Month: March 2019

Travel St. Maarten (and St. Martin!)

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St. Maarten Harbor

Travel St. Maarten and St. Martin: 2 Cultures, One Island

Travel St. Maarten for the best of both worlds! If you ever wanted to visit two European cultures without having to fly to the European continent – you’re in luck! Hop on a cruise ship or plane heading to St. Maarten/St. Martin and you can visit the only place in the world where the Netherlands borders France! St. Maarten/St. Martin is divided by two nationalities and cultures, approximately 60% French and 40% Dutch. Unlike many other Caribbean islands that were former colonies now turned independent, this Caribbean paradise is different. St. Maarten is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and St. Martin is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic. Therefore, tour St. Maarten for these two jurisdictions sharing the same island paradise.

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Warm welcomes!

A Caribbean Paradise

Travel St. Maarten for sunny skies, bright jewel-toned sailboats, lush green mini-mountains, and pristine beaches… Also, there are many remnants of colonial muscle-flexing, like old forts, standing down. This is an inviting place. Plentiful pirates (in costume!) will have you dreaming of the days of buried treasure and seafaring adventure… without the danger! St. Maarten has been hit hard over the years by hurricanes, but the resourceful and resilient people here have worked hard to recover and restore their beautiful island after the damage. It was rewarding to be able to visit this place that locals take great pride in, and do business with them to help play a role, albeit small, in helping boost their economy after the hardships they have endured in recent years. St. Maarten’s people are the real treasure here, not the buried treasures, or those looted by the pirates of old!

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Boat tour

Explore on a Boat Tour

The best way to travel St. Maarten is to see both sides, French and Dutch. And the best way to do that is to take a boat tour. You can catch one in Phillipsburg, on the Dutch side, that will take you all the way around to the French section. After my boat tour, I took a bus ride to Marigot, on the French side, for a closer look at faraway France’s quaint colonial charms!

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Eglise Saint Martin de Tours church, Marigot

Chatting with the Locals

While I’ve received some disagreeable reactions from locals in France making my best attempt to communicate in the local language, the people of Marigot were pleasantly surprised and impressed with my, admittedly broken, French! There is something infinitely satisfying about being able to converse with locals in their own tongue – it’s another element of immersion that fully envelops you in the travel experience. Regrettably, I didn’t know any Dutch yet (note to self: bucket list!)

Marigot’s French Heritage

The cultural immersion doesn’t stop at sights and sounds, however. If you long for the tantalizing tastes and sweet scents of the continent, you can find them right here too. Stroll into a cafe in Marigot for cafe au lait and croissant to savor while you watch the tide roll in by sunset… it’s the best of both worlds!

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National pride on the French side

Travel St. Maarten Today!

If you romanticize about Caribbean pirate culture, breathtaking beaches, and a laid-back life of nautical wonders, or the charms of Europe right in your back yard (if you live on the North American continent), then this may be just the place for you! So travel St. Maarten today!

You can view my full tour of St. Maarten/St. Martin, here!:

And for more exciting destinations weekly, subscribe to my YouTube Channel!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

Cruising to St. Maarten? Check out my review of the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise ship here!:

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship Review!

Tour Nassau Bahamas!

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Old, abandoned lighthouse

Tour Nassau, Bahamas for Nautical Fun!

When you tour Nassau, Bahamas, one of the first things you notice are the tourist crowds. Because it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. But then you realize – this is for very good reason! Here crystal clear waters shimmer in the sunlight among a skyline of boat masts. And your toughest decision may be: sun bathing in satisfying soft sands, or wading in wonderfully warm waters? But besides the endless sunshine, bountiful beaches, and cool Caribbean vibe, the historical architecture and underwater adventures are well worth reveling in! The old and new captured by the rusty, whitewashed abandoned lighthouse facing the ultra-modern seashell pink towers of Atlantis Resort epitomize this island paradise. It’s sentimentally historic while forward-thinking.

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Historic old town

Nassau Old Town

A stroll through Nassau’s old town delights with vibrant pastel colors, colonial classical design, and a boisterously beachy vibe. Additionally, service is always delivered with a smile. It’s said that greater exposure to sunshine can lead to greatly improved mood and outlook. And judging by the optimism ever-present among the locals here I believe it! The heavy hordes of tourists, while a common sight year-round in this tropical paradise, do not diminish the charm of this lively city!

