Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Island Hopping

This is going to be BIG FUN (at least for me)!  I am going to recap our cruises and the excursions we took....hopefully I will be able to remember!

Here we go!

NY 2001 - Norweigian Sky
 - Grand Cayman - due to high waves, our excursion to Stingray City was cancelled.  This is still a common occurence!  If you book through the ship, go ashore and find a private tour operator at the pier and you can still go!! We didnt know this at the time so we hit the Turtle Farm instead (my son was a little one so he enjoyed it).

Sorry - he is ridiculous cute!
 - Ocho Rios, Jamaica -  We took a bus tour of Ocho Rios (thought we were going to die because of the crazy driver).

They also took us to Dunns River Falls.  Do you see how many people are here at the same time?  Excursion FAIL - again booked through the ship.  But we didnt know better!  It is still brought up as one of our "I never EVER wanna do that again!"

- Nassau, Bahamas - Key KEY lesson learned here.  Do NOT assume just because it is the Caribbean that it will be warm.  We packed like it was Spring Break in Florida and froze our balls off the whole week but Nassau...WOW.  Given it is actually not very far south, our snorkeling trip was like a polar bear plunge.  People would jump in the water and gasp like they had been sucker punched.  We got in and the snorkeling was AWESOME  even years later I remember how many and how big the parrot fish were. BUT - it was not like you were going to hang out. B-R-U-T-A-L.

We then popped over to the beach then walked around Atlantis resort.

Notice the total baller who travels with their helicopter

One of the perks of leaving port at night....pretty ship picture!

- Norweigian Private Island - (don't remember the name!, sorry!)  This was kind of a dud of a day.  The weaher was cold and there really was nothing to do except have beach day.  That said - it was very pretty and I got some good pictures.

Notice the sweatshirt!

That's it for our first cruise!  Learned a lot and we were hooked!

2002 - Norweigian Sun -

 - Grand Cayman  - We booked a Stringray City excursion through a local divemaster (which no longer operated in Cayman).  They picked us up at the ferry pier (a short tax drive from the Port).  It was a small boat and we had it all to ourself (party of 9).  I think this was my first time not going through the ship - we have been to Cayman on vacation several times so I was very comfortable that I knew what I was doing!

Stingray City is a boat ride out to a sandbar.  You cannot get it just walking out...  It gets VERY crowded.  We were just finishing when the deluge of cruise ship excursions can see how crowded those get!  The shadows in the water are stingrays!

This is a wonderful experience to interact with stringrays in a natural setting.  Don't be stupid, and get aggressive with them or start lifting them out of the water!  D-U-M-B.  I have been going for years have only a few tour operators have ever had problems and it was always because of some dumbass trying to wrestle the ray out of the water.  Most tours also go to the "coral gardens" or to 7 mile beach.  Both are loverly and a "must see" in Cayman (IMO).

 - Roatan, Honduras -

 This was a Tabyana beach day excursion for us (booked through the ship).  Roatan is a very poor, depressed environment.  When ships are in port, they let school kids out to work.  We noticed a small boy about my son's age playing a tin drum when we departed the ship (we were basically in the first group off) and he was still there playing when we got back on. Broke my heart and I still think about him every time I think of Roatan.

The beach and water were lovely - again, pretty crowded. You will generally get people walking the beach either trying to sell you something or wanting to braid your hair.  It comes with the territory of the excursions booked through the ship.

The snorkeling was marginal at best but the kids had a great time!  We stayed til most of the people had gone back...Notice the wild peacock!

After a short bus ride through some villages...we are back on the ship and on our way to Belize!

- Belize -
Again, we booked through the cruise line (rookie!).  We took a short bus ride, then short boat ride to arrive in  Lamanai.
Scary Croc in the bushes!

Mayan artifacts on display...

Our guide meets us and we have an authentic meal prepared by locals...the kids were less than thrilled with the cuisine (i.e.  NOT chicken fingers) but all was well.  After lunch we head into the jungle..he stuck a stick into a small hole and out pops...

From there we went on a large mayan ruins - some in the process of being excavated.  Was facinating for us yet a bit boring for the kids.

Back on the bus and back to port!

- Cozumel, Mexico -

We booked an excurion through Eagle Ray divers to do a 2 tank dive of Palancar Reef.  It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend Eagle Ray!

After a long day and hitting up Carlos n Charlies...

We got back to the ship and watched the stragglers who spent too much time drinking running down the pier to catch all aboard!

