Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala along the coast of the Caribbean Sea, Belize enjoys temperatures ranging from 66-88 degrees Fahrenheit. As the only English-speaking nation in central America, Belize makes a great port stop for ships from the USA. Though they have their own Belize dollars, they happily accept American dollars from tourists.
Belize has many attractions including the unique cave tubing experience, Mayan ruins, jungle adventures including zip lines, diving and snorkeling on the second longest barrier reef in the world, and historical sites such as St. John’s Cathedral in Belize city, the oldest Anglican church in Central America. This church dates back to 1812, built from bricks brought as ballast on European ships. The former governor’s house built in 1814 now houses a museum.
Costal areas of Belize have islands, mangrove swamps and cays. Much of the inland area remains heavily forested with hardwood jungles and home to numerous species of birds and many varieties of wild orchids.
Once the capitol, Belize City sustained severe damage in a hurricane in 1961. The capitol moved inland to the new city of Belmopan, but Belize City remains the largest city in a small country. Many people in the lowland area build their houses on stilts to protect them from flooding during hurricanes.
While on the bus on our way to our cave tubing and zip line, the guide pointed out things such as a sports field donated by an American Olympic athlete with Belizian roots, and a hospital donated by and named after a German. He assured us we did not want to end up at that hospital. He also said they had a bridge paid for by China and one from Canada (I think, might have been somewhere else.) He said they’re still waiting for one from America, but I’m guessing they’ll have a long wait on that.
Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize gained independence from Britain in 1964, although it did not change the name to Belize until 1973. British soldiers still remain, mostly to prevent trouble from Guatemala, which did not recognize Belize as a country until 1991 and still would like to claim ownership of some of Belize’s land.
The colorful history of the New Hampshire sized patch of ground now called Belize includes early occupation by the Caribs and Arawaks who inhabited much of the Caribbean long before the Spaniards came. Mayans spread to Belize from Mexico’s nearby Yucatan Peninsula and flourished in the area until the arrival of the Spaniards many centuries later.
Europeans were drawn to the area in the late 1600’s, attracted by mahogany and other woods growing in the area. Over time English settlements arose and following a war with Spain, Britain won the right to claim the territory, which eventually became an official British colony. Pirates played a roll too, its shores after all are on the Caribbean.
In most tender ports the cruise ships anchor fairly close to shore, but in Belize they stay quite a distance from land. Perhaps they can’t get any closer because of the world’s second longest coral reef. The Carnival Liberty arrived at the scheduled time, but the Belizean government officials took about an hour to clear the ship, so departures on the tenders got quite a delay. Not everyone can get off the ship at once in a tender port. Each boat has a limit to how many people it can hold. People on shore excursions board according to their scheduled departure times. People without excursions go to a lounge where they get stickers indicating when they will be allowed to board a tender on a first come first served basis.
We sat in the lounge sporting our tender #1 stickers for quite some time anxiously awaiting our planned cave tubing and zip line adventure.
In most tender ports, even water based excursions require a tender trip to shore to catch the boat. In Belize though, that would require a trip to shore followed by passing the ship on the way back out. They allow boats from their official shore excursions to pick people up right at the ship. They also had to wait for clearance to leave though. When we finally boarded our tender we saw John at the other door getting on the fishing boat for his reef fishing excursion. People who did not have plans in Belize don’t seem to find much to see within walking distance of the tender pier. When visiting Belize on a cruise ship, make sure to schedule some sort of excursion. It was my favorite port of the whole trip with the unique cave tubing experience and zip line adventure.
With the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef extending from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cozumel past Belize and on to the Bay Islands of Honduras, diving and snorkeling make excellent options. Other excursions include Mayan ruins, jungle or city tours, horseback riding, kayaking, cave exploration and beaches on a private island.
Normally a cruise ship leaves port on the dot of the scheduled time. Time to leave Belize came and went, and still the ship sat at anchor. Finally, nearly an hour past departure time a very full tender arrived from shore. People must have had an all-day excursion that did not finish on time due to the late start. That is an enormous advantage of scheduling excursions through the ship because the one thing they wait for is people on an official cruise ship excursion. I’d imagine that whole boatload of people felt quite grateful for booking through the ship.