Jun 162019
 

I am a big believer in vacationing (obviously) but I am not a globe trotter who spends weeks on end jetting off to the four corners of the world. My vacations are few and far between. I have had many more staycations than I can count; by the way, those can be fabulous!

Five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. My first thought was: That doesn’t sound right. Many other things ran through my head: How much work will I miss? Will I lose my hair? How will I tell my kids? So I thanked my doctor, we talked about the next steps and then I went home and cried a little bit. Later in the day, I had a thought. I told myself I was going to beat this thing no matter what and when I did I was going to take an amazing vacation. April of 2019 was five years and I was considered cured (Yay!!!) so, time for an true vacation!

 

Kona has picturesque beaches!

 

Truth be told, I want to visit many places but after talking to my family, all of which helped me tremendously I felt we should go somewhere together. Living in Washington, a flight to Hawaii is not quite six hours and I can take a direct flight. I hadn’t seen the beach in a couple of years and I wanted to see the volcanoes, so we went to Kona. The photos in this post are not all mine, some belong to my sister, which I have used with permission.

There are some basic truths you need to know about Kona.

  1. The airport is a smaller one made up of outside buildings, set up in a weird circular pattern  and only has one small cafe; which has delicious smoothies!  It’s not close to anything else either, so you need a cab or Uber and most of the hotels don’t have airport pick up. We ordered Lyft but you could check out airport transfers. https://www.airportshuttlehawaii.com/shuttles/hawaii/
  2. You need a car if you want to see much. Most resorts have a  concierge who can help you book excursions and tours but even those don’t all offer pickups and some need to be planned in advance, at least 3 days depending on the excursion. Several resorts have things to do on site but Kona tourism spots can be fairly spread out. We rented a car to go to Hilo for the Saturday market and to visit the volcanoes and Rainbow Falls.
  3. It’s not sunshine 24/7. We were there 6 nights and 7 days and for the most part the weather was perfect, but many afternoons clouds would roll in and hang around a few hours. It rained a few times but never very heavy and it was never a cold rain.
  4. There is no such thing as an all inclusive resort in Hawaii. Food, excursions, transpo, laundry-basically everything you do will cost extra. Places like Mexico and Jamaica are rich with all inclusives but not on the Hawaiian Islands. It is not a thing. Also, there is a Hawaii tax on top of regular resort fees.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

 

So much to see and do here.

 

Picking a resort in Kona can be intimidating; they all seem wonderful! We picked this 62 acre resort on Konas’ coast for a few reasons: One, it faced the ocean and had a protected lagoon that was good for  swimming and renting boats and other watercraft. Two, the lagoon fed in from the ocean so all sorts of turtles and fish would swim in and could be see easily without renting snorkeling equipment. Another positive for this property is that it was close to 2 different markets where we could buy food, shop, play mini golf, see a movie-the hotel has a trolley that picks up guests and takes them to both places, the cost is $2.00 per person each way. There is a Dolphin Swim Excursion on property and the grill is right next to it and it was so fun to eat lunch and see them swim around and play together! Hint: They seemed to be more active in the morning, so go early.

The resort also has valet that will drop you off at A Bay beach (Anaeho’omalu Bay Beach) an amazing crescent shaped stretch of beach that offers tranquil waters, soft sand, shacks offering excursions and the Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant. For me, the big draws of this resort was the canal that encircles it, the resort offers gondola boats that take you around, the lagoon which I spoke of earlier, all the outside dining venues and giant waterfalls that I could swim under! Bingo! That did it for me. I have always wanted to swim under a waterfall. Waikoloa Village has 3 at the far end of one of the pools and set it up as a whole cave/grotto feel. There is a hot tub in one of the cave-like corners.

