One of the best ways I have found to experience the world on a budget has to be going on cruises. On a cruise you don't have to pay for much, travel from each destination is included, food is included, and you have all the amenities of staying at a nice hotel. You can choose to go on an excursion at your destinations or relax on the beach and walk around for the day.
In 2012, I was lucky enough to go on a Carnival Cruise with my father. Our destinations were Cozumel (Mexico), Belize City (Belize), Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya (Mexico). At each of the destinations we took an excursion to have some fun or just experience part of the area. The trip was something we would never forget.
When we stepped off the ship in Cozumel, I'm not sure if the sun and clear water had me stunned or seeing the Mexican Army standing at the end of the dock. Either way, it was a great day for ATX Rails. Basically an off-road go kart that was pretty hard to steer. Off we went without guide down muddy trails – thank you to GoPro for making a waterproof/mud-proof camera that could endure the relentless shaking of this experience. The trip out took almost an hour, and when we reached our destination it was a cave filled with water. The beauty of it was amazing.
Our next stop, Belize City. Belize is where we were able to experience cave tubing. The natives to the area used to put sacrifices down the very caves in which we were currently floating (the tour guide knew that would put us all at ease). It had taken over an hour to hike up to the starting location of the cave. Carrying our tubes, we trekked through the jungle, all new sights, sounds, and smells for us Bostonians. The beauty of it was amazing. The different trees, flowers, rock formations, everything had this beauty that you don't see in New England. Back to the cave tubing, it was too dark for the GoPro to capture any video in the caves, but once we left the cave for the open air part of the experience, it was amazing. The whole excursion was basically a lazy-river ride for a person willing to hike to the start. We then got brief lessons and knowledge from the tour guide about the history of the caves and what they meant to the natives of Belize. I highly recommend this excursion if anyone is ever in Belize!
Off to Honduras! Honduras had one of the more adrenaline pumping excursions. I was finally able to go zip-lining. It was fast, fun, high, low, slow, and everything at once. Looking down from the wire to the forest floor that was so far below me – being higher than tree tops in the valley was a new experience for me. A couple of the zip-lines even made it up to 60mph, although I am sure my father was able to set a speed record as he sent some of the staff running from their posts, only to come to a controlled halt right at the last second. This excursion was not only a bonding experience in a beautiful country, but a memory that will last forever. One thing we never expected was to meet a marine, from Boston, on a beach in Honduras that sold hand-carved sculptures.
So now we are onto Costa Maya, the one real learning experience we did this entire trip. The excursion was a trip out to the Mayan ruins in the area. We climbed stairs, saw temples, and walked… there was a lot of walking! We also learned how five of the temples in this particular area lined up to tell time by where the sun was in the sky. I do not mean it told the hours, but it rather told the time of year. Depending on which temple the sun shone through they knew the different time of year it was.
In the end, cruises are a great was to see the world. You can find cruises for around $1500 a person, spend a couple hundred on excursions if you like, and see something you might never see at home. Flights may be expensive to some ports of call, but the cruise is worth it. If you want to see the world on a budget and don't want to backpack, this has to be the next best thing.