How did we end up here? We've lived in Northern Illinois for 23 years. Way too long for this vegetarian! Thankfully, we're only a Metra ride away from Chicago.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cruising, Diving, and Ukuleles!

We are just returning from an adventure cruising to the Sea of Cortez. Of course within hours of landing in CA the guys had to stop at their favorite burger joint, In-N-Out Burger.

We boarded the Star Princess in San Pedro, CA.

 Our first stop was San Diego. We walked all along the waterfront(about 4.5 miles!) but Finn really wanted to tour the USS Midway aircraft carrier. We didn't expect it to take so long to tour. But he really enjoyed seeing what life is like on a carrier. The view from the carrier was beautiful.

The day we were there the US Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, landed on the flight deck of the Midway. It was pretty awesome.

After the Midway tour we traveled over to a local brewery,Bolt Brewery, before heading back to the ship.

The next day was a sea day which meant time for ukulele.

We were part of a group of 100 ukulele players on this cruise. It was my first time having to follow a schedule and attending workshops on a vacation.

Our first sea day also meant our first formal night for dinner. It was nice to see my Mom and Dad every night too.

Our first port was Cabo San Lucas,Mexico. It was a tender to shore port which gave us a great view of the arch.

We booked a two tank scuba with Eagle Divers. It was just the two of us so we ended up having private dives with the dive master. 

We saw a white tipped shark hanging out in a cave and several schools of fish.
 There was alot of boat traffic in this area so it was pretty noisy underwater which felt weird.

The next day we were in La Paz,Mexico.We booked a full day excursion with Dive in La Paz. They picked us up with the dive boat right at the cruise ship dock! We headed to our first dive at Swanee Reef. Loads of beautiful fish and starfish here.

Our next dive in La Paz was at San Rafaelito Island. Visibility was poor but we managed to "bump" into a few sea lions taking a swim here.

Then we headed closer to La Paz to swim with whale sharks. These are such magnificent creatures. They are so large and swim so fast it was hard to keep up with them. I could have spent the entire day here!

Next stop,Loreto,Mexico. 

All five of us took a day excursion to Coronado Island via Land and Sea Tours

We had an opportunity to swim with sea lions.

We spied a couple of blue footed boobies along the way.

We spent a few hours on this beautiful beach and had a wonderful lunch prepared for us right at the beach. A few other boats headed over to this beach too! 

When we got back into town we toured Our Lady of Loreto Mission Church
 and had a nice stop at a cafe before calling it a day.

The next day was another sea day.

Then it was off to Puerto Vallarta. Unfortunately we arrived an hour later than expected and missed our dive boat by 15 minutes. So we headed next door for an hour massage!

We spent some time walking around the marina playing "spy the iguana".

We headed back to the ship port to enjoy a few cervezas with my family.

Before leaving this port we stopped across the street at a Walmart. These were displayed in a "bag it yourself" seafood aisle!

Leaving Puerto Vallarta I enjoyed watching the sun sink into the sea.

We enjoyed a couple of sea days before returning home. Unfortunately, there were two medical emergencies on our ship on the way home. One person was able to get to the hospital via tender boat transfer when we passed Cabo but the second, an employee, had to be airlifted via coast guard.

Our last sea day included a finale performance of "Five Foot Two" by the uke group in the ship's atrium. Even the captain showed up to watch.

My Dad won a couple of raffles with the uke group. One was a baby uke made/donated by OHana that he let me take home. It's adorable!

Thanks so much Mom and Dad, we all had a great time! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Caribbean Love

This was our fifth trip to the Caribbean and I'm still in love with the islands, the sea, and the locals who call this beautiful part of the world home.
Our ship for this trip was Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam. We left from Fort Lauderdale Port Everglades. Unfortunately there was a shooting at the airport the day we left so our ship delayed it's sailing for six hours to try to accommodate crew and passengers stuck on the tarmac at the airport.

After a day at sea we arrived at the first of seven in a row ports of call. Beautiful Tortola in the BVI. I rented a car and proceeded to drive us all around the island. We stopped at Stoutt's Lookout Bar for a painkiller for the husband and one heck of a view of Cane Garden Bay. 

The owner was super friendly and helped me navigate to Smuggler's Cove. The road to this beach resembles a "walking path" and I will never attempt to drive here again. We had the beach to ourselves and some good snorkeling right off shore.

Next stop was Bomba Surfside Shack. I stayed just long enough to enjoy a Carib beer but that was too long for my travel companions. They did not enjoy the atmosphere of this bar.

Next stop was the Callwood Rum distillery where I sampled their rum and brought a bottle home.

We wanted to check out a beach on the other side of the island so I drove to Long Bay Beach on Beef Island. Beautiful scenery and very few tourists around.

I returned the rental car and went over to Pusser's Pub for a drink of their famous painkiller drink before hopping aboard our ship.

The next day we were in Roseau, Dominica. We booked a tour with a local company called Nature Isle Explorers. Our guides for the day made me want to come back and spend more time on this beautiful undeveloped island. Stick me in a place with no major hotel chain or casino any day and I'll be happy. We started our day snorkeling on Champagne Reef. The reef was full of sea creatures including eels and the bubbles coming from the geothermal vents made you feel like you were snorkeling through a glass of champagne.  

 Then we drove up into the mountains to the Titou Gorge, part of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This cave-like natural gorge is a wonder and became famous for its role in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean 2. The water was freezing cold but it was beautiful.

Our last stop for the day was a hike to Trafalgar Falls.
Dominica was a beautiful island and I'd love to go back and do some whale watching and scuba.

The next day we were in Castries, St Lucia. We booked a two tank dive with Scuba Steve. They picked us up at the ship dock. Both dives were on different sites south in the Marine Reserve in Soufriere by the Pitons.
Visibility was awesome and both dive masters on our boat made us feel comfortable during our first two ocean dives.

Back at the dock we had a rum punch and a Piton beer.

Our ship cruised past the Pitons before heading to our next port of call.

The next day we were in Barbados for another 2 tank scuba dive with Ecodive Barbados. Visibility wasn't the best but we were able to see a Hawksbill sea turtle hanging out at the reef we were visiting.

Underwater selfie!

Back on shore I had another local beer to celebrate dives #3 and #4.

The full moon this night was magical.

The next day we were in Fort-de-France, Martinique. We toured the Cathedrale Saint Louis.

We walked to Le Grand Marché Couvert, or Covered Market and picked up some fresh bananas and delicious baked goods.

 We spent the rest of this day walking all around downtown.

And checking out the beach closest to town.

Our next stop-Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.
We took a water taxi into town.

We found the original Guavaberry Liquor and Rum shop where we had a tasting.

Then we hopped in a taxi and headed to Maho beach to watch the planes fly right over our heads.



So much fun!

Our next stop was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. We booked a two tank scuba through Holland America for dives #5 and #6. The crew at Underwater Safaris were great. Visibility wasn't the best but I saw my first reef shark on my first dive here. There were three of them checking us divers out. Yep, I felt like a small fish in their tank! 

We had a nice relaxing sea day for our next day and enjoyed our second gala night.

Our final day was spent on beautiful Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Crystal clear water and white sand beach.

Our ship made all the scheduled ports of call this trip and we had perfect weather for our 12 days of sailing.