We saw cool birds-African cranes I think

Some other big hits for this resort was of course the service, everyone was so great. The boats were being converted to electric as we were leaving and there were so many great pieces of art throughout the whole property so that everywhere I went I saw something interesting. Most of the art was Asian influence but there pieces and artifacts that paid homage to the Natives of Hawaii. Despite its size, walking the property was so easy and seamless. The pools were spread out so I never had to go very far to find a pool or something to eat. So many picture worthy look out points! My favorite spot was just past the Buddha point overlooking the black rocks. If you are lucky you will find an empty hammock. Past the Lagoon there is a path that goes down to the rocky beach that is worth your time.

There are some things about the Village I didn’t love so much. Mostly, the food choices. The food itself was very good but the options for such a huge resort make no sense. For breakfast you either eat at the huge and pricey buffet or the small coffee shop that only offers small snacks. Once in a while you can get a waffle or something ($18.00+tax). They has a great grill but it’s only open half the day and sometimes there are little stands by the pools but they only offer drinks.  Dinner choices are a little better-italian, mexican, bar food, and a high end restaurant at the far far end of the property. As a guest, you can rent some dvd’s for free but the selection made the whole exercise a waste of time. There was an offer for a free photo shoot but I didn’t find out anything about that. There is a tram that runs back and forth across the property but it not by any means a quick transpo! It is slow so don’t be in a super hurry, if you are-walk!

 

The surf was great on some days.

If I had one other comment about the resort is that I would rent the snorkeling equipment but snorkel somewhere else. All the fish and turtles I could see from the bridge going over the water or at the shallow end or just swam out a little-not worth the money. That being said I would stay at Waikoloa Village again and again. The location, the appeal for families or visitors without kids, the sheer beauty and it’s proximity to other places make this property a worthy vacation spot. Oh, and, my personal recommendation, if you like star gazing, the resort has astrologers come in and bring there killer telescopes and we saw the most amazing star formations, galaxy clusters, gas anomalies, some really cool things. The hula lessons were free. See one of the resort concierge for all the things offered at the resort; naturally, you can catch an fabolous luau.

 

We saw the most turtles in the mornings.

Sightseeing:

There is no end of things to do in Kona, there is no way to cover them all. I went to Kona to see the volcanos. So, we drove to the National Park to see volcanoes. Not only was it pouring rain so hard it was incredibly foggy. We tried to find a clearing, we drove through the park for at least another 20 minutes to no avail. It was disappointing, but nature is nature; you can’t get mad about it. The visitors center was a treasure trove of fascinating pictures and videos of the eruptions-I found it captivating. The gift shop offered some spectacular photos and wall art, so it was not a total loss.

 

This was a captivating sight!

 

On the way there we stopped at Rainbow Falls. It’s pretty, for sure, but living in Washington and growing up in Oregon I have seen some pretty impressive falls but what surprised me was the canopy of trees that had tangled together at the top of the falls. The hike up to the top is rocky but not extremely difficult or long and seeing so many huge trees twine together was something I will never forget! I have no idea what kind of trees they were-if you know please tell me!

The drive around Kona from one end to other was pretty and we stopped in Hilo for the Saturday Market which I loved! Not too big, but plenty to walk through and pick some great locally grown fruit. The market is outside, jammed close together and crowded, so it was hot! You should still check it out and while you are there. Eat at Pineapples Restaurant, less than a five minute walk from the Market. Everything at Pineapples is fresh, delicious and many of the ingredients are local-even the drinks! The atmosphere matches the menu and the feel of Hilo. https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Bar—Grill/Pineapples-Island-Fresh-Cuisine-427042824013347/  click on this link for the Facebook page where you can find the address and see the menu.

Snorkeling.

Snorkeling is one of the things I was determined to do on this vacation because on our last one our snorkeling trip was canceled twice. Due to various circumstances I didn’t go again but I met a very nice young lady who sent me this great app for finding the best snorkeling spots. https://www.lovebigisland.com/

Not just for snorkeling but for all your plans for the Big Island, this is a top notch site.

