Each morning when the Noordam drops anchor and the passengers are cleared for take off, the hustle and bustle begins as people are released onto the paradisial ports. Having a good plan for the day is the best way to insure squeezing every drop of memory making pleasure you can out of each island visit.
Because I’m a travel journalist I’ve spent most of this cruise photographing, videoing, writing and interviewing, so by the time I reached St. Thomas I was ready to do a little sightseeing and a lot of relaxing on the beach.
Charlotte Amalie, the cruise port and ebullient commercial hub of St. Thomas is also the capital of this 32 square mile island. Although some 1.5 million cruise ship tourists frequent the island each year, my trip into the city didn’t lend the feeling of being overwhelmingly crowded.
The island capital cradles a beautiful harbor that is glittered with sailboats and spectacular yachts, like gaily embellished ornaments on a Christmas tree. Shopping is paramount to most tourists and the streets are lined with shops from the upscale Cartier to farmer’s markets.
Today I set my sights on Magen’s Bay, one of the Carribean’s most famous beaches. It has been dubbed one of the top ten best Caribbean beaches by Caribbean Magazine.
Some reports are that the famed beach is within walking distance but I wouldn't recommend trying it. I decided since I was on my own today and carrying video and photography equipment, I’d walk a ways and commandeer a taxi for the remainder. The drive to the beach delivered me through breathtaking scenery and who’s to say the taxi drivers don’t take the long way around, but it’s nonetheless worth a few extra dollars for the view.
I’ll attest this was by far my favorite beach I’d visited so far on my Holland America Line cruise. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first on the beach for the day and was able to enjoy the quiet splendor of the multihued blue and aqua waves washing the powdery white sands before the multitudes arrived.
Feisty Brown Pelicans entertained with a fantastic, albeit humorous dive show, all the while I strolled the beach enjoying the sand between my toes. Alas, as time to re-board the ship encroached, I made my way back through the bustling shoppers and multi-colored historic architecture.
St. Thomas has been a member of the United States for almost a century now, having been purchased from Denmark in 1917 for the bargain basement price of $25 million.
Although St. Thomas is perhaps the most renowned of the United States Virgin Islands, the hustle and bustle of the cruise tourists do not diminish from this enchanting island’s charms.
In addition to shopping, island activities encompass sailing, snorkeling, hiking, diving, golfing, sky-trams and those oh-so-beautiful beaches.
A host of holidays, music festivals, regattas, Yacht shows, agriculture and food fairs are celebrated on St. Thomas each year. There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to visit though, this island paradise will have you convinced you’re on holiday whenever you’re fortunate enough to drop anchor here.
Today I arrived in Roseau, Dominica and this island immediately became one of my top favorites of the 5 beautiful islands I’ve explored so far.
Dominica, like St. Lucia is a lush, mountainous island. However, unlike St. Lucia’s dormant volcano, Dominica has 8 active volcanoes, six of which are less than 7 miles from Roseau, the Dominican capital and cruise port. Multiple lava eruptions from the larger volcanoes have created cone-shaped domes, which have resulted in richly embellished tree-flocked mountainscapes. The majestic peaks are mesmerizing, not just because of their duplicitous forest cloaked surfaces, but also the enigma of what lies beneath.
Speaking of what lies beneath, an underwater shore excursion was my exploration of choice in Dominica, and I opted for the renowned Champagne Snorkel.
This sub-aquatic adventure has a reputation for being in the top 5 snorkel destinations in the world. As our taxi van ferried us from port to shore, the drive itself was a pageant of flora and fauna. Sometimes the journey to the excursion is an excursion in itself.
Dominica is nicknamed the ‘Nature Isle of the Caribbean,’ and it’s no wonder with its cascading waterfalls, freshwater lakes and ever flowing rivers, supplied by a near 350 inches of rainfall each year. The abundance of precipitation lends itself to a rainforest region that is one of the wettest on planet earth. Because of the abundance of rainfall, 2/3 of the Dominican island is carpeted by a largely untroubled, tropical rainforest.
As we drove towards the post for our snorkel tour, Cynthia, our excursion host, shared a few holistic remedies the islanders use to promote good health, in lieu of traditional medicine. One such remedy for high blood pressure, she explained, was to peel a papaya and boil the papaya whole, seeds and all. Refrigerate the juice that is produced, and drink daily to reduce high blood pressure.
As we arrived on this beautiful swath of lava encrusted coastline, our instructions were simple, leave everything behind and embrace the experience.
Although not the snorkeling enterprise I had imagined with white sands, vividly colored fish and intricate sea life filled reefs, it was still a peaceful experience. The water was a bit murky and more like snorkeling in a lake. Our snorkeling guides assured us this was the first such day the water had not been crystal clear. The fascinating part about this snorkel adventure was the veritable garden of diminutive effervescence. itself. Effusive champagne like bubbles billowed from a sea floor of volcanic geothermal fisseries, creating a unique Don Ho, 'warm all over' experience.
