8 Hours in…Barbardos

Day 3 of our Carnival Cruise found us on the scenic island of Barbados.

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As first-timers to the island with so many things to do and see, it was hard deciding on how we’d fill our day.

Hubby enjoys rum on occasion, and he read about Mount Gay Rum Distillery located near the port, so we decided to start our day by going on the $10.00 Signature Tour. The tour included a narrated history of the company by the entertaining Dario, a short film on Mount Gay and a few samplings afterward.  It was well worth the $10.00, and we both agreed due to the smaller, more intimate tour, it was better than the Bacardi Tour in Puerto Rico.

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Out of all the online research I did for “must-do” activities in Barbados, the majority of reviews kept pointing to the fabulous snorkeling.  So after making the easy decision on snorkeling as our afternoon adventure, it was time to make the hard decision on exactly which establishment we would use to make our snorkeling dreams come true.

Thanks to the many reviews on the travel site TripAdvisor, we decided to have our snorkeling adventure with Thriller Ocean Tours.

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A family owned company, Steve and Kim were amazing hosts!  We were picked up around noon by daughter Kim and taken directly to the 35ft off-shore powerboat. Large enough to fit 14 people comfortably, we all boarded the boat and headed out to explore the island’s golden coast.

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For $70 per person, our adventure included a high speed boat ride along the coast, snorkeling over a sunken shipwreck and coral reef, and swimming with sea turtles!  We even stopped at a beach and spent about 30 minutes soaking in the sun.

Helpful tip: If you’re prone to getting seasick, take ginger tablets beforehand! One of our tour mates spent a good part of the afternoon leaning over the edge of the boat :(

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Although I’m an average swimmer & have snorkeled twice before, I still feel very uncomfortable when I’m in deep water.  One of the reasons I chose Thriller Ocean Tours was because of the many reassuring reviews I read about Stephen and Kim. They provide snorkel coaching to all swimmers, novice or expert. I told them of my fears (drowning in my mask being one of them…LOL!), and they were right there with me giving me instruction on how to properly wear the snorkel, jump off the boat, (I was NOT a fan at first!  But Stephen held my hand as I slid off the edge!) and snorkel techniques.  After awhile, I was thoroughly enjoying myself without any fear!

017_17Fear of deep water…me?  Nah!
(If I wasn’t wearing a life preserver, that’d be a different story!)

023_23Kim sprinkled out num-nums for the turtles, and they got close enough to touch!

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Stephen and Kim wrapped up our afternoon of fun by providing us with tasty snacks and beverages. They really though of everything and made it a day to remember!

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If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Barbados, I highly recommend Thriller Ocean Tours. Perfect for beginner or expert swimmers/snorkelers, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon and have a unforgettable experience!


Thriller Ocean Tours
info@thrilleroceantours.com
Phone: +1 246.231.8300

 

 

july 4
God Bless America!

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During our Carnival Cruise, I did a lot of reflecting while gazing out into the ocean, and one view that was particularly hypnotic was that of the ship’s wake.

Recently, I read a quote from Wayne Dyer that beautifully captures the essence of a wake and how it relates to life.

The past is a trail you leave behind, much like the wake of a speedboat.  That is, it’s a vanishing trail temporarily showing you where you were.  The wake of a boat doesn’t affect it’s course–obviously it can’t since it appears behind the boat.  So consider this image when you exclaim that your past is the reason you aren’t moving forward.  ~ Wayne Dyer

So whenever I feel stuck in life, I’m going to remember that hypnotic wake and remind myself that the past is behind me, the future is ahead of me…

…and I’m moving forward!  :)

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For seven days and nights, we called the Carnival Valor our home. 

Although we spent most of our time exploring the various islands on our cruise itinerary, we got to know the Valor very well and discovered that it was more than just a floating hotel. They don’t call it the “Fun Ship” for nothing!

So come aboard and discover all the fun you can have on the Carnival Valor without leaving the ship!

1. Share your room with different “animals” in your room every night…or just take a towel folding class and make your own!

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2. Enjoy a bon voyage party on your first night at sea complete with music, games and fun!

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3. Try different culinary masterpieces every day…

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4. …or satisfy your sweet tooth craving with 24 hour soft serve!  My husband agreed that dessert before dinner was perfectly acceptable! LOL!

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5. See entertaining shows every night!

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6. Enjoy a party at sea complete with a “Hairy Chest Contest!”

