Posts Tagged ‘travel’

WE’RE BACK!

Well, we actually arrived back over 4 months ago, but the holidays + never-ending colds/flu + toddler shenanigans = who has time for a blog post?

Life is finally slowing down…a little…so I finally get to relive our adventures in New England!

First off – New England was as amazing as I hoped it would be!!!

A rare sighting on our trip ~ Vibrant autumn leaves!

And yes, we survived our first extended vacation with our 23 month old…

by the skin of our teeth! 

HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!!!

Mommy and Daddy…I hope you took a nap earlier today!

Everything now seems like such a blur because road tripping with a squirmy, curious, fussy toddler takes things to a whole new mind spinning level!

And like I said in my previous posts, I’m going to share the good and the bad…and the ugly…of our trip…

So let’s just kick things off with LESSON #1:

  • Do NOT take the red eye with a toddler!

Surely he will fall asleep after enjoying his warm beverage…

My hubby and I thought it would be the ideal scenario: Bring the car seat on the plane, strap toddler in said car seat into extra seat we purchased, watch as toddler miraculously falls asleep and wakes the next morning refreshed and happy. Right?

WRONG!

This is how it went down:

  • We let squirmy Sam get the wiggles out while waiting for our flight to arrive.
  • We boarded the plane around 8:40pm, and hubby expertly strapped the car seat into the seat we purchased and inserted Sam.
  • The first hour of the flight Sam was content – he even slept a little!
  • By around 10:00pm, the LOUD fussies started.
  • “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
  • Our 4 hour 30 minute flight to Boston seemed like a 10 hour flight!
  • “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
  • We took turns sitting next to Sam trying to console him to no avail.
  • “Here’s your sippy cup.”
  • Content for a few minutes.
  • “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
  • “Mommy is right here Sam! I’m sitting next to you!”
  • “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
  • Hubby took over and removed Sam from car seat.
  • The squirmies began. Sam could not get comfortable, and arms and legs were flailing around.
  • Finally…almost 30 minutes before we landed in Boston (from Long Beach, CA), Sam fell asleep.
  • Hubby put Sam back in car seat.
  • Zzzzz!

Dead tired, we finally landed and let everyone on the plane exit before we even attempted to remove Sam from the car seat.

So now we’ve arrived and gotten our rental car.

Visions of soft pillows and cozy blankets filled our heads as we drove to the Inn at Longwood Medical at 5:00am.

“Your room isn’t ready.”

{Insert sad face}

LESSON #2:

Do not take the red eye because your hotel room is NOT guaranteed first thing in the morning!

“When will it be ready?”

“Around 3:00pm.”

{Insert bigger sad face}

The hotel concierge gave Sam a complimentary hotel teddy bear and did everything to help us.

“You can hang out at the hotel restaurant until your room is ready.”

So with those final words, we dragged our tired bodies and stroller to the restaurant and grabbed a seat in the very back as our makeshift hotel room.

We left our luggage in the car and took turns going to the car and changing there into fresh clothes.

It was a muggy day, so we were both glad we packed shorts and tees.

There was a Dunkin Donuts in the main food court, so we decided to meander over there, have coffee and breakfast sandwiches and map out our day.

Did you know that Dunkin Donuts is like the Starbucks of the east coast?!

We decided to do the “Freedom Trail Tour” at 10:30am since we didn’t want to waste away our day in the restaurant, but before leaving the hotel for our tour, we checked back to see if a room had opened.

“Oh yes, your room is ready!”

But we didn’t go to the room.

We decided to forge ahead and get our day started, so off we went to find the Boston subway, otherwise known as the “T”, to take us to Faneuil Hall, the starting point of the Freedom Trail Tour.

Needing some quick directions, we asked a random girl, “What train takes us to Faneuil Hall?”

“Well, one train takes you one way.  And the other train takes you the other way.”

“Ummm…thanks?”

We realized we weren’t the only sleep deprived people.

Nevertheless, we were able to figure out the “T” on our own and miraculously made it to Faneuil Hall with enough time to relax and chat with our tour mates and guide.

Our guide was informative, entertaining, and did I mention…dressed in period attire?


