Written by vampirefan on 24 Feb, 2005
Located at 907 Whitehead St. you will find the home of American author Ernest Hemmingway. The house has been lovingly turned into a museum and opened for the public to enjoy. Hemmingway was a Nobel Prize winner and author of such literary classics such as…Read More
Located at 907 Whitehead St. you will find the home of American author Ernest Hemmingway. The house has been lovingly turned into a museum and opened for the public to enjoy. Hemmingway was a Nobel Prize winner and author of such literary classics such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Snow of Kilimanjaro. You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this place. My literary preferences tend to lean toward Anne Rice and Stephen King. But I still enjoyed the heck out of the house.
Marine architect and salvage wrecker Asa Taft built the beautiful Spanish colonial house in 1851. It was one of the first houses on the island to be fitted with indoor plumbing and an indoor fireplace. Hemmingway resided here, along with his second wife Pauline and their two sons Patrick and Gregory. Ernest lived here from 1928 until his divorce from Pauline in 1940. Pauline lived here until her death in 1951. It was rented out over the years until Papa’s death 10 years later in 1961. At that time, the estate sold the house to local businesswoman Bernice Dickson. She opened the museum to the public in 1964 and moved to the carriage house in the back. In 1986, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The house still remains and is run by the Dickson family.
In the living room, you can see some of the furnishings Pauline purchased while she was living in Paris. She later shipped them to Key West when she and Papa took up residence. Her beautiful chandelier collection replaced all of the ceiling fans. In the dining room, you can see Pauline’s magnificent 18th-century Spanish walnut dining table. In the kitchen, you will see a lovely fireplace. The kitchen was modern for the times. She had a GE fridge installed in the home (not common or affordable at the time). Throughout the kitchen, you will notice many decorative Spanish and Portuguese tiles. In the master bedroom, marvel at the bed that uses an Old Spanish monastery gate as its headboard. The room originally occupied by his sons now serves as homage to Hemmingway himself. Here you will find memorabilia and photos from his travels. There are first editions of his books. You can also see a photo of Papa in his WW1 Red Cross uniform. In the former nursemaid’s room, you can see a splendid mantle made of Italian marble and more photos. You can take a walk outside around porch for some lovely views. There is a terrific view of the Key West lighthouse from here.
You can then wonder around the grounds of this lovely home. Running all over the place you will find about 50 cats that are descendents of the cats that lived here when Hemmingway did. Many of these cats are polydactyl cats, meaning they have extra toes! There is a beautiful weeping fig tree that was planted when the house was constructed. You can visit Papa’s studio, which was originally a carriage house. The second floor was his studio. You can see it just as it was when Papa was here. You can see his typewriter, his Cuban cigar-maker’s chair, and his books and mementos. The bottom floor contains a gift shop and restrooms. You can check out his swimming pool. His house was the first house to have a pool. Make sure to check out Papa’s unusual drinking fountain for his cats. The fountain is an old Spanish olive jar. The trough came from his good friend Joe Russell’s bar, Sloppy Joes. It was originally one of the men’s room urinals! But Pauline added the decorative tile to disguise this.
There may be something else still around from Papa’s days - Papa himself! It has been reported that the spirit of Papa still roams the house. Though he later resided in Cuba and then Idaho, it was this house that was his favorite. So his spirit is probably just hanging around and enjoying all the visitors who come to see this beautiful structure. There is an optional tour included in your admission. The tour last about 30 minutes and is a great tour to take. You can just wait on the front porch to join the next one. Or you can just roam the house at your leisure. This is a must-see for anyone coming to Key West. You can go to for more info.
One of my favorite spots in Key West was the Key West Lighthouse. I love lighthouses, so every time I get a chance to see one, I am extremely happy. The original lighthouse was built in 1825. The 65-foot brick lighthouse served the busy Key…Read More
One of my favorite spots in Key West was the Key West Lighthouse. I love lighthouses, so every time I get a chance to see one, I am extremely happy. The original lighthouse was built in 1825. The 65-foot brick lighthouse served the busy Key West harbor, which attracted fishermen and salvage wreckers. In 1846, a devastating hurricane swallowed up Sand Key, as well as most of Key West, including the lighthouse. By 1847, a new lighthouse had been built and stood in a much more secure place. In 1872, the lighthouse received its third-order Fresnel lens, offering a much better beam. In 1892, 20 more feet were added to the tower to also increase its visibility. There it stood until 1969, guiding many ships to safety. It was decommissioned in 1969 but still remained as an aid to private navigation until 1972. At that time, it was donated to the Key West Art & Historical Society. The society spent many years restoring it and using it for private functions. They opened it to the public for climbing in 1989, and the following year, opened the keep’s quarters. In 1989, it was included on the National Register of Historical Places, assuring it has a very long and safe future.
