Cruising The Ruby Princess – Day 2


One of the things I enjoy most about cruising is that it’s so easy to just head out to eat whenever you are ready and I don’t have to wait for my travel companions or try to decide where to go.  This morning I decided to just order room service and got a breakfast sandwich, banana, juice and milk.  No charge except for a tip to the delivery person.  I love that!

I met up with my group to get off the ship and take the tender ashore.  Pam had gotten a clamshell (little cover with 2 chairs) and we were renting aqua chairs and snorkel equipment.  When you get onto Princess Cayes (their private beach area on theislandofEleutherain theBahamas) you head left for the free, unreserved chairs or right for the clamshells and beach bungalows.  We headed to the right and dropped our stuff at the clamshell and Dennis and I snorkeled up and headed into the water.  The others got a cocktail and headed out in their aqua chairs.  I was somewhat surprised at how many fish we saw in the roped off swimming area.  There were not a lot of swimmers on this side so the water was pretty clear.  We saw some fairly big blue fish with yellow stripes on the side, some flat blue fish that looked like the kind you see in aquariums (one turned on it’s side and waved at me), some yellow & black fish, plus more.  I also enjoyed looking at the plant life on the bottom of the sea. 

This is really a great place for a beach day.  They have some shops so you can do some souviner shopping; a couple of bars so you can get drinks – as well as waiters on the beach which I loved; you can go just outside of the Princess property for some more shopping (we didn’t do this because everything we needed was inside); they serve lunch (no charge – just like on the ship) on both sides – hotdogs & hamburgers, with salads and desserts on our side and a BBQ on the other side; watersports rentals; even a few excursions.  You can go back and forth to the ship if you need to.  I think the last tender back was around 3:15.  Here is the one picture I took this day – our ship from shore.

This day was Pam’s actual birthday so we went out and partied.  We stayed very late in the disco.  There was a lot of ship movement on this cruise so the dance floor was pretty interesting.  As time went on people seemed to adjust and when the ship rocked, we all went with it.  As a group we’d dance from one side of the floor to the other – almost like a line dance.   A good time was had by all.

Advertisements

Royal Plantation Collection by Sandals


Royal Plantation Ocho Rios sit atop a seaside bluff above the stunning Caribbean Sea offering the perfect setting to truly get away from it all.  The 74 All Oceanview Suites come with Butler Service and is a member of “The Leading Small Hotels of the World”.  All your needs will be taken care of at this resort – with 3 Gourmet restaurants, two private coved beaches with Beach Butler Service, a Red Lane Spa, and the only Champagne & Caviar Bar in the Caribbean you will feel pampered from morning to night.  Enjoy Yoga on the Pier, golf at the nearby Upton Gold & Country Club, or get your workout in the 24 hour Fitness Center or on one of the 2 lit Tennis Courts.  Enrich yourself with Cooking Demonstrations and Cigar-rolling Classes.  Make this a true worry-free vacation by opting for the “Royal Plan” and receive all of the complimentary inclusions as well as all meals, snacks, spirits & wine, scuba diving and roundtrip luxury shuttle airport transfers.

For an even more indulgent vacation, choose the Villa Plantation, an exclusive 3 bedroom villa with private pool, butler, plus a car & driver to get you around town. 

This resort will truly exceed your expectations with its combination of old world charm and Jamaican hospitality.

Royal Plantation Island is in the Exumas, Bahamas.  This breathtaking, private 50 acre island has 6 magnificent rental houses to choose from.  All include a full kitchen, all food & drinks, a golf cart (per house), tennis court, kayaks & sailboats, and a motorized boat for guest 18 and over.  You can also stay well connected with Satellite TV, DVD & CD player and Internet enabled computers.  Not to mention the sensational cuisine in the Harbor Club Restaurant.

What an incredible place this would be for a Destination Wedding or Family Reunion to celebrate a special occasion. 

The Royal Plantation Private Villas of Jamaica are Butch Stewarts private homes which he makes available to those who insist on the very best and would like an unforgettable experience. 

