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Portside – Curacao

We had the pleasure of spending five days in Curacao, but it’s also a popular Southern Caribbean cruise stop.  Curacao is such a beautiful island with so many things to see and do, we can’t wait to visit again next year on our cruise.  This Dutch Antillean island has national parks, the capital city of Willemstad with its pastel-hued architecture, beautiful beaches, and one of the friendliest cultures I have experienced in the Caribbean.

So what to do when you visit Curacao?  As the largest of the three ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) it is widely known for its diving opportunities and you will find lots of great diving and snorkeling excursions.  Since we don’t dive (yet), here are some alternatives:

Walking Tour of Willemstad

The cruise terminal is filled with typical port shopping, plus lots of great restaurants, beautifully incorporated into a historical fort.  But once you get outside the terminal, you see the famously colorful buildings you’ve seen on TV or the internet.  I downloaded a map of a self-guided tour from.  You probably don’t need it but it gives you something to direct you around the maze of craft vendors while touring the city’s landmark Punta, Otrabanda and the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.

Hato Caves

These caves are hidden in the top layer of exposed coral reefs.  The tour guide was very informative and entertaining, giving the tour in multiple languages.  There are fascinating coral and crystal stalagmites and stalactites, some in recognizable formations such as a horse’s head or the Virgin Mary.  The caves are well lit and pathways easy to navigate.  You can only take photographs in the last cavern since it has natural light.  Entrance fee was $8pp plus the guide definitely deserved a tip.

Shete Boka National Park

The very northwest point of Curacao is home to the National Parks.  We visited Shete Boka, a coastal park with some fabulous photo spots.  Entrance fee was only $2pp, so renting a car at around $35 for the day to visit this would be very reasonable, not to mention seeing the rest of the island on the way.  You can drive or walk to the Natural Bridge, the Pistol, or the limestone flats.

Curacao Ostrich Farm

Not typically native to Curacao, but an interesting excursion, nonetheless, was a guided tour of the Ostrich Farm.  The tour was $15pp including a tram ride around the farm with a knowledgeable guide.  You have the opportunity to feed the ostriches, stand on an egg and (so I hear) even ride one!  They have a restaurant serving, what else, ostrich but after touring the farm, I couldn’t bring myself to eat one.  They also had a nice gift-shop and some other farm animals to view while you wait for the hourly tour to begin.

Landhuis Chobolobo

There are many historical Plantation Homes around the island, some converted to hotels or restaurants, but Chobolobo is a museum to the Blue Curacao liquor, still made on the premises.  It is a free self-guided tour, including tasting the various flavors.  The liquor is for sale at excellent prices compared with the shops in Willemstad, and also available in Dutch-style blue/white collectible bottles.

Staying in Curacao

Hotels are most expensive in Willemstad, especially the resort-style brand names.  We like to stay a little further off the beaten track and picked a studio apartment (Blue View) in Westpunt.  You will need to rent a car staying this far from the city, but the location is fabulous, the beach just steps away.  It’s not your typical sandy beach, but pieces of coral.  Snorkeling here would be great and we saw a lot of fish while we were just swimming.  There were a few too many mosquitoes and it wasn’t as luxurious as the Renaissance, but I wouldn’t trade the wonderful oceanview, balcony and virtually private beach for anything.

Some fun Cruise-themed reads…

I love everything about cruises, especially reading about them when I cannot be on one… so here are a few cruise-themed books I have read.  There are a lot of books available so I’ll add to the list as I read more.

What Time is the Midnight Buffet? By Chester H

I really enjoyed this book from Chester H recounting his first cruise.  There is nothing sweeter than vacation memories through the eyes of a pair of cruise virgins filled with awe and wonder; from their arrival onto the ship, the excitement of discovering their cabin, enjoyment of the buffet and dining choices, and their sadness when the cruise is over.  It took me back to my first cruise when I felt all those things and fell in love with cruising.

Up the Gangway by Vera Louro

This novel was written by a cruise ship employee about a ship’s doctor on her first four month contract with a ship traveling around Australia/New Zealand.  It gave a very interesting account of life behind the scenes, the relationships between the employees and their status onboard based upon their job description.  But the author wasn’t just recounting her own experiences; she made an enjoyable story out of it too.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this on my last cruise.

Home for Christmas by Kate Davies

I love to read beach novels on the beach, and Christmas stories at Christmas, so this one was just perfect for me.  This was a short story of a woman who had recently lost her husband and didn’t want Christmas at home, even though her husband’s business partner, and now her friend, would gladly spend it with her.  So she decided to get away from it all and go on a cruise.  The story was a fairly predictable cruise ship romance, but a lot of fun to read.

