Thursday, 7 August 2014

Kauai March 2014 - Waimea Canyon

Our trip to Kauai was wonderful, especially on the heels of that brutal winter. We flew into Lihue and our first bit of sightseeing was a drive to Waimea Canyon. It was easy to get to in our rental car, but very hard to drive and not get distracted by the breathtaking scenery.

I am just going to attach some shots, without a lot of commentary. I think the beauty of Hawaii tends to speak for itself.

The World's Greatest Husband and Me

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Universal Orlando - December 2013

This will be a brief overview, because we have been here many times. I really love Universal, and would highly recommend staying onsite at one of the original resorts (I know there's a new cheaper one, but the perqs aren't as good).  We stay at the Royal Pacific, and enjoy the early entry and express line access. Also, it's a beautiful resort.

View from the Pool Bar
Lovely Comfy Bad in a very nice room
Protip: Join Loews' loyalty program (I think it's currently called You First), for extra gifts and privileges, including free WiFi.  Actually, join any hotel's loyalty program if you're going to stay there. It's never a bad thing.
There is Free Boat Service between the resorts and City Walk
There is a lovely path leading to City Walk and the 2 parks (Universal Studio and Islands of Adventure), which travels along the canal. You can also take the boat, which is nice when your feet are sore after a day at the parks or a night dancing.

The Entrance to Islands of Adventure
 Islands of Adventure is my favourite park for many reasons. I think it has better rides and theming, and I have still not quite forgiven Studios for getting rid of Jaws.  We usually start the morning at Crescent Rolls, getting a light, inexpensive breakfast before our gruelling day in the parks.

The Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
After breakfast, if we have taken advantage of early entry, we head over to the Wizarding World, and ride The Forbidden Journey. It is fun, and the tech is quite impressive. The line is well done, as well, with excellent theming. Then we will ride Dragons, and even the Hippogriff, until it gets too crowded.
Looking back into Three Broomsticks from the Hogshead Pub 
Three Broomsticks seems to me to be horribly overpriced, but the pub attached to it is nice and kind of fun.
Camp Jurassic is not just for kids
The Jurassic Park section has the Jurassic Park water ride, which is kind of fun, and Camp Jurassic, which is a well-themed playground somewhat reminiscent of the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom.  We really enjoyed romping through there.

We don't tend to do the attractions at Toon Lagoon because we are not big fans of water rides (JP is the exception and we've never gotten too wet on it).

Seuss Landing all decorated for Christmas
Since it was December, Seuss Landing was decorated for Christmas and has never looked better. Without the decor, it looks kind of stark, but with them it is very jolly and friendly.

Marvel's Superhero island has lots of thrill rides, and has a comic book theme. The Hulk is a particular favourite, being one of the better roller coasters I have been on.

Making it snow in City Walk - it was over 70F.
City Walk is the shopping and dining section of Universal. They have several themed restaurants including a Pat O'Brien's, and Bob Marley's. The food is good and not too expensive.

Universal Monster's Cafe Detail
Universal Studios has a few rides, but mostly attractions, like Shrek 4D and Despicable Me. They do, however, have a new roller coaster that is pretty sweet. They also have some good dining venues, and some fun counter service places.

Moe's Tavern in Springfield
 Springfield was the newest section when we were there, although they were building Diagon Alley. Do read the signs at the Kang and Kodos ride. They are great.  The Simpson's ride used to be the Back to the Future ride, but I think the technology is a little better now.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Freedom of the Seas 2013 - Sea Days

I love sea days. I could just sit and watch the ocean for hours. They are also a chance to indulge in Johnny Rockets. TWGH doesn't like the one in Toronto, but the one on the Freedom suits him just fine. So we go, and have burgers, and way too much deep fried stuff while enjoying an ocean view.

This was the second formal night, so after a leisurely day, we got dressed up, ready for a night on the "town".

We were a bit early, so we had pre-prandial cocktails in the sports bar.

Our towel animal tonight was a monkey, I think.

Tonight's entertainment was dancing in the solarium. They have twinkle lights over the hot tubs. It is quite lovely.

The cigar bar is nicely decorated, but a little cozy if you aren't a smoker. We took a bit of a tour on the last sea day.

Bolero's is a nice bar to hang out at.

Sadly, tonight was the night we had to pack. Early morning debarkation comes way too soon. Once again, we had a wonderful time, and the Freedom continues to be our favourite ship so far.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Freedom 2013 - St Martin

Thursday was Sint Maarten/St Martin. This is one of my favourite places in the Caribbean so far. I love the temperature of the water in Orient Bay and the seafood, and the weather, and... anyway.

If it's Thursday, This Must be St. Martin

Look at That Water

It's easy to get a shared cab to Orient Beach
Cabs to Orient Beach are shared, and leave frequently. They are shared and are not that expensive. The drive is quite scenic and crosses the unprotected border between the Dutch and French sides of the island.