Any one of these 4 stunning villas would be the perfect setting for a Destination Wedding or other special occasion.  With accommodations for up to 16 adults these would also make be the ideal place for a small group of friends who want a private, exclusive vacation.  Or you could choose one of the properties with a guest cottage which sleeps 4.

You will feel like Royalty when you choose one of these fabulous Royal Plantation properties for your special vacation.

Sandals in the Bahamas


Sandals Royal Bahamian offers not only the sophisticated British elegance of the main resort, but a laid-back off-shore private island giving you 2 vacations in one!

The main resort offers 19 room categories including those in the secluded Royal Village – you’ll feel as if you are in your own private retreat.  Cottages are nestled beneath fantail palms and fruit trees – expansive bedrooms are divinely plush, intimate pools are places throughout the Royal Village.  You may also choose a room in either the Royal Windsor Suite Tower or the Bahamian Manor Tower. 

There are 10 restaurants at Sandals Royal Bahamian, including the exclusive “Gordon’s On The Pier” exclusively for Butler Level guests.  9 bars, 6 swimming pools and of course the offshore island, will keep you happily relaxed or as busy as you’d like to be. 

The exclusive Offshore Island has 2 beaches, one for swimming and snorkeling and the other for high energy watersports.  There is a lagoon style pool with a swim up bar, Café Goombay for some authentic Bahamian dishes, and the Red Lane Spa zen garden. 

Sandals Emerald Bay is the first All-Butler Resort in the Sandals line.  This was originally built as a Four Seasons resort, has 183 all suite accommodations, 5 gourmet restaurants and 5 bars, 3 pools including a one acre freshwater pool, an 18 hole Greg Norman designed championship golf course, and a 17 acre marina. 

Sandals Emerald Bay is on Great Exuma in the Bahamas.  All oceanfront and all butler (trained by The Guild of Professional English Butlers, as are all Sandals butlers). There are 16 room categories from the Exuma Honeymoon Luxury Suites all the way up to the top of the line Royal Estate 2 Story 1 Bedroom Beachfront Suite with Pool- prime location, sweeping views of the ocean & beach and a private infinity pool. 

While in the Bahamas, you might want to enjoy some off property excursions like Diving with the Sharks (you can learn to dive at all the Sandals resorts), Swim with the Dolphins, Deep Sea Fishing or Catamaran Cruises.

Renewed my Certified Sandals Specialist


I attended a Sandals Workshop last Thursday to maintain my Certified Sandals Specialist status.  I love these workshops because they are so informative keeping us updated on what is new at each of the 22 resorts on 6 islands that are under the Sandals umbrella.  I thought I would share a little information about each resort with you because not everyone realizes that this company offers something for almost everyone.

There are 13 Sandals Luxury Included properties which cater to couples and stress romance; 4 Beaches Luxury Included properties which cater to families, singles and groups; 2 Royal Plantation resorts which offer a luxurious, boutique style resort; 2 Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts which make Paradise affordable; and the Royal Plantation Villas – Butch Stewart’s private estates which he makes available for rent, old world Jamaican charm in a luxurious and pampering environment.

All of the Sandals branded resorts include water sports, both motorized and non-motorized.  Some resorts offer more than others, some of the most popular are water-skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, Hobie Cat sailing, Glass-bottom boat tours, windsurfing, Aquatrykes – and best of all, Scuba – up to 2 dives a day for certified divers.  You can get resort-certified at most resorts and dive once a day.  Golf is included at some resorts.

Sandals is a great place for a Destination Wedding.  Sandals has teamed up with Martha Stewart and currently offers 6 different Wedding Packages, from the Beautiful Beginnings basic package which is free at most resorts, to the Island Paradise which offers a true Caribbean Sunset Wedding experience.  Brides choosing this package get priority for the prime time sunset times.  There are also Renewal of Vows packages available.  These packages are available at all Sandals and Beaches properties. 

I am going to give a brief update on each property in the next few days, so keep checking back to read about your favorite!