A first for me during the snorkel adventure was gently holding a Dominican Sea Urchin, also known as a sea egg, as I explored the underwater IMAX. The urchin is like a globular, quilled egg and would suction itself to my hand as I kept it safely underwater. The urchin is a member of the phylum enchinodermata family, which includes starfish, brittle stars, sea cucumbers and crinoids.
I was a fish out of water in my underwater habitat as I inadvertently snorkeled in my fair share of H20. The experience was uniquely educating and one I recommend. I felt like Ariel getting to be a part of that world.
Dominica is one of the most famous places in the world for whale watching, as it is home to a year round pod of sperm whales, although I didn’t see a single one. The excursion hosts have tours here that will guarantee you to sight a whale.
After our snorkeling expedition, my new friend Jessika, the Noordam's Travel Guide and I, explored the downtown area of Roseau. We wove through the kaleidoscope of markets where things were reasonably priced and the people were incredibly friendly. The famed Dominica Botanical Gardens was a genteel part of our afternoon, and we were fortunate enough to encounter some of the island's famed parrots. We also had the good fortune of visiting a few pastry shops and enjoyed some delectable Dominican pastries.
Although Dominica is famous for its stunning and largely unspoiled natural beauty, the culture rich potpourri of French, Carib, African and English people accessorize the island like vibrantly planted bouquets in a utopian landscape.
One of the lesser populated islands in the West Indies Archipelago, the 289 square mile heavenly haven of Dominica is home to only around 70,000 people. This allows for a ratio of happiness to land mass pretty far above average in my book.
Thank you to our sponsors Holland America Line and Choctaw Nation Health Services. Don't forget to tune in to KTCS's Kris Vegas’ show weekday afternoons as I show you exciting ways to Enjoy the Awesome in Your Life!
It was an exhilarating day as we arrived on the British island of St. Lucia. A sovereign island country under the British Common Wealth, St. Lucia hosts nearly 175,000 residents in its 238 square mile perimeter. Majestic mountain peaks crowned as the St. Lucia Pitons beckon hundreds of thousands of Shangri La hungry visitors each year and reign as the island’s most famous landmark.
The island’s 2,500 foot cloud-kissed mountain peaks are specific to the island and St. Lucia is touted as the most mountainous island in the Caribbean. These spectacular works of nature’s lofty emblematic peaks are no doubt the reason it was chosen as one of the locations where the Pirates of the Caribbean series was filmed. I was hoping to see that they’d accidentally left Johnny Depp behind, but arghhh! No such luck matey!
St. Lucia, just as St. Maarten, was also first inhabited by the Arawak Indians and eventually conquered by their enemies the Caribs. However, through the course of history and many battles between the French and the Brits, the island was finally ceded to the British in 1814, but not before the French named the island after Saint Lucy of Syracuse.
English is the official language of St. Lucia but some 95% of the population converse in something called St. Lucian Creole French, or Patois, pronounced “Patwah”. Although the island is up to speed technologically and most families own washers and dryers, I'm told many of the women still enjoy congregating on Sundays to wash their clothes in the river, gossip and discuss their soap operas.
The focus of our St. Lucian inward tek was to explore the natural beauty of this Carbibbean hallmark and to investigate the St. Lucia Volcano. We decided to take a private taxicab for our journey and it’s a great way to see the island. The drive towards the volcano is indescribably visual and pleasurable way to inbibe the illustrious scenery. There are bumpy patches and no guardrails upward, so be prepared for a little heart thumping adventure.
The St. Lucia Vocano is a dormant volcano, yet imagine this, some 60 people live inside of it. As my travel buddy Mark Sardelis and I ventured near the entrance it was wrapped in an apron of steam and very humid. Sulphur springs and mud baths are a volcanic tourist draw and many were engaging in mud baths and the therapeutic waters. The Sulphur is a little smelly, however, it’s reported that the inhabitants of the volcano have no sinus issues at all. Although they say the volcano isn’t active, its still a little too active for me to consider packing up my U-Haul and submitting my change of address cards at the post office.
St. Lucia's capricious climate is frequented by sudden rain showers and the locals refer to these as ‘showers of blessings.’ St. Lucia’s 19,000 acres of rainforest and lush mountains and valleys host a menagerie of wildlife. Iguanas and parrots receive the most notoriety on the island, in fact, early settlers called the island ‘Ioanalao and ‘Hewanorra’ meaning ‘Island of the Iguanas.’
Iguanas and parrots aren’t the only famous wildlife on the island though. On our trek towards the volcano a hypnotizing boa constrictor lay sunning on the side of the road and we all decided on a Jungle Book photo op with the handsome reptile. After all, animal prints are always fashionable, aren’t they?