The keep’s quarters have been fully restored and recreated as it would have been when the light keepers served here. It has a complete house and verandah. Inside you will find nautical instruments, maps, photos, and lighthouse artifacts. Just inside the lighthouse gift shop you will find a fourth order Fresnel lens. French physicists Augustine Jean Fresnel invented the Fresnel lens. Today, newer lighthouses or lighthouses that need their lenses replaced have an automatic beacon. The Fresnel lenses are truly a work of art but are so cost prohibitive that most structures cannot afford them. One you leave the shop, you take a small path to either the light or the keeper’s quarters. The keeper’s quarters are quite lovely. The attention to detail here is magnificent. Everything has been lovely restored to as they would have been when the keepers and their families served here. If you love historical places, you will love this. I loved all of the lighthouse artifacts on display.
To some, the thought of climbing a lighthouse seems daunting. The first lighthouse I climbed was the Hunnting Island Lighthouse in South Carolina. It was 180 steps and quite a hike. Lighthouses aren’t exactly known for having lots of room to move about them. The steps are often very narrow, and you usually have to turn sideways for two people to pass. But when these were built, they were only built for one person to go up at a time. The designers of these building probably never imagined a day when dozens of happy visitors would be marching up and down the steps. Anyhoo, there are only 88 steps here to climb, so it is not a very strenuous climb. Once you reach the top, you walk out to a path that surrounds the lens. When you get here, you realize this is worth the climb. Talk about a view. Here you are offered some just breathtaking views. You can see all of Key West and are offered some stunning views of the ocean. If you are here and there are quite a few visitors also trying to enjoy the view, please be considerate of others. If you have the place to yourself, like we did, then stay and enjoy this beauty for awhile.
For more information on the lighthouse, go to and click on the lighthouse. You can also go to for information on all of the Florida lighthouses. Also check out . Photographers Bob and Sandra Shanklin have visited every lighthouse in the US. They have some wonderful books on lighthouses and have a terrific book featuring all of the Florida lighthouses. They are also very wonderful people. And finally, check out . This wonderful site has a compressive database of lighthouses. They also have a merchandise store featuring a variety of lighthouse merchandise. You can find out about joining the American Lighthouse Association, which helps preserve these wonderful structures. And you can find out about subscribing to the Lighthouse Digest. This wonderful monthly magazine is devoted entirely to lighthouses.
One of my most favorite places to visit is Key West, Florida. Located approximately 3 hours from Miami or 90 miles from Cuba, it is a terrific place to stay and visit awhile. It has been the home of Ernest Hemmingway, Jimmy Buffet, and the…Read More
One of my most favorite places to visit is Key West, Florida. Located approximately 3 hours from Miami or 90 miles from Cuba, it is a terrific place to stay and visit awhile. It has been the home of Ernest Hemmingway, Jimmy Buffet, and the Conch Republic. It is also a stop on the Western Caribbean itineraries of many cruise ships. Discovered by Ponce de Leon when he was in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth, it served for many years as a major port city. Later, in 1939, US Highway 1 was extended to Key West, making it accessible by car. But it didn’t become a major tourist destination until after the end of WWII. Today, more than 3 million people a year pour into this fun and quaint town. It serves as a military post for the US Navy, but most of its income comes from tourism.
You can choose to take several tours with the cruise line. You can do island tours, trolley tours, and snorkel tours. Or you can simply go it at your own pace. Key West is a very tiny island (2 miles by 4 miles), making it very easy to walk around. There are a number of things to do here. You can visit the houses of James Audubon, Harry Truman, and Ernest Hemmingway. You can stop and take your picture at the southernmost point in the US. You can learn some history at Mel Fishers Maritime Museum. Try climbing the Key West Lighthouse. Or you can host a few at any of the numerous bars located on the island. While we were here, my friend Tammy and I visited the lighthouse and Hemmingway’s house. Our friends Guy and Scott rented a golf cart and rode around the island and stopped at a few bars. Bicycles are also available for rent.