Places to Eat:

One of the best experiences of vacationing is the food! Who doesn’t love to eat? Food at the resort was astronomical and, as I previously noted, limited in scope, so we ate out at times. One of my favorite places was the Lava Lava Beach Club at A Bay beach. Right on the beach with open air dining, fare of all tastes as well as farm to table options Lava Lava Beach hits it out of the park on all counts. https://lavalavabeachclub.com/

A Bays Island Grill: This venue is very casual and offers some standard fare but there is nothing standard about the food. The best french toast and red potatoes I have ever had.  The grill has a local butter(mango, I think) that blew my mind. They also have a happy hour where I ordered heavenly crab cakes for only $8.00. The Grill is at Kings Market, where they have a beautiful lake, a mini golf place, a place to rent snorkel masks, a movie theater and another must try restaurant Fosters Kitchen. http://www.kingsshops.com/directory

 

Everyone deserves a great vacation!

 

Queens Market is almost right next door and is a larger shopping area that has a Macaroni Grill and I know it’s a chain, but I highly recommend eating there! For more local flavors try the daylight mind coffee pub (I love the ambience), Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ or Marble Slab Ice Creamery for some much needed cool sweetness. The store there offers plenty of salads, sandwiches, pastries and even deals on t-shirts and beach towels. https://www.queensmarketplace.net/en/index.php/

We were at Kona for only 6 days and there is so much to this lush paradise I could stay for a month and see it all! Hawaii has so many islands and the Big Island has many rough beaches and black sand but I think that is a positive and I would recommend a vacation for anyone and everyone!

 

So many ways to have fun here!

Great Activities to do in Kona:

  • Visit a coffee farm. Hawaii is only 1 of 2 US states to grow coffee and Kona has the best plantations you can visit. The Love Big Island site I referenced earlier is a superb source for researching this activity.
  • Go to Koko Head Crater Botanical Garden. Yes, you can visit a botanical garden in the slopes of a crater. It is on the eastern side of the island so you will need a car. This 60 acre loop in the basin of a 200 acre crater is rich with rare and endangered dryland plants, such as African and Madagascar plants. The plumeria grove is always a favorite. Parking is free but there are no bathrooms and no place to get water.
  • Get your cowboy on! Hawaii is more than palm trees and dreamy beaches, it’s also home to working cattle ranches. Beef is a big industry in Hawaii and you can spend a day on a working farm. Many of these tours will couple with a coffee tour.
  • Go to a tropical rainforest. While the Kona(west side) is great for whale watching, manta ray night dives-a must do, sunny weather and world class golf  a trip to the east side for a visit to a rainforest. Visiting Waimea Valley  and Akaka Falls Loop will afford the best of a lush paradise. https://roadtohana.com/hawaiian-rainforests.php
  • Enjoy local snacks. Probably the only island that grows vanilla beans, cacao beans and macadamia nuts! Yumm, people, enjoy some Hawaiian deliciousness!
  • Enjoy stargazing from Mauna Kea Summit. Guides will take you up to summit for a meal, a blow you mind kind of sunset and NASA worthy star gazing. It’s not uncommon for the summit to be covered in snow; which would be a great thing to see in Hawaii. https://maunakea.com/

One more note, you could consider  a cruise. Norwegian does a 7 day cruise around all the islands with 2 overnights. You would still have to fly there but it is more inclusive with food and activities. Full disclosure: I am a travel agent and if you book a vacation with me (cruise or otherwise) I could possibly get a commission.

 

A week is not enough!

 

Hopefully, in the not to distant future, I will find myself back in Kona, this time seeing my volcano-maybe you will find yourself there too!

Some interesting facts about the Big Island:

  • Measuring at 4,038 square miles Hawaii is more than twice the size of all the other islands combined.  It is also the youngest of the Hawaiian islands and the widest of the States from East to West.
  • The island grows 42+acres every year due the constant activity of the Kilauea Volcano.
  • Eleven of the worlds thirteen climate zones are present on this one island.
  • Hawaii is also known as the Orchid Isle. Very nice!
  • Fifteen miles off the southeast coast and 3,000ft below the surface there is an active volcano named Lo’ihi. It will be thousands of years before this volcano breaks the surface of the ocean, however, it has already risen 10,000ft from the ocean floor and has a crater measuring 3 miles across!