Next Stop Miami and back home (after one last fantastic sunset)!

2003 - I actually didnt realize until I started this post that we skipped a year without a cruise!  Totally didnt realize that!

2004 - Explorer of the Seas (Eastern) -
 - San Juan, Puerto Rico -

We took a low key option and decided to jus explore on our own.  We walked through the ciy and visited El Morro (Castillo de San Felipe del Morro).

 - St Thomas -
The day started with a gift of a rainbow...
Then a double rainbow!!
We booked a sailing trip on our own - I had heard that the tour operator retired but it as a fantastic day. We took a taxi to red hook ferry an they picked us up.  The view was amazing and it was nice to have quiet time (it was just us with another couple. 

St Maarten -

We had another low key beach day and took a taxi to Orient Beach.  The water here is absolutely stunning and the brightest blue I have ever seen.  Note to self - the far left side of the beach (if you are facing the water) is nude and topless is common throughout this beach. 

2005 - Mariner of the Seas (Eastern)

 - Nassau - Newsflash.  My crew hates Nassau.  They'd rather not even get of the ship!  I did coerce them since my niece had never been.  We took a taxi over to Atlantis and walked around.  The shopping is not great here so we were literally off the ship a few hours tops.

 - St Thomas - We did a LOT of shopping (it is fantastic here!) and hit up Coki Beach.

- St Maarten - We did some shopping, enjoyed some guavaberry (YUM!), hit up Orient Beach, then spent some time on the french side of the island before heading back on board.

2006 - Adventure of the Seas (Southern)

 - San Juan - LOVED departing from San Juan!  We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a front row ocean view!

We spent an extra day and walked all over the city. The Architecture is amazing and we really enjoyed just strolling around.

 - St Thomas -

Took a quick taxi t Red Hook Ferry and hopping the shot ferry ride over to St John's.  It is not nearly as "touristy" as St Thomas and is mostly still a National Park (donated by the Rockafeller's).

One word - GORGEOUS!  Wetook a Taxi to Magen's Bay.  It was quiet, not crowded at all and a fantastic way to spend the day. 

- St Maarten -

It doesnt happen often but it does happen.  The island gods were clearly VERY unhappy...first view...

 - Antigua -

We booked a ATV Excursion on our own.  They picked us up at the pier and took us a pretty remote location.  Not necessarily picturesque or what we expected but it was ok.   We also went by Nelson's Shipyard and caught a late lunch at the Big Banana. 

 - St Lucia - hands down, one of my favorite islands. 
We booked a tour through a local tour operator, Cosol. I can't say enough about Cosol and we were lucky enough to get him personally as our guide. Our son had a good case of teenager "you ruined my life because I had to get up early". Cosol, plopped him up front with him and was on a mission to get his attitude right!  He took us to a banana farm, the botanical garden, the volcano (smelly!) and the beach at base of the Pitons.  What a wonderful,amazing day.  Definately a place I want to go back to on vacation!

- Barbados -

We booked a catamaran and turtle swim on our own. 

This is not my video but shows you what it looked like...

2006 - Freedom of the Seas (Western)

This was an impromptu trip with some friends of ours and the excursions were not at the top of the list!

- Cozumel, Mexico - all we could get the teenager interested in was a lunch at Carlos n Charlie's.

- Cayman Islands - we shopped and headed over to Eden Rock (directly down the street from the Pier.  This is actually great snorkeling but we hit the attached restaurant for a great blackened grouper sandwich!

 - Montego Bay, Jaimaica - We left the ship relatively early and headed over to Jimmy Buffet's Margueritaville.  It is a good place to enjoy lunch and some water activities.  BUT - if you go later you can just about forget getting a good balcony spot.

 - Labadee, Haiti -
This was a beach day for us.  Pretty low key but enjoyed exploring as it was our first time here.
There are some local artisans in a small market but prepare to haggle!

It is very crowded if you plop into the water near the ship...but this is right around the corner!

2007 - Liberty of the Seas (Western)
We did the same itinerary again and kind of did the same things.  Kids really like going "what we always do" and it is a struggle to get them to switch things up!

Labadee, Cayman, and Montego Bay were pretty much the same as last time but in Cozumel we spent the day at Chankanaab Park.Many people come here just to swim with dolphins....these are the pens used them which I find quite sad.

We snorkeled and rented some chairs.  They had fod service on th beach and the food was surprisingly good!
2008 - Freedom of the Seas (Eastern)

- San Juan - It was a bit rainy so we walked through the city a bit exploring...

