Archives for May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Island Girl…Anguilla-Beaches.com

When planning a vacation to a specific destination, I always think to myself…”I wish I knew someone who lived there”! Someone who could give me the insider info on where to stay, the best beaches, the best places to eat, must do/must see, great deals, etc… Since I do not personally know anyone who lives on an island paradise, we usually ask advice from friends who have visited a particular spot or once we arrive, find a “local” to recommend a good restaurant or the best beaches. Trip Advisor is a helpful tool, but I often find myself frustrated while combing through the numerous conflicting comments. This person loves it, that person hates it…ugh!!! I spend hours researching our vacation spots to insure we make the best of the short time we have. I just wish it were simpler!
When it comes to the beautiful island of Anguilla, I have found exactly what I’ve been wishing for! Anguilla wasn’t even on my radar until I accidentally stumbled upon Anguilla-Beaches.com. With one click, there it was. Everything I could possibly want to know about Anguilla. Nori Evoy and her family have vacationed in Anguilla for several years, but in 2008 they took the plunge and moved there! Oh, how I envy them!! Nori originally began blogging about which of the 33 Anguilla beaches were her favorites, but quickly realized that each one was unique in it’s own way, and that there was much more information to share with her readers. This website has a plethora of information on Anguilla beaches, lodging, restaurants, activities, deals, weather, real estate, travel, etc…There is even an Anguilla Discount Card that is available for purchase on the site for $49 that offers 10% discounts on food, lodging, transportation, and activities island-wide. I cannot think of a topic that isn’t covered in this beautifully organized site! It has everything I could ever have hoped for in a vacation planning guide, complete with photos and personal experience as her reference. I especially love that there is a  “Share Anguilla Travel Stories” section where other visitors can share their own Anguilla experiences which offer additional perspective and tips! If you are planning a vacation to Anguilla, I highly recommend a visit to this site before your trip! Thanks to Nori, Anguilla has been added to our vacation bucket list! Stop by her page and fall in love with this gorgeous island!
You can also follow her on twitter, facebook, google plus, youtube, instagram, pinterest, subscribe to her blog posts, or if you’re needing a dose of “beach therapy”, check out the Anguilla Calm Ap for some soothing beach video clips!
Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ship-faced! Carnival Breeze Cruise December 2012

Ahhh…where it all began! This is the trip that launched my love of the beach into overdrive.

It was my first time on a cruise ship. I was N O T crazy about the whole cruising thing. Being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean was not my idea of fun. I was just beginning to overcome my fear of flying, and now I was going to be “trapped” at sea??? Um, no thanks! But after much convincing from my husband and our veteran cruising friends, I did it, and am I’m so glad that I did. After all, I was getting 4 vacations in 1 (the best part about cruising in my opinion)!! It wasn’t as bad as I had played it out in my head. I didn’t get sea sick, the ship didn’t spontaneously sink, and I didn’t fall over the railing! Fears conquered! The Carnival Breeze was a brand new ship, just 6 months old at the time of our trip. The cruise directors, Butch and 6’2″, were fun and entertaining. The ship had an incredible water park for the kids, and plenty of other nice features for children, teens, and adults. I’ve always heard about how great the food is on cruises. Although we were not thoroughly impressed, there was definitely plenty of food available 24/7. We especially enjoyed Guy’s Burger Joint on the Lido Deck. The buffets were ok, but after the 3rd day you’re sick of it! The evening dining room dinners were pretty good. The service was outstanding. You are given 4 or 5 choices of appetizers, dinner selections, and desserts. Every night the options change. Our favorite, was the chocolate melting cake…Oh so good!! But, the highlight of our cruise, was Javier our steward! He was such a joyful soul, for being stuck on that ship 9 months of the year! He made sure we were well taken care of and made us feel at home. Our 3yr old was his “best bud” and would always leave extra chocolates in our cabin for him.
Javier and Lucas
Javier’s towel creature
The Breeze Water Park

We chose this particular cruise for the ports of call…Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Curacao, and Aruba. We were especially excited about Grand Turk. We had heard such good things from our daughter who had traveled there 2 years prior with a friend. Little did we know…when cruising, there is a chance (due to weather conditions) that the ship may not be able to dock at the port! It was a windy day. After 3 attempted approaches, the captain called off the port. W H A T??? We booked this cruise especially for this port! We had our swimsuits/sunscreen on, beach bags packed, and we’re not getting off this boat after 2 days at sea? You’ve GOT to be kidding me! They weren’t kidding! Off we sailed for yet another day at sea to the next port, the Dominican Republic. Talk about disappointment! Carnival gave each passenger a port fee credit. We weren’t impressed! To help with the disappointment, my husband booked me an appointment in the spa. Well, ok, if you insist (note sarcasm)! I got an overpriced facial and massage. I was given and charged for a $75 treatment that I didn’t ask for. My advice (unless you just have ridiculous amounts of money to blow)…skip the spa!





La Romana, Dominican Republic
FINALLY!!! After 3 days at sea, we made it to a port and were able to dock. Hallelujah!

