Governor’s Beach

Governor’s Beach

I have been to Grand Turk, an island of Turks and Caicos, 3 times. Each time I have been here was thanks to a Carnival Cruise ship. Usually I book an excursion with Papa J Tours and then hang out at the port after that. This time I decided to change things up, since, it was my 2nd time at Grand Turk in 2017. I decided to explore the island a bit further. A quick Google search brought me to the conclusion that Governor’s Beach would be the best place to spend my day.

img_6415

I walked to the taxi stand at the edge of the port and grabbed a cab to Governor’s Beach. $4 a person and a 10 minute ride brought me right to the beach. You can tell that there was damage to the area from the recent hurricanes, but it didn’t distract from the beauty of this beach. Although there was some damage, there were still huts with working plumbing incase you had to use the restroom.

When I arrived at the beach I was immediately in awe of the white sand, so soft and warm on my toes. This crystal blue water rolled up onto the shore, bringing seashell fragments with every wave. The water was amazingly clear, to the point where you could see all the way to the bottom. Although this water did have some waves, they were extremely small, you were able to just wade in the water.  This beach has definitely made my list of favorite beaches.

img_6413

By the entrance of the beach there is a shipwreck that you can’t miss. This ship is the Mega One Triton. The Mega One Triton started as an oil rig but was later decommissioned and began a journey as a cargo ship. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this ship was washed ashore on Grand Turk. There have been several attempts to remove the boat but due to size, and lack of funding this ship continues to stay on the shore. Some may see it as an eye sore, but I see it as a unique landmark. Also if you are into snorkeling, there is a lot of sea life to be found near the rocks off to this side of this ship.

img_6432

After enjoying the beautiful Governor’s Beach it was time to grab some food. I decided to head into the town, Cockburn, for some local food. All of the locals recommended going to Barbie’s Restaurant so of course I went as per their recommendations.

img_6437

I ordered the jerk chicken and rice which was VERY GOOD. The jerk chicken had just the right amount of spice, and cooked to perfection. I was also with a couple of other tourists from the cruise ship that ordered honey garlic wings, fish fingers, and conch. Each person agrees that the food here was very good. If you are in the area you should definitely stop by Barbie’s. She gets the “fish of the day” fresh every day!

While here I used a driver that was amazing. He was extremely friendly and trustworthy, his name was Tony. He brought us around the island and showed us many different points of interest for no extra charge. Tony brought us past his house to show us his horses, and he also waited for us in town, holding our bags while we did some souvenir shopping. If you’re heading to Grand Turk and would like his contact information please leave a comment below with your email address and I’ll email you his information.

I can not say enough good things about the little island of Grand Turk! All lovers of the Caribbean should make a stop at Grand Turk.

Until our next adventure,

Ela

Advertisements

Happy Birthday To Us!

So, it’s November 6th, also known our birthday! It was a “Fun Day At Sea” aboard our Carnival Cruise Ship.  My son and I started the day with room service bringing us breakfast in bed. It felt so nice not having to move in the morning and just having breakfast brought to me. After that we took our time getting ready and then ventured around the ship. We walked past a show in the lobby and decided to sit and watch for a while. While watching the show Elijah ordered a kids Piña Colada and kicked back. 

After the show Elijah told me that he wanted to spend his birthday in the kid’s club. My son absolutely loves the kid’s club onboard the cruise ship, he always begs me to spend the day in there. I wanted to spend the day with him but I obliged, and took advantage of the fact that I had some adult time. I went to the adults only section of the boat, got myself a nice Mudslide, and relaxed until dinner time.


Dinner was absolutely delicious. For an appetizer I got the shrimp cocktail which is my go to appetizer. My main entree was a flat iron steak, cooked medium rare, and seasoned to perfection. Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more full it was time for desert.

For desert I ordered the “Carnival’s Melting Chocolate Cake” with vanilla ice cream on the side. Just as I thought I was finished with my desert the servers came out with mini birthday cakes for my son and I. There was more desert than I knew what to do with.


After dinner we went to the theater to watch the show. The show of the night was “88 Keys” it was about very popular piano songs. This line up included a lot of Long Island’s own, Billy Joel, so I was in heaven.

