vacation

The Countdown Begins

Well the cruise countdown has officially begun. Yes, a new cruise has been booked and I can’t wait for it to get here. The bad part, it is over a year away next March 15th. This will be an anniversary cruise for me and my wife for our eight year anniversary.

Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette

We will be sailing on the Celebrity Silhouette on an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. We will be visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St. Kitts; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. It’s basically the ideal itinerary that we were looking for.

7 Day Eastern Caribbean

7 Day Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I are probably on the same page of what we are most looking forward to. Yes that will be spending our anniversary together WITHOUT the kids. After this point, I am guessing we are on different pages. She will probably say that she is looking forward to each of the destinations. She will be sitting at work and looking at excursions and will be calling me and emailing me on what ones she likes. While I’m excited about the itinerary, I am most excited about finally getting onboard a Celebrity Solstice Class ship.

The Celebrity experience is something that fits our likes to a tee. They offer a more upscale experience or, as they refer to it, “Modern Luxury”. They put more emphasis on food quality, so much so they even partnered with Bravo’s “Top Chef” to offer the Top Chef at Sea experience. You can read more about that on a previous post, Celebrity and “Top Chef”, a Foodie Dream

My wife has already told me she is looking forward to trying Qsine and Tuscan Grille. I am looking forward to the Lawn Club Grill. The highlight of dining at the Lawn Club Grill is the opportunity to serve as your party’s “Grill Master,” by being paired with a Celebrity chef to assist in preparing the menu for your table over custom-built, ventilated grills. Plus it is located next to the Lawn Club, a half acre of actually growing green grass.

Celebrity Lawn Club

Celebrity Lawn Club

Qsine

Qsine

Tuscan Grille

Tuscan Grille

I’m sure I will be writing more about this cruise over the next year but, right now, I’m just excited over a new countdown beginning.

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Categories: Celebrity, Cruise, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Relaxful Cabanas on the Cay

In an earlier post Great Stirrup Cay, Highlight of the Cruise I talked about our day on Great Stirrup Cay during the Cruise Family Reunion cruise. Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. In this post, I wanted to talk a little more about renting a cabana.

Cabana on the Cay! #CFCruise #cruise #CruiseLikeaNorwegian #instapic #piccollage

A post shared by Nathan Nehmer (@cardinalescapes) on

Cabana on the Cay

Cabana on the Cay

We rented a cabana for the day because, traveling with our two year old, we wanted to make sure we had shade. We were glad we did since shade is at a premium on the island. They do have some shells you can get to go over your chairs but I heard many people complain about how hot it got underneath them. With the cabana, not only did you get your shade but you also got a ceiling fan to move the air and ensure you have a breeze. You can reserve a cabana for $299 for the whole day. A cabana can accommodate up to eight guest. You get priority tendering to ensure you get the most out of your day. You arrive to find your cabana with eight bottles of water and a fruit plate of fruit. You will also have eight towels waiting for you as well so you don’t have to bring yours from the ship. They also include four of the floaty mats and a $50 food and beverage credit. Upon arrival at the island you make your way to the cabanas and the one reserved for you.

Lack of shade on Great Stirrup Cay

Lack of shade on Great Stirrup Cay

Beach directly in front of the cabanas.

Beach directly in front of the cabanas.

Shortly after getting there someone will greet you and give you a wristband. Supposedly only people with a wristband on will be able to be around the cabanas for safety reasons but I didn’t see people really check this.From that point on, you will have someone bring you drinks and food so you don’t have to worry about that. The beach directly in front of the cabanas is a lot less crowded and more quiet. There is, however, a few rocks in the water. You need to be carefully when entering and leaving the water or I suggest having some water shoes to protect your feet. Being a further walk than the main beach, not as many people make their way to this part of the island. Yes, it is a further walk to the bathroom but if you’re in one of the first few cabanas it’s not all that far. A good investment for NCL to make would be to construct a bathroom near the far end of the cabanas.

Salsa dish delivered to our cabana

Salsa dish delivered to our cabana

All in all I loved having the cabana. In my eyes, it was the difference between having a good time and having a great time. If you want a more laid back experience during your stay on Great Stirrup Cay, I would recommend looking at getting yourself a cabana for the day.