There are many reasons to love Hawaii. Great beaches, the mouth watering food, so many different terrains-which is one thing I love about the Big Island, but there are many islands to visit in Hawaii that can fit your vacation personality. Travel+Leisure published a good article. https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/island-vacations/hawaii-islands-travel-guide?

As did a great blog site called https://www.smartertravel.com/best-island-in-hawaii-to-visit/

I would be happy to help you with ideas for travel to any of the Hawaiian Islands, just leave your contact info in the comments section and I will see it. As always, any other great facts about HI or insider tips are always welcome. And remember: Vacation like you mean it!

 

A week is not enough.

 

 

May 142018
 

Alaska in one of the best cruise destination for a good reason. Amazing  scenery; more specifically, extraordinary glaciers!  Alaska has many stunning glaciers and most of them can only be seen from a ship. Other reasons go to Alaska are wildlife and vast mountain peaks. Good news, you can see all of that in one area! But, there are some differences between the glaciers themselves, so it’s important to know what to expect before you drop the huge expense of an Alaskan vacation.

 

Alaska cruises are available seasonally:Some start as early as April and end as late as September, but high season is late June through August.  Alaska is considered exotic because of the unique glaciers, fjords, mountains and a great mix of wildlife, but it is part of the U.S. and that gives people a sense of safety. Which is in important when you travel.  And, yes, the glaciers are melting, or retreating as it is also called.  Scientist estimate that collectively the states glaciers lose 75 billion tons of ice annually.

Many years ago I lived in Alaska, but it wasn’t until I took my family on an Alaskan cruise that I truly appreciated what all Alaska has to offer. The big thing was indeed glacier viewing. Memories of sailing into a tight fjord coming close to giant ice bergs, dozens of waterfalls, majestic mountains, harbor seals lounging around and bluer than blue ice silt will never leave me.

There are some things that you need to keep in mind when picking which glacier you want to visit. Most people will only go to Alaska once; I plan on going again! For a lot of travellers Alaska is a bucket list item. So, this post will break down the main glaciers a cruiser can expect to see. Most cruise lines will only go to one of these places, especially the main line ones.  So below is a quick guide of the main features of the most visited glaciers.

Glacier Bay: Not only is this spot the most popular glacier destination it is also a national park and a biosphere reserve it is also a World Heritage Site. What makes Glacier Bay great is that you spend the day transiting the national park through inlets that have been carved by the glaciers themselves.  The ship draws impressively close to these giant walls of sheer ice. These are tidewater glaciers that calve often, which is one of the biggest draws. Glacier Bay is also a great place to see wildlife. Humpback whales spend their summers here. Brown bears, harbor seals, mountain goats and sometimes even puffins are spotted here. Keep in mind, you will need binoculars to really see most of the wildlife-especially on land as the area is so big.  Glacier Bay tends to be colder and rainier than other areas. Ships are required to have a Ranger on board; which is good if you have questions or just want to know all you can about the history and the area. What  you won’t see are  the tight fjords here like you will in other areas of Alaska. For those of you who aren’t sure what fjords are:A long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs created by a glacier.

Hubbard Glacier: This is the largest tidewater glacier in North America, 76 miles wide and 1,200 feet deep. The face is up to 400 ft. tall. A truly impressive thing to behold! It is another great spot to see some spectacular calving and great for wildlife, even bald eagles and orcas! Hubbard is in Disenchantment Bay and offers great vistas and views of Mt. Elias (18,008 ft! Wow!) However, it is one glacier, no travelling up a fjord and ice debris and fog can keep your ship from getting close at all; which is the whole point.

