Friday, July 10, 2009

Saint John New Brunswick - Fundy Coast to Fundy Shore Tour

Before the cruise, I looked for the best way to see Saint John/St. Martin, New Brunswick, Canada and the Sea Caves. I had read about the ship excursion buses arriving later than the private tours. And in St.Martin, if you arrive even a few minutes later, with the tide schedule, you could entirely miss the chance to go into the sea caves. So, we booked a shore excursion called "Fundy Coast to the Fundy Shore" with Freedom Tours.

We were scheduled to dock and be off the ship by 9:30am....but the ship wasn't cleared until 10:30. God bless their souls, our Freedom Tours tour guides were there waiting for us with a smile on their face. {Note: For parents of children 5 and under, if you are unable to bring a car seat, Freedom Tours will provide one for you. Just have them note it on your reservation. The cars were 8 passenger mini vans}

The terminal at Saint John is brand new so we were the first guests to arrive at the terminal. Each lady was handed a rose. Each gentleman a pin. And each child a Canadian flag. Volunteers in Saint John started this tradition 10 years ago and do it for every passenger that disembarks in Saint John.

Since we were late, the guides took us straight to St. Martin (an hour away) on a scenic coastal highway. Let me tell you - this area is GORGEOUS! The Sea Caves....

So we arrive at the St. Martin Sea Caves and our guide Peter (a fabulous gentleman) tells us that we will only have a few minutes until the tide rises too high to safely get across to the caves. We put on our water shoes {don't forget those} and make the trek across the rocky beach. If you have ANY problems with mobility, this is not the tour for you. The rocks are very difficult to walk on, they slide under your feet. Very different from walking on sand. Right next to the caves was a SMALL stream of water, about an inch deep, but VERY cold. Peter said that the Bay is always a steady 30-32 degrees. We had to walk across this cold water (about 10 feet wide) to get to the caves. Once over there, we had about 5 minutes to get our pictures and get back across.

One member of our group, decided to try to make it into the 2 sea cave (there are 3). The guides were telling him to come back. This person decided to ignore the guides just to get a shot of the 2nd cave because, come on, it's just an inch or 2 of water. Within minutes, the guides were yelling "We hope you can swim!" - the water had risen a lot in just a few minutes {see below, just 10 minutes later} But we all made it back safely from the caves. And we were able to get some great pictures.

Peter also told my girls some local lore - if you find a rock with another rock layer the whole way through and it created a complete circle through the rock, then you will have luck with the boys (god help me). And if it has 2 layers, then 2 boys will be fighting over you. I think my kids carted back 50lbs of rock in their pockets, I kid you not. Every time we stopped, Peter would secretly throw one or two rocks out of the mini van. Smart guy!

So one thing not to miss is a bowl of the "World Famous Seafood Chowder" at The Caves Restaurant. {I think it started at $7.99/cup} but my oldest declared it - the WORLD'S BEST.

By the time our chowder arrived, so did the Carnival buses, TWO of them. They walked off the bus, and went right into the restaurant for their bowl of chowder. They missed the opportunity to go into the sea caves because they arrived so late. I was VERY happy that we had booked the private tour.

On our way back to Saint John...We stopped at a lighthouse "Visitor Center" - those stairs were SCARY. Peter took both kids up because there was no way I was able to do it.

And stopped to check out the covered bridges.

And since we had the kids, Bill and Peter decided to veer off from the other group and take us to a Mini Horse Farm (a B&B) in St. Martin. My youngest was so tickled by the chicken at this farm - the chicken's name was "Chicken Little". And every time my daughter talked to the chicken it would say "Booooooock" almost to answer her.

This is reversing falls, not much to see, but still pretty interesting. The water runs backwards certain times each day.
And I can say that we don't have these signs in Pennsylvania....MOOSE CROSSING! And yes, our guides were trying to spot some moose for us, what a sight that would have been...