Author: Nathan Nehmer, nate@cardinalcruiseandtravel.com

Categories: Beaches, Cruise, family, Norwegian Cruise Line, travel, Uncategorized, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Stirrup Cay, Highlight of the Cruise

Day two of the Cruise Family Reunion on the Norwegian Sky took us to Great Stirrup Cay. Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. This port of call is basically a beach day so; if you are cruising on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that calls on Great Stirrup Cay, keep that in mind when planning your shore excursions.

Welcome to Great Stirrup Cay! #cruiselikeanorwegian #cruise #travel

A post shared by Nathan Nehmer (@cardinalescapes) on

Great Stirrup Cay is a tender port, which means your ship is anchored offshore and you are transferred there in smaller boats. When I say smaller boats, it’s a relative term since they still can hold up to 450 people. Our tender ride to shore that day wasn’t exactly the smoothest ride in the world. We had some pretty choppy water that rocked the boat a bit. My wife, who gets motion sickness easily, was happy because since we were traveling with Taylor, our 2 year old we were put on the top deck. The tender ride to shore takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

Tendering to Great Stirrup Cay

Tendering to Great Stirrup Cay

Once on sure you are, once again, taken through a spot to have your picture taken with some characters. Off to your right is the big inflatable slide right behind the small straw market where people from a neighboring island sell t-shirts and other merchandise. Keep walking straight ahead to find the main attraction on the island, the beach. The main beach on Great Stirrup Cay is impressive. Nice soft groomed sand leads down to water. The beach is protected very well in the cove making the water nice and smooth for all to enjoy. There is a lack of shade so, especially if you have little ones, you may want to get there early to find a spot in the shade or a table in the pavilions. You could also do what we did and rent a cabana for the day (more on this in a later post).

Entry to Great Stirrup Cay

Entry to Great Stirrup Cay

Main Beach

Main Beach

Lunch is served on the island and, since it is Norwegian’s private island, it is included in your cruise fare. Lunch is a buffet style and is served in the Jumbey Beach Grill building located behind the main beach. Besides the pizza and salads and other normal buffet food they serve up some BBQ type items (the ribs were REALLY good). Also, there are plenty of bar areas scattered throughout the island and you don’t have to pay cash for them. Everything is charged back to your room card so you can be surprised at your bar bill at the end of your cruise, LOL. If you plan to shop at the straw market, you will need to bring cash though.

Buffet

Buffet

There are many shore excursions you can do while on the island. Norwegian Cruise Line offers wave runner rentals, parasailing adventures, and kayak tours. They also offer a snorkeling tour, which is more of a self-guided tour so you can bring your own snorkel equipment if you want (you are required to wear a vest while snorkeling though). You can purchase an all day pass to the Hippo waterslide, or pay per use if you only want to do it once or twice. Or if you want some relaxation and some quiet time, you can do what we did and rent a cabana for the day.

Main Beach with Norwegian Sky in the Background

Main Beach with Norwegian Sky in the Background

Great Stirrup Cay, in my eyes, was the highlight of our cruise. Well…except for meeting some of the friends I tweet with on a regular basis.

Author- Nathan Nehmer: nate@cardinalcruiseandtravel.com

Categories: Cruise, family, Norwegian Cruise Line, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Norwegian Sky Embarkation Day.

Hello from Miami Beach as we have just disembarked the Norwegian Sky. We had a great time on the Cruise Family Reunion. A mix up between everyone left me without a data package for the cruise so I had to wait till after the cruise to post this.

Norwegian Sky in the Port of Miami

Norwegian Sky in the Port of Miami

The embarkation process was a breeze on Friday. Our shuttle left the hotel at around 11:00am and we were on the ship before noon. The only issue we had was Taylor not wanting to have her picture taken for security purposes. She threw a pretty good fit and the poor guy checking us in turned about 20 shades of red. After that, we went upstairs and had our family picture taken and sat down in the waiting room. They began boarding by calling for families with small children in strollers, which we took advantage of, of course.

The Funnel Picture

The Funnel Picture

Once on board we had lunch with Kristin, Andrea, Shon, and Shon’s sister Mia in the buffet. As I have said before, I am not a huge fan of buffets but when you are traveling with a 2 year old you need to eat when you need to eat.  The buffet was good and had a pretty good selection to suit every taste. After lunch it was naptime for a few people like Taylor but I think the one most looking forward to nap was Shon. I used nap time as a time to walk around and snap pictures of the ship.

