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Real Adventures on St Marten

Phillipsburgh St Maarten was our 2nd stop of the cruise.  This was the only island where we actually booked a proper tour, mostly because it was so inexpensive and there didn’t seem to be a lot of things to do, or at least not stuff we could do on our own.  By taking the tour we ended up seeing a lot more than we would have on our own.  In the end it was the best visit we had due to a combination of the amount of things we were able to see and the ginormous family we shared the tour bus with.  There were 20 of them plus us, and they were so awesome that they helped make our day.

We went with Jo Junie tours.  The cost was $40 per person and that included all you can drink refreshments.  The tour was a little different from what was advertised but none of us were complaining.  We hopped on the bus, got our drinks, got to know the others a little.  I must say again, what a fabulous group!  I was a little worried about being surrounded by such a large group that we didn’t know but they made us feel right at home.  Our first stop was at an iguana farm which was totally Chelsea’s thing.  Growing up she had geckos and always wanted an iguana, so she took about 50 pictures.  It was neat to see them all running around in their natural environment.  The largest was over 15 pounds!

The next stop was Orient Bay where we were treated to the site of the most beautiful ocean view I’ve ever seen along with some coral and sea animals that had been brought up for us by a local.  I actually got up the nerve to hold one of the animals and wow, was it weird.  In the picture it looks sort of soft and fluffy, it wasn’t.  More prickly, and the thing was constantly *moving.*  You can see Chelsea’s reaction in the picture.  After that we headed in to Marigot for a short shopping trip.  Marigot was beautiful.  It is called the French Riviera of the Caribbean, and I can totally see that.  We were under a bit of time constraint at that point so we all quickly hopped out to grab a souvenir or two then hopped back on for our last stop.

Our last stop was Maho Bay/Sunset Beach.  Stunning, just absolutely stunning.  Not only was the beach downright gorgeous but it’s draw is that it’s so close to the airport that the planes get so close you can practically touch them when they come in for landing.  I’m told you can see the pilots, although I didn’t try.  By the time we were set to go I think we were all exhausted and ready to head back to the boat, that is the sign of a good day if you ask me.

St Martin seemed to be the least commercialized for tourists, and I really enjoyed it all the more for that.  I think I mentioned once before that seeing what a place wants to show me isn’t really what I’m looking for when I visit.  I want to see who and what they really are.  Hopefully experience the day to day lives of the locals even just a tiny bit is more exciting to me than going to a full blown luxury resort.  I felt like I got a tiny glimpse in St Martin, and if I had to choose one island to spend more time on it would be this one.

Some of my fav pics that we took on St Marten.

   
   
   
   
 

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Real Adventures in St Thomas

We’ve been home for 4 days already, and I’m still having a hard time getting my head where it needs to be.  Seems I’m still on Caribbean time, and I have a feeling I will be for a while.  We had such a good time that I’m already planning our next one!  Of course I have to win another trip before that can happen but I’m working on it.

I’m going to do a review of the cruise itself but since it was the largest part of our vacation I will save that for the last post.  For now, I’ll be sharing our adventures on each island.  They didn’t really turn out as we had planned but that’s ok, we had fun, which is the important thing.  I still find it kind of hard to believe we visited four different countries while we were away.

St Thomas was our first port.  While we were pulling in both Chelsea and I were in awe that first, it was no longer ocean for as far as the eye could see, second, how pretty the water was, and mostly just how beautiful it was over all.  I think we took fifty or so pictures just pulling into port.

If you remember from my previous posts we had planned to visit Coral World for this stop.  So when we finally got off the boat we hopped a bus to get downtown to browse before we made our way further in.  Downtown was pretty, although crammed with people which I suppose is to be expected.  On one side there were stores, on the other there was the ocean.  Can’t ask for better shopping scenery!  We skipped the main shopping places in lieu of the flea market type stalls.  We had a very tiny budget so had to be very careful what we purchased.  That day we each bought an inexpensive sundress, and something for the boys back home.

As we decided to explore a little more we found ourselves a street or two into the downtown area and were all of a sudden surrounded by jewellery stores.  We’d attended a seminar on the boat in regards to shopping on the islands, so we had some coupons for free stuff that we figured we would cash in at that point.  If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t bother.  While the items you get are sort of cute little tokens, they are similar to something you would get from a 25 cent candy machine, but that’s how they get people in the doors, and then they really do expect you to buy something.  There had to have been a couple hundred jewellery stores just along that street and while the prices were really amazing, they still weren’t in our range.

After exploring for a bit we had to start figuring out how to get to Coral World.  We approached a police officer for directions, as we figured it would be the safest way to find out.  We had asked several people before then and couldn’t figure out why no one understood that we wanted a regular ol’ bus.  Not a charter, tour, taxi, etc.  As it turns out they do have a city bus but it’s the same type of vehicle they use for tours.  Coral World was at the very opposite end of the island, but by taking the bus it only cost us $2/each to get there.