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7. Gaze out into the vast blue.

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8. Watch movies outside…in the middle of the sea…in a pool…or a hot tub…or on a lounge chair…the choice is yours!

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9. Get competitive with games like “Name that Celebrity.”

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10. Snag a beach chair, & work on your tan.  These empty chairs were a rare sighting!

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11. Get windswept!

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12. Enjoy perks of being a return Carnival Cruise customer.  The perks get better with each cruise you take. We were treated to a jumbo bottled water…and it came in handy!

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13. Go on a photo safari.

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14. Play miniature golf…in the desert…and on the sea!

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15. Do absolutely nothing…

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16. Make new friends. (Ours were from Montreal, Canada)

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17. Watch your server shake his money maker!

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18.  Release your inner child!  (And we released it twice!)

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19. Watch the sky turn into a brilliant shade of coral.

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20. Awaken to a breathtaking view.

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21. Indulge in a decadent dessert!

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22. Be curious & explore the ship!

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23. Get gussied up and have a professional take your photo!  (There are backdrops for every mood…so be creative and have fun!)

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24. Realize that you love cruising and can’t wait to do it again!

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And that just scratches the surface!  The list goes on and on…from comedians to karaoke to yoga to the casino to dance lessons to kids clubs…the Valor has it all!

Never once was I bored!

The selection of activities was endless, and at times, we had a hard time fitting it all in!

So if you’re on the fence about cruising, trust me when I say, go for it!

It’s an experience you’ll always cherish for years to come!

 I know we will!

IMG_6122a…this one!

Sorry…I’m not revealing the answer until the next couple of posts!

The great thing about beaches is that they’re all beautiful in some way, but for me, this beach ranks the highest in my book!

I’d like to think that I’ve experienced a good number of beaches in my lifetime, but there are still so many places I want to visit including Asia and French Polynesia…and I think maybe I’ll find my next favorite beach there!

For those of you who have been to the Caribbean, maybe you already know this beach…maybe you’ve soaked your feet in the warm, clear waters…maybe you’ve evened out your tan with the bountiful rays…maybe you waded out into the crystalline turquoise waters and realized just how far you walked out with your feet still touching the sand…maybe you took a peak with one eye at the other (more natural) end of the beach (lol!)…or maybe you just stared in awe all the beauty surrounding you.

It really was a gorgeous beach that encompassed so many wonderful qualities (except for the crowds!), and I look forward to returning one day!

Until then…stay tuned for the big reveal…or 100 bonus points to anyone who can name this beach!


So…what’s YOUR favorite beach?

8 hours in…St. Thomas

The breath-taking island of St. Thomas was the first stop on our Carnival Valor Caribbean cruise, and we were excited for the adventure ahead!

Months prior, my hubby decided that he would cross off his bucket list item of scuba diving in the Caribbean, and so he booked a scuba diving excursion at the Coki Dive Center located on the eastern end of the island.

Knowing that the excursion would take about 5 hours from start to finish and that I would be on my own, I decided to find something fun to do, and as luck would have it, I discovered Sunny Liston Tours online.

All I was looking for was something light-hearted, fun-filled and informative that would include shopping, sight seeing and beach time, and for $40.00, Sunny provided all of that and more!

Let me start by saying, if you don’t like to sing, laugh and make instant friends all while exploring the island, this tour is not for you!

We started off at 10:00am by boarding the open-air cab (otherwise known as a “safari”) and being driven to the most popular outdoor market in Charlotte Amalie where we got to enjoy 1.5 hours of duty-free shopping. I instantly hit it off with Shirley and Vick, a sweet couple from Canada, and we spent our time exploring the rows and rows of many Caribbean souvenirs and gifts.  Shirley gave me some pointers on how to bargain with the shop owners, and I was able to walk away with some amazing deals!  Did you know you can get freebies at the jewelry shops just by asking? I walked away with several unique charms…for free!

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IMG_5166Me, Shirley & Vick

On the way up to our first scenic vista, Sunny turned up some upbeat Caribbean music that pulsed out of our safari that got everyone clapping and singing along. He interjected his personality to the music by adding “uh-huh uh-huh’s” and “wooh-wooh’s” to every song!  As other tour vans passed us, we made sure to cheer, wave, scream and sing…and watch as their expressions turned to “I wish I was on THAT tour instead!”

IMG_5153Our colorful safari!

