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Written by Jill Tribell.

We have a list of vacations that we would like to take hanging up on our refrigerator. Since this year marks our 30th wedding anniversary, we thought we’d choose an extra special item from our wish list to celebrate.

Planning for a Caribbean cruise for the first time is just as exciting and overwhelming as you might expect. We looked at cruise lines and itineraries until we were thoroughly confused. Then we started again, this time we looked at places we would like to visit and the dates we had to work in.

We chose to travel on the Costa Cruise Line because they were Italian owned and traveled by many non-Americans. We found a wonderful European flavor to the ship and people from all over the world were our traveling neighbors. The activities and announcements on the ship were all done in five languages! Many of the crew even spoke all five! Since we only spoke English, we were quite impressed with their linguistic accomplishments.

Our first port of call after leaving Ft. Lauderdale was Key West, FL. What a fun place to spend a day. We rented a scooter and traveled all around the town, stopping to have lunch in Hemingway’s old haunt; Sloppy Joe’s. They have the best key lime pie we had ever tasted.

The second stop on our travels was Progresso, Mexico. Here, we signed up for a land excursion to view the ancient Mayan ruins. Our guides were very knowledgeable, and showed us many points of interest. We got caught out in a huge rainstorm, not very pleasurable at the time but it makes for funny memories. Because of the rain, we couldn’t climb the pyramid, so we will just pretend we are in this picture.

One of the highlights of the trip was swimming with the stingrays in the Grand Cayman Islands. It was like being with a pack of rambunctious dogs-they rubbed up against your legs and nuzzled you, looking for food.

This vacation was all we had hoped it would be. We had a table for two next to a window in the dining room. There was a myriad of activities to choose from each day and evening. We tried to mix outings, mingling with others and some alone time into the week. The cruise was the perfect way to do it all without making ourselves crazy. We just decided what things interested us and someone else did all the work setting them up, all the while making us feel as though we were in charge!