Mexico Adventure- Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

Caribbean, love, mexico, Travel

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For our honeymoon in December we selected something a little different from the norm. We decided to ditch the high-end resort and head to something that felt more authentic to the country we were visiting. This meant that we wanted somewhere that offered plenty of activities, but also an embracing quality of celebrating the regional offerings in a caring and thoughtful way.

We selected Sandos Caracol Eco Resort for these reasons. The resort, as the name indicates, is an Eco resort, meaning it has made a consorted effort to reduce its waste and impact on the environment without sacrificing the resort. Sandos Caracol is a fantastic example of what I hope to see in resorts in the coming years. Over water bottles they have replaced everything with massive jugs of water. Over straws they just serve everything in cups. Over just trash, they offer recycling everywhere in the resort. For food, everything but a few options was served on reusable plates and with reusable cutlery. The resort has instead of ripping out the natural mangrove and water ways, it has built up to work with the jungle.

In addition to respecting the natural environment, which it teaming with birds, coati, monkeys, lizards, and sterilized feral cats; the resort offers a glimpse into the life and times of those that lived in the region before colonialism. They do this in multiple ways, including the Dance performances held several times a week. Sandos Caracol has sprinkled elements of indigenous culture throughout with statues, placards explaining beliefs and rituals, morning rituals celebrating different elements, and by building in a way that respects the features of the area. For instance, the resort has its own cenote in the center of the resort, in which visitors can snorkel and enjoy, but also be reminded of how these almost majestic fresh water features really sustained the Maya for centuries. These same systems provide most of the drinking water to these communities even today! All of this combines into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for visitors to the resort. You would literally never have to leave the resort if you didn’t want to. As an all-inclusive all the food and alcohol is included so there is no need to worry about the basics. Rooms are comfortable and welcoming. Restaurants and rooms are air conditioned. The resort is so shaded with natural trees and vegetation that nowhere gets super hot or uncomfortable. Then the beach has plenty of trees and shaded areas to keep pasty me happy. We upgraded our stay to an adults only area. This gave us beach cabanas, a private clubhouse with snacks and a bar, and a more calm part of the beach. It also meant our room was in a more secluded area of the resort, an area that we could listen to animals, and truly just enjoy our time in peace and some seclusion.

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Added bonuses to the resort:

  • It’s wonderfully walkable, meaning you get some exercise to burn off the alcohol.

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  • It’s only a maximum of about 10 minutes to the beach from any place in the resort.

 

 

  • You can snorkel in fresh or salt water.

 

 

  • They have their own resort dogs, Mexican hairless dogs, that were revered and loved by the Maya. They’re very friendly and cute!

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  • There is plenty of outdoor and romantic dining, creating a truly memorable experience.

 

 

 

    • They have a ceremonial area that’s hidden in the resort, one for sweat lodge experiences, and another for outdoor celebrations. Both are fascinating.

 

  • Everyone that works at the resort is warm, welcoming, and a delight to speak with. Take a few minutes to get to know some of their story, where they are from, and why they work at the resort.

 

 

  • Beyond traditional performances, they had more modern events such as a Michael Jackson night, superheroes night, and other events.

 

 

 

 

  • After their nightly shows, the resort does karaoke events, brings in local bands, or simply offers an enjoyable vibe throughout.
  • They have their own small water park, that is kid friendly, and then full of slides for the older kids….ahem…adults.
  • The beach, while a little rocky, is also full of wildlife such as tropical fish.
  • They have an odd assortment of rescue animals that hang out at the resort in friendly digs. This includes parrots, chickens, donkeys, pigs, rabbits, and probably some other friends I am forgetting.

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Mexico Adventures – Mayan Dance

Caribbean, mexico, musings, Travel

Welcome to my newest series of blogs on my travels in Mexico. I hope to expand on my stories soon, but for now we will focus on the Yucatan and Cozumel.

My husband and I had a fantastic time on our honeymoon, and we selected a fantastic blend of local culture, beach, and romance. Our selection was the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort just north of Playa Del Carmen, which turned out to be an ideal blend for our two travel styles.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the resort was the attempt to respect and nurture the local indigenous culture. The area that is home to the resort was once sacred to the Maya due to its location in a mangrove forest. Well, or so the resort legends tell. Regardless, the resort has features throughout that celebrate Maya culture, art, ceremonies, and animals.