Tracy Arm Fjord: Cruising up the 27mile narrow inlet to the twin Sawyer Glaciers  in almost magical in its sheer beauty.  Cliffs rise up to 3,000 ft on both sides, chunks of ice float upon the water that are so blue they look like glass, and I couldn’t count all the waterfalls that were everywhere. Sawyer Glacier is an active tidewater glacier that is also prone to calving. While we were there the calving was active underwater so we didn’t see any breaking but you can hear it; like thunder reverberating all around. There some wildlife here; arctic birds as well as mountain goats. If your ship sails into Stephens Pass or Holkham Bay you can spot whales, bears and eagles.  Tracy Arm lacks the multiple glaciers that you see on videos and doesn’t have the same sheer massive face of Hubbard but it’s surreal; and cold, bring a jacket!  One of the best thing about Tracy Arm is that smaller skiffs and boats can take you closer to the face of the glacier.  You can not do that in Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier.

College Fjord: This other worldly spot is home to 5 tidewater glaciers and 5 valley glaciers. The waters are calm, the fjords are majestic, snow capped mountains and lush green forests battle for attention, but what is really breathtaking besides the overwhelming presence of the glaciers themselves is the large swaths of ice/glacier  waterfalls that cut between the mountains. Expects to see several chunks of broken ice floating all around. but don’t expect to see as much wildlife as you find in Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord, although several people write about being able to spot whales off in the distance. The other drawback is that not as many ships will traverse here. If you can find a small ship to take you there it’s a great choice because you can get really close! Similar to Glacier Bay, it allows for viewing multiple glaciers at once, similar to Tracy Arm it has tight fjords and many mountains. The cruises that sail here are one way Gulf of Alaska trips between Alaska and Seattle or Vancouver; meaning the port you start in will not be the same one you return to.  These tend to go further up the coast such as to Prince William Sound which is where this magnificence of  nature can be enjoyed. 

Mendenhall Glacier: This 13 mile glacier is not a scenic viewing from the ship it is in the capital city of Juneau and ends at Mendenhall lake. The Forest Service Center affords spectacular views of the glacier and icebergs in the lake.  There are walkable trails, don’t miss Nugget Falls near the glacier. Wildlife here is abundant and in spawning season you can salmon-which brings out the bears. Speaking of bears, take this rule VERY seriously:no food or drink other than water from May to September due to the bear activity. Even though you can see the glacier and it seems close you can not access the glacier directly through the visitor center. You have to book an excursion. From what I know you have to book a helicopter tour, which are fiercely expensive! If you do grab a spot for exploring the glacier be aware of loose debris. It’s easy to turn an ankle. Have the right boots on and have a guide.

 

Glacier viewing is an amazing journey that cannot be compared to other vacations, but not all glaciers, as you now know, will give you the same experience. No matter what you choose, it will be great! Don’t forget a really good camera. Bring jacket, NOT a parka! So many people pack for -40 degrees! Not going to happen! Unless you actually do book an activity on a glacier you will not need snow goggles, arctic parkas and heavy gloves. When we went it was 80 degrees-not so in the glacial areas, just throw on a coat or heavy sweatshirt you’re good to go.

Seeing orcas or huge chunks of ice falling into the ocean are not guaranteed; it’s nature, not an amusement park  but the sites and sheer overwhelming expanse will delight you.

If you want to know some cruise options here is a link to my booking website:https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-US/RhondaWeaver/

 

 

 

Another Alaska must see sled dog puppies. Absolutely adorable.

Nov 252017
 

I am blessed with a wonderful Mother, who one year for her birthday, took my sister and I on a trip to Cancun Mexico! It was incredibly fun and beautiful!

Now, I know there is a lot of fear out there about Mexico. Even in the resort areas, bad things have happened.  So, of course, one must always exercise caution.  Stay in a group, in a public area, watch how much you drink-hard to do in Mexico, but I strongly recommend it. If you do drink stay with your friends and stay in your hotel or a popular chain bar like Senor Frogs.

Cancun is very beautiful and has so much to offer! Stunning beaches, amazing food, spectacular scenery, wonderful people and stellar all inclusive resorts, of which I am a HUGE fan! I felt like I got tremendous value and felt very pampered.

