Monday, November 10, 2014

Carnival Cruise June 2014 - Southern Caribbean (Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Curacao)

We sailed on the Carnival Breeze for free as a gift from Carnival Cruise lines June 7-15, 2014. We were so excited to visit four islands that we had never been to before. This trip was especially well-timed as we had just closed on the sale of our first home.

We flew to Miami and had a tumultous cab ride to the Historic Miami River Hotel.

Our first full day on the ship we enjoyed a relaxing day at sea. One of the more memorable experiences of this vacation was that my beloved San Antonio Spurs were playing the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Oh boy, did I have fun watching the games on the big screen on Deck 10 of the ship at night. The deck was stuffed with Miami Heat fans with just a few Spurs fans sprinkled in. "Les go Heat! Les go Heat!" rang out through the Caribbean night. The first game on the ship was a Miami victory. But after that, the Spurs took the lead. The NBA Finals was a wonderful series, with the Spurs taking the Championship out of poor Lebron's hands :)

Grand Turk - We took a cab to Pillar Beach. We were very surprised at how poor Grand Turk appeared, once we drove away from the touristy Margaritaville at the pier. The beach was beautiful, with only one "resort" and bar/restaurant located on it. We had a wonderful time swimming in the warm water, and enjoyed petting the wild dogs that would come burrow in the sand beside us.

La Romana, Dominican Republic - We did the Catalina Island Beach Break excursion. It was our only ship-organized excursion of the trip. We took a bus to a dock where we loaded onto several smaller boats. The ride out to Catalina Island took about 30 minutes and was a nice but rocky boat ride. We pulled up to the whitest beaches, bluest waters, and most deserted beach I had seen in a while. As we arrived, people renting lounge chairs were running out to greet us. There were not many palm trees, but Dave and I ran to one and put our towels and bags under the shade of the tree. We enjoyed laying in the sand, playing in the water and then realized there was a little village of shops that locals had organized behind us. We spent some time walking through the shops, and then stumbled upon an outdoor massage tent. Dave fanagled an amazing price for us to have a couple's massage on the beach. The massage was wonderful. Unfortunately on the tender ride back to the cruise ship, I got incredibly sea-sick. All I could think about was the fruit loops and banana I had scarfed down before getting on the boat. Luckily, by the next morning, I was feeling back to normal.

Aruba - We had heard that the public transportation was very safe and easy to use in Aruba. As soon as we got off the ship, we headed for the bus stop. Pretty soon we were on our way to Palm Beach. The beaches were gorgeous and right in front of fancy hotels. Aruba is known for its miles and miles of continuous white, sandy beaches. Dave rented a couple of chairs and floats for the ocean. I tried to lay out and read but the wind was horrendous. Sand was pelting me in the face. We found it was much more enjoyable to play in the water with the Aruba wind. Apparently, Aruba is windy all the time. They have an especially "windy season" that we will make sure to avoid. :) For lunch we walked down to a pier that had a restaurant which served incredible sandwiches. Overall, I loved our day in Aruba.

Curacao - This Dutch island has lots of history with forts and rock walls on parts of the island. There are beautiful, colorful buildings and tons of people, tourists and locals alike. We found the bus station after walking a while, and ended up taking what they call a "short" bus close to 40 minutes from where the ship was docked to Mambo Beach, one of the more popular beaches on the island. Unfortunately, I was extremely underwhelmed. The beach was rocky, was partitioned off from the rest of the ocean with a rock wall, was crowded with people and overall just blah. The water wasn't even blue and beautiful. They charged quite a bit of money for yucky chairs. Dave swam for a little while, but pretty quickly we gathered our things and waited for the short bus to pick us up and take us back. We walked back to the ship, showered and got ready for a night out on the town. We had a great date night in Curacao. We had drinks and appetizers on one side of a waterway with a draw bridge lit up by neon lights. After our happy hour, we walked across the draw bridge and had dinner while listening to a live band.

Miami - Everglades Tour - We were trying to find something to fill our time since our flight was pretty late on the day the cruise ship arrived back in Miami. So we signed up for the ship's Everglades tour. We did have some troubles getting our luggage off the ship in time to go on the tour, but the tour operators took care of that for us and delivered our bags to the airport. I highly recommend the Everglades tour. We rode on a speedy airboat and were able to see lots of gators. It was exhilarating, gave us something to do and was not terribly expensive.

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