This is what happens when you don’t sleep on your flight!

For $12.00/person, the Freedom Trail Tour takes you on a stroll that highlights 11 historic sites including Faneuil Hall, site of the Boston Massacre, the Old State House, Boston Common, Granary Burying Ground, and the site of the first public school.

I highly recommend this tour if you ever visit Boston!



The tour ended in the Boston Common, so since we were in the area, we decided to explore the Boston Public Garden and enjoy a leisurely stroll through this gorgeous park.



Somebody liked the ducks!


“Make Way for the Ducklings” statues. Our l’tl guy loved it!

By the time we explored the garden, fatigue had set in, and we were ready to return to our hotel for a well deserved nap before heading out to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game!



First Fenway dog!



It was a fun night even though the Red Sox lost.

And that’s a wrap!

And just like that, our first day in Boston was over, and day two of our New England adventure was on the horizon.

After arriving back to the hotel, we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

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All my life, I’ve always loved the experience of going to the airport, boarding airplanes and taking to the skies!

It usually signified the adventure and excitement of visiting a new destination or special memories that were soon to be made with distant relatives.

But as a relatively new mom…flying has become a whole new experience!

Preparing for flights require just a little more time, organization and checklists.

And the flights themselves…well, let’s just say that a big dose of patience and a sense of humor goes a long way!

Let’s get this show on the road!
(Seeing what it’s like to have his own seat…before adjourning to the “lap” seat…aka Mommy & Daddy.) 

Last year, my hubby and I experienced our first flight as new parents. Luckily our then 6 month old son was an easy flyer.  A warm bottle, cuddles, pretty views and checking out the magazine in the seat pocket was pretty much all that was needed to keep him entertained.


Let’s see…where shall I fly to next?
(6 months old and enjoying his first airline publication.)

But we learned to expect the unexpected.

A few weeks ago, our now healthy boy was ready for his second flight..as a 16 month old toddler!

We had to take into consideration that he wasn’t the easy flyer we knew a few months prior.  Nope, he blossomed into a curious, squirmy, “I must touch everything I see” toddler, and we had to prepare for this transformation all the while sitting in our laps for the entire flight.  Once he turns two, then he can enjoy his own seat, but for now, it’s the mommy and daddy seat!

Daddy, let’s see if our flight is on time!

Here are a few steps we took to ease his (and our) flight :

  • Bring wipes.  Our boy loves to touch EVERYTHING, and he is a GERM MAGNET!  Needless to say, we wiped down the arm rests (and the buttons on those arm rests), the tops and bottoms of the tray tables and the seats in front of us.  And wouldn’t you know it, those were the exact places his curious little fingers touched…over and over and over again!  Luckily, he remained healthy on this trip and didn’t bring home any unwanted bugs!

    Time to investigate…EVERYTHING!

  • Bring snacks. We don’t usually automatically give our son snacks when he starts fussing, but on a packed flight with layovers, we’ll do whatever it takes!  Cheerios, food pouches or just another bottle did the trick and kept his fussiness at bay.
  • Bring their favorite cuddle lovies.  They might take up more room in your carry-on, but for us, they were lifesavers! A nice soft blankie to cuddle up with and his beloved “brown-bear” joined us on the flight, and they brought him so much comfort.
  • Prepare bottles or sippy cups for take-off and landing.  This will help immensely to prevent any earaches and the associated screaming (and dirty looks from passengers).  😉
  • Technology is your friend!  We normally try to limit screen time, but when it came to flying and keeping our boy happy, we loaded up the iPad with apps and games for him to enjoy…and he did!  I do think I’ll invest in toddler headphones next time so he can watch a fun show or movie.
  • Bring their favorite toys, new toys or books.  We brought only a few of his favorite smaller toys (including some teething items), but we also brought a relatively new toy with us called pipSguiz. This is something I purchased after reading all of the rave reviews online…and I’m glad I did!  These colorful toys have suction capabilities, so we were able to stick them to the windows and tray tables, and our boy enjoyed batting at them, hearing the rattle noises, squishing them and trying to unstick them. They’ve become one of his favorite toys especially when we go out and about – perfect for putting on the stroller table!
  • Bring a change of clothes for you and your child!  This is where I had an epic mommy failure! Usually I’m on top of this when we go out, and I always have a change of clothes for him, but on our return trip, I think I had mommy brain and completely forgot to pack a change of clothes for both of us!  Luckily we were about 15 minutes away from landing at our layover destination, but while he slept ever so soundly on me, I felt something get increasingly warm and moist on my lap. Sure enough…as I shifted him to check, this warm sensation became a waterfall running down my leg!  Hubby checked the diaper bag to get out the spare pair of pants we *of course* packed because how could we forget to pack a change of clothes?!  Well…guess what? No pants, no top, not even a burpee cloth!  Mommy brain had reared its’ ugly head! Luckily we DID have diapers, and because the seatbelt sign was on, we had no choice but to change him there on our laps in our seats.  (NOTE: This is something we would normally NEVER do!!!)  Luckily the guy in our row was understanding since he was a seasoned grandpa! (phew!!!)   And in a crowded Vegas airport bathroom, I washed his pants and used the super charged hand dryer to get them ready for the last leg of our journey.  Lesson learned!

