Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fabulous Fortieth

IMG_8065
I celebrated my 40th birthday this year (sigh)! I must admit, it was a tough pill to swallow! But, I wasn’t going to allow that little (ahem…big) number faze me. So…I got even with the BIG 4-0 and celebrated fabulously in Cozumel, with my family and great friends. Definitely the best birthday gift I’ve ever received!

 

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, The Occidental Grand Cozumel. It is a beautiful resort on the southern end of the island, just 20 minutes from the airport. This resort is actually surrounded by a tropical mangrove, giving it an amazingly lush, jungle setting. The property is beautifully landscaped, and well maintained. There are free roaming tropical wildlife. We spotted iguana, javelinas, snakes, crabs, and various birds. It was March, so the weather was warm during the day and cool at night. It did rain a few times, but it passed quickly.

fountain along the pathway
crab next to the pathway
very interesting bud hanging from a tree

 

pathway between the villas

There are 6 restaurants, 4 bars, 3 swimming pools (including an adults only oasis), a fitness center, supervised kids club with activities, day and night time entertainment, and a spa on the property.

adult pool area

 

adult pool

 

bridge path from the main pool to the adult pool area

We stayed in a “Deluxe” room, which was the cheapest option. The room was a comfortable size and nicely decorated. We had our own private patio. There was a mini-fridge that was restocked daily with bottled water and sodas. The bathroom was large, with a separate shower and bathtub.

our villa

 

wild javelina outside our patio

Our friends stayed in the Royal Club, which houses the suites. The Royal Club has its own concierge, a restaurant, and a private pool and spa area.
Despite all the “pro’s” the resort has to offer, we did find a few “cons”. It was spring break and they were overbooked. Our friends traveling with us, were told their reservation could not be found in the system. After an hour of haggling, we got it worked out (thus the Royal Club upgrade). Apparently we weren’t the only ones with issues at check-in, because I spotted a few angry guests at the front desk throughout our stay. The commode in our room would not flush. We called maintenance several times to have the issue fixed. A toilet that does not flush + tropical humidity=disgusting!! There were, what appeared to be, rolling black out periods. The electricity went off daily at different time intervals. We ate breakfast in the dark the first day! A major “con” for us was no swim-up bar, and no wait staff for the pool and beach, which meant long lines at the very small pool bar. Would I choose this resort again?? Maybe? We will most likely try another resort next time.

The restaurants were good. We did not eat at all of them. A few of them have dress codes that include pants for the men, dresses/skirts for the women and closed toe shoes for everyone. That was kind of an inconvenience! We’re on vacation, the last thing we want to do is dress up to go eat! Breakfast is served buffet style in the La Posada restaurant. We ate lunch at the Beach Club & Bar which is near the pool/beach area. It is also buffet style and they grill burgers (very delicious, juicy burgers) and one other meat option daily. There is a small bar in the main pool area. Each day they feature a “drink of the day”. Our personal favorite was the “Scooby Doo”. All of the fruity cocktails are made with fresh fruit!!  If you tip them, they will make your cocktails extra strong! Be careful, or you will be the drunk girl barfing in front of everyone at the pool! I may or may not know that from experience?! I’ll let you be the judge of that!
There is a long bridge that takes you from the main resort area over to the pool/beach area. If you look closely, about half way across the bridge and to your right, there is an alligator and her hatchling in the water. The kids loved that!!

bridge from the adult pool to the main pool and beach area

The beach is located directly next to the main pool. There is covered seating available, although it is somewhat limited. I had to get up at 6am every morning and walk over to the beach to save us some chairs. If you would like a shaded lounger on the beach, take note or you won’t get one! See my previous post titled “reserved”.

grass umbrellas on the beach

 

the view from my chair

 

beach seating and lifeguard shack

The water is absolutely gorgeous! Very calm, crystal clear water!

Ahhhh!!

The sand is white and powdery! There are shells everywhere!! Here is our collection of favorites!

 

me in my happy place
Lucas

 

Daddy & Lucas

 

burying Kash

 

Rozi

 

Kash

There is a little cart set up on the beach where you can pick a pottery item and paint it right there on the beach. This was so relaxing and fun!! You paint it, and then they fire it in their kiln overnight. It is ready for you to pick up the next day. Our cost was around $10-$15 a person, but varies depending on the size.

our creations

We ventured into the downtown square a couple nights. It was about a 10 minute taxi ride from the resort. There are little shops and vendors set-up to purchase souvenirs, etc…We found a small tequila shop, Plaza Confetti, that offered us lots of free samples! It was excellent tequila. They had the most beautiful unique hand painted tequila bottles and shot glasses. We chose the Casa Corfadia 100% Agave Reposado Tequila and these 2 shot glasses.

There are many restaurants and bars downtown. We especially enjoyed The Thirsty Cougar ! They have the biggest frozen cocktails I have ever seen! Yummy too!! We had dinner at Casa Mission. It was delicious but, the margaritas were so strong we could not drink them! For dessert, we had the “sexy coffee”.

our sexy coffee mix master

Our favorite “find” of the trip was definitely Alberto’s Beach Bar ! It’s about a 15 minute walk, by beach, to the south of the resort. This restaurant is literally on the beach. Talk about fresh seafood! As you are sitting at your beach front table, their boat pulls ashore loaded with freshly caught seafood that they serve to your liking! We had the shrimp ceviche, fajitas, and quesadillas…all fabulous! Our cocktail of choice was the “Dirty Monkey”. They should call it the mind eraser because I don’t remember much after I drank mine! Alberto’s is absolutely a must while in Cozumel!