The Sailaway party was fun but if you’re traveling with young ears you may want to stay back a ways or even go up a level. Taylor complained of the loud noise and we had to back off a bit. Then we were off to dinner in the Main Dinning Room where one of the specials for the night was lobster. The lobster was slightly overcooked but the meal as a whole was still really good.Steak and lobster dinner

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Day one was a great day and we all had a great time. Until the next time I get a break, Happy Sailing!

Author Nathan  Nehmer: nate@Cardinalcruiseandtravel.com

Categories: Cruise, family, Norwegian Cruise Line, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Month Away

Today I woke up, as I always do, at 4:30 am and, like every other day, reached for my phone. Before you all start telling me that I am addicted to my phone (I already know this), the reason I grab my phone is simple: It is also my alarm.  Once I am able to see halfway straight to shut off the annoying sound that drags me out of bed, I begin to make my morning run through my apps.

 

Click here to learn more about ShipMate

Click here to learn more about ShipMate

This morning, my eyes and fingers were not working well with my brain and I happened to open my ShipMate App. While I really love this app and all its features, it’s not normally in my “first of the morning” routine. But this morning I was treated to a wonderful sight; we are a month away from sailing! I already knew this in my head but it was sure nice to see on my phone. If you don’t already have the ShipMateApp, you should really check it out. It is my favorite cruising app out there. You can learn more about ShipMate by clicking on their logo above.

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Now comes the hard part, getting ready to go. Sure, normally, packing is not an issue for us but this will be the first time we are taking our 2 ½ year old further than the 3 hour to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house. What do we need to pack to keep her occupied on the airplanes? This is all the stuff we need to think about when packing for this trip. This is on top of everything for us that we normally pack.

 

I am really looking forward to taking her on this cruise. She loves to hear music and dance so I am thinking she will love the sail away party. Oh, and by the way, Nickelodeon on the Norwegian Sky will also be a big hit, especially when she see’s Dora. This will be, however, her first time on an airplane, first time on a cruise, and not to mention her not being on her normal nap schedule. How is she going to take it? I guess we will see in a month.

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If any one has any advise on traveling with and packing for a toddler please leave comments below. I’d love to hear all the suggestions and I’m sure others would like to hear them as well.

Categories: Air Travel, Cruise, family, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Insurance, Foolish Not To?

While watching my Twitter timeline today, I came across a conversation discussing if it is a good time to book a cruise vacation. This conversation started in response to the fire onboard the Grandeur of the Seas yesterday morning. Everyone onboard was accounted for and the Royal Caribbean PR team did an excellent job keeping everyone informed and accommodating all of their guests.
As the conversation carried on, the topic of travel insurance up. The question was, “Do you believe it’s good to buy travel insurance when you book a cruise?” I jumped in and tweeted this comment, “@scottlara1961 @CruiseGuy @elliottdotorg I believe when you save money to buy a vacation, it’s foolish not to buy travel ins. #traveltuesday”. I’d like to take a little bit to explain my answer some.
For the fear of going on and on about the details of different plans and coverages, I will keep this in the simplest of terms. Most of us don’t have the money sitting around to get up and go on a vacation whenever we want. We save up our money, and time, to take a vacation from our everyday life and enjoy ourselves. We go through the time to research and book our vacation. Why would you not want to protect that investment you saved so hard for and are looking forward to?
With the possibility of hurricanes in the summer months to winter storms, flight delays and cancelations could put a damper on your much needed time off. Having travel insurance can give you the peace of mind and keep you calm when the unexpected happens.
While weather is the biggest concern with most travelers, there are many other reasons to consider travel insurance. Illness or, heaven forbid, death in your family; can affect your travel plans. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the peace of mind that, when you are going through these tough times, you won’t loose out on the money you saved for your vacation?
Another reason to think about purchasing travel insurance is, what if something happens to you requiring medical care. Most health insurance plans will not cover medical care while you are traveling outside of the country. Travel insurance plans can cover your medical expenses and even transport back if needed in most cases. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you wouldn’t be stuck with huge medical bills if that need arises?
These are the reasons I said I believe it’s foolish not to purchase travel insurance for your vacation both cruise or land based.

Author: Nathan Nehmer, nate@cardinalcruiseandtravel.com

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Beaches of Kauai

Once again, I am reposting a blog that I did on my other account some time ago. I wanted my blogs altogether in one place so I apologize if you were one of the few who saw this post.

