How did we end up here? We've lived in Northern Illinois for 22 years. Way too long for this vegetarian! Thankfully, we're only a Metra ride away from Chicago.

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. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Floating with the Fishes

We road tripped to New Orleans last week and hopped aboard the NCL Dawn. We booked within 30 days of sailing and reserved a guaranteed balcony for three of us for the price most people pay for one person. The Statue of Liberty was pointing at our room.

Our first stop was Cozumel,Mexico. We all went on a snorkeling excursion at three different sites. Our boat was this cute wooden boat.

The current was crazy strong at 2 of the spots but was so worth it when I spied this green turtle!

Our next stop was Roatan Honduras. We headed to West Bay Beach for the day. I booked the taxi/chair rental through Shore excursioneer. We were able to swim out to the wall of the Reef directly from the shore. It was amazing!

We stopped at the Roatan Rum Company for rum tasting on the way back to the ship. There was a great view of the beach we left behind the rum store.

Our third port was Belize City,Belize. Two of us headed to snorkel for the day and visit the island of Caye Caulker. We booked our excursion through Coral Breeze Tours.

My favorite snorkel stop here was swimming with the nurse sharks and sting rays.

I could go back to the fishing island of Caye Caulker. No paved roads and the only vehicles allowed were golf carts. 

 Another interesting item we noticed in Belize was the lack of plastic bottles. All the water was served in these bags. I wonder how long it will be before the US eliminates plastic bottles too?

Our final stop of the week was Costa Maya,Mexico. We stayed right at the pier to float and snorkel the day away again.

Room service coffee in the morning was no extra charge and it was wonderful to drink coffee with a view of paradise.

This was the "sign" under my coffee.

I agree completely!

We had a different perspective of Jackson Square from the Mississippi River coming back to New Orleans port.

The three of us had a great week.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beautiful Caribbean

Our trip started on New Year's Eve aboard Amtrak via the "City of New Orleans". Because of flooding of the Mississippi River we ended up being bussed around the track flooding from Southern Illinois to Memphis, TN.
The train was a great way to ease into vacation. 
New Orleans was freezing cold! Good thing we dressed for Chicago weather when we left.
We rode the streetcars, visited the French Market, and stayed in the Garden District for a few days.
We were all ready to set sail for the warmer and sunnier Caribbean Islands.
After a couple of days at sea we arrived at our first stop,Island #1-Grand Turk.
We spent the day lounging on the beach right at the cruise terminal. Our boat, the Carnival Dream, looked huge compared to this Princess Cruise Boat on it's journey around the world. 
We spent the next day at sea before arriving at Island #2-Aruba. We spent the day on beautiful powdery white sand beaches and visiting a bar with great views of those beaches.
The next day we were on to our third island-Bonaire. We rented a car and headed to go kayaking in these beautiful clear waters.
And through the protected Mangroves.
Viewing beautiful flamingos in the wild.
We stopped at a local distillery and bought some delicious cactus liquor before heading back on board.
During our next sea day I went to the ship salon and shortened my hair by about 10". 

Our next stop(Island #4)-St. Kitts. We decided to rent scooters for the day. It was fun but terrifying as we had to get used to riding on the "wrong"/left side of the road.
We visited Caribelle Batik.
And drank some local rum while sitting in the rain forest.
We rode to a spot where we could view the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Caribbean Sea on the other.

The next day we rented a car in Antigua(Island #5). Not only was I driving on the left side of the road but the driver's side was on the right side of the car. We headed to the north east side of the island to Devil's Bridge, a natural limestone bridge crossing the waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Beaches were beautiful here.
We were unable to dock at our last island, St Marten due to large ocean swells so we had one more beautiful day at sea. 
Over the days on the ship there were delicious mojitos.
Mini Golf with the family on the top deck.
Formal dinners with my Mom and Dad.
Ping Pong at Midnight.
Cribbage games, coffee drinking and knitting on Lido deck.

Lots of relaxing and goofing around as a family.
And one of my favorite things, watching the sun sink into the sea.
It was hard to get on the plane in Puerto Rico knowing we were heading back to temps that were 80 degrees colder. 
I am so very thankful to have made some beautiful memories with my family.