Sitting on the very edge of the seat, I had to brace myself during those hairpin turns or else I would have exited the tour a little too early!  The gentleman sitting in front of me who went by the alias of “Lieutenant Dan” turned out to be a fun addition to the tour group. He, too, was sitting on the edge, and would make sure I didn’t roll out of my seat each time we rounded those tight corners.  There were lots of screams and “Whoas!” along the ride, and some people even threw their hands in the air as if they were on a roller coaster ride.  At one point, “Lieutenant Dan’s” hat flew right off his head and landed in my lap!  An adventure indeed!

IMG_5117Our first vista overlooked the lush island, harbor and all of the magnificent ships.
The water couldn’t have been any more blue – it was breathtaking!

IMG_5124Sunny was such a friendly and gracious tour guide.  He ensured everyone had a great time!

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Our next stop was Mountain Top where we got to empty our wallets again, enjoy a banana daiquiri, get to know our tourmates better and be in awe of the crystalline views of Magen’s Bay Beach, one of the top ten beaches in the world!

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After our fun-filled afternoon of shopping and sightseeing, it was time for my new friends and I to part ways as Sunny dropped us off at our pre-selected beaches of choice.  I decided to go to Coki Beach since my hubby would be there.  Everyone else either went to Magen’s Bay Beach or Sapphire Beach.

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Coki Dive Center was right off the beach, so it ended up being perfect!  For $5.00, I rented a chair, and the attendant even put it in the shade upon my request. You can also rent umbrellas and snorkel equipment…whatever your heart desires. Everything that was needed was right there, and I got to spend about an hour relaxing, gazing out into the water, and swimming! (Just be careful, the undertow is a little strong!)

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As I strolled along the beach taking pictures, I heard “JENNNNN!!!”  Looking up, I saw my hubby waving to me from the Coki Dive Center. We had about 30 minutes left before Sunny would come back around to pick us up, so we spent that time enjoying the water, soaking up the sun and talking about our adventures. And yes, he thoroughly enjoyed his scuba diving experience! 

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As scheduled, Sunny picked us up around 3:15, and he even let my hubby join the much smaller group even though he wasn’t part of the tour.

On our way back, rhythmic Caribbean music filled the air, and the fun continued all the way back to the ship. As we drove by the cruise-goers waiting in line, our tour group cheered, clapped and screamed, “SUNNY LISTON’S THE BEST!!!”

And on the island of St. Thomas, he is!


Sunny Liston Tours
P.O. Box 9108
St. Thomas, VI 00801
340-690-0126
liston@sunnylistontours.com

8 Hours in…St. Lucia

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James pulled his air conditioned van to the side of the road, reached under his seat, turned to face us and with a serious expression, held up his large machete.

“Wait here…”

Exiting the vehicle, James entered the dense brush on the side of the road and proceeded to hack the lush foliage with his sharp blade as we watched curiously.

“What is he doing?”

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Desiree, James’ charming and informative colleague, replied with a reassuring smile,

“It’s a surprise…”

James returned to the vehicle, handed me what appeared to be a piece of bark and smiled.

“Smell this.”

To my delight, this wasn’t just ordinary bark. This was fresh cinnamon bark sliced right from the tree. I held on to the bark tightly as if it were gold, trying to breathe in every ounce of the heavenly aroma before I had to pass it around to the five other passengers to enjoy. Little did they know that this was my favorite scent!

Cinnamon BarkCinnamon Bark

This was just one of the many personal touches that James St. Prix of James Touring Service offered his guests making our day in St. Lucia a special one filled with one surprise after another!

At 9:00am that morning, we disembarked the Carnival Valor and stepped outside the gates of the cruise terminal. Seeing a “James Tours” sign, we were greeted warmly by Desiree. As the other members of the tour gathered, James came to introduce himself with his friendly smile and fun personality.

A Pittsburgh Steelers fan to the core, James’ Toyota van was no exception. Proudly displayed on the hood of his clean and comfortable van was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ logo and wide receiver, #84, Antonio Brown. Although many taxi services have claimed to be James to draw business away, don’t be fooled! There is only one James St. Prix!

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After we introduced ourselves to the four other passengers including a newly engaged couple and two friends from Chicago, we piled into his Steelers van complete with free WI-FI and listened to James as he gave us a brief summary of the day ahead.