Cruise Ship Stories by Guy Beach

This is a very short collection of even shorter stories.  I read the reviews and the half-page sample and probably shouldn’t have bothered paying the dollar to read the rest, but I wanted to be able to review it and honestly expected to receive more than 13 pages for my $1.  Throughout the “book” (used in the loosest of terms – I’ve read longer blogs) there are a few recounted memories from Mr. Beach’s days as a diving instructor on a cruise ship.  While telling one story, he would promise another, as in “that is another story I will save for later” but “later” never materialized.  During one story, he suggests you e-mail him for the main part of the story because it is too long.  These are tales that may have been enjoyed over a few beers with your buddy, but didn’t make a book.


Nook Readers, e-mail me at if
you would like to borrow any of these.  They are all lendable.

Portside – Belize

This is supposed to be the diving Mecca of the Southern Caribbean, but we don’t dive (yet… on my bucket list), so we booked the Cave Tubing excursion while on our Norwegian Spirit cruise last Thanksgiving.

I remember sitting on the bus during the 40 min or so drive thinking it wasn’t very pretty, not like I expected, and definitely not like Roatan.  All we could see from the bus were fields of, what looked like, dried broken trees.

The excursion was fully booked with multiple cruise lines in port. The plan was to do the tubing, then we would have lunch at their buffet (included). But the tubing was backed up so we were sent for an early lunch. Unfortunately, we barely got to eat before we were herded back in line to begin the tubing adventure.

Dad with his tube, ready for the trek

Tube-ready, let's go!

We collected our tubes, helmets and lifejackets, then made our way to the beginning of the river. It was quite a hike, but not too much for my 72 year old dad. The water was shockingly cold but that’s half the fun! We were all lined up, feet in our neighbor’s armpits and off we went.

The caves were fascinating. It was probably a good job we were all connected since there seemed to be multiple branches of tunnels.  A waterproof camera is a great accessory for this type of excursion, even if you don’t take pictures inside the cave.  You can only see the entrance or exit when you’re tubing down the river.

The hike was probably 30 minutes, and the tube adventure another 30+ minutes.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and it was definitely value for $.

Belize Caves

Cave Tubing Excursion in Belize


The Pain of Cruise Weight Gain

We’ve all heard the expression: Cruisers are newly-wed, over-fed or nearly dead. My guess is the typical cruiser puts on about five to ten pounds during a week-long cruise, and how can you not? With breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, 24hr pizza and ice cream, five course dinners, and room service, food is available at every turn… as is the temptation.

So we’ve set ourselves a challenge this Thanksgiving Cruise. We’ve been diligently dieting for the past six weeks, losing 25 pounds between us, so we’d hate to waste all that effort for a weeklong food-fest of over-indulgence. I usually aim to keep the gain at only two pounds, five for the hubby, but this Thanksgiving my goal is to gain NOT ONE POUND!!! Zip, zero, zilch! Or “nought, nil, n’owt” in British.

How can you possibly do this and still have fun? And I agree; I don’t want to be “dieting” and eating nothing but fruit and veg all week either. But there are some adjustments we can make to our food-scavenging animal instinct to constantly forage for the next meal. As an accountant, I sit at a desk all day and don’t exercise much, so as long as I increase my activity level while on a cruise, I figure I can eat more than my usual cereal and a sandwich.

Step 1 of the plan is aimed at consumption:

The most important thing is to make every morsel intentional and don’t just graze. Enjoy the different foods, savor the flavor, and take your time.

Peruse the buffet: Don’t fill your plate with every food available at every meal. Browse first, see what’s offered and target your selections. I’ve done it too many times: I got the “meat of the day,” some potatoes and… doh! there’s lasagna and I really want it! I feel bad taking food and not eating it so I end up eating both; not a good plan.

Portion control: If you insist on having a bit of everything, do just that… A BIT! Not a whole serving, just a taste. Believe me, if you’re hungry in an hour, you’ll find more food.

Meal control: We have developed a bad habit on cruises. Because we usually eat breakfast early, before the cooked buffet is open, we eat our cereal, and maybe fruit or a yogurt, but then we go back for “second breakfast” to get some eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, mmmm…. Then we’ll have lunch, pizza for an afternoon snack, dinner… need I say more. So we need to plan the day, schedule our meals and activities better and try not to visit the buffet so often by leaving less “what shall we do now” time which usually leads us back to the buffet.