Our family is in love with this tropical paradise! My only regret is that we did not do the 3 reef snorkel tour. I will definitely be looking into it for our December cruise stop! We look forward to visiting again!

 

 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

R E S E R V E D!

IMG_9245

If you’ve ever been to an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise ship, you can relate to this! If not…here’s your “heads up”! In my experience, there is limited seating around the pool and on the beaches. Especially if you’re looking for seating that is shaded! Unless you wake up before the sun comes up, and head over to the beach or pool to stake your claim, you most likely will not get a lounge chair! But, there is a small problem! Everyone has the exact same towel. So…you are forced to leave a personal item, of some sort, in the chair along with your towel so that you know which “toweled” chair belongs to you! It’s not an ideal situation. I usually leave a sunscreen bottle or book. Most people will not bother your stuff, but I have had people move my property & steal my chair that I got up at the crack of dawn to reserve! N-O-T cool!! When I saw this beach towel on Pinterest, my first thought was “why didn’t I think of that?”, and my second thought was “I need this now!!”. I look forward to using this on our December cruise to the Mexican Riviera! It gets the point across for sure! Do you have a friend or family member that loves to cruise or travel to all-inclusives? This makes a great gift (you’re welcome)!! It is small enough to fit nicely into your luggage. Be sure save the packaging. It comes packaged in a zippered plastic bag, which is great if your towel is still wet and/or sandy when packing up your bag to go home! I found it on Amazon for around $35 (including tax & shipping). It ships really quickly. I received mine in less than a week with standard shipping. The link to purchase is below!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Favorite Sun Care Products

When heading to the beach or pool, sun protection is not an option for me…its essential! I inherited my dad’s Eastern European, very white/very sensitive skin. Due to overexposure in my teenage years, I’ve recently had a dozen or so skin cancers removed (not a pleasant experience). In the good ole days, my friends and I would douse ourselves in oil and “sun bake” for hours. Well, those days are over, lesson learned! Now, I slather on the SPF & sit in the shade.

DSC_0016
When it comes to suncare products, I’m somewhat “picky”. It has to smell good, and it can’t be too thick or greasy. These are my current favorites.
*Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50+ is my everyday go-to moisturizer. I love it because it has the highest SPF I could find in a daily moisturizer that was also gentle on my very sensitive skin. It’s non-comedogenic, non-irritating, and fragrance free so it won’t cause breakouts. Its lightweight, fast absorbing, and doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily. This one is not ideal for a day at the beach. It is not water resistant and needs to be re-applied frequently. I asked my Dermatologist’s opinion on the best anti-aging moisturizer money can buy. His reply?…sunscreen! I love, love, love this product!!!
Cetaphil

*Coola Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Matte Finish is a new sunscreen that I’ve been experimenting with. It has a light cucumber scent and a line-smoothing matte finish which is great if you have oily skin. I like it because its organic and environmentally friendly. They have developed their line of products using organic, sustainable, and locally sourced ingredients that are free of parabens, paba, petroleum, and phthalates. And… they donate to the Melanoma Research Alliance and Healthy Child Healthy World, so you can feel good about your purchase! I don’t wear make-up everyday, but when I do, I prefer to wear Coola underneath. Its water resistant for 40 minutes so its great for a beach day! I love what this company stands for and I look forward to trying other products in their line! Check out their complete line of products

Coolasuncare

*Vaseline Cocoa Butter Lip Therapy, I love this stuff! It smells amazing, and feels great on my lips. It doesn’t have any sun protection in it. I prefer to use my facial sunscreen on my lips and apply this on top!

Vaseline Lip Thrapy

*Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Barrier Lotion My Dermatologist recommended I use Neutrogena suncare products. This one has it all! I cannot stress enough how much I love this product! It smells wonderful, is water resistant for 80 minutes, lightweight, fast absorbing, oil free, and PABA free. It provides beach strength UVA/UVB protection with Helioplex technology. It is available in several different SPF strengths and lotion, stick, or spray-on application. I started using this product about a year ago, and it works great. Everyone who “borrows” some from me always comments on how great it smells. I highly recommend this for your next beach vacation!
*Coppertone Sensitive Skin Faces SPF 50 this product was very popular on our recent Cancun trip! I purchased it for my daughter, who was having an allergic reaction to another sunscreen she had used on her face before our trip. Good thing I did! A few of the other girls in our group were also having a similar reaction to their sunscreen of choice, so needless to say, this was like liquid gold! I like it because it is hypoallergenic, and water resistant for up to 80 minutes. This one is my new favorite for a day at the beach!
*Bobby Brown Beach Eau De Parfum Fragrance I realize this isn’t a suncare product, but since I’m talking about some of my favorite products, I figured I’d throw it in! Ahhhh…if you could bottle summer, this is it! Sephora.com describes it as “a light, happy and nostalgic scent that evokes warm sunshine and the sea breeze”. It is a blend of jasmine, sea spray, and mandarin scents. It smells exactly like classic, old school Coppertone! I wear this everyday. Every time I spray it on, I feel like I’m at the beach! I wear it alone, or combined with other fragrances.
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

/
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