We had to walk a little bit but for the price neither of us were complaining.  When we got there, the admission price was a bit more than we expected.  It turned out well though because there was a beautiful beach right next door.  Having looked at photos before we left I knew it was there, just hadn’t expected to use it.  So we ended up spending a good portion of our day laid out on Coki beach.  It was packed, but still so relaxing to lay out on the white sand beaches and swim in the clear water.  By the time we were ready to leave we were both mush from the heat and relaxation, great way to spend an afternoon if you ask me.

We still had about 4 hours to spend on St Thomas so we decided to take the bus back as well.  The ride back was considerably longer but for a total of $4 we got to see the entire island.  We talked with locals who told us where we needed to get off, pointed out landmarks, and interesting little tidbits.  We basically had our own little tour, in the same type of open vehicle, saw more than most since the bus traversed the entire island, and paid a fraction of the amount.  It was a little nerve wracking since we had to watch our own time table, but that was ok because it was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I also hope that it showed Chelsea that if you’re willing to travel off the beaten path it just might be worth the extra trouble.  If you’re looking for more info on how to get around St Thomas, this link has good information.

Of the three islands we visited, St Thomas seemed to be the least commercialized.  Considering the amount of jewellery stores that might sound odd, but even those stores were mostly ma and pop type fronts.  We both loved the easy atmosphere, beautiful murals along the roads, and the beach was the prettiest we saw on our trip.  One day I’ll go back and be able to spend a little more time there.

Here are just a few of my favorite pics from St Thomas…

   
   
   
 

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Cruise Day Countdown – Staying Motivated

It is just over a week since Chelsea and I started our exercise program. Both of us are doing so much better after such a short time that I can’t wait to see how we’re doing in a month. During that first class I thought I would never get through it. Never get through it, and maybe pass out along the way. Don’t tell our trainer this, but yesterday’s class was almost easy, in comparison anyhow. After just one week, I feel stronger, have more energy, and I’m once again excited about life.

I haven’t bothered to re-take our measurements yet, and I still don’t own a scale, I doubt there would be much change, but I do know I’m firming up, I feel it, and my clothes fit better already. Unfortunately the program that we’re doing right now is only two weeks long. We have a two week gym membership to try out to fill the last two weeks before vacation, so we can see which we like better. Having started now though, I think we will be joining back up when we get back from vacation, hopefully for an eight week program now that we know we can do it.

The exercise is going well, the diet not so much. That’s not to say I’m running out for McDonald’s every day or anything like that but I’m not having the easiest of times staying away from things that I know are not good for me. I do really well during the day sticking to fruits, veg, and healthy carbs, but come night time everything seems to go out the window. One of the biggest problems I see is time. With the program I’m not getting home until 7pm, or sometimes even later. By that point the last thing I want to do is spend an hour or more in the kitchen, and picking up the phone looks fantastic in comparison. This week I will be focusing on dinners, and finding quick, and healthy ways to stay on track. Do you have any recipes to pass on?

We picked up our return tickets this week and had the same problem as the first one’s we purchased. When I looked originally the tickets were $245. By the time I was ready to buy them, a week later, they had gone through the roof. We figured out that by staying in Florida for three extra days we would save hundreds of dollars, that includes the extra hotel, living, and off work expenses believe it or not! It’s something to think about if you are booking your vacation, tally up costs for hotel, food, and time off work, and compare it against flight costs to see if you might save money by staying a bit longer. More vacation, less money, who would have thought?

Marigot open market, St Maarten

Both of us are getting over the top excited by our new adventures coming up. I’m also a little nervous though. I know the nerves come from the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before, so I want to educate myself as much as possible. I’ve been reading like crazy but I would love to hear from you. Have you ever been on a cruise? What do we need to know? Any tips? We will be visiting Fort Lauderdale, Nassau, Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, VI, and Philipsburgh, St Martin/St Maarten. Have you been to any of these places? What are some of the ‘must see’ attractions?

 

Coral World, St Thomas, USVI

From what I have seen so far, here are some of the activities I would love to see/do. In St Thomas there is a beautiful underwater observatory. It is called ‘Coral World.’ It’s a building that goes right out into the ocean, and underwater so you can see what’s happening under there without getting wet. They offer many exhibits like a stingray pool, shark watching, and turtle pool amongst many other things. In St Maarten, we are hoping to take an Island tour. The tour is done by a local and showcases the highlights of the Island such as a tour of Oyster Pond, a beautiful marina in between the two sides of St Martin/St Maarten, a stop at one of the best beaches on the Island, a tour of the open market on the French side, shopping, and a stop at the local beach bar. I really like the idea of being able to see everything without the possibility of getting lost, however, I’m an independent person so I’m not sure how I’m going to like being told what to do, when I have to leave etc. We’ll see how it goes.

