Month: June 2018

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos by HXT Electric Hummer – an electrifying experience!

 

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HXT Electric Hummers

The first stop for week two on my back-to-back cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore was Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. Grand Turk is an outstanding cruise destination and one I would gladly re-visit time and time again. Not only are the excursions I have taken here some of the best I’ve ever taken, but back at port there is a breathtaking public beach (with free lounge chairs and umbrellas) with the most crystal clear waters and spectacular views I have ever seen on a beach anywhere! Hedonists rejoice!

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Views of the beach and salt flats of Grand Turk

As you wander through the playful port, you realize quickly that John Glenn is highly honored here. Consistent with my tour guide’s proclamation that “John Glenn put us on the map!” there is an exhibit at port highlighting Glenn’s significant contribution to the island. The exhibit includes a life-size statue of Glenn and replicas of the Atlas rocket and Friendship 7 capsule (which landed here in the waters a couple of miles from Grand Turk in 1962 after completing the Mercury 7 mission – you can see the original nearby, one of the stops our Hummer tour made.) If you can pull yourself away from the incredible beaches, it’s worth a look!

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John Glenn exhibit, port of Grand Turk

Grand Turk Beach

Beautiful beaches at the Port, Grand Turk

It was daunting facing driving on the “wrong” side of the road (yes, they do that here!) in the electric Hummer, but once I gave it a try, just following the guide and hearing the frequent reminders to “stay on the left!” after every turn, it was no problem at all. I think anyone could handle it with no issues. Perhaps in a big city it would be more overwhelming – but here it was easy with very little traffic. The Hummers are convertible, allowing the warmth of the sun and light breeze of the wind to wash over you while you enjoy quite a comprehensive tour of the island. The Hummers are an absolute blast to drive, and being fully automatic they are easy to drive too, allowing you to focus on the amazing views.

The tour was very intimate and personalized, with my son and I in one Hummer, and only one couple in one other Hummer on the tour. Apparently not a lot of people booked it – and boy were they missing out! We made a few stops where the guide offered us more information about the island, including a wildlife sanctuary, a salt flats, the “downtown,” (shown above… very peaceful and relaxed!), and the original Friendship 7 capsule I mentioned above. You can see more on these stops in the video posted below. The stops were informative and fun… but to be honest I couldn’t wait to get back in the Hummer!!

I was disappointed when the tour had to come to an end, but having a beach break to look forward to before curfew on the ship made leaving my trusty hummer behind more tolerable!

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Beach bliss

Want to see more? I filmed the tour and you can watch it here!:

I am thrilled to report that I upgraded my filming equipment for these videos – however, this trip was filmed before then. I will be posting soon on my trip to Europe where you will see the difference! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to further satisfy your travel fix!: Heather Anne’s Ultimate Travel Adventures.

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Next stop next week: Princess Cays, Bahamas, which was stop two of week two of the cruise! Thanks for joining in on the adventure!

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Basking in Bermuda Part 2: Hamilton, St. George’s, Pink Sand Beaches, Glass-Bottom Boat

I wasn’t sure the next day in Bermuda, focused on Bermuda’s cities, could top my experiences of the previous day. Yet, in it’s own way, this alternative look at Bermuda was equally enthralling!

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Horseshoe Bay Beach: One of Bermuda’s Famous “Pink Sand” Beaches

The day began with a stop at one of Bermuda’s famous “pink sand” beaches, Horseshoe Bay beach. I was even more struck by how quiet and peaceful the beach was than by the color of the sand, which I would describe as more pink-ish than outright pink. In Bermuda, there are small red organisms that live among the coral. When they pass away they drop to the ocean floor and combine with coral and crushed shell, and when this substance washes up on the beach it gives the sand Bermuda’s signature pink hue. Contrasting with the brilliant aqua ocean, the beach is a magnificent sight, and I would have loved to have spent the day. Especially since this would have been a great change of pace from the crowded beaches back home! But the cities were waiting to be discovered!