There are a number of options for getting into town. You can simply walk since it isn’t very far, or you can take the trolley or rent a cab, as either option is not very expensive. Once you arrive in town, if you hang a right down Whitehead Street, you will run into the house of naturalist James Audubon, Former President Harry Truman’s little white house, the house of Ernest Hemmingway (all three are open to tours), the Key West Lighthouse, and if you keep going, the southernmost point marked by a very large buoy. You can take your picture and enjoy a lively breeze coming in off the water and enjoy the views of the Atlantic. Along the way, you will see some beautiful old houses. These houses are painted in bright and beautiful colors that remind me more of the houses in the Bahamas than the old homes of Charleston, South Carolina.
If you opt to go to the left, you will run into the Mallory Square area. Mallory Square is known as the place to watch those famous Key West sunsets. But during the day it is pretty cool, too. Here you will find the Key West Aquarium, the Shipwreck Historeum, and Mel Fishers. Mallory Square also offers plenty of shopping. Here you can find T-shirts, locally made crafts, books, tropical clothing, and more. For the cooks in the family, make sure to pick up some real key lime juice so you can make an authentic key lime pie or key lime cooler cookies when you return. Here you are closer to the restaurants and bars. Key West has more than its share of bars (which may be part of the reason why Key West is so haunted. After one to many, lots of people see all kinds of things!). And most people want to visit at least one just to say they have. So stop by Sloppy Joes or the Hogs Breath and down a few with the locals. The Hard Rock and Margarittaville are located nearby. Two of our tablemates said that Diva’s, located on Duval, offers a great drag show. And like the majority of gay bars, they do not discriminate. Anyone open-minded who likes fun is welcome. If all this sounds like too much, just hit the beach and enjoy the scenery.
Key West is also well known for its fishing and diving. If you are interested in these two pursuits, you will have to come back for a long visit some other time. Both require charters and the trips pretty much take up most of the day. The best diving is done at the Tortugas, which is about 70 miles west. The boat trip is about 3 to 4 hours round-trip, and then you stay several hours at the Tortugas. So unless you’re lucky enough to have a cruise that is here for a long visit, you will have to miss this. Needless to say, just a visit to the breathtaking Tortugas are out of the question, too. And the favorite activity of sunset-watching is out since most cruises leave in the afternoon. Do check with the cruise lines, though, since recently several lines have started offering longer stops here as part of their itineraries, especially in the winter months, when the days are shorter. But whatever you choose, Key West is a place that will stay with you long after you have returned home. For more information on Key West and things to do, simply go to or .
It is very easy to get to the port in Miami. It is centrally located on Biscayne Boulevard. All the cruise ships are here, and you just follow the signs to the Carnival docks. If you are driving in, they do have parking and your…Read More
It is very easy to get to the port in Miami. It is centrally located on Biscayne Boulevard. All the cruise ships are here, and you just follow the signs to the Carnival docks. If you are driving in, they do have parking and your car will be very safe. If you fly in, you can either arrive at Miami International (MIA) or the Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) airport, which is only about 45 minutes away. You can take a taxi or the cruise line shuttle from MIA. Ask about the shuttle when you book your cruise. If you are arriving in Ft. Lauderdale, the cruise line shuttle is a cheaper alternative. You do need to make sure your plane arrives no later than 1pm or noon in Lauderdale to give you enough time to get to the port and make it through customs.
Carnival Cruise Lines are one of the most successful of all the cruise lines. In addition to Carnival, the company also owns Holland America; Cunard; Seabourne; COSTA; and Windstar, of the recent Princess. But the Carnival line remains my favorite, and as a travel agent, I send more clients on Carnival than any other. You can get more information and book a cruise at www.carnival.com 24/7.
The Fascination is one of Carnival’s older ships, which now cruises the Bahamas and Western Caribbean. It is 855 feet long, carries 2,052 passengers, and weighs 70,367 tons, which by many cruise ship standards, especially the Royal Caribbean Voyeur line, is small. The ship is still considered a mid-size ship and doesn’t seem small at all when you walk up to it. It is still is bigger than the Titanic, which only weighed in at about 50,000 tons.