Blue Lagoon Island, Nassau

Lastly there is Nassau, this is the one I’m having the most trouble with. It seems that Nassau has been taken over by the huge money making ‘Atlantis.’ When you look at pics of the Island, that’s pretty much all you see. Even though I’ve never travelled, I know I’m not a typical ‘tourist.’ The idea of being a tourist with all the trappings just doesn’t appeal to me. I want to see the country for what it really is, I would love a glimpse of the locals, and their day to day lives, not a show that’s put on for the entertainment of visitors. As I looked for things to do on Nassau, it’s really not easy to find stuff that does not include Atlantis. While I was looking around, and before I did a bit of research, I attempted to book a dolphin ‘encounter.’ Turns out that Atlantis has a lock on any bookings such as this from the cruise ship, as I tried to book through another place and was told they could not accept our reservation and I would have to go to Atlantis, huh, made me want to spend time there even less. After reading more about swimming with dolphins, I don’t want to do it at all, but that is a discussion for another post. So, we’ve decided that since we will only be there for 5 hours we’re going to hit the beaches in Nassau, seems it’s the only thing we can do that doesn’t involve the gaudy resort. There is a beautiful beach on Nassau called the ‘Blue Lagoon’ I have no idea if this is the actual Blue Lagoon, but it’s where we’ll be.

Spices, Marigot open market, St Maarten.

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Health and Beauty

 

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Cruise Day Countdown!

About a year ago at this time, my friends and I were madly voting away in a contest to win a cruise vacation.  I didn’t think I stood a chance in heck of actually winning, but as it turned out, by the end I was the one with the most votes.  A few weeks later I received my certificate in the mail telling me I was the proud owner of a 7 day Caribbean cruise for 2, and that I had a whole year to use it.  What I didn’t count on was that the cruise itself isn’t really the biggest cost, and flights were not included in my prize, nor were any of the ‘upgrades.’  Either way, I swore to myself that I would make it happen.  So, about a month or two ago, I realized that my year was very quickly running out.  I had until April 15th, so I called and booked it for April 7th in the hopes that by some miracle we could pay for the flights.

Oasis of the Seas

April 7th is now 6 weeks away, and after scrimping, and saving our pennies, we’re all set to go!  Passports and plane tickets are in hand, and my daughter and I are now planning out everything we’ll do aboard Oasis of the Seas, and on our shore excursions in Nassau, St Martin, and St Thomas.  This is a first for both of us.  Raising a special needs child doesn’t leave a whole lot of money laying around for vacations, so I’m very grateful that I will be able to share this with Chelsea.  Ben and Dad will have their own vacation in a few months, and they’re happy with that.

I’d been so busy worrying about plane tickets, passports, time off work, and everything else that goes along with a vacation, that once it was all done I came to the startling conclusion that I was going to be visiting a tropical locale, and that I would not only be wearing summer clothing that shows off legs, and arms, but <gasp> having to wear a bathing suit.  That was when the panic really set in.  We moved to Calgary about 5 years ago, and while I enjoy summers here, they are as far from hot and humid as you can get.  Swimming is not a Calgary summer time activity, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I put on a bathing suit.  Not only that, but it’s been a long winter, spent mostly in front of the computer, causing my weight to reach an all time high.

As all of this was running around in my brain, I realized that not only am I bigger than I’ve ever been, but I really don’t feel all that great.  I’m more tired than usual, less motivated to get out and do things that I normally would jump at the chance for, and just generally feeling blah.  All of this has resulted in a drastic change to my diet, completely cutting out sugar, restricting carbs, increasing fruits & veggies, and lowering fat intake.  I’m not following any particular diet, but in the week since I’ve made the changes, I’m already starting to feel more like myself.  Chelsea and I have also signed ourselves up for an exercise program.  We only have 6 weeks, but at this point, I’m more interested in feeling better than what I will look like in my bathing suit, so we’re going to give it all we’ve got.

I’ve also come across a few other bloggers who are keeping track of their progress on a weekly ‘Fit-N-Firm Friday,’ that have really motivated me.  They’ve already started so if you’re looking for motivation, these ladies have some great idea, check ’em out!  Starting this Friday, Chelsea and I will be posting our stats, along with a count down to cruise day!

Multi Testing Mommy
Pampered Patty
Domesticated Mama
Whispered Inspirations
Kats Confessions

If you’re at all interested, Mighty Ships did a program on Oasis of the Seas that not only shows the boat, but the exact cruise we will be going on.  You can watch it here.

Have you been on a cruise?  What do we need to know?  Are there any ‘must see’s’ on the Islands we’ll be visiting?

Natoma

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Health and Beauty

 

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