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Hamilton

Hamilton, at about the middle of the main island, was founded in 1790. Hamilton is a vibrant pastel-colored cityscape with lively bars, restaurants, shopping, and businesses. Bermuda’s economic hub is highly developed, modern, and exciting! Palm trees dot the bustling harbor front with a backdrop of banks and government buildings. Hamilton means business! I wandered the streets, allowing the city vibe to sink in. Hamilton is easily reached from the port by ferry or van, and is well worth the excursion. It’s a great place to people-watch from an outdoor cafe, see Bermuda’s version of the “skyscraper,” (New Yorkers, please resist the temptation to scoff!) or spend way too much money in the expensive retail outlets! (The Bermuda dollar’s value is maintained at equal to the U.S. dollar, and U.S. dollars are eagerly welcomed in shops and restaurants!)

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Busy Hamilton Intersection

After the brisker pace of Hamilton, I was ready to slow down in the more quaint city of St. George’s. St. George’s was founded in 1612, at the northernmost tip of the main island. Here, historic recreations are played out in front of City Hall by elaborately costumed actors, a jumble of sailboat masts reach for baby-blue skies, and empty, narrow streets wind through charming colonial pastel architecture.

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Road Less Traveled, St’ George’s

While Hamilton plays the boisterous younger sibling, St. George’s plays the more settled down, graceful older one. Strolling among soft breezes, watching sailboats bob in the harbor, getting a glimpse of old-fashioned British phone booths, and being enveloped by a rainbow of pastel on it’s narrow streets, St. George’s is a delightful step back in time.

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Green Phone Booth, St. George’s

From the Royal Naval Dockyard, to Hamilton, to St. George’s, Bermuda’s hubs have their own unique personalities – and I enjoyed getting to know them all. The British may have seen Bermuda as an opportunity to keep an eye on America. But with all of these lovely distractions right here in Bermuda I’m not sure how!

After a few minutes of freshening up, it was time for a night out on the open sea – aboard a glass-bottom boat for a shipwreck tour. I was skeptical – the excursion had some negative reviews, and any tour which includes viewing wildlife – land or sea – can be hit or miss depending on who decides to show up for the party. But it turned out to be an outstanding tour, with very entertaining guides, a visible shipwreck both in, and sticking out of, the ocean, and loads of fish, coral, and other interesting sights below. You can see for yourself on the video below!

I filmed a second video of Bermuda covering the sights mentioned in this blog, which you may view here:

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Basking in Bermuda Part 1: Royal Naval Dockyard, Crystal Caves, & Aquarium

Glad you’re back for the next installment in my Carnival Pride back-to-back cruise series! The first week of the cruise meant a visit to one destination for four days: Bermuda. This first post will cover my exploration of the Royal Naval Dockyeard, the Crystal Caves, and the Aquarium, Zoo, & Museum.

The Royal Naval Dockyard is flush with British history and icons. The fortress and slumbering cannons provide the backdrop for cheeky, bright red phone booths. Tropical palm trees stand out like exclamation points to remind us of the Empire’s colonial reach.

Iconic Images at Royal Naval Dockyard

A stroll through the Royal Naval Dockyard is also a patriotic reminder for American visitors of why this large Naval base was built up: because we kicked the British out! Through their presence in Bermuda, Britain could make an effort at keeping a watchful eye on us.

I ordered a monster sized glass of amber-colored beer from the local brewery, the Frog and Onion Pub. They call it the “Big Ben.” It was just the perfect serving to spend a long time lingering here, soaking in the history and sunshine.

When the sun set, the water glistened in the moonlight and bold silhouettes of the twin clock towers shined with the glow of their lights in front of a backdrop of clear, star-littered black sky. It was time to rest up for a busy day of sightseeing tomorrow.

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I took a tour featuring an excursion around the island, including stops at the Crystal Caves and the Aquarium, Zoo, & Museum. The caves are a natural wonder formed during the Pleistocene Ice Age, later discovered by two teenage boys playing cricket in 1907. The cave ceilings are dripping with stalactites, and floors are coated with stalagmites. These limestone caves are truly a sight to behold, eerie and other-worldly while at the same time beautiful. The “crystal” in the name refers to the crystal clear water at the base of the cave. Here, it is easy to see how these waters have become a black hole for cellphones, sunglasses and other modern conveniences that were dropped and never retrieved. I can’t say I’m surprised – the views are so awe-inspiring in here I can see how someone could easily get distracted and drop what they were holding.