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort which I highly recommend.  When food, drinks, entertainment and activities are included it really adds to the value. Value is everything! The Hotel Zone in Cancun offers many all inclusive and is relatively safe. Many have more than one property so you can eat and play at the other properties, which are usually very close.

We stayed at Riu Palace Las Americas; a very Grecian, stunning property! The people were so nice, the service and food were great. The shows were okay, but not much variety. The water sports are supposedly included, but you have to have previous experience and the resources are limited. Even laundry service was included, but the dryers don’t always work so we had to hang dry them. Which was tricky, since it was January and rainy and cool most of the time. Not a lot of beach days, but at least there were hardly ever any crowds.  https://www.riu.com/en/hotel/mexico/cancun/hotel-riu-palace-las-americas/index.jsp

Here’s a hint about room service. If you order 1 thing on the menu, they bring it for everybody! So expect triple portions of everything you order.  Make reservations early for the on-site restaurants, they are small venues and fill up quickly. They have a concierge desk to help you plan all your excursions. Use them; they are a valuable resource. I can not stress that enough. It saved me so much time! The hotel vets the vendors for each tour so it gave me piece of mind. And everybody needs that.  My favorite spot was the infinity pool. So amazing! I never wanted to leave it. This property had 2 sister properties so we could visit any and the food and entertainment was included. Most of these hotels will be off major roads that are close to shopping and nightlife.

If I could pick 3 things that are a must do I would choose: 1)The night time Pirate Adventure! Old fashioned Pirate ships, all-inclusive food and drink. Terrific actors that put on a really great show. The “Captain” shares tall tales and then another Pirate ship comes along boards your ship and there is a lot sword fighting and climbing the ropes and they really go for it. After your Pirates win the battle there is dancing and fun games. Be aware that they will constantly ask for tips. It’s not a big deal but they will push it.

2)Xcaret Park in Playa del Carmen. http://bit.ly/2znD6Jg The cab ride is expensive, at least $80.00 each way. You can go as part of a tour group, but it limits your time there and the park is open late. So, give yourself the whole day and go on your own with some friends.

I tried Snuba for the first time. We got to touch the Stingrays. Snuba is easy and fun, no swimming required.  The water wasn’t super clear but the experience was great. We loved the super big hammocks! They kind of wrap you up like a cocoon.  There was a place to grab an inner tube and float down the river. These things were not super easy to maneuver at first but you can get the hang of it. The park is big and beautiful and filled with things to do. There was no way to do everything in one day.

3) Isla Mujeres and the Tortu Granja Turtle Sanctuary.http://bit.ly/2hSUi2u There is a ferry dock (The Gran Puerto Cancun-Ultra Mar) that is close to downtown Cancun. It is a quick ride, 15 minutes and has a great upper open-air deck.  It was cloudy that day so it wasn’t crowded. The island itself is not big, and they discourage cars. Rent a golf cart or moped to get around. The island has a great beach and tons of local vendors you can bargain with for great prices. Check out Tortu Granja Turtle farm. This is a great place where they house and protect 6 different species of turtles. Between May and October you can take part of the release “ceremony”.  It was educational and fun. I would definitely love to go back there again, it was one of the highlights of the trip.

I would encourage you to study up on how to stay safe while in Mexico. Some things are common sense. Watch what you drink, beware of “drivers” offering to take you somewhere-even out of the airport. The hotel should have its own driver to pick you up. If you have the salad or fresh washed veggies only eat them at 4 or 5-star restaurant. Even beware of the place you stay. I am talking about balconies. The safety regulations are not the same as in the U.S. Balconies tend to be low and there have been reports of people falling off when leaning over.  Some good sites for safe travel for Cancun are Trip Savvy and Vacayholics. Cancun is a beautiful place where you meet wonderful people, enjoy fantastic food and amazing beaches; all at a great value!

