The last day of our Caribbean cruise was upon us…and so was Valentine’s Day!
We couldn’t think of a more perfect place to celebrate than on the dual-nation island of St. Martin/St. Maarten!
Half Dutch and half French, there’s no shortage of delicious food to savor, duty-free shops to discover or turquoise water to swim in…
but for us, the order of the day was toes in the sand and drink in the hand! 😉
There was no rushing off the ship for us…
we were in relaxation mode from the beginning.
Our port of call, Philipsburg, on the Dutch side, St. Maarten.
I love their logo! So colorful, cheerful & fun!
Brightly colored umbrellas dotted the soft sand while plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels lined the boardwalk.
If you want an easy day without going too far from the ship, this is it!
Walking down cobblestone alleyways, there was always something around the corner…like this courthouse…
…or this quaint Roman Catholic Church, St. Martin of Tours.
And don’t get me started on the many amazing shopping opportunities!!!
After a fun morning of exploring the island’s Dutch half, St. Maarten, it was time to take our $20 one-way taxi ride to the French side, St. Martin!
On our Caribbean cruise, I experienced many gorgeous beaches, but I must admit, there was one that left my jaw in the sand.
Say “Bonjour” to Orient Bay Beach!
For me, Orient Bay Beach is the quintessential Caribbean beach!
Soft white sand? Check!
Crystalline turquoise water? Check!
Bountiful rays? Check!
Sweeping views all around? Check!
That’s right folks, if you forgot your swimsuit (or if you’re in a daring mood)…
you’ve come to the right place!
The right side of the beach is clothing optional!
We opted to remain clothed, but if you want to let the bountiful rays give you a head-to-toe overall glow, pass the short rocky divider (see below) and feel free to roam “au naturale!” That little divider didn’t do much in keeping those tanned bodies in their section though! Don’t be surprised if that picturesque photo you’re taking is suddenly photo bombed by a full moon! 😉
Yep, that’s the rocky divider!
There’s lots to do on Orient Beach!
A variety of shops, restaurants and resorts line the 1 mile beach, and a plethora of water activities like parasailing, windsurfing and jet skiing are available for the more adventurous!
If lounging the day away in paradise is more your style (like me!), you can score 2 beach chairs, 2 umbrellas & 2 beverages for $14.00 – not bad!
Tis the life!
What I loved the most (aside from the view), was that you can walk out into the water for what seems like an eternity & not worry about the ocean floor dropping out from under you. You can just let the water gently lap over you as you float, wade or swim to your heart’s content.
With our time in St. Martin coming to a close, we decided to head back to Great Bay Beach and stop at Dirty Sanchez’s for some nachos & refreshing beverages. They allow customers to “graffiti” their names on the wall, so my hubby (Crispin) did the honors…can you spot our names?
With our relaxation mission accomplished, it was time to go back on the ship & enjoy our last night on the Valor.
We decided to have our Valentine’s Day dinner in the main dining hall…and might I add…every dinner we had here was AMAZING!
Adventurous hubby tried frog legs for the first time..and yes…he’d have them again!
As the ship pulled away from St. Maarten, we looked back at the wonderful memories we made and promised eachother that this wouldn’t be our last time in the Caribbean!
Posted in Caribbean Bliss, Photo Bliss, Travel Bliss | Tagged Caribbean, Carnival, cruise, dual-nation, Dutch, French, Great Bay Beach, island, Orient Beach, Philipsburg, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten | 2 Comments »
When I think back to our Caribbean cruise, the day that brings the biggest smile to my face is our visit to St. Kitts! Not only is it the most diverse of the islands (in my opinion), but our local guide, Royston, provided a fun and interesting first-hand look at this picturesque, history-rich gem of an island!
Royston was like a ray of sunshine with his friendly personality and pleasant smile. He greeted us just outside the terminal and walked us over to the Royston-mobile (as I like to call it) – a fresh air, windowless van that proved (as we would soon learn) that it could handle any terrain St. Kitts had to offer! Stocked with ice cold beverages and 2 fun married couples from Utah, we boarded the Royston-mobile eager for the adventure ahead!
Our tour began with a drive through the charming capital city, Basseterre.
Built in 1883 and modeled after Piccadilly in London, The Berkeley Memorial is
an ornate clock tower and drinking fountain that sits in the heart of Basseterre.
The stunning Government House.