On the ship, they offer a full-sized gym, three pools, a spa, two very elaborate dining rooms (the Sensation and the Imagination dining rooms), Seaview Bistro, a 24-hour pizzeria, several nightclubs, a casino, onboard duty-free shopping, first-run movies, and nightly Vegas-style and Broadway reviews.
For those bringing young ones, Carnival offers a terrific children’s program. From a travel professional’s perspective, I can tell you it is considered one of the best in the business. Their counselors are highly trained individuals. They often use college students who are studying child psychology or who are childhood education majors as interns. They have something going for the wee ones from sunup to sundown. It is included in the price of your cruise. I, for one, am not a fan of children, so I love how they handle their kids’ programs. These guys do such a super job of occupying the young ones that you never see them.
There are enough activities on this cruise to keep you going even on those dreaded days at sea. Every morning when you wake up you will find that a magical sea elf has left you a copy of the Carnival Capers. This nifty guide tells you about all the planned activities for the day, as well shopping deals, casino happenings, dining information, movie information, entertainment options, special events (like the Captain’s Cocktail Reception), and shore information on the next destination. Activities include a sail-away party; bingo; art auctions; singles’ mixers; and eat-more, weigh-less seminars (it usually doesn’t happen on a cruise, though). Or just simply relax at the pool with a daiquiri in hand. You can stay busy or do nothing at all. No matter what your choice, the Fascination is the perfect place to do it!
Written by melissa_bel on 16 Jul, 2004
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
From a tiny and sleepy fishermen village, Cozumel became snorkeling Mecca and party spot. Another face of Mexico. The ships stays here a while so, lots of space to visit. First thing, we decided to visit the city. One thing I can…Read More
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
From a tiny and sleepy fishermen village, Cozumel became snorkeling Mecca and party spot. Another face of Mexico. The ships stays here a while so, lots of space to visit. First thing, we decided to visit the city. One thing I can recommend is getting out of the docks area ASAP. You will be assailed by very pushy street vendors and I know some people don’t like it. San Miguel de Cozumel is bustling city with a lot going on. Its claims to fame? One of the best coral reefs in the world. snorkeler and scuba divers, this is your fantasy playground! But once you start leaving the center of activity, it becomes quiet and provincial with hardly someone in the street (it’s too hat anyway). The houses are painted in lively colors and one car out of five is a beetle, often customized. I didn’t know they came in so many different colors.
Religious icons are also numerous. Let’s not forget that the big majority of Mexicans are devout Catholics. After a nice walk, we decided to go to the beach. After a quick stop at a convenience store (dollars accepted), we took a taxi to Playa San Francisco. It was a nice beach… the water was calm and warm and it was such a beautiful day! I had my goggles and decided to check out the rock formation nearby. I was lucky enough to spot some fishes. Not far from where we were, there were partially submerged Mayan ruins. I was, once again, amazed at how close history can be. Talk about a blast from the past. The area has beach bars. Further south, Playa del sol is also a good place for beach goers. Around 4 o’clock, we decided to go back the ship. And no, we didn’t stop at Carlos ’s n’ Charlie’s. We waited for the sunset and a lot of people also came to the aft pool because that was one of the best viewpoint from the ship. The sky was cloudless, the sun, really orange. We were about to have one hell of a show. We watched the sun go down slowly and when it disappeared, I sweat I saw the green flash. The show provided by Mother Nature was so good We also had to get ready for the second formal night, this time, I would be in my cocktail dress. We went to the Captain’s club invitation-only special cocktail at the Vista Lounge. Captain Romano told us about the future of the company. He also put forth people onboard who sailed the most. One elderly couple sailed 22 times!!! Wow! After sipping some free cocktail (hey, doesn‘t happen everyday), it was off to diner. We had a lot of fun and went to see Michael "the kid" doing his late night act at the Vista Lounge, he is obnoxious *lol*.
In short: Cozumel left me quite ambivalent. The beaches are nice, but I’ve seen better, the city is very lively but some parts do look very poor. The island, although, has something from everyone: the partygoer, the cultural addict (San Gervasio ruins), the sport lover, the nature lover (snorkeling and Chankanaab Park), the beachgoer… You can also take a trip to the continent (take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and visit ruins). You will most probably have a great time.
