Okay.. first questions. Formal = long gown or cute little black dress with pumps? I would prefer to have a nice casual dinner and pictures with water and/or the boat in the background. Is that an option? Do I really want to hang out with the captain with 2k of my closest (not) friends in a long dress and panty hose on my vacation?
Next... only want to do one excursion and really just spend as much other time on a beautiful beach in my bikini with fantastic water and drinks with umbrellas. Best bet?
Next... read that I can take non alcoholic drinks. Does that mean a 12 pack of Diet Coke and/or water or what quantity is advisable?
Umm... I think that is it for now. Thanks for the tips so far. Any advice for when you park, etc?
REPLY TO LHP: My son graduated from Long Beach High 2002. Recently graduated from USM and is leaving on his first cruise Thursday morn! He's one up on me. Mom is flying solo for the first time since he was born! No wonder I'm so scared!
We take about 2 twelve-packs of soft drinks for four of us. Two six-packs when there are two. There has never been a problem, even during the period when Carnival said they could confiscate all outside beverages. My wife and daughters wear nice dresses with pumps, forgoing the "prom" dress look. I wear a dark suit, no tux for me.
Beaches are plentiful and easy in both Cozumel and at Costa Maya. The Chacchoben ruins tour at Costa Maya is terrific (if you like that kind of thing, and I do) and short enough to get you back in time to spend a little while on the beach before reboarding the ship.
There are many beaches and some great shopping available in Cozumel. I tend to take a tour on the mainland and just relax on Cozumel. I have rented a car on Cozumel twice to just go exploring, but I don't recommend that for a first timer (unless you are fluent in Spanish). My wife with or without family and I have been to Cozumel five times, Costa Maya once and Calica twice. We are going back in September. We'll probably go back again. We love it!
Our family of four were on the Holiday in June. For formal night, I'd do the little black dress. That way you can move on to some dancing after dinner with any new friends. The meet-the-captain affair does include *free* drinks and hors oeuvers - if your goal is to meet other people, it's a great inexpensive way to do it. As for photos, they have several photographers at different spots on the ship, but they all are indoor, with fake backgrounds. Bring a camera and ask someone to take your picture off the back of the ship. As for drinks, I was more comfortable brushing my teeth with bottled water. The water sometimes ran a bit rusty-colored, though my teens were OK with it. If you plan on staying in your room alot, bring your own soft drinks. Otherwise get out, get a drink and mingle!
Good luck! I know you'll have fun!
What is there to do on Costa Mayo? Not very much, except a high-price fake mexican village right at the pier. There are tours into the interior to see lake Bacalar or mayan ruins, which I have done and love to do. The cruise line has arranged for 4-wheeling and beach party excursions which I don't really care for. The beach in town is nice and the people will take great care of you. You can lounge on the beach, get a massage and do some limited shopping. You can take a taxi to town for about $3 and back to the boat for the same price. If you arrange a tour, they will either take you back to the ship or to town, where you will have to get your own transportation. It's about two, maybe three, miles from town to the cruise pier.
Which is the best place to shop? Cozumel far and away a better place to shop. You should have time to spend two or three hours at a beach and then spend two or three hours downtown shopping. I've never taken a Carnival tour on Cozumel. Your ship docks either downtown or short taxi ride away. On our second visit we rented a car to just drive around see things. That was great, but again, I don't recommend it for first-timers.
I don't know if this has been helpful. In Cozumel there is SOOOO much to do. At Costa Maya the choices are more limited, but I had a great time there and can't wait to get back in September.