Cayman Turtle Center – Grand Cayman Excursion

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We recently booked a last minute cruise on the Carnival Paradise cruise ship with a stop in Grand Cayman and decided to do something that I knew was quite popular, and highly recommended: Cayman Turtle Center.

Usually I research and plan before I go, but this time I was short on time as well as options as I’ve been to the Cayman Islands many times and have done lots of things like swimming with the sting rays at Stingray City, shopping, and swimming at the beach.

All I knew of the turtle farm was just that you could see and touch green sea turtles, and that I could get there by local public bus on my own, which worked for me. It was an affordable and fun shore excursion choice!

I purchased my tickets on the Cayman Turtle Center’s website and received a 20% discount for purchasing in advance (making the cost of admission for the turtle farm only $18pp). Now you have two options when visiting the center, viewing and holding sea turtles and/or swimming in their pool, playing in their water park, and seeing even more animals. We went with the turtle package only since we were short on time and our main interest was seeing the turtles.

The turtle farm is about a fifteen minute public bus ride from the cruise dock which you tender to shore in from your cruise ship. The cost of the local bus is $2.50pp each way and it’s fairly easy to catch a bus coming or going any time during the day, although it can be time consuming depending on how many stops the driver makes to drop off and pick up passengers.

Once we arrived at the center we purchased a large bag of turtle food for $5.00 from a vendor inside the park. She informed us it was specially formulated, nutritious food for the turtles.

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We had the chance to feed the giant sea turtles which was wonderful. They are gorgeous animals and watching them swim and eat and make noises was a pleasure I will never forget!

After that we headed to the touch tanks to actually hold turtles!! They were so cute and it was just a wonderful experience holding them and taking our photos with them. They take a photo for you and charge $25 if you’d like to purchase it, but directly after they take the photo you are allowed to take photos on your own for no charge.

You can hold as many turtles as many times as you like, along with the chance to actually get into a small pool with baby turtles if you’re prepared (swimsuit or clothes you don’t mind getting wet)!

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After we spent time with the turtles our mood changed from excited to contemplative.

Were these animals being treated humanely? Was it okay for them to be held every day by all the people visiting? Did they like it, were they scared? Did they breed these turtles to eat as it’s a local traditional dish? Were they really rescuing them and breeding them to put back into the wild or were they eating them? Were we supporting something that we wouldn’t want to support? Questions to think about, and in the meantime feel guilty about because we were there and we didn’t know. If it’s an attraction that involves live animals I’m sure you’ll find yourself  wondering if they are being treated right.

We continued on our tour to the conservation center and learned about turtles, and how many they had released into the wild since their opening. We loved seeing the turtles and learning about them, but we left with a growing sense of doubt about the center itself, and the turtles in captivity.

Once we returned to the ship we used our internet to research the center. Yes I know we should have done that before we visited, but like I mentioned earlier we booked our cruise and bought our tickets very last minute and all we knew was that the turtle center was there, we hadn’t done it yet, and it was a popular and highly recommended attraction on the island.

Upon researching the Cayman Turtle Center we found many articles, including this one from National Geographic which confirmed our fears.

I have to say knowing this beforehand we would not have visited, which honestly did make us feel like crap for a while. I had to think of it as a positive experience since we had done it. We got to see and hold green sea turtles, which is a rare opportunity and is something on many people’s bucket lists. Should you go? Well, that’s up to the individual. Would we have gone if we had known then what we know now? No. I try to live life with no regrets therefore I will not regret going and I will take that day and remember the beauty of the majestic sea turtles forever. If I feel badly upon thinking of that day I will remember the turtles and be happy I got to see them and then remember this: do your research when traveling and visiting places you’ve never been, especially if animals are involved. I learn from my mistakes and although I travel a lot I am still learning and still growing.

If you’d like to visit all I ask is that you research before you go so you don’t feel badly about your choice once you visit. Vacations and memories are supposed to be good ones and everyone should be happy! If you decide to go it’s okay! It’s your choice and the center is a very popular attraction, just be educated before making that decision.

~ Amy

 

 

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5 Must Do Things in New Orleans

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After our visit to New Orleans I just can’t help to share some travel tips with you! It was our first visit in over twenty years, and boy it was an experience!

We only had a few days to see as much as we could so I decided on the following things to truly get a “feel” for the city and it’s history.

I know a lot of people immediately think of how smelly the city is (the most common comment I get when I mention NOLA is “it smells like pee”), and it does, but it’s okay, it’s part of the experience! (The cup is half full, not half empty right?)

