Carnival Cruise to Mayan Peninsula (Yucatán) - 15-20 September 2012
photos by G.P. Jones using Nikon Coolpix 4300 digital
camera, except where noted
The cruise was operated by Carnival Lines on their ship christened "Triumph"
the stateroom I occupied on Deck 1 (Riviera Deck)
Porthole View (Port Side)
Before a ship is launched, a "lucky coin" is put in a box
and welded to the outside of the ship.
On the Triumph, this box was placed forward (i.e., near the front
of the ship) on this large, white structure,
just opposite the jumping-off point for the water slide
on the "Sun" Deck (Deck 12).
It's the small, dark rectangle just above the tops of the deck chairs.
The surprise is that Fincantieri, the ship's Italian builder, decided
instead of a coin, the Triumph's luck would depend on a U.S. $2 bill!,
which is a little strange, since the ship is registered in Nassau, Bahamas.
The first port of call
on its maiden voyage in 1999 was New York.
A sharp eye (and a good computer display) might see that
"1999" is inscribed in the glass (plastic) just below the bill.
Interesting (?) sidelight: when I discovered the bill in the box,
I had no idea what it meant, so I asked around, including the
people at the "Guest Services" desk, and no-one had any
The Guest Services clerk had to contact the bridge, and get back to
me later in the day with the information!
The first port-of-call, and my main reason for going on this cruise,
was Progreso, the port city for Mérida and the excusion from there
to the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá. Here we see the
customary "Tourist's Approach" to the archæological site.
This is one's first view of the great Kukulkan Pyramid, also known as
"El Castillo", built about 1,000 years ago.
is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was "voted" (!) one of
the "new seven wonders" of the world.
(Seeing this for myself makes the fourth of the seven that I've seen
in person. Big deal, eh?)
The pyramid, as one might expect, was built to correspond to the
movements of the sun, as well as tons of other symbolism in virtually
every aspect of its design. (The Mayans apparently had a lot of time
on their hands -- and yes, the pun is intended.)
My visit there was just four days before the Summer Solstice.
I was told there would be upwards of 80,000 people at the site on that day.
Seems pretty unlikely, as they'd all have to get there by bus or
car and there's basically only one road,
but hey, I never argue with tour guides.
The complex at Chichén Itzá is more, of course, than just
the imposing pyramid.
This is the Temple of the Warriors.
To the left is the base of the great Pyramid, to the right a familiar
snake-head carving, seen on many of the buildings at the site.
To the left are steps to the Platform of Venus, to the right one corner
of the Skull Platform.
Many of the stones used to build the Skull Platform are carved with
images of, well, skulls!
Here some of the skull stones support yet another snake head.
A very large structure at the edge of the main site is the Great
Ball Court, basically the Mayan's answer (or rather precursor) to
our football stadium or soccer field.
These steps lead to the top of a high wall where specatators would
watch men kicking a gum ball (I'm not making this up -- the ball was
made from resin from a gum tree!) up and down a very large field,
trying to put the ball through a stone ring on either side of
The trick was that the stone ring was near the top of the wall on
either side of the field -- about 30 feet up!
Here's the real kicker (again, the pun is intended): at the end
of the game, one of the captains was, well, decapitated (puns galore!),
and his head placed on the Skull Platform (see above) for everyone
Guess which captain? In the words of our tour guide,
"We think it was the winning team's captain"
whose head was removed, since it was considered an honor to
die for the community.
(Human sacrifice, in general, apparently was common among the Mayans.)
Familiar snake-head carvings on the Platform of Venus.
The second port-of-call was Cozumel.
All I saw of this port was the rip-off district, namely the
shops and hucksters between the pier and the taxi stand.
Not a very interesting day, so I just took this picture of the
two Carnival ships -- the Triumph on the right, and the Legend on the
left -- docked at Puerta Maya, Cozumel.
After the cruise, I had (wisely) scheduled two days in Galveston.
Here, from the center of Galveston Island, the Carnival Triumph's
smokestack and upper decks can be seen.
Galveston's Opera House was built in 1894, and survived the Great Storm
of Saturday, 8 September 1900 which pretty much flattened most of the city.
After that storm, the City built a 17-foot seawall along the Southern
shore, and -- incredibly -- raised the surface of the island itself
by jacking up the buildings, even the enormous churches, and filling
in sand underneath.
(This astounding undertaking is described in full at
and is worth reading.)
In the XIXth century, many of Galveston's men went to sea for extended
periods of commercial fishing.
Some houses were fitted with observation porches on top, where their
wives would go to see when (or if) their husbands' ships were returning.
For what may be obvious reasons, these porches became known as
The original Sacred Heart Catholic Church was destroyed in the 1900 storm.
This is the replacement, consecrated in 1904, with modern rubble
in the foreground.
Across the street from Sacred Heart Church, the Walter Gresham family
built their remarkable Victorian-style mansion between 1887 and 1893.
In 1923, when the Gresham family was finished with it, they sold their
home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston as a residence for
the Bishop and other Clergy of the Church.
The home is now known as the Bishop's Palace, and operates as a museum.
The Gresham home was built entirely of stone and was strong enough to
survive the Great Storm of 1900.
The Greshams sheltered hundreds of people inside their home during and
immediately after the storm.
(Historical photo from Web source.)
Even in 2012, the Bishop's Palace can be surrounded by rubble.
Some things never change.
The Great Storm of 1900 remains the most devastating natural disaster in
United States history, but it is not by any means unique in Galveston's
In 2008, Hurricane Ike again devastated the city, taking out, among other
things, many of Galveston's huge, 100-year-old oak trees.
This picture, taken in 2008 just a few months before Ike blew through,
shows the lawn just south of the Galveston Fire Department and City Hall.
Note the two large oak trees, which are soon to be history -- in more ways
(Historical photo from Web source.)
After the storm, with only stumps where mighty oaks once stood,
Galvestonians began hiring artists to carve the stumps into various
images of beauty and, in some cases, whimsy.
The two oaks in the previous picture became a fire hydrant (left) and a
dalmation (right), looking longingly in the direction of the hydrant.
(The two young trees seen in this picture were planted after Ike's
In the yard of the home at 1228 Sealy, the oak tree had begun to grow around
This gave the artist the opportunity to sculpt the family's Great Dane,
Hunter, with his paws over the railing.
Hunter (the sculpture, not the actual canine who still roams around the
yard) is often dressed for the season, inviting the inevitable thieves and
On my visit, Hunter had the red neckerchief (which you can see), and was
holding a sign (not visible from this angle) asking for return of his
Mickey Mouse ears, "no questions asked".
This sculpture is not in the tour brochure, as it is on 25th Street
(also called Rosenberg Street),
which is the main North-South street in Galveston, but
somewhat off the (Tree Sculpture) beaten path.
I think the purplish sprite at the top right is just sitting there, not
carved from the original tree trunk.
Some of these sculptures could easily be museum pieces.
There are many photographs of most of the Galveston Tree Sculptures
(some thirty or more, at least) on the Web, including much better
photos of the ones I've shown you here. I recommend the
City of Galveston
online Tree Sculpture tour.
You might also run
a Google Images (or other Web browser) search by entering simply
"Galveston Tree Sculptures" in the search field.
As one observant blogger put it, this is a prime example of
"making lemonade when life gives you lemons".
This remarkable sculpture at 1620 Sealy is by artist Dayle Lewis.
It uses the trunk and some of the remaining
branches to embody no less than 17 birds, with smaller
animals and plants carved around the base.