One aspect I appreciated the most were the series of dance performances that they held throughout the week. I enjoyed not only the story aspect that celebrated the Maya, but also the insane talent that the performer had through dance, music, and presence. It was a real treat, that left the audience mesmerized at the skill and beauty.

Here is a short video on just how phenomenal the performances were.

Happy Travels!

Read more on Mexico: Chichen Itza, Seven Wonders of the WorldHoneymoon Planning for Opposites,

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Packing for the Unpredictable

Caribbean, Cruising, Florida, Ireland, italy, mexico, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, wyoming

Colorado winters overlap with spring in an unusual way. This week has gone from 70° to 25° and everywhere in between. Today it is snowing. It’s April 6, 2018 and it’s snowing.

I try to not get discouraged on these wintery days, after all we need the moisture and the snow has a charm to it. Yet, I do wish it was rain instead of the ice and freezing cold. It also reminds me of the importance of clothing with unpredictable weather patterns. While I have lived my whole life in the Colorado and I am fully aware of wacky weather, I have also been the victim of my own poor planning.  Therefore, it’s imperative that one puts together smart outfits for the unpredictable.

Here are the things I never leave home without:

  • Long pants or jeans
    • You never know when the weather will get cold, especially in the evening, even in tropical areas. Also, if you plan on any outdoor sports of hiking, long pants help with mud, cuts, and other facts of the journey.
  • Hoodie/Sweater
    • Every trip I have taken, whether a warm or cold climate, my hoodie comes in handy. I may not use it everyday, but when airport air-conditioning is too high, or a cold snap hits in Mexico, I am so thankful that I have it.
  • Sandals
    • Depending on how you travel, I have found sandals are a must have. For instance, going through airport security is easier when shoes slip on and off. If I want an impromptu visit to a swimming pool, I’m covered. Finally, if you are hosteling or staying at a number of places with a shared bathroom, sandals make trips down the hall much easier. My personal favorites are Birkenstocks or Chaco’s
  • A nice outfit
    • maybe someone will ask you on a date, or to a club. Or maybe you will want to dine at a fine restaurant. Research what seems appropriate for where you may go, and pack for it. I strongly believe it’s hard to be over dressed (okay maybe a ball gown is too much) so bring something pretty, easy to keep clean/wrinkle free, and a good pair of dress shoes.
  • Boots/Water Resistant Shoes
    • Rain, mud, and floods happen. Maybe I have bad luck, but I have always have had a need for something water resistant on my feet. Make sure you research what you may need, because warm monsoons in India are going to be far different from Spring showers in London.
  • Umbrella
    • I have lost, broken, and bought endless numbers of umbrellas. My biggest issue was not buying a high quality umbrella to deal with the torrential downpours that sometimes hit Scotland in January. My advice is that you should buy the best umbrella you can find and treasure it. Also, sometimes it’s better to just get wet than fight with gale-force winds.
  • Jogging pants, not pajama pants
    • If you don’t plan to do a normal workout routine, then I suggest you bring some warm and comfy jogging pants. These make life more comfortable, and are warmer when evenings get cold. While pajama pants are nice, jogging pants create much needed warmth, especially in winter and spring. Same goes for them as the hoodie, sometimes air conditioning and cold snaps freeze one out. Extra plush makes the day better.
  • Leggings
    • This rule is maybe not for men, or maybe, you do you. Leggings are my go to for flights, and extra layers in the cold. On flights they are more comfortable if you swell like I do with flights. Leggings are also great backups if your other pants are dirty, and they are usually easier to clean in a sink than a pair of jeans.
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
    • It sounds silly, but seriously invest in a shopping bag that is easy to fold up and stuff in a pocket or purse. This is a major convenience as more and more countries have moved from giving out plastic or disposable bags. So having a bag for shopping, or even just to lug around laundry, water bottles, snacks etc. is worth it.
  • Backpack or larger purse
    • Now don’t bring a small suitcase, but a day bag or day pack is what is needed for the day to day travels around the city or town. This can hold your water bottle, sun screen, camera, phone, snack, money and other necessities. Ladies, make sure you get a bag with an over shoulder strap. Backpack lovers, maybe carry it in front in busy areas.