A Caribbean style barbeque aboard ship concluded the day's memorable expedition and even the master grill man Bobby Flay would have been impressed. The piece-de-resistance, however, was enjoying the GREAT privilege of ringing the Noordam’s ship bell with my friend Mark.
The beautiful island of St. Lucia is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and within its perimeters produces a bounty of bananas, avocados, mangos, cashews, almonds, cocoa and a plethora of other fruits. St. Lucia’s primary economic dependency is directly aligned to their fruit exports, tourism and most of all the St. Lucian natives. The abundance of all makes the entire island a delightfully visual and cultural cornucopia for those who visit.
Au revoir ~ And thank you to our sponsors Holland America Line and Choctaw Nation Health Services. Don’t forget to tune into KTCS’ Kris Vegas’ show weekday afternoons as I show you exciting ways to Enjoy the Awesome in Your Life!
Day 6 of my Holland America Caribbean Cruise deposited me in the prismatic port of Bridgetown, Barbados. I had a big decision to make today, relaxing on one of the bewitchingly beautiful beaches of this densely populated island or facing my fears and exploring some major awesome in my own life.
I decided facing my fears was foremost, and conquering them a close second. My fear of heights is one of the things that challenges me most as I explore, so I decided to embrace the opportunity to earn one of my courage badges with today’s zip lining shore excursion. O.k., let’s just back up a second . . . did I just use the word ‘embrace?’ Well maybe I embraced it on paper when I was signing up, when my feet were planted firmly on the deck of the ship. But what’s this about a release form, and . . . and . . . and . . .dangling from a wire in the middle of the jungle hundreds of feet above some very unforgiving ground.
When I say I’m scared of heights, what I really mean is I’M SCARED OF HEIGHTS! Terrified, petrified, paralyzed by fear, those word bounce flippantly inside my head and escape frantically off the tip of my pen.
Temporarily I forgot what lay ahead. As our tour group headed to the mountaintop, I was distracted and bemused by a group of wiley and fearless senior citizens who were actually EMBRACING the opportunity to check this particular item off of their bucket list. As we arrive at our heightened destination and began to get harnessed into gear, it still hadn’t hit me, I’m as cool as a cucumber, medicated by laughter and surrounded by my dauntless companions.
I’ve got to admit, outfitted in the appropriate gear, hardhat included, I felt like an explorer, stalwart, at the least calmly resolute. We begin the trek of about 20 yards or so where the line begins and 20 of us are standing on the edge of a drop off that I’m sure had to be thousands of feet to the palm forested floor. I see jungle, wilderness, monkeys, hundred-year old tree tops, but NO GROUND!
So what happens to someone when they are afraid of heights and they come near a cliff about to seemingly freefall into a jungle with no visible bottom? They PANIC! The panic sets in! I need a paper bag, my momma, my teddy bear and extra underwear. I situate myself next-to-last in line and as my heart races faster than a greyhound sprinting after a fake rabbit, I stare as my audacious, retiree traveling companions preceding my own flight into the unknown are having the time of their life.
I am the youngest one in line and in seconds of needing a clean pair of underwear, my buddy then tells me there are NINE consecutive zip lines, so not only do I have to get through this one, I have EIGHT more to go. At this point the professionals attach my harness and the fear has not dissipated. I’m scared to death. Then they tell me to sit. Like sit on what I ask . . . air? That’s right, I'm supposed to sit on air! And then like Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby, minus the crack of the pistol or the ring of the bell, I'm off!!
As I zip from one tree house to the next like George of the Jungle, each of the 9 glides became less petrifying and more exhilarating. Valiantly crossing the finish line and courage badge realized, I can officially say I’m a zip lining veteran now. Perhaps my biggest fait accompli ~ I’ve earned this badge of courage without needing additional undies. It was a day I’ll never forget, and an incredible blessing to be able to face my fears and temporarily conquer one of my biggest ones.
Although there are many exciting things to do on Barbados, they are vastly known for their incredibly beautiful beaches. They are also ranked in the top 5 developing countries worldwide. Research shows that one of the greatest and most pleasing assets about Barbados is the friendliness of the Barbadians.
The name Barbados is derived from the ‘Bearded Fig Tree’ and the island is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. The entire island population is around 280 some odd thousand with around a third of that living in Bridgetown.
Barbados is fortunate to be just outside the Hurricane Strike Zone and a major hurricane only strikes on average of about every 26 years.
There’s a little something for everyone in Barbados; fishing, diving, snorkeling, and even squash. If you love to golf they also host three 18-hole and three nine-hole golf courses. This densely populated mecca of culture and beauty beckons to those wishing to relax, face your fears or simply work on your handicap.