Look at that innocent little face…

  • Bring a sense of humor!  Because *shit* (or in our case *pee*) happens!  (See above!)

I know we have SO much more to learn about surviving flights with our toddler, but I think in the end, all we can really do is smile, hope for the best and prepare for the worst…

…and hang on tight! 

Have you flown with a toddler?  If so, what suggestions do you have for a smooth, happy flight?

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lahaina, mauii

Sometimes your dreams are just beyond the horizon! 

*Inspiration provided by this glorious Lahaina, Maui sunset.

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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!

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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!

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Basseterre

Our tour began with a drive through the charming capital city, Basseterre.

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IMG_5717Built 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.

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IMG_5745The stunning Government House.

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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!

IMG_5969Royston gathering sugar cane.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFeeding time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoyston knew exactly where to take us for superb photo opportunities!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy hubby found his Jeep twin in St. Kitts on a random cliff overlooking the ocean!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid I mention Royston was funny?
He pulled a “photo bomb” with the Royston-mobile while I was taking a photo of hubby!

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The Royston-mobile brought us up close & personal to the stunning
beaches of St. Kitts!
As you can see, our tour-mate enjoyed the drive on the beach!  🙂

IMG_5731What’s better than a flock of egrets in a tree?…

IMG_5763A flock of bottles in a tree!  😉
I’d like to introduce the “Rum Tree” – a mango tree adorned with empty
bottles from oh-so-happy men from a nearby bar!

IMG_5765I just loved holding this sweet little monkey!

IMG_5778Bath, anyone?
This oversized “tub” was really used to melt down sugar cane.

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The Rainforest

Driving through the rainforest was like entering a different world.  The light rain dripping from the canopy of trees created a magical ambiance.

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IMG_5873My tarzan swinging on a vine!

IMG_5868The lush rainforest was a sight to behold…

IMG_5823…and so were these cute goats…

IMG_5813…and so was my hubby!  🙂

Black Rocks

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.

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Wingfield Estate

Back in 1625, Wingfield Estate was the first working estate on the island for sugar, molasses, tobacco and rum.  And it happened to be owned by Thomas Jefferson’s great-great-great-grandfather, Sam Jefferson!  It was fun to explore the remains and learn about how they cultivated the land that included a water wheel!

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Romney Manor

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.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColorful batik products

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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!

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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.

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Looking into the horizon, I could almost see the fleet of 50 French ships coming in to storm the fortress!

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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!

IMG_5916The Royston-mobile sure got around!

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Did I mention the a-ma-zing views?

The Peninsula

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANOT the Royston-mobile!
Others may have tried, but only Royston will get you there in one piece!  LOL!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou 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!

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Behold – the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!
Simply stunning!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy day!

IMG_1900If 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!

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IMG_1912South Friar’s Bay

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IMG_1927During 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!

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Our wonderful day in St. Kitts was over, but as our ship pulled away,
there was one more surprise awaiting us…

IMG_6022Until 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!

Royston Tours

 

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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

 

 

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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!

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