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas


I attended a breakfast seminar this morning to learn more about the new Oasis of the Seas.  I will admit, I have been a bit of a skeptic about this new mega-ship.  After the presentation this morning, I can’t wait to see this ship for myself (not just see it, but sail on it!).

Oasis of the Seas is a destination in itself.  Her current Itinerary is the Eastern Caribbean, sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale and visiting St. Thomas, St. Martin and Nassau, Bahamas.  The ship itself consists of 7 distinct “neighborhoods”, each will appeal to different tastes. 

Choose a balcony stateroom overlooking Central Park with its upscale restaurants including 150 Central Park, Vintages Wine Bar and the more casual Park Café.  Shop in the upscale shops such as Coach, or get your portrait taken at the photographers studio onboard. 

Or maybe you’d prefer to be where more of the action is.  You might choose the Boardwalk, where you’ll find the aqua theater, casual dining including Johnny Rockets, the Boardwalk Donut Shop and the Seafood Shack.  Ride the Carousel (that’s right, a full size carousel at sea!), or watch people flying overhead on the zip line. 

The Royal Promenade is another great choice with shops, restaurants and bars including the Schooner and Champagne Bars.  Stop in for a beverage at the Rising Tide Bar and ride between Decks 5 & 8. 

You can also hang out in the state of the art Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, choose some healthy fare at the Vitality Café, get in your daily workout, or pamper yourself in the incredible Spa, which includes a special area with treatments designed just for teens.  The pool deck has 4 unique pools – you will always be able to find a lounge chair and a place to cool off onboard.  There are actually 7 pools altogether on this ship, including one in the adults only Solarium.

The Sports Deck may be more your speed with its 9 hole mini-golf, full size basketball court (also used for volleyball), two flow-riders, in-line skating and more. 

The incredible Youth Area includes a Family Theater, art room, science programs and of course activity spaces divided up by age.  This ship also includes a nursery for children age 6 months to 3 years.  For only $8 per hour, the staff will care for and entertain the youngest passengers – and yes, they change diapers!

Not only is there something onboard for everyone to do, there is a stateroom category to fit every need.  From the basic Inside, Oceanview and Balcony staterooms, you can also choose the Presidential Family Suite which sleeps up to 14; one of the fabulous Loft Suites, sleeping up to 6; Aqua Theater Balcony staterooms; Promenade staterooms where you have a window overlooking the Royal Promenade; Owners suites, Junior suites and more.  There are over 30 stateroom categories to choose from!

Did I mention that there are 24 dining options and numerous bars & lounges; entertainment including Jazz on 4, Comedy Live, a Mardi Gras type parade, Studio B ice shows, Dazzles nightclub and more; Club Royale Casino; the H2O zone water park – there are too many great things to list here.

In case you are concerned about getting lost, this ship has a state of the art system to help you find your way around.  Touch screens are located throughout the ship.  You can touch “Room Finder”, put in your stateroom number and it will tell you how to get there; “Venues Around the Ship” to find any venue; “Dining” to not only find the restaurant you want, but also see if there is a wait; and even “What To Do Right Now” which will list the activities going on at the time and direct you to where you need to go.  There are also signs next to each elevator with a diagram of the ship and of the deck you are on, as well as a deck listing of what is on each deck.This is an amazing ship with so many unique features pretty much anyone could enjoy themselves onboard. 

And from what I hear, you don’t feel at all like you are on a ship, so for those who don’t cruise because of motion sickness or because they think they will be bored onboard, you might want to reconsider and try the Oasis of the Seas!

Grand Bahama Island


A couple of years after my second cruise, my best friend called me from Hawaii (where she lives) to ask if I would like to join her and another friend on a trip to Grand Bahama Island.  The other friend had a timeshare and we would just each need to pay $100 for the week along with our airfare and spending money.  Well, you can’t say no to that!