At the end of our tour, Peter and Bill took us to the Marketplace for some shopping. And then it was back to the ship. I have to say, our tour in Saint John/St.Martin and the wonderful people we met on this excursion was the highlight of our cruise. I can't recommend this tour company enough. For a family, they are the perfect option.

No Rubber Shark Abuse Allowed on Carnival Triumph

So I guess after my review on Cruise Critic, the "rubber shark" story has become infamous. So I figured I would retell it here.....

My daughters and I went on a girls only trip celebrating the end of the school year. We decided to do Carnival Triumph out of New York City - a nice little drive, no need for airfare.

This would be our 3rd Carnival Cruise. So we are no strangers to Camp Carnival. Formal Night - the kids beg to go to the "Camp Formal Dinner" I go to the camp and explain at each drop off that my girls will want to sit together because when the Little Sis sees the Big Sis, she is going to want to eat with her. "NO PROBLEM" was the answer from each counselor. And it wasn't a problem on the other CARNIVAL ships. So I follow the kids groups to the Lido deck, see that my kids find each other and hug each other, I turn to go to meet some people for dinner. I guess after I walked away, the counselors came and told my youngest to go sit with her own group. She cried. They said she couldn't sit with my oldest. So she was upset. But she calmed down.

By 8pm, I was waiting in the dining room lobby with friends to attend Late Seating dinner when my Camp Carnival phone rang. They said that my daughter was "Hitting other children with a toy" - Mortified, I excuse myself and go running to Camp Carnival. I see her playing kitchen with another little girl -- no problem. I tell them who I am and ask "She is hitting the kids with toys????" The response - "ohhh noo noo noo, she took this rubber shark and hit that metal pole. She did it a few times, we told her not to, she did it again, so we called you"

A rubber shark? Seriously?

They couldn't handle a 5 year old with a rubber shark? The counselor said "Well she doesn't have to leave but you have to talk to her" Well since I was now very late for dinner, I just took her with me and we headed back to the cabin, where we ate ham and cheese sandwiches. So if your kids are preschoolers, be sure you talk to them about the dangers of abusing the rubber shark on Triumph. ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Passion Island - Cozumel, Mexico

If you are looking for your own little piece of paradise that also has great amenities for the kids, then book the cruise excursion called "Passion Island".

This private beach adventure is for cruise ship passengers only. I was told that the island holds 600 people but there were less than 150 on the day we were there.

Check with your cruise line for details. Through Royal Caribbean, the guests take a catamaran from the port (if weather allows it). So there is no age minimum for this excursion. However, Carnival guests are taken to the island on the thrilling Twister power boat. The Twister does have an age minimum. So check your cruise line for possible restrictions.

At the Cozumel port, we met up with our guide "Mr. Leo" who informs us that the seas are too choppy to take the Catamaran to Passion Island (as originally planned) - we would take a bus, then a short boat ride over to the island.

Passion Island is PURE paradise. It is deserted. It is for cruise ship guests only. It is OPEN DOMESTIC BAR and buffet included. The buffet has BBQ chicken, blackened mahi mahi, the best guacamole ever, tortilla chips, salad, rolls, fresh fruit and rice. For the kids, I couldn't have picked a better place. They had a water trampoline, but since the water was too rough, they brought out a couple of men to install a regular trampoline on the sand (no charge).

They have mini ATVs for the kids - FREE. The operator just "works for tips". They also have a playground and mini maze for the kids.

For the adults - they have some shopping there. Domestic bar. Covered restaurant. Hammocks everywhere. They had tables under the palm trees so you can eat on the beach. They have chairs in full sun. Chairs in shade. The merchants stayed in the shopping area so no one was walking around selling anything (except one guy with a box of Cuban cigars). We also saw some sea kayaks on the beach.

Restrooms and changing facilities are available. They were very clean (always important when you bring the kids)

So if you want to see what paradise truly feels like, book an excursion to Passion Island.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Belize - ATV Jungle Adventure - Adults and Kids (ages 12 and up)


Reserved online through

Length of tour - One hour bus ride each way. One hour on the ATV's. Plan to be gone from the port for approx 4-5 hours.