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Parliament building

Fort Fincastle

After a visit to the historic colonial buildings in town, the short trip to Fort Fincastle offers another perspective. This tenacious fort was built in 1793. Yet it’s still standing proud, reminding us that multiple colonial powers would have liked to have a piece of this paradise. Once you visit, you will wish you had one too! Cannons can’t keep you away as you invade these limestone walls. This place marks one of your own greatest victories in history – your amazing and unforgettable Nassau vacation!

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Tour Fort Fincastle

SeaWorld Explorer Submarine

Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of all in Nassau, however, is not by land. It’s by sea! So board the SeaWorld Explorer submarine. Dive the depths. Be amazed by the dizzying variety of boldly colored fish and exotically shaped coral occupying the brilliant aqua depths below. While “wildlife” type tours can be extremely hit-or-miss (and, unfortunately, more often than not “miss”) there is no shortage of sea life to be seen from this submarine! Enter another world entirely as it is the people who inhabit the “fish tank” here, surrounded by a whirlwind of fascinating and fanciful fish!

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Views from the SeaWorld Explorer submarine

Atlantis Casino and Resort

Of course, the most popular tourist attraction of all in Nassau may be Atlantis. This may be a positive or negative for you depending on your perspective on travel. But there’s no denying it is a massive and impressive structure. Resembling a castle, it invites you in to be “king or queen” for a day getting the VIP treatment in the casino, or being lavished in hedonism among its spectacular pools, waterfalls, and other luxurious surroundings. Wherever you go in Nassau, your memories are sure to be priceless!

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The coral colored towers of Atlantis

Tour Nassau, Bahamas More!

You can view my video tour of Nassau, Bahamas here!:

Considering visiting Nassau on a cruise ship? Check out my blog tour and review of the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship here:

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship Review!

There’s so much to see and do in Nassau! I find the most efficient way to tackle your itinerary here is with a high-quality tour. Viator provides excellent tours around the world, and Nassau is no exception:

Find and book Nassau tours and activities on Viator.com. Book ahead to save time and money!

Thanks for reading!

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Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship!

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Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship is among the most majestic on the Royal Caribbean fleet. It launched in 2008, and has an occupancy of 6,296 maximum. This colossal vessel holds 16 passenger decks. So the Oasis of the Seas is really a city on the sea! And a voyage upon her many decks is an exciting treat indeed!

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The Atrium

A Different Kind of Ship

The Oasis has a very different layout than many of the mega-ships I’ve traveled on before. A signature design for this class of Royal Caribbean ship is a cut-out middle, interior as well as exterior balcony cabins, and “neighborhoods.” The neighborhoods are a variety of unique “destination” locations around the ship. Oasis of the Seas’ “Atrium” does not resemble those of most of the ships I’ve experienced before, either. Because in this case, it’s a long hallway filled with shops, restaurants, and much more beyond passenger services desks, rather being one centralized room in the middle of the ship.

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Lido Deck

The Lido Deck

The Lido Deck is expansive, and there are multiple pools and jacuzzis as well as an adults-specific deck under glass. Unfortunately I got very hot in there, because it starts to feel like a greenhouse or sauna in there when it’s a hot day outside! I prefer the breeze of the open decks, which is no problem. Fortunately, the Oasis hosts a multitude of decks facing both the ocean on the outside of the ship and the neighborhood lobbies on the inside of the ship!

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Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is one of the neighborhoods on the ship, replete with trees, plants, cobblestones, and relaxing benches. Many of the interior balconies have views over this delightfully green section of the ship. A classical quartet played here regularly in the evenings while I was here. I don’t know what I liked better – the relaxing music or the pleasant garden-like atmosphere. This outdoor park element is particular to Royal Caribbean, and I haven’t encountered it on any other cruise lines. I was reminded first hand that this area is not only wide open to the fresh air, sunshine, and stars, but to the rain as well! It’s something to keep in mind: check the weather report each morning!

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The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is reminiscent of the historic and iconic Boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey. It’s complete with a Johnny Rockets diner, Zoltar fortune telling machine, arcade booths, boardwalk food, and an operational merry-go-round. There are also interior balconies facing the Boardwalk, as well as a massive water-based stage at the back of the ship, complete with beach loungers for the seating area!

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Ice Show

Spectacular Shows

Entertainment is abundant aboard the Oasis, and “go big or go home” never seemed a more fitting description than aboard this ship! Unique stages include the ice rink – a stage for ice shows by night and available for guests to ice skate on by day. Olympic skaters perform spectacular stunts, and I was thrilled and amazed for every minute of it! This is another feature that I’ve found to be unique to Royal Caribbean – I haven’t encountered an ice rink on any other lines.