What do you not leave home without?

Happy Travels!

unpreditable

Travel Planning Toolkit

Caribbean, colorado, Cruising, documentary, Travel

We live in an amazing age of information and technology. Meaning we also have invaluable resources to use to make or lives easier. The trick is knowing where to turn to create the best plans.

Ten years ago I started planning and saving for my first international adventure. Still in high school and rather ignorant on what was online, I turned to the age old classic. Something that centuries of explorers have used.

Books

Good, old-fashioned books…because they work, and people work to make them accurate. And mostly (MOSTLY) they are more accurate than false.

So I gathered some books from the library. Then I began narrowing down what I wanted. I got maps and looked up stuff. Paper maps. Then I would consult Google maps to see what could be found. Google maps was a little vague at the time for places outside of the USA, but it served a purpose.

I would organize my routes and activities with notes and colored sticky notes. I didn’t even do things this thorough in school. But for travel- everything was organized.

I still do this for places that are unfamiliar and not as well covered online, such as India and China (more rural areas over big cities). However, we now have much more at our fingertips, including the phone I am writing this on.

Here are my go to places for the best information and the best way to plan an adventure.

  • Rome2Rio
    • Plan your routing via plane, train, automobile…ferry, donkey….. okay you get the idea
  • Google Maps
    • learn areas, proximity, features and more. As it is always updating, there is always something else to discover
  • Lonely Planet
    • possibly the best online tool for getting started, explore little details as you flesh out ideas, then pick up a book to get the full story
  • Trip Advisor
    • read reviews, get pictures, and learn about hidden gems. While it’s user generated, that doesn’t mean it lacks insight
  • Booking.com
    • Narrow down hotel options in areas, find hidden gems, and get great deals!

 

Happy Travels!toolkit.jpg

Spring Break—Better!

Caribbean, Florida, mexico, musings, Travel

I used to dream of taking Spring Break to some wild party in Florida or the Caribbean, with muscular college boys and an age 18 drinking age. Then I went to said parties in college and I realized, this is not fun.

It’s not fun because it’s a constant drink-vomit-drink-make bad choices- drink…..you get my point.

While MTV glorified the Spring Break in the 90s and early 2000s while I I grew up. I began realizing that it was all for TV, and had nothing to do with the real drama or problems that arise out of a bunch of horny, wild teens and 20-somethings believing they have no repercussions.

Anyway, as an adult, a full 27 years into my life (at least I play an adult most days), I have realized that if you have the chance to Spring Break there are a few choices that should be made to make it better.

By all means, go off to Miami and get crazy, but make sure you tell you mom you love her, and that you buy a giant box of condoms and a case of bottled water. Just be safe dear friends and children.

OR stay around and enjoy the college traffic dwindling in your town, and take local hikes with no people. OR head to a small local town and get to know new people, I can share a few in Colorado and Wyoming if you would like. OR read some books you have been intending to, while drinking at a new coffee place each day. If you are young and needing a break, take a break for something that brings you real joy, not for something that others tell you to.

 

No fun in this mess.

I think that our culture informs us at a young age that a “party” or “wild night” is the begin all end all for fun as an older teen or 20-something, but the truth is that most parties suck. Most parties end in tears, if we’re being honest, there is a point where your friend is puking in a toilet for the 10th time in a week, and you are the only one sober enough to make good decisions that you realize that there is no “fun” in this mess.

Therefore, as mentioned above, bring yourself bliss and happiness and forget what MTV had to say about it. Bliss and happiness can mean eating at your favorite brunch place, or visiting your grandma. Maybe it’s an alternative spring break where you clean someone’s house or simply visit a retirement community with a basket of kittens. (The last one sounds like my virtual heaven)

Just get out there and be good to you, find what move you, don’t make your liver cry, make good choices. Be loving in your actions.

Happy Travels!

Chichen Itza

Caribbean, History, mexico, Travel
 If you read my last post you know that I went to Chichen Itza recently, as a part of my journey through the Seven Wonders of the World. I am sitting at 2 out of seven and feeling pretty good about getting tot he other five eventually.

However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.

I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.

 

This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.

If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.

We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.

One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.

At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.

As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.