This Obelisk Marks the Point Between the 2 Countries

Orange Fever

We like to go to Orange Fever at Orient Beach. They have the same deal for chairs, umbrella and drinks as everyone else, but the seafood is really amazing.

Orient Bay is Beautiful and Warm

A Hotel Bar in Phillipsburg
After we had had our fill of sun, seafood and surf, we took a cab back to Phillipsburg and wandered the town a bit. The downtown is very friendly to pedestrians and there are lots of things to look at. Eventually, we stopped for cocktails at the above pictured bar.  They were a bit pricey, but very tasty. 

Having had our fill, we took the reasonably priced water taxi back to the pier and got dressed for dinner.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Freedom 2013 - St Thomas

We did not arrive in St Thomas until after lunch, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning around the ship. Our plan today was strictly to get off the ship, and wander around Charlotte Amalie. We are not shoppers, so really it was just to soak up some atmosphere.

Ships already in port

It is quite the hike from the ship at the end of the pier to the taxi stand, so we contemplated the SeƱor Frog's.  It was, however, quite noisy. Instead, we happened upon a lovely little place playing island music. I was charmed, and just on the off chance, asked the bar tender if he could make a lime daiquiri. He asked if I wanted it frozen, or on the rocks. Rocks, please! As a side note, I do not understand this obsession with frozen daiquiris to the exclusion of real ones. A finely crafted daiquiri, is infinitely superior to a rum slushee, and I wish they would find another name for those frozen things. My daiquiri was tart, and refreshing, and a colour found in nature. Thus endeth the sermon. The World's Greatest Husband enjoyed a Red Stripe.

After that, we took a taxi into town. It should be noted that taxis here are shared, with the prices per person, and scaled depending upon the number of passengers, and are usually vans instead of small cars. The route is established, and we were dropped off at a standard drop off point. From there, we wandered around. We looked in a pirate store, and then randomly wandered through various malls and walk ways. Eventually we came upon a sign advertising a Beer Garden with free Wi-Fi. Since we were both feeling a bit out of touch, this seemed ideal.

We went up a garden path (really), and found a lovely outdoor bar, which was quite homey, with reasonably priced beer, and the aforementioned contact with the outside world. We enjoyed cheap beverages, and caught up with our friends. Then we wandered again.

A gentleman noticed TWGH's necklace, which he got in Kenya, and dragged us to a store selling African style artefacts. It was awkward, because we buy African style artefacts in Africa, not the US Virgin Islands. We made our escape, and did some more exploring.

Finally, we decided we could do with another beverage, and found Greengo's. It was a lovely place with a Day of the Dead decor, and Dos Equis Amber. We also decided on a little snack, and shared some pork nachos. Very nice. 

After this, we returned to the ship in a purple taxi van. We were late leaving St. Thomas, so we got a beautiful view of it all lit up at night.

We spent a leisurely evening, and hung around the champagne bar, since it had terrific service, and properly measured pours, instead of the 5-1 ratio of alcohol to mix you normally get in cruise ship bars.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Freedom 2013 - First Sea Day

We didn't really do much for either the sea day or St. Thomas. The first sea day we were a little tired from all the dancing on formal night, so we took it easy.

The helipad, at the front of the ship.

We did wander around the ship a bit. This is a great ship, with lots of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Hanging out at the Pub
The promenade is a great place to watch the world go buy, so we did a little of that.

Crown and Anchor Party
The Crown and Anchor party is ostensibly a thank you to returning cruisers, but they use it as an opportunity to shill their next project. I don't mind. There is entertainment, meetings and greetings from ship's officers, and, this time, a sneak peek at the new ship Royal Caribbean is building: The Quantum of the Seas. Oh, and free cocktails or soft drinks.

Towel Animal
We really just had a relaxing day, with a lot of reading, and some hanging out in the hot tub, and when we got back to our room, the above creation was waiting for us.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Freedom 2013 - Coco Cay and First Formal Night

We woke up in the morning to a view of the Bahamas. We had been a little late departing the night before, so we were a little late arriving at Coco Cay. It was a little rainy to begin with, but promised to clear shortly.

One small thing I really enjoy about the Freedom of the Seas is the Day of the Week carpet tile on the elevators. I tried to take a picture every day to help me place my pictures.

Once the rain ended, the water was beautifully clear, and not horrifically frigid. I was told there was a stingray at the beach, although I missed it. I did catch a glimpse of the 3 foot sand shark swimming around while I was in the water. He was cute. Sadly, I did not have my camera at the time. I did get some shots of other wildlife, both in the water and out.

I have normally gone to the snorkel beach, but we left our gear at home this time, so we tried a different beach. The water was nicer, with less reads.

After we had our fill of fun and sun, we tendered back to the ship to get ready for formal night.

The View of the Ship

Sailors Beware!
 We love getting dressed up for formal night, and so here we are. We had a lovely evening, and ended up dancing the night away in the Crypt. I did change into less formal clothes half way through the dancing.

I am a very lucky woman.