All in all I had a very good birthday. Nothing is better than spending my birthday with my son.

Until our next adventure,

Ela
(Updated November 12, 2017 to fix picture issues!)

Miami Seaquarium & Boarding Our Ship

My son woke up super excited yesterday knowing that it was time to “go on the big cruise boat”. Our boarding time wasn’t until 1:30 though so we had a good amount of time to waste before we got on board. We started the day with some breakfast at a nearby hotel. Walking distance from our hotel was a Holiday Inn, that offered an inexpensive buffet breakfast; kids under 10 eat free so that was an added bonus.


After we filled our bellies we decided to head to the Miami Seaquarium. There was a groupon online which gave us 50% off the entrance fee. I thought this would be an extremely nice aquarium given the price to enter was very expensive, but I was highly disappointed. Large mammals swam in tanks that were obviously too small for their size, and to top it off there wasn’t much to see. We got to the park at 10:30am and we had seen everything, and even had lunch, by 12:30.


We left the Seaquarium and made our way to the cruise port. We had the perfect boarding time! It’s the first time I’ve selected a late boarding time and I will absolutely do it every time in the future. When you boarding at 1:30 you aren’t forced to sit with your luggage on the Lido Deck, because, your room is ready for you upon arrival. After checking in we went straight to our room to put our stuff away then off we went to get some lunch at the buffet. I always enjoy the food aboard Carnival ships, so I have no complaints there.


After eating lunch it was time to explore the ship. This ship is a bit confusing to navigate (The Carnival Splendor), but thank goodness I have the Carnival Hub app so I was able to navigate a bit more easily. We quickly discovered the splash park, which my son spent an hour at before we headed back to the room to get ready for the night. We were both exhausted, so we decided to watch the “Dive-in” movie and then call it quits. We absolutely love movie night on board. Sitting outside in the fresh air , and eating freshly popped popcorn is so relaxing! All in all it was a good first day on board our Carnival cruise. Can’t wait to see what the rest of this vacation has in store for us!

Until our next adventure!

Ela

Carnival Sensation

Carnival Sensation

IMG_0374

Hey all it’s been a while since my last post.  I actually started writing this blog post when I returned from my cruise back in March, but I went on the same exact cruise in the past and didn’t want to be repetitive.  I did a couple of new things this time around even though the ports of call were the same as my last cruise, so I decided to write a new entry.  Its taken me so long to come post on my blog because I have been so busy.  My son (who’s now 3.5) will be starting Pre-K soon, so I’ve been doing everything to register him for school.  I just started working at a new place, so I’m trying to get my sleep schedule set up with my new hours.  Its been a tiring but fun couple of months, and I’m going to try to never go that long without writing an entry on here again.

So let’s get to it, shall we? On this journey I was traveling with my son, mom, sister, and her boyfriend.  We flew into Miami two days before our cruise to get a little extra sunshine.  The day of our flight there was a bit of an overcast but luckily that didn’t delay our flight at all. The first night we stayed at the Best Western Premier Miami Int’l Airport Hotel & Suites, Miami. The Ultra Music Festival was going on at the time we were staying there and the hotel staff did an amazing job at making sure none of the festival guests we’re rowdy and obnoxious towards their other guests.  This hotel was extremely nice with very clean, large rooms.  The pool was a bit small, but the weather wasn’t the best anyway so we did not utilize it much. Since the hotel was on the main road, there were many restaurants within walking distance, and the area was safe, so walking wasn’t a problem. Breakfast wasn’t included at this hotel, but since I have status with Expedia, it entitles me to certain perks, so I was given free breakfast vouchers.

The next day we stayed at La Quinta Inn & Suites Miami Airport East.  We chose this hotel because it has a free airport shuttle, and also a free shuttle to the cruise port (which  I always look for when taking cruises).  This hotel was extremely close to the airport and also within walking distance to restaurants. The rooms at this hotel were small, and outdated but it got the job done.  Rooms were clean, the included breakfast was nice, and they had an outdoor pool around the back.  I don’t really have too much else to say about this hotel being as it was the Ultra Music Festival this hotel was packed with Festival goers that wouldn’t allow me to give this hotel a fair rating. But overall I was happy with this choice for the one night.  While staying at this hotel we decided to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant (I went to my handy dandy google maps to find a nearby place to eat).  We decided to eat at Latin Cafe 2000, a Cuban restaurant.  The prices were good, the portion sizes were filling, and the food was SO GOOD. We each thoroughly enjoyed out meal.  I definitely recommend to try this restaurant if you’re ever in the nearby area.