Share: Desserts are one of the best things on a cruise, because we don’t eat dessert much at home and it’s so nice to taste all the different ones available. So we can plan to share desserts, since I only want a taste, not a whole serving. Some cruises actually serve very small portions so it’s not unreasonable to load three onto your plate, but others seem to believe in stuffing you absolutely full to the brim, or expect you only to take one {hahahahaha}.

Step 2 is to try to burn off as much as you eat:

There are oodles of activities on board and ashore that can help you burn off those extra calories while having so much fun you won’t even notice you are exercising! You could even use the exercise as a means to a reward. Hubby says he is going to allow himself as much ice cream as he wants (his favorite cruise activity), but he has to exercise 30 mins for each one.

Avoid the Elevators: We never use the elevators, not once, not boarding, disembarking, not even when you’ve been on a tender and find yourself walking up from the bowels of the ship. This really works! I actually lost two pounds on my last cruise.

Bedtime Circuit: I love to do this, hubby not so much, but before bed I like to walk around the ship, through the shops, view the photos, around the outer decks, up and down stairs. It helps me sleep and helps to make up for not walking the dog that day… as long as you avoid the ice cream machine.

Use the Gym: Ok, seems a bit obvious, but the facilities are usually filled with great equipment and a fantastic view, so half an hour on the Eliptical goes pretty fast while listening to your favorite music and day-dreaming that you are running on water.

Swim: Not the best suggestion for much of the day, but early or late should allow you enough room for a few laps. Also, use the pool while the ship is docked – most of the pool-hogs will have gone on excursions!

Jogging Track: A wonderful way to take in the views and catch some rays, walking or running is going to be one of the best calorie burners.

Mini-Golf: This is my favorite on-board activity; doesn’t take much effort or burn many calories, but it is better than doing nothing and it is FUN!

Other On-board Facilities: Water-slides, flow-riders, rock-climbing, ice or roller-skating and shuffleboard can be found on many ships. Make a plan to try everything once. Maybe you’ll miss one of those extra meals while trying to fit in all the activities!

Go Dancing: Fabulous exercise, socializing, loud music, just don’t drink too many empty calories! I figure if you’re dancing, you can’t be eating or drinking at the same time.

On-shore Activities: There are so many fun and active excursions available. I’m not one for lying on the beach all day, so if there’s a kayak available, or snorkel equipment, I’m exercising without even realizing it.

The good news is that according to cruisers on Cruise Critic‘s message board, the general consensus is thatweight usually comes off within a week so long as you go straight back to your normal eating habits. I know when I get home from a cruise, my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut!

Choosing Your Next Cruise

You’re desperate to go on another cruise… or maybe this is your first. Maybe you already know exactly where you want to go and when, but there are so many choices out there, and so many things to consider before you make your booking. We already have a cruise booked in December 2012 (End of the World cruise!) but 14 months is too far away… We need something in between, but we also have family visits to UK and San Francisco scheduled. AND we want to do a 25th Anniversary Cruise in 2013, something a little special. We have not settled on either, back and forth: what to do, where to go, how much… the options seem endless.

How much do you want to pay?

This may be the first thing considered, or the last, depending on whether you design your cruise around your budget, or your budget around your cruise. Most people do a little of both, looking what is available and considering all the options. We’ll come back to this throughout the whole exercise.

How much time do you have?

Let’s say you have a week off. Do you want to take a 4 or 5 day cruise and spend a couple of days at the port before or after? This is an excellent idea for cruises out of Florida as you can tag a Disney or Universal Studios trip on the end. Alternatively, do you want the longest cruise possible and spend the whole week on a ship? With my other planned trips, I really cannot take much more time off work, so I’m going to have to settle for a short one in the Spring, but plan on taking two weeks for my Anniversary cruise.

Will you fly or drive?

I love the convenience of the Port of Galveston within six hours of my house. I’m even happy to drive nine hours to New Orleans (Jim is less happy, since he does most of the driving). I hate that we are limited to Carnival Cruises for the majority of the year, or if we want to cruise for less than a week. I’m not a fan of flying for two reasons:

1) You need to fly in the day before or risk delays which could cause you to miss the boat! This is particularly important if you have to make connections – yet more potential delays. So factor in the cost of a hotel stay if this is the case. Sitting on the tarmac at DFW for four hours is no fun as you contemplate what could happen if you don’t make it in time.

