Cruise Update – St. Thomas

Bright and early Monday morning, the Carnival Victory slid into Charlotte Amalie under partly cloudy skies.  I dressed and raced to the top deck to snap shots of the harbor as we approached.  It was beautiful.

Standing about eight stories above the pier, I suddenly realized just how much skill it must take to manuever a massive ship like the Victory up to the dock.  I was impressed.

The weather was not promising but I have a family of troopers.  We put our swimsuits on under cover-ups, carried our beach gear and hired a taxi.  We were not letting the threat of rain stop us.

Our initial plan was to visit Coki beach and Coral World; however, my son decided he did not want to swim with the sea lions so we headed out to Magens Bay instead.

Of course the beach was pretty but it was crowded.   There were no chairs or umbrellas for rent so we spread out towels on the sand.  The poor weather meant the water was cold.  With some trepidation, we all inched our way into the cerulean sea.  The chilly wetness did not dampen the younger members of our group who spent most of the morning in the water. 

Magens has facilities; however, during our visit, the women’s restroom was out of order.  The attendants opened one of the men’s rooms, a single stall, for us but there was a long line.

My eight-year old god-daughter purchased a hamburger and fries from the concession.  According to her less than sophistacated pallet, the burger was “good’.  The rest of us enjoyed lunch at the Mediterranen Restaurant buffet back on the boat.

I walked the one mile length of beach and took some excellent pictures.  Megan’s is rated one of the top 10 beaches by National Geographic for a reason.  The scenery is beautiful.

We had prearranged for our taxi driver to pick us up and return us to the ship.  I was pleased that he was on time. 

Running short on time, we dropped our beach gear in our cabins, ate lunch and walked the couple of blocks to the Paradise Point Tram for a breath-taking ride to the top.  Although the only two couragous enough to admit it were the 14 and 8 year olds, we were all a bit nervous.

(I have to comment on the obnoxious cab driver we encounter on the way to the tram.  He was agressive and extremely rude.  He followed us for several minutes trying to sell us a taxi ride instead of the tram ride. – Just be aware that you may encounter this during your trip.)

Too cool to be nervous!

Paradise Point boasts carnival rides (a ferris wheel) a nature trail and a mini-z0o (various birds and goats).  One of the two peacocks on display actually looked sick; my son thought it was dead until it moved. 

The view from the point was amazing.

Having eaten on the Victory, we did not try the restaurant so I cannot personally comment on the quality or price of the food.  We did purchase soft drinks at $3.00 a can.

Our ride back down the mountain was somewhat eventful.  The tram was stuck, causing us to wait at the top for it to start running again.  About ¾ of the way down, it briefly stopped again with all of us aboard.

I do not think the venture was worth $21/pp except for the fantastic views.  However, the tram ride was an experience the children will not soon forget.

We did not make it to Charolette Amalie for shopping and sightseeing.  Time got away from us.  Maybe next time.

All in all, our stop in St. Thomas was enjoyable but was not my favorite of the week.  Next time, I will plan my time better.

So long, St. Thomas…

Next week – Barbados revisited!

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Post Cruise Update: Rain, Rain, Go Away…

I still am having a hard time believing our cruise is over!  Our week on the high seas sped by.

I want to thank our friend Carole at CruiseOne for helping us plan this terrific adventure and for being so patient and helpful.  I strongly recommend using a cruise consultant or travel advisor to assist you in your travel plans.

As you may remember, our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico.

We were greeted by strong winds and rain when we touched down but we did not let that dampen our spirits.  After collecting our bags, we secured a taxi ($20) and were at the Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino within minutes.

Upon check-in, we were treated to champagne – a nice start to our week.  The rooms at the Marriott were clean and comfortable; as one would expect from Marriott. 

After changing into our swimsuits, we ate lunch at the La Vista Latin Grill and Bar.  I do not give the hotel eatery high marks.    The service was slow, the menu limited, and the food just acceptable.  In addition, two very un-ruley children ran around screaming the entire time we were there.  None-the-less, we all ate and were satisfied.

Although the rain continued in fits and spurts, we ventured out to the pool where the eight year old played enthusiastically while the adults enjoyed the hot tub.  Later in the afternoon, we walked out to the beach.  Due to the rough surf, the hotel was flying a red-flag and swimming was restricted.   We did wade into the surf up to our knees and take some wonderful photos.

The rain abated in the early evening and we were able to wonder down the road to a fantastic Mexican restaurant called Tijuanas Bar and Grill.  The food was delicious!  If you find yourself in the Condado Beach area, I highly recommend Tijuanas.

We awoke to sunny skies the next morning and took a long, leisurely walk down Ashford Avenue toward the cruise terminal.  On the way back, we purchased our quota of water, soda and wine to carry on the Victory.

A quick taxi ride later, we were swiftly processed through check-in and waiting to board the Victory.  At 1:00 p.m. – ahead of the published schedule, we boarded the ship and headed to our first buffet lunch.

We had planned to disembark after checking in and explore Old Town San Juan, however, we opted to stay aboard, enjoy the pool, slide, and the hot tub and to explore our floating resort.

Our pre-cruise stop in San Juan was terrific and we were all ready to start our Caribbean adventure.

Next week, come back for a critique of the Carnival Victory!

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Who do I think I am?