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Water Stage

Unique Stages

The other unique “stage” on this ship is the water stage, on the Boardwalk. Here Olympic divers perform death defying feats, complimented by synchronized swimming and other aquatic performances. With a backdrop of cotton-candy clouds by day and sparkling stars at night, the atmosphere is intoxicating. Oasis’ water stage is outdoors under the sun (or moon!) and the seating consists of splendidly colorful beach chairs. Whether you’re attending an ice skating show or a water show, book reservations EARLY! It is possible to get in line to take the place of no shows, but you’ll have a LOT of company if you do this. To be sure you get a seat you’ll need to be towards the front of the line.

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Balcony Cabin

Beautiful Balcony Cabins

I had a balcony cabin and found it to be plenty roomy, comfortable, and pleasingly decorated. I opted for the Oceanview, because I can’t get enough of the beauty of the open sea. But how great it was to have three balcony cabin view options at booking! Because there are so many balconies on this ship, I found them to be a better value than on some of the other ships I’ve sailed on. Interior balcony bookings come with perks like complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant. And it’s important to bear in mind these balconies will also come with less privacy!

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More of the Atrium

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship Review

I greatly enjoyed my experience aboard the Oasis of the Seas. The ship is spectacular, well-maintained, and beautifully designed. It offers a dizzying array of great entertainment, fun activities, and diverse areas to dine, party, and relax. On the downside, I did not find it to be a particularly solo-traveler friendly ship – every time I entered the main dining room and asked for a table for one I was made to feel like Steve Martin in “The Lonely Guy” when a huge spotlight appears over his head and everyone stares at him like he’s psycho or something… And with no good promotion for the drink package on this cruise line I ended up drinking more than my fair share of ice water with lime. But all-in-all I had a fantastic time choosing neighborhoods to suit my mood, reveling in effervescent entertainment, and soaking in the sun on this special ship!

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Larger than Life!

For More Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Tour Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas more! You can view a full video tour of the entire ship here!:

I visited St. Thomas on my Oasis of the Seas cruise. You can check out the article on St. Thomas here:

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Perfectly Paradisiacal!

And for more travel all around the world, check out the Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube channel!:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC91pXs3Ydbrw5Uc3EFSkO5Q?view_as=subscriber

Greyhound Bus Travel Tips!

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Welcome aboard the bus!

Greyhound Bus Travel Tips

Time for more transportation tips: specifically Greyhound bus travel tips! A quick note to start off: this is not sponsored by Greyhound. More and more people are traveling domestically due to recent events impacting the economy, foreign government restrictions, and global health issues. I expect bus travel to become more popular in this environment. Greyhound is the most common and well-known bus operator, and there are ways of making sure you have a better experience traveling with them. Greyhound Bus can be a very cost-effective method of ground travel. (Note: this post is NOT sponsored by Greyhound.) As air travel security and health measures become more of a hassle, bus travel has become a more attractive option lately. If you’re not traveling too far it can be a more efficient and comfortable way to travel than air travel. And that’s not to mention much cheaper than air or train travel! So I’ll go over my top tips now. While I’m focusing on Greyhound, many of these tips will be applicable to other bus lines too.

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Toronto, Canada: Served by Greyhound

Greyhound Travel in USA, Canada, and Mexico!

Sure, it’s disappointing when you can’t travel the world for whatever reason, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of interesting things to see in your back yard, wherever that back yard is. Greyhound now services the USA, Canada, and Mexico, so you have an endless number of options! At this time destinations are more limited in Canada and Mexico, but hopefully more will continue to be added. Be sure to check on current entry requirements to visit any foreign country, and be prepared so you’re not turned away at the border.

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Greyhound Bus Website

Buying Your Ticket Early and Seat Selection

Buy your ticket as EARLY as possible. For some stations you’ll receive a boarding number on your ticket, and boarding will be permitted in order based on your number. Lower numbers, or those sold further in advance, will receive boarding priority – and have a chance to score a better choice of seat. Not all stations do this, but it’s worth a shot in case you get one that does.

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Waiting at the bus station

Save Money on your Bus Ticket!

Prices are lower if you can book 3 weeks in advance, when you can save a quarter or even more off the full price of the ticket. If you can’t, then it may help to at least book 2 weeks in advance, which is still better than last-minute. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get to the station. Book your trip mid-week if possible. Prices are lower if you can hop on on hump day! Note that discounts are available if you are a member of Student Advantage or Veteran Advantage; go to “Discount Options” when making your reservation to choose this discount. Finally, do a search for promo codes – there’s a good chance you can score an additional discount that way. You will have a chance to enter the code before submitting payment. REMEMBER: There is a surcharge to “gift” a ticket to someone else. If at all possible, the traveler should be the one to pay for the ticket on their own credit or debit card, rather than someone else buying it for them!