2) It’s just plain expensive! But don’t discard the idea without comparing the cruise prices from your local port to those from Miami or Port Canaveral, since you may find that those cruises are cheap enough to justify the cost of the flight.

What is the purpose of the cruise?

If you’re celebrating something special, you may want to consider something a bit different from your usual vacation, something more exotic (and costly). So for our quick getaway next year, Carnival from Galveston will probably have to do, since all we want to do is be on a ship, maybe have a beach day, and break up the monotony of our work weeks. BUT, for our 25th Anniversary, I want something special, romantic, exotic, new, exciting… ahhh, I dream.

So you need to consider the purpose of your cruise. If you want to give the kids a fun Spring Break, get away with your girlfriends, or party with your buddies, you probably don’t care where the ship is going. Cheap beer in Mexico is likely your preferred destination. If you are having a family reunion and need to consider the cost, you may choose a cheaper option to help those who may not have the cruise budget you do. But for your anniversary, perhaps a beach in Tahiti is calling your name, or the sights of Venice and Rome.

Price points – Inside/Window/Balcony

On our fourth cruise, we got spoiled with a free upgrade in Hawaii. Having had inside cabins on our previous three cruises, we decided we would treat ourselves to a window for the views of Hawaii, but good fortune meant we had a free upgrade to a balcony… and the realization we may never again be contented with an inside cabin. But our budget and the purpose of the cruise is also a factor, so for a family reunion, or party with the lads, you wouldn’t plan on spending much time in the cabin and therefore may be happy inside, or with a window (so you can at least see if it is morning yet!). You might compare prices and choose a balcony on a 5-day cruise full of kids, to preserve some peace and quiet, or forego the balcony in order to take a longer cruise on a more sedate cruise line.

Although I love having a balcony, I’d be willing to take a window cabin just to be able to afford a trip to Panama. And I’m pretty sure Jim would choose an inside cabin on Royal Caribbean over a balcony on Carnival.

When will you go?

Some of us are limited to particular weeks or months of the year (as an accountant, my vacations are all scheduled around month ends/quarters and year end). Other considerations might be holidays, school breaks and hurricane season. Prices are usually almost double on a cruise including a holiday such as Christmas or New Year. The same goes for Spring Break or the height of summer. But then there are also certain cruise lines that only sail, as an example, to the Caribbean from November to April, then heading over to the Mediterranean for the summer.

Vacations are a no-go for me from October through January, so this leaves a slim window if I want a Caribbean getaway (unless I’m willing to fly somewhere). I try to avoid Spring Break (for Texas and Arkansas), and the first week or so of each month to get our books closed, leaving me a full three weeks to choose from to sail from Galveston on Royal Caribbean, or New Orleans on Norwegian, my two favorite cruise lines. Thankfully, we are empty-nesters and not tied to the school breaks like many.


Next decision… do you have particular ports you want to visit? Or excursions you want to try? If you’re an avid scuba diver, you may be looking for something headed to Roatan or Belize. Perhaps you want to visit the caves of Belize, or the Mayan ruins. If you’re looking for a fun party-oriented beach, there are many in Nassau and Cozumel, meaning you don’t need a luxury cruise for that. Also, certain ports are noted for shopping (I don’t get why people cruise to go shopping, but that’s just not my thing I guess).

Which Ship Floats Your Boat?

This is going to narrow down your choices, but if there’s a new, enormous, amazing, ship you’ve seen advertised and everyone seems to be having far more fun than you’ve ever had before, you might be thinking you want to go on that ship. Carousels, zip-lines, parks, spa cabins, amazing entertainment… there are so many bigger and better things going on than ever before offered. Bear in mind that these ships are sailing full; that’s 3000+ passengers getting off and on at every stop. We’ll be on the Norwegian Epic for our End of the World cruise and I’m a little nervous about how crowded it will be. But then I also don’t want the intimacy of the smaller ships. For our family reunion, I’m sure it will be perfect.

Well, I’m not really any closer to making decisions about our getaway or our anniversary cruise, but I suppose the fun is in the planning. I think we’re starting to narrow it down from so many choices. Enjoy your next trip!

Portside – Cabo San Lucas

I was really looking forward to our two days in Cabo San Lucas. I’d heard so many good things about it. When we had booked our cruise on Carnival Splendor, the original schedule was one day in Cabo and one in Mazatlan, plus a day in Puerto Vallarta, but due to violence and lack of security for cruise passengers, Carnival has cancelled the Mazatlan stop indefinitely. That, in itself, was disappointing, but Cabo sounded so awesome, we were happy enough.