I also hear how crazy it is … and after three days in the city I agree! We definitely had our share of crazy experiences while in town, but it’s “the vibe” you know what I mean? That’s one of the things I liked about it! It was always new, always hopping, and always full of surprises!

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1. Go to Cafe du Monde! I know, you probably already have it on your to-do list, but try to go more than once if you can! You will definitely find yourself thinking about those hot fresh beignets and milky chickory coffee for quite some time after you get home, so enjoy it while you can!

TIPS: Bring cash, Cafe du Monde does not except credit cards, (there is an ATM nearby). Also check out their souvenirs, they’re very affordable and fun to use back home. This awesome mug was only a few dollars more than a cup of coffee served in one of their mugs!

cafe-du-monde

2. Go to a VooDoo museum and/or do a ghost tour in the French Quarter! I know, I know, most major cities offer ghost tours, but this is New Orleans! It’s a great way to learn the truth about the Voodoo religion. Most of us have seen it portrayed as something evil on TV, but it’s actually not! What is Voodoo you ask? This article gives you a good idea, and visiting a museum in the Big Easy will really give you an insight into the culture of the religion, and the people of New Orleans.

We went to the New Orleans Historic VooDoo Museum (there are a lot of choices, so check them all out before deciding on one). It didn’t take much time or money to visit, and was very interesting and really gave us the feel of the history of NOLA.

TIP: Bring a little offering for an altar in the museum, I wish I had!!

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3. National World War II History Museum! Whether you’re a history buff or not, this place is a must see attraction. You need to allow a full day to see it in it’s entirety, it’s huge!

It is America’s National World War Two museum, is rated TripAdvisor’s #1 top rated attraction in New Orleans, and #2 museum in the world! Pretty cool huh?

Tip: Buy a second day pass for only $7.00, that’s a huge savings as the one day tickets are $28. Military and students get a discount too, so check it out and order your tickets online in advance.

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4. Walk around the French Quarter at night! That’s right, it’s an experience you just can’t miss, a visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without it!

Did you know it always feels like Mardi Gras in the French Quarter? You can buy beads (even catch beads sometimes), and party in the streets late into the night. Not into partying in the streets? It’s  okay, just being there and hearing the music, seeing the people, and standing on Bourbon street is an experience in itself!

TIP: Uber to the French Quarter. Parking is outrageous and hard to find!

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5. Get a Hurricane from Pat O’Briens! The Hurricane cocktail originated at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans in 1940. Due to a shortage of Bourbon and Scotch during that time suppliers pretty much made bar owners buy multiple cases of Rum in order to purchase one case of Scotch or Bourbon.

I know that Rum is popular today, but in 1940 the most popular drinks were made using Whiskey. As you can imagine, storerooms started to get full really fast with all the rum they had to order to get their one case of Whiskey. This led to bar owners having to get more creative, and inventing drinks like the Hurricane (which is delicious!).

TIP: Buy a souvenir glass! You can’t carry it in the streets but don’t worry, if you want your drink to go (like I did), then they’ll box a glass up for you (and even bag it) to take home and send you on your way with a plastic cup.

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I’d love to hear your comments on this article. Feel free to share your tips, experiences, and even questions here in the comments section!

Thanks for joining me today, talk to you soon!

~Amy

 

7 Tips on How To Take More Cruises

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With over 30 cruises under my belt since 2014 I really want to share 7 of my personal tips on how to take more cruises – so you can take more cruise vacations too if you follow these guidelines!