Sep 162017
 

 I love cruising! I love everything about it, the entertainment, the food, the ease of getting from one place to another, the variety of activities, most of all I love being out to sea! For our anniversary David and I took a week-long cruise to the Western Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway. We had a great time and would do it again.

The Getaway is a HUGE ship! Eighteen decks high and 4000 people! The ship itself is beautiful, we really enjoyed the Waterfront which spans deck 6,7 and 8. Deck 7 has the promenade deck and was surprisingly quiet at night. We walked it every night after dinner and rarely saw anyone else. The other great thing about the Waterfront was the outdoor seating. Most ships have benches and sun lounger chairs but in keeping with the Miami vibe of the Getaway (The Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders are the Godmothers of this ship), there are outdoor couches and chairs at the bars and restaurants.  There’s nothing quite like having a mojito or gelato outside on a comfy couch watching the world go by. The entertainment was very good. If you only see one show see Burn the Floor! Wow! Is all I can say. Just amazing performance by the dance group. The food was okay, not the best. I really liked O’Sheehans Bar and Grill though. It is one of the better 24/7 venues on a ship.  Norwegian does nickel and dime you to death. There is a $7.95 delivery charge for room service and they push spa treatments a lot. If you go to the spa go on a port day, it’s a much better deal. Norwegian has a really nice spa too. I wish I would have booked on the last day,  though.  Just because between all the walking at the ports and transversing up and down the ship I was so tired at the end of the trip.

We went to Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize and Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico.

I have to say my favorite was Roatan hands down. I loved their coffee. The port itself is a gated area, that is small yet charming. Before we got off a group of men came out in full costume and greeted the ship with a dance/ritual. It was cool.  We booked our own excursion on Little French Key. https://www.littlefrenchkey.com/ 

Little French Key is a stunning island with the friendliest people and good food and drinks which were included. They have a whole menu of experiences you can choose from to really tailor your excursion. The island has 3 distinct beaches so you can choose a family friendly, a quiet one or the party area with a cool swim up bar.  Little French Key is a place I would to over and over. It was luxurious and fun at the same time. Everybody is incredible nice!  Make sure you find your guides by name once you leave the port area and look for their uniforms so you don’t taken by a unsavory character. They use to offer a discount if you paid with cash, I don’t know if that is still true.

Belize was our second stop. You have to tender in, and I have to say if you go to Belize you should plan an excursion. There is not much to the port itself. We shopped for people, drank out of a coconut and not much else. Belize is great for excursions, like cave tubing or the Zoo or the Jaguar Sanctuary. It not as much fun to just hang out in. Unlike Costa Maya, which was our third port. Costa Maya is a protected area too. It has a large pool with a swim-up bar and little waterfall at the end-beware it’s salt water when you swim into the waterfall section.

They have a Dolphin Swim excursion, massages on the beach, expensive restaurants, the locals performed a really impressive cultural ritual dance, lot’s of shopping and plenty of great photo opportunities. The beach itself is very rocky but the weather was nice and there were plenty of sun chairs and covered areas too. It’s a great place to enjoy yourself and not have to go anywhere or book an excursion.

The last port was Cozumel. One my all times dreams was to swim with the dolphins, so we booked Chankanaab National Park. http://www.cozumelparks.com/ I chose them because I have a co-worker who used to live there and said that they treat their animals well. We got there early and made good use of the pool-it was large with different depths inlaid with a pretty mosaic. The beaches felt secluded, the park itself is large, ruins, zip lining, snorkeling. A person could spend all day there.  It’s beautifully maintained and well laid out.  But, of course, I came for the dolphins. It was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be! We had to stand out in the hot sun for longer than I would have liked waiting for them to call our group, and go over instructions and safety. The area for each group is very large and clean, the dolphins are very well trained. We did the kiss, the shake, and 2 rides. One was a belly ride and the other was with a boogie board and they push your foot. Absolutely amazing! At the end they let us go down in the manatee pool and pet them. The big push is to buy the pictures. You can’t take your own and they charge a lot, so we opted out. They fed us a buffet as part of the package, overall it was a great value and I would recommend Chankanaab to anyone.