IMG_0301

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for, the cruise.  Cruises are amazing vacations for a family on a budget.  You don’t HAVE TO book excursions to have a good time, and the price per person  (usually around $300 for a quick trip to the Caribbean) includes your meals and entertainment aboard the ship.  Whenever friends or family come and ask me “What do you recommend as a good vacation for a family on a budget?” I always recommend a cruise. Everything is withing walking distance and you don’t have to worry about spending money on the ship unless you want to buy extras..

img_0233.jpg

Boarding the cruise ship in Miami was probably the easiest boarding process I have ever been through (for cruises).  They divided the ship into different check in times, which meant it only took about 30 minutes to go through security and check in at the front desk, which was extremely efficient. Once aboard the boat they had food waiting for us on the Lido deck, which we took full advantage of.  Our cruise director aboard the Carnival Sensation was Matt, and he was absolutely amazing! One of the other crew members, Orlando, was also equally amazing, and absolutely deserves a cruise director spot if it ever becomes available (Carnival are you listening?!).

IMG_0465IMG_0429IMG_0549IMG_0354

This ship featured Carnival’s new “Water Works” section, which is a sprinkler park for the kids, and kept my son nice and cool while aboard the boat.  The ship also had a mini golf course, an adults only section, a spa, restaurants, a casino, a piano bar, a library, and so much more.  There was never any reason for you to be bored when on the ship.  Also the kids camp was open until late in case you wanted a kid free night out (and trust me your kids will beg to go back to camp).

This cruise had 3 stops, Grand Turk, Nassau, and Half Moon Cay (an island owned by Carnival).  If you read my last blog entry about my previous cruise, this entry may seem a bit repetitive because I did some of the same activities, so bare with me, but also take it as a hint that I loved these activities so much that I had to do them again.

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos: In Grand Turk I booked an excursion I have previously done, with Papa J Tours.  We booked the Stingray excursion, Erickson was our tour guide (for the second time), he’s absolutely amazing.  My 3 year old at first was so scared of the Stingrays but Erickson made him feel comfortable enough to give them kisses. By the time we had to head back my son was upset that we had to leave his “stingray friends”.  Absolutely amazing excursion, and I highly recommend booking through Papa J Tours.  If you book through the cruise line you will be brought over with a group of 20 or more.  Booking with Papa J Tours means you get a smaller group size (About 5 or however many are in your party), and you get to spend more time with the Stingrays, asking questions, and exploring.

Nassau, Bahamas: In Nassau we took a water taxi over to Atlantis.  The beach over by Atlantis is extremely crowded but very nice.  There will be a lot of vendors on the beach trying to get you to buy what they are selling, so if that’s something that bothers you, I would advise against this beach.  While on this beach I purchased a banana boat ride, which was an extremely fun 10 minutes.  As for alcohol, one of the vendors sells a coconut, which for $20 you can get unlimited refills, you even tell them if you’d like it strong or not too strong (I advise the not too strong because even that one is strong, haha). I thought this to be a great deal while out on the beach enjoying the sun.  There are no free chairs or umbrellas on this beach, but you can negotiate with any of the vendors for a good deal, don’t settle for the first price they give you.

halfmoonIMG_0392IMG_0380

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas:  This is my all time favorite stop.  Whenever I book a cruise with Carnival I try to make sure this is one of the stops.  This island is owned by Carnival, so Carnival provides free food for its passengers on this island.  Also this location is not overcrowded because only your ship’s passengers are on the beach.  I have done this island before, and decided that this time around I was going to splurge and rent a cabana.  This was an amazing decision.  Since I had an excursion at this port I was given a priority tender (meaning I was first to board a tender to the island).  Once at the port, we were given a ride over to our cabana.  Our cabana included a misting fan, lounge chairs, a table with chairs, an AC, chips and guacamole, fresh fruit, soda, water, a shower, rafts, and snorkeling gear. This was the best investment I could have ever made.  If you’re going to Half Moon Cay GET A CABANA. This made the island feel like absolute heaven.  I never wanted to leave.