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Given the twisty roads of St. Lucia, James focused on driving and left the informative guiding to Desiree. If you succumb to motion sickness, don’t let this stop you from experiencing James Touring Services! James drove up those winding switchbacks carefully and with a seasoned hand. For those with extra sensitive equilibriums, consider taking a few ginger tablets beforehand like I did, and you should be fine.

The adventure began with a stop at a large and bountiful banana plantation. After James explained to us how bananas were harvested, three friendly young ladies who worked at a nearby souvenir shop treated us to samplings of banana ketchup, banana & honey barbecue sauce and banana rum! We even got to try fresh, sweet bananas picked right off the tree! Everything was so delicious, and my husband and I left with a bottle of the barbecue sauce to enjoy at home.

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When asked how he chose which local merchants to stop at, James said that it was based on their behavior and whether or not they pressure the tourists into buying their products. He ensured us that as long as he’s around, we will not be harassed. Each vendor we encountered was very pleasant and open to answering any questionsor even just having a friendly conversation!

ChristianaChristiana, a very nice lady with a sweet Grandmotherly presence, made cashew candy and sold it for $2.00.
It was a great purchase…and so delicious!

As we drove through the old fishing village of Canaries, James and Desiree discussed the local economy, pointed out where locals spend their free time and even showed us where laundry is washed on the banks of a river (where the juiciest gossip is shared!) As we passed the first church on the island, James stopped to ask a young boy who was selling shell necklaces why he wasn’t in school. After a brief conversation in Creole, he bought a necklace and told the boy to get back to school. In addition to being well respected in the community, it was obvious that James also cares about his home and the people of St. Lucia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanaries

During the tour, James peppered the conversation with funny jokes which he confirmed are funnier when told in Creole, a “harsh” French-based language containing African and Carib words. He was also very generous when it came to photo stops and complimentary snacks where he would stop at local eateries and let us experience local treats like “Crunchy Cookies” and “Cassava Bread”. He even kept his van stocked with ice-cold beverages to keep us hydrated throughout the day. We learned that James had worked for Royal Caribbean for over 15 years, so he knew all about providing excellent customer service, and it showed!

The PitonsPhoto stop of the Pitons on our way to Soufriere.

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IMG_5475Cassava Bread

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I was most excited about going to the oldest town of Soufrierie where we would experience Sulphur Springs Park, the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano and St. Lucia’s premier tourist attraction! Ask anyone on the island, and they will tell you that the mud is supposed to take ten years off your appearance! So with that in mind, my hubby and I did not hold back on this natural beauty treatment!

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IMG_5491ACheck out this long line of cars trying to get in! 

The mud bath was a 4-step process.

First, we bathed in a mineral rich thermal pool. If you like taking hot showers, this will be a most welcome experience. The temperature is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

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Next, we slathered ourselves in the age reducing mud. There were two types of mud – black & grey. They both have the same therapeutic properties but differ in that the black mud is from volcanic ash and could permanently stain your swimsuit. The grey mud, on the other hand, is thicker, less messy and won’t ruin your swimsuit. James had someone set aside a container of the special grey mud for us that we eagerly slathered ourselves with!

IMG_5503AI didn’t know getting muddy could be so fun!

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After letting the mud dry on for a few minutes, it was time to turn up the heat as we slowly reentered the mineral pool to rinse off as best we could. It helps to have someone with you to assist in those areas you can’t easily see or reach.

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The last step was the showeror what I’d like to callthe trickle. We basically stood under a spigot and attempted to rinse ourselves by contorting our bodies in a way so that the very light stream of water could reach those remaining muddy bits. As I rinsed off, I was baffled by what I sawfor someone who usually gets devoured by mosquitoes, I was bite free! It turns out that sulphur repels mosquitoesoh happy day!

The mud bath experience made us feel rejuvenated, and the pumice consistency of the mud left our skin softer than I can ever recall! My hubby’s sunburn was even less intense. As far as looking younger, I’m not sure if it took ten years off my appearance, but I’ll make any excuse to get back to Saint Lucia!

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The excitement was far from over as our next stop was to Toraille Waterfall, or as Desiree called it, the “Power Shower”!

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Toraille Waterfall, one of St. Lucia’s natural heritage sites, spills into a refreshing pool that visitors are welcome to swim in or in some cases walk in, scream upon the realization of the freezing temperature, and quickly exit the pool!

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Guests lined up to bravely stand under the “Power Shower”. A photographer was available to capture those special moments of being pounded by the force of the water!