 

I had just gone through a really rough 6 months – I had been diagnosed with Colon Cancer, had successful surgery (and I’m still healthy 8 years later!), while I was recovering from the surgery my father fell ill and passed away, then I got deathly ill from chemotherapy and ended up hospitalized again myself.  I was finally getting my strength back and a trip to the sunshine in a few months sounded like just the remedy I needed.

We went in May of 2001.  We all met up in Miami as we were traveling from different places and spent a night enjoying South Beach.  Then we caught our flight for the short hop over to Grand Bahama the next morning.

I loved it!  We were staying at the Ocean Reef Yacht Club so we were between Freeport and Port Lucaya.  Our condo was fabulous – 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and looking out at the marina.  There was a nice big living room, small full kitchen and a nice pool which we spent time around pretty much every afternoon.

We quickly found our way around with the “bus” system.  The buses are mini vans that keep to a particular route, but usually go when they are full.  It seems like it was about $1 per person to go to either Freeport or Port Lucaya.

We spent our first few days exploring both places, shopping and just enjoying the relaxed pace.  We went out in the evenings.  This was when I found out that in the Caribbean people go out late!  If you want to go enjoy the best places (where the locals go) you should probably take a nap in the afternoon. 

We shopped at the International Marketplace in Freeport which had some great shops and nice restaurants.  I really enjoyed the craft market at Port Lucaya – we spent so much time there that the vendors were getting to know us.  I also enjoyed the restaurants and they had music in the square most evenings.

We did the Dolphin Encounter one day.  I had wanted to do the swim but the ladies I was with thought they’d be more comfortable with the encounter and it seems we made the right choice.  It was so fun!  We sat around a “U” shaped dock and the dolphins swam around showing us their bellies and opened their mouths so we could see their teeth.  They would go under water and pop up and surprise someone, splash us as they went by.  We each got a few minutes on a platform at the end of the U where we could pet them and observe them up close.  This was one of the best parts of our trip.beth-and-dolphin.jpg

Wednesday night we went to the Fish Fry at Smith’s Point.  Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain this day and so this was not the party that it usually is.  The locals would drive up and get their food to go.  We were about the only ones walking around and we were soaked.  The food was excellent – several different kinds of fish, conch fritters (oh, I loved those) and some of the best Macaroni and Cheese I have ever tasted!

Around Thursday we decided to rent a car for a couple of days and do some more exploring.  The first day we drove East.  I was really amazed to see the pine tree forests – I expected Palm trees, but not pines.  bahamian-pine-forest.jpgWe had taken a tour early in the week that went to Garden of the Groves which was beautiful.  This time we went to the Lucayan National Park and Gold Rock Beach.  We then kept driving until we came to the end of the road (and went on down a dirt road until it really ended).  We did a little wading, but it was pretty rocky where we were.  We were hungry so on the way back we saw a sign for the  Bar at Pelican Point and thought this looked like a good place to stop for some food.   The bartender was surprised that on our first visit to the island we found them.

bar-at-pelican-point.jpgThis was a great place with good food, cold beer and a friendly bartender.  There was a group of maybe 12 people who were staying at the cottages next to the place.  Other than that there was no one around.  After lunch we went onto the beach.  Beautiful, white sand and blue water as far as you could see – with no people at all!  Now this is heaven!  beach-at-pelican-point.jpgWhen I go back I think I would stay out this way and just take day trips into Freeport and Port Lucaya.

The next day we drove to the West end of the island.  Gail had wanted to go snorkeling and we’d been told there was a place out this way that was best, but we had rain and some lightening so they were not letting anyone in the water.   We ended up just taking a scenic drive and stopping at another small beach – deserted as well.  As you drive along the highway there are piles of Conch shells – we stopped and picked up a few to bring home. 

We went on a sunset dinner cruise one night – that was a lot of fun.  Lisa and me on the Sunset CruiseI enjoyed almost all of our time on Grand Bahama – the people were extremely friendly and everything was very relaxed. 

I haven’t made it back yet, but really look forward to another trip there someday.  There are just too many other Caribbean islands to visit – and never enough time or money.