Thank you Carnival for always giving me such an amazing experience.

If any of my readers have any questions regarding cruises, feel free to leave a comment below, I’m always happy to give my personal experiences and advice.

Until Next Time,

-Ela

Tips For Smooth Sailing

Tips For Smooth Sailing

A couple of people who read my blog post My Son’s First Cruise have asked me for advice on cruising with young children.  I’ve also been asked if I have any further advice on cruises. So I decided I’ll just go ahead and write a separate post with some tips for smooth sailing. So here we go…

#1. Be Early :

I work in the travel industry, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen passengers miss their cruises because they decided they were going to fly down to their port THE SAME DAY their cruise is leaving.  This is a big “no-no” in my book. There are so many variables that can cause your flight to be delayed, and in turn, you wind up missing your cruise.  If you don’t live in the area you’re cruising from, get there the day before departure.  I always fly down one day in advance, and I choose a hotel that has an airport shuttle AND a shuttle to the cruise port.  This is so convenient, and I’m never stressed about possibly missing my cruise.

#2. Book Excursions Separate From Cruise Line :

Most cruise lines offer excursions directly through their website.  While its convenient to have everything bundled and handled by the cruise line, I’ve learned that my excursions have been a lot less expensive, and more private, when booked elsewhere.  I usually check TripAdvisor for excursions, as I can also see past reviews.  My last excursion I found through TripAdvisor was extremely nice (I actually just booked them again for my next cruise).  My party of 4 was the only one on the excursion, while those who booked through the cruise line directly were crammed 25 people to a boat.  *Also if you have young children, most excursions will say that they only accommodate children over the age of 5.  Call the place directly and ask if they can accommodate your young child.  My son (1.5 years old at the time), was able to interact with the stingrays, even though minimum age was 5 on their website.

#3. Sea Sickness :

This is the scariest part about a cruise.  Well what if I get sea sick? Can I still enjoy my cruise? Even worse, what if my child gets sea sick?  Good news, there are so many remedies to help with sea sickness, and better news, children under 2 rarely get sea sick.  If you know that you’re prone to getting sea sick I advice getting a cabin in the middle of the ship, since the least amount of motion occurs there. Now I don’t usually advise medication, because when you’re on a cruise you’re going to want to drink.  Most medications that help with nausea also cause drowsiness, so I’m going to start with the natural remedies and then the medications.

  • GINGER. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, ginger works wonders.  I just bought some ginger pills online for my upcoming cruise.  Ginger tea and other ginger products will also help.  I advise using anything with REAL ginger instead of ginger ale.  Ginger ale really doesn’t have enough ginger to help combat sea sickness.
  • Sea sickness bands. They now make sea sickness bands (for adults and children) which apply pressure on the wrist. Practitioners of acupuncture and acupressure believe stimulation of this point relieves nausea and vomiting.
  • Meclizine HCL.  This medicine should be taken about an hour before boarding your ship, and is said to last all day.  Those who take it swear by it.  The only thing is, this medication may cause drowsiness.
  • Dramamine. This medication should also be taken before boarding your ship.  Again medication could cause drowsiness.  Drowsiness effects could be worsened by alcohol.

#4. Check Beverage Rules:

Most cruise lines allow you to bring a small amount of your own beverages on board (soda/wine).  Check the allowance rules through your cruise line, as beverages on board are only for purchase.  A lot of people think that alcohol and soda are free on board but that is a thing of the past.

But, most of all HAVE FUN. Most cruises will accept children over the age of 2 in their youth clubs (most prefer child to be out of diapers).  Don’t feel bad about putting your child in the club every once in a while, your children will make friends their age, and they’re being spoiled in there too.  They have talent shows, petting zoos, and so much more.

Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata

Just forewarning; I didn’t get too many pictures on this trip, the humidity kept condensing on my lenses.