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Crystal Caves

I, however, emerged from the caves my personal belongings intact, and I boarded the bus to head on to the Aquarium, Zoo, & Museum, where I would witness an abundance of varieties of tropical fish and other sea creatures as well as an interesting assortment of animals.

The flamingos and fish were bursting with color, and the chorus of squawking by the flamingos was endlessly entertaining! The seals were very friendly, gliding through the waters and poking their heads out as they came around to greet me! The museum housed interesting displays describing the natural habitats of the island.

Next it was a return to the Royal Naval Dockyard and the ship for some rest in preparation for another exciting day in Bermuda tomorrow. Next week: Bermuda’s cities – Hamilton and St. George’s, as well as the famous pink sand beach!

My YouTube video is available for this time in Bermuda here!:


As always, thanks for coming along on my travels!

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Carnival Pride Tour and Review!

Welcome to installment 2 in my Carnival Pride back-to-back cruise series! The Carnival Pride sails out of Baltimore, Maryland. My itinerary included Bermuda the first week, and Bahamas and Turks & Caicos the second week. I previously posted on the back-to-back cruise experience, which you may read here: Back to Back Cruise Experience.

The Pride is a comparatively small cruise ship, and some cosmetic wear and tear is apparent in the form of rust spots and nicks and bumps on the trim and decor. This will bother different people to different extents. Personally this is something that I am bothered by, but it’s superficial, and I still managed to have a great time on the cruise. Customer service and meals were very good, and the entertainment was hit-or-miss. The shows didn’t have a huge production value and elaborate special effects that I have seen on some other ships, but the performers were talented. The Bermuda leg of the trip was cold and rainy – especially when the ship was in the vicinity of Baltimore. April is still quite chilly in Baltimore, so spring is not an ideal time for a sailing out of this port.

The cabin was larger than any other interior cabin I have ever been housed in on a cruise ship, and unlike with the other Carnival cruises I have taken, I actually had a refrigerator in my cabin this time. I was very satisfied with the roominess! I would say the cabins are probably the best asset of the Pride. If a roomy cabin is a high priority for you, this may be a good ship to look into.

The Lido deck was unusual in that there are really 2 neighboring Lido decks: one with a sunroof, that is closed off from the elements, and a second one that is wide open. I have never sailed on a ship with this arrangement before. People generally crowded onto the covered deck when it was chilly or rainy, and the other deck when things warmed up closer to the port destinations.

The Atrium was also unusual. It wasn’t vast and expansive the way I have experienced on other ships. It was a very tall shaft. Decor seemed to be inspired by the renaissance in most areas, and a kind of mermaid theme on the deck and buffet areas. As I have become accustomed to on Carnival, the decor was somewhat tacky in some areas, but there were other areas of the ship that appeared to be more recently remodeled to retreat to.

Meals were usually good. I enjoyed most of the meals I was served in the main dining room.  Guy’s Burger Joint and Blue Iguana were always great. The pizza was also fairly good. I can’t rave about the buffet, however. The drinks at the bars were very well prepared. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere and drinks at Alchemy Bar and Red Frog Pub.

The Serenity deck was large, and included many clamshell loungers and even hammocks. Unfortunately, whenever it wasn’t raining it was absolutely packed! I couldn’t get near the hammocks or clamshell loungers even once over the course of the 2 weeks. (I wanted to go out there in between the 2 cruises when there were only a few other customers on the ship, but it was pouring rain!) This was a big disappointment.

There was definitely room for improvement on the Pride, but a Pride cruise is a fun experience nonetheless. If you’re sailing out of Baltimore, be sure to pack some long sleeves unless it’s summer! Shawls and sweatshirts were the hottest sellers in the shops when I sailed because most of us (myself included!) were not prepared for the weather!

Come back next Monday for the next installment in the series – the first stop: Bermuda! In the meantime, here is my video tour of the Pride on YouTube!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

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