Day 7: At sea
After a late night, I woke up around 9:30, feeling completely refreshed. The weather was great and after my breakfast, I headed to the pool. Miracle, I found a seat by the pool, in the sun. I remained there, well decided for some serious relaxation. It’s a good way to conclude a cruise. Although it was Thanksgiving and the ship had a lot more teens or young people, the cruise director was not able to have anyone for his pool game. Poor lad! After a slice of pizza (did I mention they are delicious?) and a quick trip to the buffet, I headed for the Theater to go and see the "Minority Report". I was pleased to notice the sound and quality was not bad at all. Memo to princess: providing popcorn (it’s cheap after all) during the picture show might be a nice touch. It was also another way to chill out. Especially after spending the whole morning under the sun. Unfortunately, they ran out of chocolate ice cream that day… oh well…I then joined Justin in the card room for a little monopoly. He had some good news: he made a deposit for a next cruise!!! And before you knew it, the sun was setting. Now, the last night on ship is really awkward and sort of depressing. Seems like the ship is deserted, we felt like eating at the buffet because on the last day, they have a mix of everything. The night was warm and we decided to go play a little ping-pong. There was almost no one on deck. Pretty good for a ship carrying 2,600 people. After one refill station at the buffet, it was time to go to bed. Our last day at sea had ended.
That morning, as I go on deck to get my breakfast, I am faced with an awesome view. We are at Costa Maya, a brand new pier on the Riviera Maya. We are in the middle of nowhere! There is a stretch of sand and…Read More
That morning, as I go on deck to get my breakfast, I am faced with an awesome view. We are at Costa Maya, a brand new pier on the Riviera Maya. We are in the middle of nowhere! There is a stretch of sand and beyond: the jungle! A sea of green. And nothing. I am amazed at first. Then I wonder: what are we going to do. This is the only time I regretted not booking a shore trip. Being very culturally inclined, I quite wanted to see the Mayan Ruins. Justin is not. So, we compromised and decided we would go check the village of Majahual. From the information we received the day before, there is a pier with a tourism center and lots of attraction, it looked good, at least on paper. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain. We had to wait for the rain to stop (around 11 am) to disembark. The pier is very long but you have shuttles coming back and forth and you can hitch a ride. A RCA ship is in port as well (I think it was the Radiance but not sure).
The road to Majahual, looking towards Costa Maya with a Royal Caribbean ship in port.
At the door of the Costa Maya complex, we are greeted by someone dressed as a Mayan warrior. That is where I begin having serious suspicion. Once inside, it is confirmed: we are in the ultimate tourist trap. The whole thing is modeled on a resort with shops (and luring vendors), restaurants, bars, a swimming pool and a small artificial beach. It may be ok with tourists (and I am sure they will be satisfied by what they can find at Costa Maya) but not for us. I find it heartbreaking in fact and cannot wait to get out of there. So, we will walk to Majahual. As we are on our way, we meet a couple who was just coming back and told us it would take 20 minutes, half-an-hour to go there. It hot and humid as the skies are still cloudy and, we didn’t think about it but I hope it is a lesson to you, MOSQUITOES!!! That kind of weather drives them crazy and those critters are proliferating in that environment. We hadn’t thought about that and didn’t have any bugs repellent with us. We were at their mercy for a while, been bitten several times. But, the sun finally came out and the humidity dropped, the mosquitoes disappeared. The road to Majahual is a whole lot of nothing but it’s also quite exciting. You feel like being an explorer. A narrow path of yellow dirt (sand) is waving between the vegetation and the sea. It is deserted, although men are not far away (and there is a road not far away), almost halfway there, we come across a Mexican Navy base, it seems almost abandoned. The coast is lovely but I would not say unspoiled since you can find plastic bags or a plastic bottle. It’s a shame, but the clean places are lovely and have a rugged charm that is so hard to find in most popular port-of-calls. After a nice 25-minute walk, we arrive at Majahual. Guys, it is not Acapulco. It is a tiny fishermen village with one dirt main road, a couple of snack-bars-restaurant, the inevitable Beetle car… It is the real Mexico, poor but trying to get by. Some fellow cruisers sit on terraces and sip a Corona. Villagers are taking advantage of Costa Maya… even if it’s hard for most cruisers to walk all the way there. Vendors are selling jewelry and are not too pushy. They hopefully haven’t learnt the way of their big cities counterparts. I wish we could sit and have a drink, I’d rather spend my money here than in Costa Maya but Justin feels uncomfortable. He will admit he doesn’t feel at ease around poverty. I can’t blame him. It’s always a bit uneasy the first times. But I am glad we made the walked all the way there.