Everyone who has been following my blog knows that I’m not a “relaxing” explorer.  Its not very often I go somewhere to relax on a beach, I’m usually out exploring a city; but this trip I took a weekend to get some rest and relaxation. (Well it was my mom’s choice, it was her Birthday so I let her choose what she wanted to do.

I flew into Santiago, arrived at about 11:50pm so customs was pretty empty.  One thing I didn’t know what that they charge a “visitor fee”, it’s US $10 per person for every person who isn’t a resident of the Dominican Republic, and its cash only (thank goodness my mom had  cash on her).  Once we made it through customs it was like a party at the airport, all the Dominicans were outside waiting on their friends to arrive with beers in their hands and music blasting from their car stereos.

It was time for us to start our 1.5 hour journey to Puerto Plata.  We got in the car and head on our way.  First thing I noticed was that dogs roam the street, so you have to be very careful and keep your eyes open.  Also, no one stops at red lights (at least not during the night), eventually I followed the locals lead and just went through them.

At about 1am we arrived at the hotel (VH Gran Ventana), it was down a guarded road with all other resorts in the guarded area.  The first thing we were greeted with at our resort was the security guard lifting the gate and saying “Welcome Home”.  For it being 1am the front desk that checked us in was very friendly, and they also exchanged money for us.  It was time to go to sleep and get rested for a beach day in the morning.

img_9541

We woke up in the morning and made our way to the breakfast buffet.  There was an omelet station, a pancake/crepe station, and then so much variety in the buffet section. After finished stuffing our faces we walked over to the beach.  The beach was beautiful, and had a private umbrella for everyone.  The water was a little cloudy due to the fact that Hurricane Matthew was on his way, but still so beautiful.  The weather was perfect, about 86 degrees Fahrenheit and the slightest breeze to keep you cool.  The water was calm enough for my 2 year old to handle, but wasn’t flat.

Around 1pm my two year old started to hint that he was getting hungry.  So we stopped at the “Ocean Grill”.  As the name suggests this is a restaurant right on the beach.  For lunch they serve a buffet of burgers, pizza, and many different kinds of chicken.


When we finished with lunch we decided to switch it up and go to the pool.  This pool remained pretty empty for the total duration of our stay, but based on the reviews on TripAdvisor it isn’t always that way. It was so nice to have the pool area basically to ourselves.  We got some drinks from the swim up bar, and had a good time.

After the pool it was time for dinner, and there was so much to choose from. They have a salad bar, a pasta station, a healthy station, a grill station, a large variety at the buffet.  There was really too many options to list here, we will be here all day. Safe to say, I enjoyed dinner.

img_9542

When dinner ended my mom and son were exhausted, my son actually fell asleep at the dinner table. So we headed back to the room, they went to bed and I went to explore the hotel to see what entertainment they had going on during the night.

Entertainment started with a kids talent show, kids got to sign up and show their talents. After the talent show a live band came in and the staff of the hotel would grab random guests and dance with them for a whole song, after the song ended they’d go grab another guest. I got grabbed on the second song in while trying to record a “Facebook Live” video. Haha.


After about an hour of the live band it was time for the “Dominican Show”.  This show consisted of about 8 dancers.  These dancers performed many dances native to their country and it was very interesting to watch. They were also very passionate about their dances and this many the event even more entertaining.

nonnaandelijah

When we woke up the next morning we went back to the beach.  This time there was hotel staff doing entertainment.  It started with the Olympics, which consisted of two teams of guests from the hotel, each had to complete three tasks to determine a winner.  After the guest Olympics were completed and fitness instructor came to the beach and started doing some serious cardio, almost like a Zumba.  People got up from their lounge chairs to join in and people who were in the water started dancing from the water.  It was really cool to watch everyone on the beach doing the same dance. Once the workout was complete we went to the pool then made our way to lunch. On this day we decided to do the lunch buffet instead of the Ocean Grill, and there were so much more options at the buffet.

Eventually the rest and relaxation time came to an end.  It was time to journey back to the airport.  The bellhop places my son on the cart and rolled our bags to our rental car. It was sad to leave, and my mom is already talking about heading back to that same resort in February.  It was so much different driving during the day than at night.  You got to see all the local stores open, everyone on their motorcycles (including families of four all crammed on to one bike), and some people even stopped for the red lights.  It was a lot of fun driving back and looking at all the beautiful sights there were to take in.