Did you know that St. Kitts has a Veterinarian school called Ross University?
I had no clue that it existed! And an ocean view too…score!
Around the Island ~ Royston Style!
The thing I think I enjoyed the most was the spontaneity Royston provided on the tour. We already knew what sights we’d see that day, but Royston added something special to it. He sprinkled the day with the unexpected…like for instance, taking us to non-touristy spots that he enjoyed as a child…or gathering sugar cane so we could feed donkeys…or driving us right on the beach! It was moments like those that made his tour better than we could have hoped for!
Royston gathering sugar cane.
Royston knew exactly where to take us for superb photo opportunities!
My hubby found his Jeep twin in St. Kitts on a random cliff overlooking the ocean!
Did I mention Royston was funny?
He pulled a “photo bomb” with the Royston-mobile while I was taking a photo of hubby!
This oversized “tub” was really used to melt down sugar cane.
Driving through the rainforest was like entering a different world. The light rain dripping from the canopy of trees created a magical ambiance.
My tarzan swinging on a vine!
The lush rainforest was a sight to behold…
…and so was my hubby! 🙂
On the northeastern coast of St. Kitts is Black Rocks, a picturesque collection of lava rocks adorning the coast from the nearby volcano Mount Liamuiga.
Formerly owned by Sam Jefferson, this gorgeous 6 acre estate is now home to Caribelle Batik, a shop that sells a variety of popular batik products that are hand-printed in the studio using an old Indonesian wax-and-dye process.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
History buff or not, the Brimstone Hill Fortress is a marvel to behold! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a wonderfully preserved fortification and an architectural masterpiece with unmatched sweeping views in every direction!
Designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labor, this magnificent fortress took over 100 years to construct beginning in the 1690’s.
Looking into the horizon, I could almost see the fleet of 50 French ships coming in to storm the fortress!
If you’re ever in St. Kitts, put Brimstone Hill Fortress at the top of your list! It’s only $10 to get in…so why not experience this rich piece of history?
Oh, & be sure to bring good walking shoes for those uneven steps up to the fortress!
Did you know that Royston has an adventurous side? Yep! The Royston-mobile was not afraid to take us off the beaten path and into places other tour companies would not go! We’d be driving along a paved road, and he’d suddenly veer off into the brush and drive us somewhere simply stunning!
You can’t tell from looking, but Royston pulled that van right up to the edge for a simply stunning outlook of the Peninsula!
The parking area for the “other” tour vans was well below us!
Behold – the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!
If this is a dream, don’t wake me!
Lunch at South Friar’s Bay
Lunch was included in the tour, and Royston stopped at his friend’s little eatery to pick up 7 ‘rotis’ – a wrap with potato, mild curry, spices, and a choice of beef, chicken, conch or veggie. With lunch in tow, Royston drove us to “The God Father” – an empty beach bar by day (but not by night!) that acts as the perfect place to enjoy the delicious food and gorgeous views of South Friar’s Bay!
South Friar’s Bay
During the tour, Royston stopped by his dad’s house to pick something up.
As the van pulled away, we could hear his dad shout out,
“You hired the best man!”
We couldn’t agree more!
Our wonderful day in St. Kitts was over, but as our ship pulled away,
there was one more surprise awaiting us…
Until next time St. Kitts…
What part of this tour would you enjoy the most?
St. Kitts is lucky to have Royston represent them!
If you’re ever in St. Kitts, please consider taking Royston’s Tours!
For $45, this is a quality tour that you won’t soon forget!
Posted in Caribbean Bliss, Daily Bliss, Photo Bliss, Travel Bliss | Tagged Basseterre, Black Rocks, Brimstone Hill Fortress, Caribbean, Caribbean cruise, Caribelle Batik, holiday, island, paradise, peninsula, rainforest, Romney Manor, Royston Tours, St. Kitts, The Berkeley Memorial, tourism, travel | 59 Comments »
Picturesque, interesting, and rich in history…
what Caribbean island is all of these and more?
Stay tuned next week when I unveil my latest “8 Hours in…” post!
Day 3 of our Carnival Cruise found us on the scenic island of Barbados.
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.
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.
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.
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 😦
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!
Fear of deep water…me? Nah!
(If I wasn’t wearing a life preserver, that’d be a different story!)
Kim sprinkled out num-nums for the turtles, and they got close enough to touch!
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!
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
Phone: +1 246.231.8300
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! 🙂