Majahual, restaurant and Beetle.
On our way back, I spot a young girl, alone, her long raven hair floating, walking her feet in the water. I take a picture. Further away, a little barge, half-broken, is abandoned but in a frame of palm trees… We are also looking for seashells and corals. They will be our souvenirs. Back at Costa Maya, I am forcing myself to take a look at the shops but don’t buy anything. After taking a look at the beach (which is very small and didn‘t look inviting), we decided it was time to go back to the ship, just on time for the ice cream buffet. Needless to say that once again, we had during the evening… but that’s a given. It was Thanksgiving so, we decided to go eat at the main dining room, so we wouldn’t miss the special dinner. The atrium had been decorated accordingly and looked really nice. When the main course (turkey of course) arrived, Justin was all disappointed because it was tiny slices of turkey when he expected a leg or a breast…
But the pumpkin pie was delicious. We went to see a stand-up comedian in the Princess Theater, unfortunately, I can’t remember his name. But he didn’t seem to make the crowd as much as he wanted (repeatedly asked if we were not asleep).
In short: Costa Maya is different from many port-of-calls and brings very radical feelings. Some hate it, some love it. I’ll try to be constructive. From what I’ve known, this is the work of the Mexican government to try to improve tourism revenue for the area. Is it done the right way? I am not sure that building a resort enclave where poverty is so close and so apparent is the right way. And I am not sure people from area are even participating since I heard some people were brought here from the capital. Some travel experts says that Cozumel started the same way. That still remains to be seen. My advice is to plan carefully what to do. If you don’t do anything, you ’re much better off staying on the ship. But it would be a shame to miss the Mayan ruins (I’m still banging my head on the wall over this).
Written by melissa_bel on 25 Jun, 2004
Early in the morning, we arrived on Grand Cayman. Tender is required here. Instead of using the lifeboat to go ashore, Grand Cayman provides little boats to bring the passengers ashore and back. We decided that it would be a beach day. Grand Cayman is…Read More
Early in the morning, we arrived on Grand Cayman. Tender is required here. Instead of using the lifeboat to go ashore, Grand Cayman provides little boats to bring the passengers ashore and back. We decided that it would be a beach day. Grand Cayman is a limestone island lying very low on the ocean that it’s invisible until you get very close to it. It’s also as flat as a pancake, which was a change from the rolling hills of St-Martin and the green mountains of St-Thomas. Now, I know lots of people booked excursions to the turtle farm or stingray city but we didn’t. You can also go to Hell and send a postcard to your family and friends and tell them you’ve through there and back! Our main attraction of the day will be 7 Mile Beach (which is not 7 miles long, by the way). As you all know, Cayman Islands are an offshore fiscal paradise and its inhabitants are amongst the most well off inhabitants of the Caribbean. Georgetown is a small town where probably half of its buildings are banks. Everything is tidy and it seems that if you want to take a land vacation here, the package will be pretty slick. We found out that the "bus" stop is by the Library so, after a little walk along the shops (it is so weird to see a Christmas tree in a tropical paradise) we reach the Library. The buses are in fact mini-vans that run when someone comes in and take people along the way. On our way, we notice the numerous hotel, resorts and villas build along the beach. This is really the tourism center of gravity of Grand Cayman.