I have always been interested in genealogy.  I find it interesting to consider the lifestyles of my ancestors.  I am not only interested in where they lived but how and what impact their lives had on my upbringing.

 About two years ago, I joined Ancestry.com and began my search for my forefathers and mothers.  I did not have much to go on. 

I started with the name and birth place of my mother, her parents and their parents (my great-grandparents).  The details of my grandmother’s father were questionable as part of the family believed him to have been born in Western Maryland while others believed him born and raised in Anne Arundel County.

I began entering the data I had into Ancestry.com and performing searches of the historical documents they have available.  At first, the search was quite fun.  I plugged in facts and found evidence to support what I already knew about the first two generations.    What I discovered about the third generation back plunged me into an investigation that has yielded some surprising facts.

My family tree is now comprised of approximately 814 people going back to my 14th great-grandparents in Wales, Prussia, Scotland, and Ireland and includes names that would make any Marylander proud, such as Jackson, Owings and Calvert.

Come along with me as I continue to uncover the real stories of the men and women who built my family and helped to shape the fine state of Maryland.

Are you interested in genealogy? Do you have an interesting family story to share?  Leave me a comment; I will be happy to share it with our readers.

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Cruise Update – Pre and Post Cruise Stay in Puerto Rico

After checking airfare and flight schedules, we decided to fly into San Juan the day before our cruise departs and to stay over another night on the back end.

Plannig  well ahead allowed us to get good rates at two great hotels.

The night of our arrival, we will be enjoying the amenities at the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.  Located on Condado Beach, the Stellaris offers direct access to the beach, a beautiful pool with swim-up bar and a water slide, not to mention beautiful, comfortable rooms and suites.

Our plan is to taxi over to the resort from the airport and spend the afternoon lounging by the pool or on the beach.  The idea is to put us in full vacation mode before boarding the Carnival Victory for a sail around the Caribbean.

The following day, we will taxi to the port; check in to the ship and head out to Old San Juan for some sightseeing.

On the return portion of our cruise, we have booked rooms at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino.  Situated in the convention center district, the Sheraton Puerto Rico is one of San Juan’s newest hotels.  It is just five minutes from Old San Juan and ten minutes from the airport – which is great since we have a super early flight out the following morning!

We booked our reservation at the Sheraton through Hotwire and got a good rate.  Problem was, Hotwire could not guarantee a particular room type.  Not a problem for Sheraton; I sent an email requesting double/double’s and they were happy to accommodate.  Thank you Sheraton.

Both of our hotels received four diamonds – a good indication we are going to enjoy our extended stay in San Juan.

Check back the first week of May for my post cruise report!

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Cruise Update – Last Minute Chores and Easter

It is a week before Easter – a spiritual holiday I usually spend days preparing for.  My extended family always congregate at one of our homes and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the light and love he bestows upon us each day.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit, this year, my Easter plans have taken a back burner to my vacation plans.  Sure, there is a beautiful organic ham in my refrigerator awaiting adornment with pineapples and cherries, and the “Easter Bunny” has a sweet treat hidden away for everyone, but that is all I’ve done.

I know that Easter is not about the fancy food and cellophane wrapped baskets.  Believe me, while the table may not be as “dressed” as it has been in other years, Easter Sunday is reserved for reverence.

However, the rest of the week I will be busy with last minute vacation details; final packing, ironing, and chores that could not be accomplished ahead of time.

Yesterday, I had my hair done (cut and highlights).  I also made reservations at a local nail spa for everyone in our travel party to have manicures and pedicures the Friday before we leave; yes, even the guys – their piggies need attention too!

My to do list is nearly complete and there are only a couple of items on the “need to purchase” list.  Things are coming together well and we will be ready to lift-off from BWI bright and early Saturday, April 14, 2012.

P.S.  It is never a good idea to publicize in social media when you will be on vacation.  There are certain people who prowl the internet looking for opportunities to take advantage of you and your property while you are gone.

In our case our home is not vacant.  We share our home with our son (a former Marine) his new family and a large dog.

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Cruise Update – Skele-toes for all!

Skele-toes®!

Who knew (other than shoe makers) that these funny looking foot gloves would be the next “must have” for beach vacationers?

Well, like most men and teenagers, my two guys had to have them for the cruise, so off we went to Kohls, where Skele-toes® were on sale.  It took my husband no less than half an hour to try on four styles before deciding which pair of neon trimmed booties he wanted.  He was like Goldilocks – one pair was too tight between his toes, another didn’t have enough support, finally, the blue ones were just right.

My 14 year old opted not to take the shopping trip with us.  Instead, I selected a pair of lime green monster feet for him – size 9.  Back at home – NOPE, don’t fit!  He has a high instep and his thick foot would not slip into the stretchy mitten.  Not to worry.  My other son’s girl friend fell in love with them – they are now hers.

The following day, I carted the big-footed teen back to the store where he decided upon a pair of yellow trimmed slippers.  Not to be out-done, my older son raced to the store to buy himself a pair to match his lover’s. Now they both can look like web-footed creatures!

Creature of the Black Lagoon Feet!

As for me, I have a pair of toe-less beach shoes that will serve my purposes just fine.  I prefer not to look like a relative of the Creature from the Black Lagoon!  If Fila decides to make a less obnoxious looking pair of beach mittens, I might reconsider.  Until then, I will stick to my water-socks.

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