Beaches of Kauai

The Island of Kauai is known for many beaches. Since it is the oldest of the Hawaiian Island it has more sand beaches per mile of shoreline than any other island. I am going to highlight a few of these beaches. Please keep in mind, since Hawaii is located in the open ocean, Hawaii’s beaches are more dangerous than most of the beaches in the Caribbean. Rip tides and rouge waves can form without warning so be careful if you are going to swim while you are on your Hawaiian vacation.

  1. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, located near the north shore town of Hanalei, consists of four beaches. They are Waikoko Beach, Wai”oli Beach Park, Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, and Black Pot Beach. Hanalei Bay is not a great swimming destination but it is great to look at.  Hanalei Beach Pavilion Park offers facilities and a lifeguard, as well as a pier to walk out on to.

Photos of Hanalei Bay, Kauai
This photo of Hanalei Bay is courtesy of TripAdvisor

  1. Moloa’a Bay

Moloa’a Bay is off the main road and can be accessed by taking Moloa’a Rd. of Ko’olua Rd. This beach is a beach not to well known so it shouldn’t be crowed. Parking is limited here, but it is worth the extra walk to get there. The better part of this beach is on the south east side. There is also a lot of shade here.

Moloa'a Bay

Moloa’a Bay

  1. Donkey Beach

Donkey Beach can be accessed from a parking area between the 11 and 12 mile marker on the main rd. From there it is about a 10 min walk down to the beach. It will seem a lot farther on the way back since it is uphill. A sidewalk that goes most of the way down to the beach makes it a little easier though. Donkey Beach has been known to be a nudist’s beach but new multi-million dollar houses here have put a stop to that (not saying that you still won’t see some nudity. Swimming is not great here, because of the current, and shade is limited.

Donkey Beach

Donkey Beach

  1. Lydgate State Park

Probably the best place to swim and snorkel, Lydgate State Park, is located just south of the Wailua River.  Protected from the surf and the facilities located here, makes this park popular with families and also makes it crowded sometimes. OK, most of the time. Still I highly recommend checking this park out, maybe for a little picnic.

Lydgate Beach Park, Kauai - Picture of Anini Beach, Kauai
This photo of Anini Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

  1. Kalapaki Beach

Popular with both visitors and locals, this beach is a great place to learn to surf and boogie board. With a shopping center and restaurants (Dukes Canoe Club is one of my favorite) nearby, there is something always going on at Kalapaki Beach. You can also check out the Cruise ships coming into Nawiliwili Harbor here.

Photo courtesy of Duke's Kauai

Photo courtesy of Duke’s Kauai

  1. Glass Beach

Glass beach is located behind an industrial area in Ele’ele; this beach is made up of broken glass washed up from an old dump nearby. As you may expect, this is not a good beach to swim at or even walk barefoot on. It is however very colorful.

Hawaiian Monk Seal on Glass Sands beach

Hawaiian Monk Seal on Glass Sands beach

Categories: Beaches, Hawaii, Kauai, Uncategorized, vacation | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Things to Check Out On Kauai

I was going through a flash drive that I had used to save some information from a computer that was dying fast. I came across a bunch of blog posts that were written. Some were published on an old account that has since been deleted and some were never published for some reason. I will be sprinkling these posts in here and there. This first one is one of them that was published on the old account. Please enjoy!

Kauai is the oldest and furthest west island of Hawaiian Islands. It is the 4th largest of the main Hawaiian Islands with just over 562 square miles. Don’t let Kauai’s small size deter you from a trip there; there is plenty to keep you interested in this island paradise.  Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is a nature lover’s paradise. Here are 3 things that may interest the traveler to Kauai.

  1. Ho’opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill

This is a tour I had the pleasure of taking, with my wife, on our trip to Kauai in 2009. On this tour you will have a look at the process and challenges of growing taro, a pant grown for its starchy tuber. Taro is pounded to make poi, the creamy purple paste you are told you have to try when you attend a luau. You also get to tour the historic rice mill that is filled with many artifacts from the days they grew rice in the Hanalei Valley. Lyndsey does a great job on this tour as she doesn’t read from a script and tells of her families personal experiences farming the land.  You can check out more at www.HaraguchiRiceMill.org

Taro Leaf and Root

Taro Leaf and Root

  1. 2.   Allerton Gardens

ParadisePart of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, Allerton Garden and Mcbryde Garden are located in the Lawai Valley on the south side of Kauai. I definitely recommend paying the $45 dollars for the Allerton Garden tour. Visit http://ntbg.org/gardens/allerton-tours.php for more information.