  1. Book in Advance! Many times the farther out you book the cheaper the fare! This is especially true for newly announced cruise ships, including cruise ships that haven’t even been built yet! Once a ship is announced and the booking officially opens, book! You’ll find the best deals on fare and even special free perks!
  2. Watch for Reduced Deposits! I just love it when cruise lines have sales don’t you? You may not think of a reduced deposit as a sale but to me it’s one of the best types of sales! If you are a family of four for example, you’d have to put down about $1000.00 just to book your cabin … that’s a big chunk of money that will be tied up for quite some time. If you take advantage of reduced cruise deposits then you’ll have  more money free to book more cruises (with reduced deposits!). NOTE: Make sure to note whether the deposit is refundable or not!
  3. Make Regular Payments! You have to make setting aside and paying on your cruise a priority. I like to take the amount owed and divide it by the months I have to pay then make monthly, or even weekly payments. Consider it a layaway … and when the layaway is paid off you will have a relaxing vacation waiting for you!
  4. Watch for Cruise Deals and Freebies! Many cruise lines will offer free amenities like all you can drink, free specialty dining, free wi-fi, on board credit, no gratuities, paid port fees and taxes, free or reduced cost third and fourth guests, etc. Watch for those deals and take advantage when you see them!!
  5. Cruise With Friends! Often you’ll find the more people you have in your cabin, the cheaper it gets! Many cruise lines offer free or reduced fares for the third and fourth guests in the cabin – no matter their age!
  6. Compare! There are many cruise ships and cruise lines sailing from ports around the world visiting similar places. Sometimes the ship next door can be hundreds of dollars cheaper. Also compare prices in different ports. The ship sailing closest to home may not be the best deal! Sometimes you can find fares in popular ports like Miami Florida for less than you’d find it in your home port, even with airfare added in!
  7. Cut Down on your Spending at Home! Make a list of what you spend when you spend it. Look how much you’re spending on coffee every day, or eating out, or going out … it adds up! If you cut down on how much money you spend at home you can save that money and maybe even pay for a cruise with it! Many people not only cut back on the amount they spend on extra things but they try and save money by couponing, or shopping during sales at the grocery store, then putting the money they’ve saved into their cruise trip fund!

Bonus Tip: Watch for last minute cruise deals and even consider setting up a savings just for last minute cruise deals!

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I’m a travel agent and I’d love to help you with your perfect cruise vacation! I’m great at finding deals and knowledgeable about all the major cruise lines and the best time to travel. Email me at seacruisersvlogs@yahoo.com and watch my tips on how to take more cruises.

~ Amy

What to Bring on Cruise Port Days

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What to bring on cruise port days … that’s the big question! Well I’m going to give you my cruise tips on what you should pack on “dry” port days and “wet” port days.

You may have your day in port all planned out, or you may not. If you know you’ll be going to the beach, or to a cenote, or somewhere that involves water make sure to bring the items below!

• Tote bag or backpack (waterproof bags work well too!)

• Waterproof Sunblock that you know works well! Keep in mind if you’re doing an excursion on a boat you’ll need lotion not spray as they don’t usually allow the spray type sunblock on the boat.

• Dry clothing

• Towels (your own towels or towels from the ship, but if you use ship towels don’t lose them or they’ll charge you for them!)

• Hairbrush

• Sunglasses

• Hat (floppy and/or visor)

• Snorkeling equipment

• Cash

• Credit Card(s)

• Shipboard card

• ID or Driver’s License

• Waterproof housing for your phone and/or camera

• Battery pack or power bank for your phone

• Extra camera batteries/ SD card

• Medication you may need for the day (prescription, anti-diarrheal, tums, tylenol, advil)

• SPF Lipbalm

• Bug spray

• Snacks (prepackaged and sealed items like energy bars)

• Water (at least one bottle to do you until you get to your destination)

• Water shoes or sandals

• Extra contacts and eye drops for dry eyes

Of course you can bring more but remember, you have to carry this bag all day long and the walk to and from the cruise ship can be a long one.

Check out my video going over what to bring on port days and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more cruising tips, cruise vlogs, and videos weekly!

 

Best Beach in the Caribbean

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What’s the best beach in the Caribbean? I think it’s Valley Church Beach in Antigua! Before I visited this port of call I researched and researched the different beaches of the island.  Did you know that there’s a different beach for every day of the year on Antigua?!

That makes it kind of hard to chose don’t you think? I remember reading a review from a very well traveled woman who said Valley Church Beach was her all-time favorite … and she had been to beaches all over the world. I decided to try it out on our visit and am I glad I did!! I can now say it’s my favorite beach in the world.

We took a local bus (jitney) from the cruise port area (we had to walk a bit), and enjoyed seeing the island as we traveled there. I will never forget the landscape, it was amazing!

We made a vlog of our visit to Antigua. Well, there’s actually two vlogs. One vlog getting off the ship and getting to the local bus and the other vlog is of the beach itself.

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I had never seen such a calm, clean, quiet, gorgeous beach in all my life! The water felt amazing! I was very buoyant in the water but it didn’t have that sticky salty feel like some beaches do. It felt more like being in fresh spring water than ocean water. It was extremely quiet and natural … there weren’t vendors trying to sell you stuff or tons of tourists.

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I have been dreaming of going back to Valley Church Beach in Antigua on a cruise and my personal favorite cruise line is Norwegian and they are now sailing to this cruise destination! We had visited on a Costa ship and at that time Antigua was an exotic port. Since Hurricane Irma caused so much damage to St. Martin it’s now a more common port which makes me happy because Antigua is my favorite port in the Eastern Caribbean!