Seven Mile Beach
Our driver finally drops us. Verdict? Seven Mile Beach is really lovely. Despite having three ships in port, the beach was not crowded (most people probably went on excursions). Now, this is not really a palm tree lined beach, it is more of a big stretch of sand surrounded by pines, flowers and bushes. And those pines seem to attract a lot of visitors since we were entertained by some songbirds. Which are numerous and very vocal. The water was warm and calm, the sun was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds… a nice place for a beach day. Justin and I will soon go on our "coral hunt" (don’t worry folks, I’m talking about dead corals). We never really were into the "bring a souvenir T-shirt" thing. We like to bring things that are really part of our destination. And since Grand Cayman is made of limestone, we will bring back coral and seashells. After a few hours of beach, it was almost time to go (the ship leaves quite early to go to our next destination). Back at the Library, I have a little chat with people working here and a gentleman, who wants me to remind you how Cayman people are nice, absolutely wants to have his picture with me. I’m more than happy to oblige. Just by curiosity, Justin drops by Nova Scotia bank to see what it takes to open an account. Turns out Nova Scotia is just a facade and is not related to the Canadian bank, they just own the name (talk about weird combinations). Not much remains of the old Georgetown and all the buildings are quite new but you can find some pretty, old buildings here and there. One of them being the Museum of the Cayman Islands, which is just by the pier. As we go back, we notice the line is HUGE!!! And it will get even bigger after us. Hopefully, things are moving fast and after 10-15 minutes of standing in line, we‘re in the tender. We came back just right on time as the weather was becoming cloudier. Back in our cabin for a quick shower, the first thing we noticed was an invitation from the captain. As a member of the Captain’s Club (that happens after your first cruise), we were invited on Friday for a special cocktail offered by the captain for his gala dinner night. It’s those kind of things that make you feel like you’re special.
As we dropped by the Horizon Court to grab a bite to eat, we discovered the ice-cream bar… Remember, there is an ice-cream stand by the Neptune pool, unfortunately, it is not free since it’s an Haagen-Dazs concession but, I guess Princess got enough complaints and instated an mini ice-cream buffer with vanilla and chocolate ice-cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel fudges and different kind or thingies to sprinkles. That happens between 3.30 and 5.50 and probably is the busiest station of the whole buffet. So busy that on the last day of cruise, they had ran out of ice cream! I decided to find a cozy spot on the terrace to read while waiting for the departure. As the ship moved, Grand Cayman disappeared quickly behind the horizon… off we were to sunny Mexico.
That night, we decided to go see "Road to Perdition" at the Vista Lounge. Again, it is recommended to arrive early if you don’t want to have your view blocked by a pillar (and if you want to find a place to sit). After the movie, we decided to try our luck again at the Casino but… it got even worse and we decided to avoid the place from this moment on.
In brief: Grand Cayman is a pretty relaxing place. Not spectacular but it has everything most people expect from a port-of-call: nice excursions (stingray city, Hell, the turtles farm…), nice beach, good shopping… But nothing that really makes it special though. Although most people enjoyed because it’s not too "exotic".
Written by Coronado Bob & Berie on 12 Jul, 2004
This was our sixth trip to the West Indies but the first time that we ventured outside of St. Barthelemy. Starting in Anguilla, which is part of the British West Indies, we were amazed at the radical difference between the two islands when you…Read More
This was our sixth trip to the West Indies but the first time that we ventured outside of St. Barthelemy. Starting in Anguilla, which is part of the British West Indies, we were amazed at the radical difference between the two islands when you can see one from the other. Anguilla is a long flat island, while St. Barts (French West Indies) is a very mountainous island. BUT, more than that, the ambiance and culture are just worlds apart, as is the food. There is no doubt that Anguilla is the friendly island where everyone talks to everyone else all of the time. In St. Barts, people are more reserved with one another. The dress in Anguilla is far more casual in that we would see people wearing shorts even in the more upscale dinner places. In St. Barths, women tend to wear sundresses and men either very nice shorts, or more, often casual slacks and fun sport shirts to dinner. In St. Martin, we did not stray from the beach area, but it seemed a little more like Anguilla as far as dress goes. All three places are so wonderful in their own way.
You can go to these islands and seek the ultimate in haute cuisine at very expensive hotels and resorts. BUT, if you are like us and can get haute cuisine in our own home city, then you go looking for real island food...the kind that locals eat, not because it is necessarily less expensive but because it is the BEST!! We sometimes paid as much for an "island meal" as we might in a four-star restaurant, but we went away much happier indeed!!