It was really such a good trip even though it was so short.  The hotel was beautiful, and the staff took good care of us.  The only things I would change is the choices in alcohol.  They need to stock their bars with a lot more variety.  Other than that I loved this hotel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, stay in Puerto Plata.  You can click here for the link to the VH Gran Ventana website.

Did you have a good trip to the Dominican Republic?  Where did you stay? I’d love to hear about it, leave your experience in the comments section below!

 

Until Next Time,

Ela

Jamaica

Jamaica

This is going to be a bit of a throw back (circa 2010), I haven’t been able to go any where lately so I’m going to write about a blast from the past. One of my favorite places to just relax, Jamaica! (Because where’s a better place to relax than the beach?)

First things first, I booked this trip for 2 people, it included airfare, all inclusive hotel (6 nights), ground transportation, and excursions. Guess how much it all cost me? $1,200. This is the day I fell in love with Expedia. LOL.

45648_1578329744143_7854320_n

I was very pleased with the ground transportation company in Jamaica. They were right out side of customs, and made checking in for the ride quick and easy.  I flew into Montego Bay, and my resort was in Ocho Rios so the bus ride took about an hour, but the bus driver was awesome; he kept us engaged with facts about Jamaica.

45747_1578330144153_5903668_n

When I arrived at the hotel (Sunset Jamaica Grande), I was blown away by the customer service, and to be honest the hotel was beautiful.  It had 5 pools, 2 swim up bars, was located ON the beach, there were 5 restaurants, a night club, and a couple of bars.  (Unfortunately this hotel has been bought out and turned into something new but Sunset Jamaica still has a couple of other resorts on the Island).

41151_1578330104152_8288403_n

After checking in I went on a journey around the hotel.  I quickly found a bunch of employees hosting games, there was never a dull moment at this hotel.  Even if I didn’t book any excursions on my trip I would’ve been fine just staying at the hotel.  So many things to do on site.

dolphin cove241169_1578331944198_6369634_nstingray

One of the excursions I booked was Dolphin Cove, in Ocho Rios.  They had free transportation from our hotel to Dolphin Cove.  The entrance fee to the park included the viewing of all the animals they had on site, and unlimited snorkeling with the stingrays.  To swim with the dolphins, or have an encounter with a shark you had to pay extra.  The staff at this establishment was extremely friendly, and made sure everyone was happy and comfortable.  You can tell they really loved their jobs and wanted to make sure you enjoyed your experience.  I purchased the dolphin encounter, which included being in the water with the dolphins, having the dolphins swim with you while holding their dorsal fin, and watching them do tricks (while in the water with them), and having them push you in the water. The encounter was very enjoyable.  I didn’t purchase the shark encounter but I was able to watch it from the pier.  Everyone that purchased it seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

40614_1578330424160_7741291_n

Another excursion I purchased was Tubing down the Chukka Chukka River.  Again, the excursion provided free transportation from the hotel to the site.  The ride to this excursion was a little nerve racking, but the bus driver was a pro. At this excursion they also allowed you to purchase other activities like riding ATVs and zip lining.  I didn’t get any pictures of me tubing down the river because I didn’t trust bringing my camera in the tube.  I thought most of the tubing would be in white waters, but actually 95% of the river was like tubing in the lazy river, the other 5% had some action (haha).  At the end of the river you arrived at the hut, they served us all jerk chicken and then it was time to go.

41181_1578332824220_7382064_n45706_1578335784294_2251464_n

The one excursion I did not book, but I wish I did book was Dunn’s River Falls.  This excursion is extremely popular and everyone at the hotel was raving about it.  Next time I go back to Jamaica it will be on my “To Do” list.

I know there’s a lot I left out since I am writing this blog entry 5 years later, but if you have any questions about my trip ask away and I’ll be sure to answer.

If you want to check out vacation deals on Expedia and try to get a deal like I did, I included a link below with special pricing.
Expedia.com

Thank you all for visiting my blog.
-Ela