Of course, one of the most important sights in Cabo is Los Arcos, the arch at Land’s End. To make sure we saw this, we booked a boat trip on our second day. The plan was to walk around the port and town on the first day, the boat trip the second day.

Day 1 – we tendered to the pier, without too much trouble considering 2000+ passengers all wanted to get off first! There were sea lions swimming around us and huge numbers of pelicans sitting on cables and boats. As we left the pier, we were accosted, yes, accosted by someone every few steps trying to sell us something, to take us on a boat trip or to the beach. There was no escaping it… kids were sent by parents to sell souvenirs, hands reaching through chain-link fences trying to show you their wares. We walked about 20 minutes enduring this, escaped to a shopping area and into a very safe and familiar Del Sol for a breather. I found the Diamonds International to collect my free charm and we headed back to the ship, after being invited to a hotel for a time-share seminar (of course, that wasn’t how the invitation was worded). That was the end of day 1 in Cabo for us and, as we pulled out of port for the night, we had the most fantastic view of Los Arcos with a sunset behind it from our aft-facing balcony.

Day 2 – So after the awesome views we’d already had of Los Arcos, the crowded boat trip was a bit of a disappointment. But it took us a bit closer than we’d been already and a guide was talking us through names of the beaches and rocks, with interesting anecdotes. It was reasonably entertaining, but since we’d paid $30 each through Carnival and were offered the same thing for $10 on the pier, we felt a little cheated. We headed back to the ship after this, not wanting to run the gauntlet of traders again. The views from the ship were wonderful so we sat and ate lunch looking out over the harbor and watching the watersports, both secretly wishing we had done something a little more exciting, or even had a beach day.

I had researched the port, mapped where we would walk, asked questions on message boards and yet nowhere did I find the little snippet of information that we would be able to see Land’s End and Los Arcos from the cruise ship… that’s pretty important stuff since my excursion choice was based upon my requirement that I see the most important landmark of Cabo San Lucas!

Los Arcos at Land's End, Cabo San Lucas

It’s Picture Day every day!

A cruise is a wonderful opportunity to get some great family photos. Throughout the week there are different backdrops and photographers available to take both formal and casual shots in the ship. Imagine trying to organize this at home… getting everyone there at the same time during your busy lives, getting them to dress up, paying sitting fees and the one photographer assigned to you doesn’t get the best shots… I could go on. On the cruise, you’re all heading for dinner anyway, so stop by the atrium and you’ll get professional photos taken with no obligation to buy, by a variety of photographers.

Now, don’t stop by the photo store every day and blow all your cash on the pictures. Pick one day, later in the week, take a look at all the available photos and make your decision based upon that. There are sometimes special offers to entice you to buy a quantity, or get a free frame. Perhaps you can split a deal with another family member or (shhh… don’t say I suggested it) scan and reprint some additional 4x6s. You’ll typically pay about $20 per 10×8 print. Remember though, there are always plenty of friendly passengers quite happy to take your picture with your own camera, such as on the stairs or in front of a piano.

Other than these formal photo ops, you’ll feel like you’re constantly being accosted to stand next to a giant shark or a pirate as you get off the ship for excursions. These can be fun to look at, maybe at the end of the week, and pick your favorite one. The same goes for photos in the restaurants, photographers are everywhere… but I’ve never bought one of these yet.

There may be other opportunities during your excursions, for action shots such as holding a monkey, surfing, on a waverunner, etc. Personally, my “kissing a dolphin” picture is one of my favorites, brings the whole day back to me with a smile, so these can be more valuable than a few formal shots on the ship, but you have to be prepared for the cost. We got a whole CD of monkey pictures for $50, but paid $10 each for a couple of surfing prints, so it can vary. Just pick the best, if you really want one.

Most importantly though, at the worst time you could possibly want your photo taken, embarkation day is a chance to get a picture of you and your family in front of the ship (or a superimposed version of). You’ve just driven 10 hours or got off a plane; you’re bedraggled, sweaty, and laden with all kinds of jackets and baggage… CHEESE! So now I actually plan what I am wearing and carrying based upon this inside knowledge, just in the hope that the picture will look ok.

Have a great cruise, and SMILE!

Digging for discounts

The most popular discount appears to be “on board credit” offered by cruiselines and travel agents alike. Generally you can find these as the cruise is getting closer, so waiting to book could be bitter sweet. You could get a free upgrade if you book sooner, or $50-$100 if you book later. My personal preference would be the free upgrade… since I like to get a balcony and can often get one for the price of a window.