I hope that you will get the opportunity to visit this gorgeous island. If you want to go to Valley Church Beach or any of the other 364 beaches I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. The local transportation is easy to get to from the cruise dock and there’s lots of shopping and dining options along the way, including a local market selling produce and local crafts.

If you’re a beer drinker and like to try local brews make sure to try Wadadli, it’s great! You can find it in the local bars and restaurants and also in the convenience stores where it’s cheaper.  Another great drink to try while you’re there is Ting! It’s a citrus flavored soda (similar to Sprite but more refreshing in my opinion) and it’s flavored with Jamaican grapefruit and has no preservatives. They call it Island Sunshine in a Bottle, and I agree!

Happy travels everyone, and please share with us your best beach in the Caribbean in the comments below.

 

Completed Cruises

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A lot of our viewers and readers have asked for a list of our cruises in the actual order in which we took them … so here they are, all of our completed cruises in chronological order! (If a cruise listed doesn’t have a link it’s because we didn’t vlog at that time)

Holland America Zuiderdam (2003)

Holland America Zaandam (2003)

Holland America Maasdam (2005)

Carnival Glory (2014)

Enchantment of the Seas (2014)

Enchantment of the Seas (2014) 

Majesty of the Seas (2015)

Carnival Ecstasy (2015)

Costa Mediterranea (2015)

Regal Princess (2015)

Norwegian Sky (2015)

Navigator of the Seas (2015)

Norwegian Escape (2015)

Carnival Victory (2016)

Carnival Magic (2016)

Fathom Adonia (2016)

MSC Divina (2016)

Empress of the Seas (2016)

Norwegian Sky

Fathom Adonia

Royal Princess (2016)

Carnival Fantasy (2016)

Oasis of the Seas (2016)

Norwegian Escape (2016)

Brilliance of the Seas (2017)

Disney Magic (2017)

Norwegian Pearl (2017)

Celebrity Summit (2017)

Norwegian Gem (2017)

Crown Princess (2017)

MSC Seaside (2018)

Cancun Beach Resort Vacation (May 2018)

Carnival Magic (July 2018)

Carnival Paradise (October 2018)

Norwegian Bliss (coming late 2018)

Independence of the Seas (coming early 2019)

 

2017 Cruise Plans

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As you may have noticed sometimes our cruise plans change. This year we had the Crown Princess, Carnival Vista, and Independence of the Seas booked for Fall but we have recently canceled all of them. This is because we have different plans for the remainder of the year!

We decided we wanted to do something totally new … try Holland America Cruise Line! Yes we have cruised with HAL before, but it was back in 2003 (Zuiderdam and Zaandam), and 2005 (Maasdam). We never made cruise vlogs on Holland America ships before so we’re extra excited about sharing our experiences with you of course!

There are different ships to choose from leaving from Florida cruise ports in 2017; Nieuw Amsterdam, Koningsdam, Oosterdam, Eurodam, Prinsendam, Rotterdam, and the Veendam. All of these ships leave from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) near Miami except for one, the Veendam which leaves from Tampa Florida.

We would love to go on any of these ships but we want an itinerary that includes something new for us. Most ships visit the same islands in the Caribbean. Nassau, Amber Cove Dominican Republic, San Juan Puerto Rico, Cozumel Mexico, St. Thomas, and the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman). We would love to visit someplace we never visited before!

Last time we sailed on Holland America (on the Maasdam from Norfolk Virginia back in 2005) it was on a 10 night cruise which stopped at St. Kitts and Dominica. Both gorgeous islands that I’ve always wanted to return to, especially Dominica – called the Hawaii of the Caribbean. Finding ships visiting exotic ports is hard as usually they are 9+ days and do include some of the more “common” cruise ports.

Cruising from Tampa would be very convenient for us, but the Veendam goes to Mexico and Belize which we love, but once again would rather do something new this time. We went to Belize once, back in 2014 on the Carnival Glory for Trevon’s 18th birthday. It was Amy, Elizabeth, Mahnara, Zarius, Trevon and Diana (our mom and the kids’ Grammie). It was amazing cruise which we’ll never forget, but it was taken before we started making our cruise vlogs. We do have videos of our photos from the trip on YouTube, check it out! We visited Altun Ha (Mayan ruins) and it was wonderful.

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Make sure to follow us on Facebook because it’s where we post updates. Once we book a Holland America cruise we will also add it to our Upcoming Cruises page here on Sea Cruisers Vlogs and also on ShipMate.

Happy cruising everyone!

~ Sea Cruisers