Tag: beaches

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!

Harvest Caye, Belize: Port, and Excursion (More Wildlife “Bore” than Wildlife “Tour”!)

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The Grand Finale port of the Norwegian Dawn’s Western Caribbean cruise was Harvest Caye, Belize. I was amazed by the size of the port and number of amenities available. There are multiple huge beaches with an ample source of brightly hued blue and yellow lounge chairs and umbrellas, a gigantic pool with swim-up bar, the usual (only more of it!) shopping and restaurants, and a number of adventure sporting activities including parasailing and zip-lining.

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We enjoyed a local percussion band while we awaited our excursion. Sold by the description indicating there would be manatees to see on this wildlife tour, I was eagerly awaiting our departure. We boarded a small boat that sailed into an area called the “mangroves,” a kind of coastal swamp with trees forming bundles of dense, tangled roots. Apparently this setting is favored by much of the native wildlife, including manatees.

 

We saw several different varieties of birds, and some creepy jellyfish, but I did not see a manatee. A few poked their noses out of the water – and otherwise stayed submerged. I know – a wildlife tour is no “guarantee” that you’re going to see wildlife… but it’s still disappointing, especially when the brochure shows the full body of a manatee as an enticement… It did not seem as though they liked coming up out of the water. All in all, it ended up being the least enjoyable cruise excursion I’ve ever been on. I think I will probably avoid these wildlife tours in the future, because of the potential for this problem. When you’ve only got a limited amount of time in a place, like at a cruise port, you want to make the most of it and not risk a bust. This was supposed to be a wildlife “tour,” but it turned out to be more of a wildlife “bore.” The only manatee I saw was the carved wooden one outside of the entrance to the tour.

 

That said, I still ended up having an amazing time, because the port had a lot to offer and I had time when we returned to enjoy it (though, regrettably, we did not spend a full day in Belize.) I immediately headed for the beach to soak in the incredible view of palm trees blowing in the wind, a beautiful lighthouse in the distance, people playing volleyball on the beach, and zip-liners and parasailers zooming, and floating, by above. It was a gorgeous day basking in the sun, and listening to the crystal clear water splashing up onto the beach.

 

Like many cruise ports, the shops here were touristy and pricey… but still fun to explore (especially the free tastings at the chocolate and rum shops…) The chocolate was out of this world – especially the chili and coffee flavored varieties. Enough so that I was determined to take my chances and try to make it back to the ship with some, through the 80s degree heat, hoping it wouldn’t melt before I could get back!

Harvest Caye was definitely worth future visits – but next time with a different kind of excursion. In the meantime, I hope they introduce a jaguar preserve excursion, which I was hoping to find this time but no such luck! (I’m sure the other cat lovers out there will completely get behind this request!)

Here’s the YouTube video from my channel covering this port!:

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Crown Princess Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic, Anniversary Nostalgia

March marks our one year anniversary, and I am currently swept with nostalgia for the unforgettable experience we had exchanging vows on the Crown Princess, and celebrating in Turks & Caicos and the Dominican Republic. Before we sail again on the Norwegian Dawn to celebrate our anniversary, I am reflecting on all of the fun we have had traveling over the past year, beginning with this cruise on Crown Princess in March, 2017.

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It was a great pleasure to board a vessel as beautiful and well-cared for as the Crown Princess for such an important occasion. What better place than the “Love Boat” to exchange vows?! I couldn’t think of any then, and I still can’t think of any now. Our first sea day was a thrilling experience, one you don’t experience on a cruise every day, as I experienced being walked down the aisle by the Cruise Director, and as we were exchanging vows before the Captain. I felt an intimate connection with the ship and crew as we shared this cherished event together.

After the ceremony it was time to be whisked around the whole ship posing for photographs with one of the ship’s photographers, cursing my high-heeled shoes every step of the way! Of course, documenting the memories of this important day made it all worth while. After a romantic dinner at Crown Grill, bliss-inducing couples’ massage at the spa, and being spoiled by the soothing sight and sound of the water on deck under the moonlight, it was time to become well-rested for two days of exciting excursions!

 

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Amber Cove, Dominican Republic was the first stop. A chance to brush up on my Spanish, become immersed in the brilliantly colored pastel colonial architecture in Puerto Plata, and be surrounded by the friendly atmosphere provided by the equally colorful locals, was a welcome adventure. I was dazzled by the whimsical rainbow of bright color on the buildings of the main square. These buildings were very well-preserved and a joy to behold. It was clear that the people of Puerto Plata took great pride in their cultural heritage and history, and rightfully so.

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After marveling at the historic architecture, we visited a cigar-crafting business which created endless varieties of flavored cigars (something the Dominicans are famous for) and a rum factory that produced rum of several different, interesting varieties as well (tip: the mango flavored rum was some of the best rum I have ever sampled!)

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I was enthralled by the views of the beach and town from the cigar factory, and the views of the lush, tropical vegetation from the rum factory. It was difficult to pull myself away long enough to observe the presentations!

To conclude our excursion, we were treated to a rum tasting and live music and dancing by the locals, a stimulation of multiple senses that provided a fitting end to a fun day docked at Amber Cove.

 

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The next stop was Grand Turk, of Turks & Caicos. Never have I seen such crystal clear waters and powdery sand beaches as I witnessed at Grand Turk. This is an ideal port whether you prefer to take excursions or just explore the port, with beautiful public beaches easily walk-able from the ship, live music, and plenty of delightful shopping. With not one but two excursions planned, we had a full day ahead. We got an early start, spending 45 minutes on this stunning beach, and then headed for our first excursion: an exhilarating horseback ride and swim!

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It would be an understatement to call this a thrilling experience. We first took a regular horseback ride along the beach, riding extremely tame and friendly horses, enjoying idyllic views of the ocean and sand so magnificent I could not even have imagined them. But the moment we were all waiting for was the horseback swim – and it did not disappoint! It was a thrill ride, yet one that felt controlled and safe at the same time. I enjoyed this excursion so much that I am repeating it in a couple of months when I return to Grand Turk.

After returning late from the first excursion and rushing back to the ship to change, it was off to tour the cultural highlights of the island by bus, and yet another rum tasting!

We explored the architecture around town, signature lighthouse, and island museum to learn more about the history. As we meandered from place to place,  waves crashed along the beach that provided an extraordinary back yard to most of these attractions, and wild horses and donkeys displayed their carefree spirit playfully wandering the island. I reflected on our own carefree and adventurous spirits that have us exploring, and I am treasuring the opportunity to spend another year of sharing the joys of travel with my husband and best friend, as well as the new friends I will continue to meet along the way!

Once back on the ship, we enjoyed a tour of the Bridge and more delights in the spa on the second sea day before a (regrettable) disembarkation, and, (not regrettable!) plan to cruise again as often as possible in the coming year!

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