Thank you to my sponsors Holland America Line and Choctaw Nation Health Services for making this fear factor accomplishment possible. Don’t forget to tune into KTCS’ Kris Vegas’ show weekday afternoons as I show you exciting ways to Enjoy the Awesome in Your Life!
I was super excited this morning, as it was the first time in 2 ½ days I’d be feeling the sand between my toes. When I awoke this morning my ocean view window displayed a postcard perfect picture of sailboats bobbing on a finger painted mix of azure and brilliant turquoise Caribbean Sea. St. Maarten was as beautiful as I’d imagined.
There’s something dreamlike about waking up to the incredible beauty of some place you’ve never been and then having breakfast delivered to your door. Yes, the Holland America crew will deliver breakfast to your door and do it quite happily I might add.
This morning I was as anxious as everyone else to venture on to the island and see what was in store. If you’ve ever been to one of these seafaring tropical ports on a cruise ship, you know that often yours is not the only ship in port. When I debarked the ship, there were three ships in port this day, two Holland America ships and an additional cruise ship docked.
Standing between two cruise ships three times the length of a football field will take your breath away. These mammoth vessels will make you feel pretty skinny no matter what your size. They almost seem like they are from another planet.
Mark Sardelis, Manager Onboard Marketing arranged for me to spend the day with some of the other crewmembers for a day of surf and sand. Since I have exciting shore excursions planned for some of the other islands I’ll be visiting, I decided today it was all about embracing my inner beach bunny and soaking up some rays on this beautiful oasis.
We took a taxi to the French side of the island where we were the first and only ones on our beach. It was very quiet and peaceful for a while and then the rest of the tourists started flowing in by the dozens.
Taxi drivers offer a wealth of information and they seem to know a little about everything. I think they must be like the bartenders of the tourist trade. Our driver was very informative and told me that there are actually two sides to the island, the French side and the Dutch. There are also 90,000 people living on this 37 square mile piece of island paradise and its also home to 108 different nationalities.
I began to wonder about this fellow St. Maarten though, and how was it he was cool enough to get a beautiful island named after him. After all, I’d like to have an island named after me, wouldn’t you?
Historical reports indicate that the earliest settlers here were the Arawak Indians who named the island ‘Sualouiga’ meaning ‘land of salt.’ The inhabitants and control of the island changed hands several times before Christopher Columbus, whom my great grandfather Christopher Columbus Seaborn was named after, claimed the island for Spain in 1493. He is said to have named it St. Maarten, after the Feast of St. Martin.
Control of the island continued to change hands again and again until finally ending up with the Dutch and the French. So that’s how you go about getting an island named after you.
I have met so many interesting people from all around the world and all different walks of life on this floating hotel haven. I am continually amazed at the kindness of both the tourists and those in the tourist trade. I have been treated like a Queen. I’d like to think I get special treatment, but the truth is I’ve watched the crew and management team consistently treat every individual as if they were royalty, too.
This evening I enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Pinnacle Grill and it was an exquisite fine dining experience. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
I had the pleasure of dining this evening with some of my new friends Annie Sy, Guest Relations Manager, Jessika Johnson, Travel Guide and Mark Sardelis Manager of Onboard Marketing.
The meal began with a pre-appetizer called 'amuse', a seared scallop with carrot puree', followed by a pair of delectable Dungeness Crab Cakes with spiral shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce.
It's always a treat to indulge in the Chef’s favorite and tonight it was Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. This incredible treasure included a delicate, gratinéed combination of Mascarpone enriched pasta and creamy lobster broth with chunks of lobster – this was just the (Best Thing EVER!)
For my entrée’ I succumbed to the Broiled Lobster Tail which was nestled on a bed of wilted spinach and Arugula, with mustard seed and melted butter. However, the butter didn’t need to do anything but look pretty on my plate because this crustacean was prepared perfection and utterly divine!
You’d think at this point I’d be satisfied but when they came around asking me about dessert, do you think this girl was going to say no? Jessika, who’s not familiar with my motto ‘I’m never too full for dessert,’ skinny little thing, asked if I’d like to share a dessert. I rather bluntly, but kindly conveyed that I didn’t want to share anything! My dessert choice was the Pinnacle Crème Brulèe, with chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean flavors and it was definitely the creme de la custard.
This meal was one for the record book in my food diary. I want to emphasize this trip isn’t all about culinary indulgences, though. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my food choices, yet I'm really enjoying my workout routines, too. I’ve been very active and still taking the 9 flights of stairs every single day, multiple times, as I mentioned in my earlier travel journal entry. I’ve also been working out on the ship, taking dancing classes and enjoying several fitness activities that help me to feel my best.
Thanks again to my wonderful sponsors, Holland America Line and Choctaw Nation Health Services, and don’t forget to listen to Kris Vegas’ weekday show each afternoon as I tell you about incredible ways you can ‘Explore the Awesome in your life!’