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I used this 25% off code – and it worked

When to Arrive at the Bus Station

Give yourself plenty of time to check in and find your bus; it will mean a less stressful trip for you if you’re not hustling. And those that arrive first, can line up and board first, if the station does not board by ticket number (as described above.) Your bus may already have seated passengers on it if your station is a stop along another route, making this even more important if you want a good choice of seats.

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Let’s go!

Luggage Tips

Note that you are allowed 2 pieces of luggage at no additional charge: one checked bag up to 50 pounds and one carry-on that will fit in the overhead compartment. (Avoid placing fragile items in the checked bag – disturbance of bags due to potholes and bumps is not unlikely!) Be careful about leaving carry-on luggage on the bus when you disembark on breaks, and keep your eye on your bags in the stations. Don’t create a temptation for thieves! Instructions for claiming luggage at different stations varies – listen to the driver for directions each time you disembark. Place an identifiable marker on your luggage, such as a brightly colored tag, to help distinguish it from other suitcases that may be identical or similar in brand and color.

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Travelers Boarding the Bus

Ticket Management Tips

You will be able to print out a ticket or pick it up at will-call at the station, or have a digital ticket sent to your mobile device. Keep your ticket through the entire trip – you may need it to change buses and collect your luggage en route and at your destination.

Bus Travel Comfort

If you need an outlet for your electronic devices, try to get a seat towards the front; not all seats have outlets. Free wi-fi is available on the bus. Keep in mind it may not work 100% of the time. Travel pillows and blankets can be a welcome comfort on overnight trips – both on the bus and during long station transfers. Make sure you set an alarm on your cellphone to wake yourself up before your next stop – just in case! Finally, try to limit your restroom breaks to the bus stations if possible. You will find them cleaner and more pleasant to use. And don’t forget to pack some snacks! Whatever you bring will probably be cheaper than anything you can find at the rest stops and bus stations.

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Greyhound Bus

Bus Travel Safety Tips

It’s safer to sleep on the bus than in the stations. People are less likely to give you any trouble with the bus driver and other passengers so nearby. You may be more isolated in the station, particularly at night. That said, having a seat closer to the front will keep you closer to the driver for added safety. Keep your purse, cellphone, and wallet in a safe place. You don’t want to have a phone loosely in your hand and inadvertently fall asleep on the bus, or be walking around the station with a wallet in your back pocket. Keep your guard up and protect your valuables. If you really want to be on the safe side, invest in a money belt to store these in. I recommend this belt for your money/wallet, phone, and identifying documents… It includes RFID protection, so people can’t scan your card numbers: RFID Money Belt on Amazon.

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Bus Break Yoga!

Stay Healthy on the Bus!

The most important of my Greyhound bus travel tips may be to be conscious of your health. Remember to wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face. Window seats are the best for minimizing contact from any potentially infected people, since you’ll be keeping your distance from people traversing the aisle and standing in the aisle managing their carry-ons. It’s also a good idea to carry along a small first-aid kit. You can pick up a good travel kit here: Travel First Aid Kit on Amazon. If you buy a pre-assembled kit, you’ll want to take an inventory before your trip to see if there’s any additional medicines or products you’d like to add. I always like to make sure I have some headache and antihistamine tablets. Also, make sure you get up and get some exercise during breaks!

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Greyhound Road Rewards

Join Road Rewards

Join Road Rewards on the greyhound.com website. It’s free to join, and you can earn rewards like: 15% off your ticket, companion pass for a friend, and 10% off food at greyhound stations.

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Greyhound App

Download the App

With the Greyhound app you can have easy access to your trip information, station location, and track your bus (and transfer bus) locations. And if your bus is running late and you may miss your transfer, you can find out when the next one is and make a bolt for the ticket window at the station to reserve a seat on that next bus before it fills up, potentially minimizing transfer time. Other customers may be clamoring to make the same alternate arrangements as you, in which case that next bus might fill up fast!

More Travel Tips

I hope these Greyhound bus travel tips have been helpful for those traveling by ground on a budget! When it comes to traveling on a budget by land, road trips and buses are by far your best options.

Need a money belt to protect your valuables? You can get one here:

RFID Money Belt

And for a travel first aid kit, you can head here:

Travel first aid kit

View more travel tips, tours of destinations, and hotel tours and reviews on my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

And check out my blog post on saving money on travel!:

How to travel MORE for LESS: Build Your Budget Travel Game Plan!