My overall takeaway is that the Norwegian Getaway is super lively ship with loads of fun. Every night was a deck party, and I loved the interactive maps all over the ship-you can make reservations, get directions, it was very useful. The Caribbean was full of beautiful beaches and great people. I appreciated the exposure to the cultures even if they were only snapshots of each area and not immersive. The Western Caribbean is most cost effective than the Southern or Eastern and was great because we could decide to hang out and do nothing or spend the whole day on an adventure.  That’s what vacation is supposed to be about, and not having housework.

 

Miami is a fun filled city and I would recommend staying a day or two before or after the cruise.

If you are interested in Norwegian cruise, either on the Getaway or a newer ship please see my link https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-US/RhondaWeaver

Or you can email me at roamingredfeather.com for other travel option. FYI, I am licensed travel agent and receive commission for travel booked through Expedia. 

Jul 252017
 

 

My husband and I have been going to Bainbridge Island  for  about six years.  It is a quick ferry ride from the Seattle Waterfront.  Pier 52, the Coleman dock; 801 Alaskan Way, 98121. The ferry runs every hour or half hour and runs all day and most of the night. The ride over to Bainbridge is about 30 minutes. Link to the ferry schedule  http://bit.ly/2eLo7DM

The view leaving Seattle is pretty great. The Puget Sound is beautiful. You can see the cruise ships, the space needle and the mountains.  No matter how hot it is out on the water is always cool.  The Seattle Ferries are large with different decks, many viewing areas. Some are sheltered too for windy days. They do have a snack/lunch counter.

We always walk on, it’s really convenient and easy.  Once you get off the ferry you can walk into town in about 10-15 minutes. Just like Seattle, Bainbridge is a slope. So walking there is easy, going back is all uphill. And  Winslow Way is a long street, so getting from A to B  is a trek if you have mobility issues. The other main street is Madison-it runs down to the waterfront.  Right off the ferry there is the Waterfront Park and Trail. It’s not terribly uneven or a hard walk.  There is a bike rental close to where the ferry docks.  http://www.bikebarnrentals.com/

People who would enjoy the picturesque town of Bainbridge:

  1. Photographers-especially if you like flowers. Bainbridge has many different types and floral and fauna everywhere you look. Many of which are not local but varied and charming. In fact right before town following Winslow Way they have a nature/sculpture area that fits in nicely with the vibe of the island.
  2. You want to feel like you’re away without having to go far away and don’t have a lot of time. Bainbridge feels far away and secluded and laid back but it is easy to get too. It’s perfect when I just want to go somewhere quiet and pretty and don’t have vacation time.
  3. You like dessert. Bainbridge does not have a whole row of restaurants close together and very little seafood places. Which is surprising considering the Marina is right there, but that’s okay because they have plenty of places for anyone with a sweet tooth. And I certainly do! Mora Ice Creamery is probably my favorite. They have so many great flavors. Mexican chocolate, mint shaved chocolate, Irish coffee, even marsala wine custard. The place is always clean; seating is limited. There are at least 3 bakeries, we usually go to Blackbird. Another must visit is Bon Bon confections. It’s a candy and fudge shop but the real treat is that there is an entire wall of different chocolate bars from around the world. All types and flavors from Argentina, Brazil,  the Congo, you name it. Many local chocolates too like Theo and Seattle’s Best Chocolate.
  4. You’re mindful of your budget. I can spend the day in Bainbridge get great photos of beautiful flowers, walk around the Marina, go to the Museum of Art which has free admission, get some ice cream and go home. If you want some great gifts the island boasts a pretty cool lavender store Pelindaba Lavender http://bit.ly/2uydx6R 

So, if you have a day in Seattle and don’t want to do all the ultra-touristy things and/or you are in town for a cruise and have spent a ton of money already Bainbridge will fit your needs.