For $55 per person, (cash/tip extra), we rode in an air conditioned bus from the port at Belize City to the jungle trails.

We arrived at their "hut". We were advised to wear old clothes because we WOULD get muddy. They sold t-shirts for $10 each if anyone wanted to cover up their clothes. They also gave us plastic bags to tie over our shoes.

The guides took our cameras and went ahead on each trail to video and to take still pictures of every leg of the trail. NO EXTRA CHARGE. By the time I left, I had a video of our experience on my own camera. And I had pictures, including Before/After mud shots.

This was the MOST fun we had ever had on an excusion. They also run Cave Tubing trips. But recently started to do the ATV jungle tours. The age minimum is 12 to drive your own ATV. If you don't know how to drive one or you are unsure about your own skills, the guides will drive for you. One person in our group elected to do that.

The ride was 5 miles through the Belize rain forest and it lasted one hour on the ATVs.

They sold soda for $1/bottle and Belize Beer for $3. They also had Tamales for $2, ice cream, doritos and cheetos.

There was SOOOO MUCH MUD! We started off clean and ended up VERY MUDDY - but smiling from ear to ear. I would do this tour again in a heartbeat. If I go back when it's warmer, I want to try the cave tubing excursion that they have. The minimum age for their cave tubing is 5 years old.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida - Pre Cruise

Just back from a 6 day cruise onboard Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas. We flew into FLL airport. Took a shuttle from the airport (there is a rental car center on site) to Enterprise. Got a Jeep Compass ($62.50 total). And drove to our hotel which was 15 minutes away...

Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, Hollywood Florida

We arrive at 10:30am. The hotel is gorgeous. I was using Starwood points so I figured the room would be small....facing the parking balcony. I get to the desk and the clerk says "How many beds do you need? We are going to upgrade you to a Oceanfront CORNER WRAP AROUND BALCONY SUITE" {I think my heart stopped for a second}

She hands me the keys to our 28th floor suite which was HUGE. The glass walls slid open onto the balcony. The room was immaculate. The property was kid paradise with pools everywhere, an ice cream social at 2pm and a wonderful gentleman by the name of Santiago in the lobby that handed the kids hershey kisses everytime they walked past him. He also told the kids to wait while he went and grabbed them "a surprise". He came back with Westin Kid backpacks with a Westin hat, stickers and map.

The hotel does have $17 parking (and valet parking). So the parking is not free. It does not have a shuttle to the port...which was the reason we rented the car. No free breakfast in the morning. There is a trolly out front and for $1 per person you can tour Fort Lauderdale with hop on/hop off options all over the city. It leaves every 30 minutes. We took the trolly to the boardwalk and ate there.

If you want a cheap hotel with a free shuttle and breakfast, do not stay here. If you want a high end experience, superior service and a true luxury resort...then start your cruise off at the Westin Diplomat.

The pictures from the Westin Diplomat, Hollywood Florida....

If you have any specific questions....feel free to ask.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Royal Caribbean teams up with Huggies

Here is the latest news from Royal Caribbean for those who travel with infant/toddlers, ages 6 - 36 months....

Babies on the Go Program
Now you can leave your diaper bag at home when you come onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. We’ve partnered with Huggies® to bring you Babies on the Go, our new program that lets you pre-order diapers, wipes and cream. These baby essentials will be delivered to your stateroom upon your arrival, so you can pack lighter for your trip. Available to order online in March 2009 through Royal Caribbean’s Gifts & Gear page at

Fisher-Price Toy Lending Program
Draw from an onboard treasure chest of Fisher-Price toys during your stay with us. Our Fisher-Price Toy Lending Program consists of a collection of developmental toys, specifically created for infants and toddlers ages 6-36 months. Borrow and exchange toys for a new activity every day, and help your little one’s growing mind learn through play.

Stroller Mates
Workout Stay on track by continuing your morning exercise regimen—even while you’re out at sea. With our Stroller Mates Workout, you and your baby can enjoy a morning session on the jogging track, dedicated to guests with infants in strollers.