We recently discovered the AARP discount when we booked my dad’s cruise with us last Thanksgiving. I had to call to get the discount, signed him up for AARP (anyone over 50), and he got 5% discount, plus they gave him $50 on board credit.

Many also offer discounts for military, another way to reward our troops.

If you book your next cruise on board, you can often get $100-$200 on board credit for the current cruise. And you don’t have to book a specific date, just place a deposit for a cruise at some point within the next 2-4 years.

I was able to call the cruiseline recently when I saw on board credit and a coupon book being offered for a cruise I had already booked. They were able to give me the same offer, so I was happy 🙂 It’s definitely worth a call periodically to see if you are entitled to any specials or discounts. They are always willing to work with you when they can.

Which Cabin Should I Choose?

When we started cruising, we didn’t know the first thing about choosing a cabin. We basically took the cheapest and enjoyed it because we didn’t know any better. We had inside cabins for the first three cruises, until…

Our Hawai’ian cruise, on NCL’s Pride of America! We decided that, for such a beautiful location as Hawai’i, we should upgrade to a window. The funny thing was that we had originally booked our vacation on Pride of Hawai’i, but the cruiseline took it out of service and moved us to Pride of America. With that came some on-board cruise credits for the rest of the family, and a balcony for us. We had really lucked out, so we thought. I’m not saying we were in any way disappointed at our beautiful cabin and balcony; I’m saying it spoiled it for all future cruises where an inside or window cabin is no longer good enough! Once you get a balcony, there is no going back.

So here are my thoughts on how to choose your cabin, from type, location, cruiseline, etc. Hopefully it will help make your decision easier.

Location of the cabin

We didn’t realize quite how important this was until we took a cabin one floor above the theater on Carnival Victory. We are early birds and not party-goers like many Carnival travelers. But for that one week, we felt like there was a disco in our cabin starting at about 10pm just as we were going to bed. I finally gave up trying to sleep and went to the show instead but, since we still got up early, we ended up taking an afternoon nap every day. Therefore, rule # 1: When locating your cabin, check what is on the decks above and below.

It is widely thought that a cabin towards the middle of the ship is the quietest since the anchor at the front and the engines at the back can be noisy as you pull into port. Personally, if we are pulling into port, I want to be awake to see it, so this is not an issue for me. I think the sound of the engine is quite soothing between ports so I’ll quite happily book a cabin at either end of the ship. I tend to avoid the stairwells and elevators, since that is where people tend to congregate late into the night. The cabins at the front and back tend to be a bit cheaper than those in the middle, so you have to decide what is important to you. You may prefer to be closer to the elevators if you are elderly or physically-challenged in some way. Rule # 2: Weigh up what you want to spend with your preferred location.

On the Pride of America, several of our family members were given 4th floor cabins, while we were on floor 9. Typically, the cabins get more expensive as you get higher up in the boat. We didn’t think much of this other than perhaps they were larger, but it seemed that people on the 4th floor do not get as experienced cabin-crew as those higher up. I think the cabin crew are promoted, they move to higher floors and to those cabins with windows, then balconies, then suites. So although you think you are only paying extra to get the window, you are probably also paying to have more experienced cabin staff.

Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas has inside window cabins with a view of the promenade. This was nice to see the parades but noisy sometimes. I think I prefer a sea view but this is a reasonably cheap alternative to an inside cabin.

We have two cruises coming up – one on Norwegian Spirit, 11th floor forward balcony, the other on Carnival Splendor, 8th floor aft extended balcony (the one facing the rear, not a side view). I’ll report back after this with more hints and tips on cabin location.

Portside – Roatan, Honduras

I cannot wait to go back to this island – it is absolutely gorgeous! We took an excursion to Gumbalimba Preservation Park because I wanted to visit the spider monkey preserve. The tour took to the park by bus although you can also visit by pirate ship. The approximately 2-hr guided tour took us through Coxen’s Cave, across a rope bridge, ending at the monkey preserve.



Each person has the opportunity for a monkey to climb onto them for photos. You are not obligated to purchase the photos and you are also able to take your own at the same time. There are refreshments and you can end your tour by spending some time on the beach, strolling around the park yourself, or shopping at the craft stalls. You just go and wait for your bus when you are ready to leave.

The bus ride was wonderful. It took us over the crest of the island where the views were just awesome. This short visit left me wanting more.

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