All three islands, of course, have stunning beaches, although we had to admit that the sand in Anguilla was softer and more beautiful on many of the beaches. St. Martin seemed a combination of the two. Though St. Martin boasts Pizza Hut and Burger King among the many other non-Carribbean things for tourists and locals, it still has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
In Anguilla, be prepared to drive on the left hand side of the road even though most of the cars have a left hand steering wheel. You will be given a special driving permit of you rent a car. We were lucky that our Villa came with the owner's car to be rented. The roads in Anguilla are often dirt paths so rent something rather compact or a small size SUV if you plan to explore. In St. Barths, many roads squeeze down to a single lane and you have to navigate steep hills and tight turns. A recommendation is to rent a SMART car. They come air conditioned if you wish but they are a hybrid standard/automatic shift and they are "smart" enough to shift even if you make a mistake! They are small but very comfortable and they can climb the hills with ease. St. Martin has a variety of roadways, but more of them are wide and paved than the other two islands. St. Martin traffic is a lot busier because the island is so big and populated.
Twenty-three days was a long stay in the islands, but we enjoyed ourselves very much and will head back to the West Indies next year for our seveth trip! There is a wonderful laid-back feeling no matter where you are in this little corner of the Caribbean. It is likely that we will split next year between St. Barts...still our favorite...and St. Martin because Orient Beach is great fun!!!
Someone once said that St. Barths is not a place, it is a "state of mind." We agree wholeheartedly with that! And you really need not be rich and famous to find a very happy spot in St. Barths.
Written by qcommconsultants on 11 Jul, 2005
For all of you browsing and searching for a cruise, this is definitely the way to go: Book your cruise at the last minute, as I only paid $271 for this cruise, and that includes all taxes and port charges!!!
This cruise was originally…Read More
For all of you browsing and searching for a cruise, this is definitely the way to go: Book your cruise at the last minute, as I only paid $271 for this cruise, and that includes all taxes and port charges!!!
This cruise was originally set for four nights, but it ended up lasting a total of 7 nights. WOW! I guess the unfortunate thing was that since the hurricanes hit South Florida yearly, there is always concern when travelling during this time of year. Our cruise stayed WELL away from the storms, and the captain made it very clear that we may well be delayed in getting back into port (Miami) if the hurricanes are around.
In any case, we all made the best of things - that wasn't too difficult on my part - I just enjoyed my time being pampered and served - man, I LOVE CRUISIN'!!!!
All in all, we all arrived back in Miami save and sound. I had to rearrange some travel plans/ bookings, but that's not the end of the world. I'm just sorry to hear that there were so many problems and injuries with the locals during these stormy months. My one-week vacation ended up being extended to 2 full weeks, and I can't really complain about that.
If you're in the market for a vacation, you gotta try a cruise. Please feel free to leave me comments, and I'll try to answer any questions that may be worrying you.
Written by qcommconsultants on 06 Jul, 2005
To everyone interested in taking (or who has taken) a Caribbean cruise, we have been all over the Caribbean and can tell you that each and every island is one in itself.
The port areas of cruises are typically the hot spots or, obviously, the…Read More
To everyone interested in taking (or who has taken) a Caribbean cruise, we have been all over the Caribbean and can tell you that each and every island is one in itself.
The port areas of cruises are typically the hot spots or, obviously, the very touristy sites. Feel free to roam about and shop to your heart's content, but be warned, these shopping galleries are tourist traps. That is a part of the lure, though.
Another MUST-DO is to definitely try the local cuisine. This allows you to really see how the islands have different souls. Local fare is a must, since you will experience spices and flavours not always available to our normal daily routines.
Cruising is actually a very smart way to start seeing the islands, since it allows you to experience different lifestyles and not be tied down to one. You then can go back to the comforts of the cruise ship, and back to a relaxing full-service hotel and floating resort. We love being pampered, and on a cruise, everyone knows that pampering and being spoiled is what everyone needs now and again. Naturally, the onboard time is always a concern to most travelers/cruisers, but rest assured, most large cruise ships are very stable and almost motionless. As with the SuperLiners nowadays, you'll find everything from ice rinks to climbing walls, and some of the newest liners have OUTDOOR evening movies on the sundecks--how cool!
As for entertainment, you've all heard this before--you can watch shows, go gambling, go eating, stroll the decks--it's entirely up to you. I love the fact that being on a cruise allows you to live and enjoy the island life for a few days and then eat and sleep within the comforts of a four-star hotel and resort.
Just spend some time to look up information and talk to people, as this allows you to get the feel of things before you actually step aboard the ship; then, at that point, let your worries go and have some fun.