- St Thomas - We rented jet ski's at Coki Beach and then spent the rest of the day on the beach.  It was a treat since you have to be 18 to drive a jet ski in the US and the boys just had free reign to go anywhere they wanted for an hour.

- St Maarten -

We booke the Americas Cup Yacht Race through the ship.  It was supposed to be in the top Caribbean excursions so I was game!

We enjoyed the excusion BUT wouldnt want to do it again.  This is not a leasurely sail - each person is put to work with a job.  With all of the tacking back and forth, pretty much everyone was wrecked with sea sickness.  I have never EVER had a problem and felt like death.  As a side note, we raced against the Stars and Stripes (and won!).

2008 - Liberty of the Seas (Western)

- Cayman Islands - I booked a jet ski tour with Fat Fish Adventures.  Can't say enough wonderful things about them.  One thing to keep in mind - their jet skis do not have speed govenors on them.  They FLY.  Scared me to death since the boys have zero fear as teenagers.  But all worked out.  It was very private and even though the sand bar was really crowded, we found a spot out of the way to enjoy the rays privately.
In Labadee, Montego Bay and Cozumel, these were generally repeats of previous trips!  But muches fun!

2009 - Liberty of the Seas -
- Labadee, Haiti - We booked the Zip Line excursion for the boys. 

- Ocho Rios, Jaimaica -

We spent the afternoon at Jimmy Buffet's Margueritaville for some lunch and beach time.

Cayman and Cozumel are repeats!

2010 - Liberty of the Seas (Western)

Labadee, Haiti - we rented an over the water cabana (Suite Perk) for the day. They have a large golf cart that picks you up at the end of the new tier (no more tendering!) and delivers right to the restricted beach area.  It was a great day!  You get your own butler to bring you drinks and upgraded food (which was pretty decent for a BBQ/Grill Lunch).  The staff that works this area are locals and are a great bunch that really enjoys what they do.

Cayman Islands -

We did a little shopping(ok, a LOT of the Philip Stein I have been dying for...) and for a fantasic price at Island Jewelers.

Then went to Guy Harvey's store.  He was there and the #1 Son got him to pose for a pic!

We then went to snorkel at Eden Rock then lunch at Paradise before heading back to the ship!

Ocho Rios, Jaimaica -

Repeat back to Margueritaville!!

Cozumel, Mexico -

The Money Bar

I read about this place online and it ended up being a great find.  A short taxi from the Pier ($8USD total for 4).  Speaking of taxi's - when you get off the ship and make your way to the taxi stand...YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT THERE!!  Walk out to the street and hail a cab....some people we met waiting 45 minutes in that line!  Don't do it! 

There is very nice snorkeling, equipment rental if you need it, and a lovely outdoor restaurant under a palapa.  We ate and drank more than a few buckets of Tecata light for less than $75 USD.  Watch out for the steps - it is VERY slippery and a bit tricky getting into the water.  Also - Cozumel currents are STRONG.  If you are not a good swimmer,do not go to far out and watch any little ones!

2011 - Oasis of the Seas (Western)

- Labadee, Haiti - Same cabana rental...another amazing day!

- Falmouth, Jaimaica-

This was our first time into Falmouth and have to say, I am not a fan.  It is ridiculously far from anything you would want to do and you now spend 45 minutes to get down to Montego Bay.  So frustrating.  But - we did it.  The kids LOVE to go have lunch and play in the water but not sure it is worth the hassle.  But check out some of my amazing photo skills...those boys had a great time!

- Cozumel, Mexico -

Another amazing Day at the Money Bar - creatures of habit, right?  But some great pics....

Next Stop - Carlos n' Charlies....lord help me...
"Teach me how to Duggey..."  WOW
2012 - Freedom of the Seas (Western)

- Labadee, Haiti - guessed it...same waterproof camera!

- Cayman Islands -

We werent able to get in with Fat Fish Adventures (didnt plan well!) so we took a taxi to 7 mile beach.  Boys rented jet skis and we just had a relaxing beach/snorkel day.

- Falmouth, Jaimaica -

Nope - still don't like this port.  Sorry.

Boys talked us into Margueritaville YET AGAIN....newly expanded and new water park...same crappy/long drive...

- Cozumel, Mexico -

Money Bar - it is!

Ok - this post (if you can call it that!) took me FOREVER!!  We are heading on the Allure of the Seas in May so until then....PEACE OUT!!

Anyone else out there love to cruise and have a favorite excursion?

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