Tree from Jurassic Park Located in Allerton Gardens

Tree from Jurassic Park Located in Allerton Gardens

  1. Kilauea Lighthouse
lighthouse.jpg

Kilauea Lighthouse

The Kilauea Lighthouse is on the northern most point of Kauai. The light house was built in 1913 and was used till 1976. During the months of January through March this is a great spot to see whales. You can visit the lighthouse on a self guided tour, but you can’t go up inside to the light itself. There is a $5 entry fee but it is so worth it!

whale.jpg

Whales off from Kilauea Lighthouse

Categories: Hawaii, Kauai, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No-Brainer Travel Moment

Today is National No-Brainer day so I am taking this time to think back on my biggest travel “no-brainer” moment. This got me thinking of all my past trips and future ones as well. I would like to say that picking my best one would be hard, but it really wasn’t.

The best “no-brainer” travel moment would be my honeymoon. We decided we would use my wife’s parents timeshare and go to the Big Island of Hawaii. This would prove to be the trip where I fell in love. You would think that, since this is my honeymoon, I would have already been in love. While this is absolutely true, I am talking about another kind of love. The love of a travel destination that still burns strong to this day, Hawaii. It is a love that me and my wife still share. It might not be as strong of a love we have for one another, but it’s still a love that makes me want to move there every winter.429 ft. Akaka Falls

Hawaii is such a magical place! The scenery is beautiful, the weather is great, and the Aloha spirit is something you can not explain in words. it starts with the laid back atmosphere. When they tell you things run on “island time”, they mean it. Don’t go there and try to hurry through things and why would you? Your on vacation in paradise! You can read more about how I feel about Hawaii in an earlier post: I Have a Mistress.IMG00235-20120214-1601.jpg

Do you have a “no-brainer” travel moment? If you do please share it with us in the comments. We all love to travel and hearing about other people’s travels. Who knows you may make your favorite travel destination someone else’s favorite.

Categories: family, Hawaii, travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is this the Best Benefit of Cruising?

As I continue to talk here about how Cruising is a good way to travel with friends or a group of friends, I want you to think back to your last trip you planned with some friends. Was there the issue where a couple of you wanted to go one place while some others would rather go someplace else? How about when you get almost set on your destination and one in your group says they won’t go if you decide to go there? These are all real challenges in planning a group vacation.ncl_Olympics_Family_Ball

Now for some good news, cruise ships travel to different ports on the same itinerary.  In fact, this is what most people find appealing about cruising in general. There is no need to pack and unpack several times. Also there is no need to go check in at the airport and spend most of your day flying to another destination. Your vacation time is valuable, If you want to see a couple of different destinations why would you want to spend a day each time sitting in a boring airport. Instead you can find yourself at sea on a ship full of fun and relaxing activities.

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Itinerary courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

How does this help with planning your group? Lets look at a sample 7-day Western Caribbean itinerary from Norwegian Cruise Line.  With this itinerary, if someone in your party doesn’t really want to go to Montego Bay, a few days later you will be Belize City. You don’t have to get off the ship in each port if you don’t want to but you may miss something you haven’t thought about before. Who knows, you may like the port you thought you would hate the most! I am sure if you ask Danielle AKA: @CruiseMiss of CruiseMiss Cruise Blog, she will tell you there have been a few ports that surprised her.

When you figure out what itinerary and dates work well for your group, you may want to get a travel agent involved. When you book a cruise as a group you may be able to get special amenities like for example: onboard credit, bottle of wine in your stateroom, or even a cocktail party for your group. To get theses it helps to have a travel agent familiar with booking groups. These benefits are not always available by having everyone book through the cruise line’s website on the same cruise. Your travel agent will work with you to get you the best value. They will also help you get prepared for your cruise, especially if you are the group leader.

Cruising with a group of people can be a very rewarding way to travel. Being able to see multiple destinations while having something for everyone to stay busy with is a big bonus.  With this in mind I would love to invite you to come on the Cruise Family Reunion and have a great time with a group of cruise lovers, experts, and bloggers. Oh and by the way, we are all a bunch of nuts and this cruise is sure to be a heck of a time.

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