybe it’d be feasible for 30.
We waffled. We were just about to pay off our joint credit card debt, so we weren’t sold on the idea of incurring more debt. We went back and forth and back and forth until finally we said: fuck it. We’re only going to turn 30 once and we might as well make a big deal of it. We decided on not just one but two trips—one near my birthday and one near his.
My birthday was up first, so when the right deal popped up, we booked a week-long western Caribbean cruise that would take us to Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. Though we’d been to Mexico before, Honduras and Belize were new to us, so we were excited. (We’d also booked this trip in the dead of winter so the idea of spending a full week in the sunshine on the beach really appealed to us.)
The trip ended up being the perfect blend of relaxing and serene and fun and exciting. We spent a lot of time laying out in the sun, drinking, sampling food, and exploring. What more can you really ask for? Here’s what we did in each port!
I turned 30 in Honduras—a phrase I can’t believe I get to say. We watched the sun rise and, for our excursion, we were taken to a private island and greeted by goddamn sea lions. Bill and I broke off from the group so I could take a picture with Ting the sea lion. I ended up getting to do a couple of tricks with him, like shaking his hand, feeding him fish, and even getting a kiss.
We wandered through the “zoo” comprised of animals that had been rescued and then found the beach, which was more picturesque and serene than I imagined. Though the day had begun a bit cloudy, by the time we’d wandered to the beach, the sun was out and the water was clear and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. We got some local beers, laid in the sun and in the shade, splashed around in the water, and relaxed. As I think of it now, I feel like I can still feel the sun on my face and hear the rustling of the trees (as well as the occasional squawk of the parrots who were nearby, but that’s all right).
Midway through the day, we got some local food including rice and beans, chicken, fish, and plantains, which I still maintain was the best food we’ve eaten on the trip. After lunch, we had opportunity to feed some monkeys as an optional part of our excursion. I was in, and Bill offered to take some photos of me. When we got to the monkey cages, we learned that Bill would have to join me in the cage while someone else took the photos, and he kindly agreed to do so, even though he wasn’t crazy about the idea—especially after they said the monkeys would gravitate toward the tallest object in the cage (AKA him).
But we were set up with two bowls of food and ushered into the cage. Two monkeys jumped onto Bill immediately and eventually some jumped on me, too. The sweet little noises they made sounded just like puppies and they were a whole lot gentler than I expected given that there were tiny mammals climbing all over our heads. Bill and I laughed a lot during these couple of minutes and it was great.
After another hour or so on the beach, we explored the replica Mayan ruins, stopped in the gift shop, and then went back to the boat, concluding what might have been my best birthday ever.
Harvest Caye, Belize
Harvest Caye is a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines, which made it the perfect destination for another beach day. It was truly stunning, both from a distance and up close—and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend the day on a private island?!
We rented a clam shell beach tent to keep us out of the sun because it was hot as early as 8 a.m. But I really loved this port and I never say no to a beach day. I even found a perfect seashell that I snuck into my bag and brought back home with me.
Costa Maya, Mexico
In Costa Maya, Bill and I (already sunburnt) opted out of spending a day on the beach and instead wandered around the shops. We caught a show featuring “pirates” (which was actually pretty good!); admired some of the Mexican wares; watched majestic dolphins playing; and drooled over some beautiful conchas. There was even a bird sanctuary featuring flamingos to check out. It was fun!
How do you say farewell to a vacation that’s already been incredible? YOU SWIM WITH DOLPHINS. Yeah, you heard me.
I’ve always loved water animals and the idea of swimming with dolphins seemed like… well, a lot like magic. Bill insisted we do it, saying we’d love it, and he was absolutely right. It was the highlight of the trip!
I was so excited that I could barely keep my cool, and when we finally got in the water with the dolphin, the trainer asked, “Is everyone excited?” and I gave such an enthusiastic “YES!” that I volunteered myself to go first. IT WAS THE BEST.
The trainer pulled me away from the group and told me to hold onto my life vest. The dolphin would then come and give me a kiss on the cheek, the trainer said. She DID. I DIED. Then I got to give her a kiss, too! The trainer instructed me to hold out my hand and the dolphin would come put her nose in my palm, but instead, she gave me ANOTHER kiss on the cheek. I felt like we were besties, obviously. Then she put her nose in my palm and I was able to pet her. For the last trick, I had to hold out both hands and touch her flippers. It was incredible and I was so, so happy, which I think you can tell from my photos.
I also loved watching Bill interact with the dolphin, too. He was so kind and gentle with her. It was sweet. And, of course, he took the best photo.
In between each trick the dolphin did, the trainer shared facts with us, let us get up close with the dolphin, and the swim wrapped with a couple of tricks. In all, we spent about an hour in the water with her, and it was glorious.
In all, the vacation was lovely and just what we needed after being vacation-free for about a year. I’d highly recommend the vacation to anyone looking for an ultra relaxing trip!