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Desiree was kind enough to capture these romantic awkward moments for uslol!

Try to smile normallyI dare you!

IMG_5566ATake 1:  “Smile at the camera honey!”

IMG_5568ATake 2:  “Ok, let me just fix my hair first!” 

IMG_5567BTake 3:  Cover of Sports Illustrated here we come! LOL!

IMG_5570ATake 4:  When all else fails!

IMG_5571BYay, we did it! (Well, kind of…)

IMG_5578BDid I mention how fun that was?!

IMG_5572The water didn’t feel so cold afterwards…quite refreshing actually!

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Words of advice – bring water shoes because rocks line the bottom of the pool and were slippery and challenging to navigate through. And be sure to reapply sunscreen immediately afterwards because after sloughing away a layer of skin at the mud bath, the sun can be very unforgiving!

After a thoroughly enjoyable morning learning about the island and trying new things, it was time to experience the flavors of Saint Lucia!

Tucked high above the bay with phenomenal views of the Pitons is La Haut Plantation Resort.

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It is here that we were treated to a delicious Authentic Plantation Gourmet Lunch that matched the glorious views before us!  This all-inclusive island luncheon consisted of:

  • Creole chicken
  • Breaded fish with lime ginger sauce
  • Caribbean Rice
  • Stew pink beans
  • Sauted freshly picked garden vegetables
  • Collis of tomato & onion on root vegetables (dasheen, plantain)
  • Local signature macaroni and cheese
  • Fresh market garden salad with a choice of mustard and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Banana ice cream

IMG_5625Hands down, the most delicious meal on the trip!
It doesn’t get better than this…

IMG_5628A…or does it?  YUM!

It’s easy to lose track of time at La Haut Plantation Resort. The grounds are so green and lush and filled with flowers of every color, a refreshing pool that guests are welcome to use, a breathtaking backdrop of the Gros and Petit Pitons and the volcano that was emitting steam, and gorgeous grounds to explore. I thought I was in heaven!

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The PitonsI think I’ll stay here!

The day was quickly coming to an end, and James had two more surprises for us. We stopped at a vista overlooking the gorgeous Marigot Bay. This is the site where several battles between the French and English took place, and it’s also the setting of where Doctor Doolittle was filmed! Today, it’s a peaceful haven surrounded by a mangrove of trees with a wide range of accommodations, restaurants, land and water activities, shopping and entertainment.

Marigot Bay

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IMG_5678The best tour team on St. Lucia – James & Desiree!

On our return to Castries, we even stopped to see a unique rock formation called the Natural Bridge that was featured in the popular movie Pirates of the Caribbean. 

IMG_5682Natural Bridge

The tour came to a close much too soon, and we all agreed it was a one of our favorite tours from our cruise!  Our tour mate, Art from Chicago, said, “It’s a beautiful island and worth coming to see. James gives a great tour.”

IMG_5686AOur tour group looking 10 years younger!

When considering a tour of St. Lucia, remember that you get what you pay for. According to James, taxi drivers who charge $20 may claim that they’ll provide an island tour with lunch, but what you will get is an impersonal drive from point A to point B with a simple lunch of bread and cheese on the roadside.

Pay $70.00 per person for James’ Tour, and you will receive an exciting, personal and quality tour of St. Lucia with two considerate, fun and professional tour guides whose goal is to treat people well and show them a good time while introducing you to their homeland!

IMG_5687I had the best time with this fun group!

When I asked James and Desiree how they’d describe St. Lucia in one word, it wasn’t easy for them because St. Lucia embodies so many things! James said, “It’s incredible, so lush and green, and the people are wonderful!” Desiree described St. Lucia as picturesque and simply beautiful. She also revealed her favorite things about St. Lucia including the freedom to walk wherever she wants, the delicious food, the friendly people and the relaxing evening mud baths!

James showed us everything he loved about St. Lucia and more!

On the back of his van, it states, “I ain’t no joke.”

Remember, there’s only one “Steelers” James St. Prix – he’s the real deal, and he will give you the time of your lives and a tour of St. Lucia that you will never forget!

I know I won’t!

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Have you ever been on a tour like James Touring Service?
What aspect of James tour would you enjoy to do the most?

 


James Touring Service
www.jamestouringservice.com
tourstlucia68@yahoo.com
1 (758) 712-6285
1 (758) 719-5836

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