 

our oldest, Tyler & Abbie

We chose not to do a shore excursion. So, we hopped on a bus into town to do a little shopping and then head to the beach. We were dropped off in a tourist trap on the town square. It was not a pleasant experience! The locals were grabbing us, putting handmade jewelry on us, and basically begging us to buy something. I wanted out of there ASAP!! To be polite, we shopped around a bit and purchased a few things then we walked into the town. It was Christmas Day, so finding a shop that was open was difficult! There was a nice local who saw our frustration, and for a small fee helped lead us to an open souvenir shop. He showed us around a bit and then helped find us a cab so that we could head to the beach. We ended up at Bayahibe Beach. This beach is on the southern part of the island. Most people who visit the Dominican Republic go to Punta Cana on the eastern part of the island, but we were too far away to go there. Bayahibe beach…WOW! Beach love affair in full force! The beach was nice (not the white powdery sand that we prefer but still nice),with clear water, lounge chairs with umbrellas, and…a bar!! Score!! This was our least favorite of the 3 ports, but I would love to go back and visit Punta Cana someday.

My family…Merry Christmas!!
beach view
ocean view

 

 

Willemstad, Curacao

Our 2nd port was Willemstad Curacao. Two words to describe this place? EYE CANDY!!!

photo credit http://theegotripper.com/2013/11/13/wanderlust-willemstad/
 

This place is unbelievably gorgeous! We docked later than the first port and were staying until 9 pm, so we opted for a shore excursion this time. We did a bus tour that took us around the island. The first stop was some historical sites which included a museum.

photo credit http://www.gocuracao.nl/curacaosch-museum-opent-educatief-park.html

The second stop was the Curacao Liqueur Factory. This is not the actual place where they produce the Blue Curacao liqueur. I believe they said it was once produced at this site, not for sure? Its more of a history lesson than anything, but they have samples! You can purchase bottles of the liqueur and there is a small gift shop to purchase souvenirs.

photo credit http://www.curacaoliqueur.com/factory-visit
photo credit http://1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao.com/2013/06/11/705-our-larahas-bitter-smell-of-success/

After leaving the Curacao Liqueur factory, we traveled over the Queen Juliana Bridge on the way to our next stop. If you are afraid of heights, you won’t like this!

photo credit http://musingsandmrsadventures.blogspot.com/2012/08/one-of-caribbeans-best-kept-secrets.html

The last stop was the Hato Caves. This was cool! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes if you plan on visiting! Lots of stairs and walking! And beware, there are bats in the caves!

 

 photo credit http://www.caribbeanfootprint.com/2012/04/02/hato-caves-activity-program/

 

photo credit http://www.caribeaches.com/curacao-attractions.html
We then headed back into Willemstad to do a little shopping before getting back on the ship. We walked over the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, very cool!
photo credit http://www.curacaotrip.com/to-do/90-queen-emma-pontoon-bridge-curacao

Once again, all shops were closed for the holidays, so we had some dinner instead at a cool outdoor restaurant and did some people watching. Then it was time to get back on board.

near the ship dock
our ship all lit up at night

ARUBA

The official motto of the island is “One Happy Island”. That, it is!! This was our favorite port…by far. We did not do a shore excursion. We grabbed a cab and asked him to take us to the best beach on the island. He took us to Palm Beach and it did not disappoint. It was absolutely beautiful. White powdery sandy beaches, grass umbrellas with lounge chairs, water activities, bars, and restroom facilities (for a small fee, I think it was $1 US dollar per visit?)! We were right next to this cool little beach bar called the Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill. They had the most amazing quesadillas and a delicious cocktail called a strawberry shortcake. Here’s the link to their website: www.bugaloe.com

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photo credit http://www.falandodeviagem.com.br/viewtopic.php?f=235&t=2280
photo credithttp://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/12/rum-journal-arubas-bugaloe-beach-bar-grill/

 

our 2 youngest, Rozi & Lucas
Abbie & her new friend Abby from the ship
ready for some fun

 

off they go!

 

Palm Beach

 

the gorgeous water

 

the whole famn damily (are we the only ones who say this?)

After such a great day on Aruba, we were hooked! We WILL be going back! Fun fact, Aruba is “hurricane proof” and has very little rainfall making it the perfect year round destination. No wonder they are so happy!!

Despite a few hiccups in the beginning, this was an amazing vacation! I’m still not a huge fan of cruising, but it’s a more affordable way to visit multiple beach destinations in one trip. The great advantage of cruising is figuring out which islands you do or don’t want to visit again. And, if you don’t like where you are today, tomorrow you are somewhere new.
My advice…do your homework on the ports and have a plan. You only have a few hours at each port, so make the most of it!

The tans will fade, but the memories will last forever!

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Islands.com

I ran across this website while surfing the net one night. I absolutely L O V E it! Very informative articles on just about any beach destination you could possibly want! You can get a magazine subscription really cheap too! I’ve included their link below, enjoy!!
Friday, May 9, 2014

Beachaholic’s Anonymous

Hello… My name is Shellie, and I am a beachaholic!  My addiction to the beach probably necessitates a 12 step recovery program, but the thing is…I don’t want to recover! My love affair with the beach began way back when I was an awkward adolescent. We took frequent family trips to Galveston Island, or occasional trips to Daytona Beach, Cancun, and Grand Cayman. But my “beach buzz” segued into “beach intoxication” after my first cruise to the Caribbean in December 2012. Living in landlocked north Texas, I spend about 95% of every day, dreaming about my next island get-away. Being a working mother of 4…the get-aways are not as often as I’d prefer! So, whats an island dreaming gal to do? Blog about my obsession! I am creating this blog, in part as a scrapbook for our family beach vacations, and also as a form of “beach therapy” to calm the craziness that is my life. I am a lover of all things beach, so I will be sharing my favorite “beachy” finds with you! From sunscreen to umbrella cocktails, beach accessories to a cool little hole in the wall in Mexico…I hope that you enjoy your visit!
 Thank you for visiting Sea~Shellie, Cheers!
Our family in Maui 2013