All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and  backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)

From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.

In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.

Maybe you remember it from this movie:

Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.

Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.

In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.

We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.

While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.

Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!

What I’ve Learned From Travelling….

Caribbean, Cruising, History, musings, Photography, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

…to be a better traveler.

A friend posted on Facebook just now…which inspired this post, that she, after travelling part of Europe HATED her massive luggage that she took and never wants to travel with it again. To which I reply….well duh!

However, 6 years ago I learned this lesson myself, and have learned it many times since. Travel with less= enjoying more. TRUTH.

I found on my first trip to Europe, 6 YEARS AGO that taking extra crap was a waste of my time and money (you know you have to pay more for heavy bags on planes). I stupidly took books to read (which I never had time to), I took travel guides (now I rip them apart or use my phone) and I took a massive book to put ticket stubs and other crap in (this was EXTRA DUMB) this book weighed about 5lbs and now 6 years past most the ticket stubs have fallen apart or the thermal paper has erased itself….so that was also a waste of time. Anyway my first trip also meant that I bought a shit-ton of books at different places I went, which was well-meaning, but it also meant that I had a hell of a lot of extra weight that I had to ship home or pull all over Europe.

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Oh to be 19, young and stupid…

Since then two more trips to Europe have taught me a lot, and mostly by mistakes.

First of all: DO NOT plan on mailing anything home unless you have like $300 extra to spend because international mailing rates have gone up, up, up. That goes for U.S. or Europe and let’s just say you can throw away a lot of money on knick-knacks and then to send them home, and the reality is YOU ARE BUYING CRAP so STOP!!!!!!!! This also goes back to a philosophy of DO NOT buy people souvenirs unless they are SMALL and light weight and squishable.

Second: Invest in good luggage. Luggage that is lightweight, can take some knocks, can stretch and that maybe has a warranty. My first suitcase barely functions (I keep souvenirs in it) and it started to fall apart halfway through a 2.5 month trip. ALSO- buy one with WHEELS and four wheels that are fully rotating. Even if you don’t do much walking with your luggage, the few hours at the airport make it worthwhile. If you are backpacking, then different rules apply.

Third: Plan for the length you will be gone. For 1 week-3 weeks, take a carry-on or medium suitcase, and plan to do laundry, and pack extra undies. For 1 month+ you’re allowed a larger bag, however if you are traveling a lot (in the moving place to place sense) keep in mind that a backpack may make trains and hostels a lot easier. For longer trips I take a larger bag and only pack it half-full, then there is room for gifts/souvenirs/supplies that I may need. For instance, the Hostel I was at last year in Edinburgh left me FREEZING every night, so I bought a wool blanket that not only helped with the cold, but now I use daily as a throw. Having extra space meant I could bring it home.

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All you need for a month, minus the kitty.

Fourth: Listen to friends/family that have traveled a lot and don’t be too proud to look stuff up. If I had listened to more Samantha Brown and less grandparents/dad’s friends I would have taken WAY less on my first trip and had a better time.

Fifth: Take a big enough bag. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but when I went to Italy for my study abroad and lived in Florence 5 weeks, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Such as clothing….because fashion and street markets….. So taking the train to meet some friends to get to Germany was a nightmare. It was stuffed train+ suitcase+ two bags I bought + other random crap….It was bad, and embarrassing and HEAVY. Lesson learned.

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From Paris with Love….

Sixth: Use tech to your advantage. BUY A SMARTPHONE already! Seriously, on my last trip that is all I took was my iphone, leaving back my DSLR and computer. Why? Well usually I LOVE taking lots of photos but for only a week of running around and some extra time with family, my IPhone 6S was PLENTY to take fun photos, stay in touch and pull up maps/directions. Also, buy a GOOD smartphone, and make sure you have international coverage where you go. T-Mobile offers FREE texting and slow data overseas and is about $0.20/min to call. Which is pretty good! If you are going somewhere a long time and think you want to call a lot (I use SKYPE btw) then think about getting an unlocked phone and buying sim cards abroad that you can “top-up” or buy a month-to-month plan. It really helps and in this day a phone can be a lifesaver if you get lost or can’t find a taxi at 3am. Even if you take a DSLR in addition, having the cellphone can lighten your load by leaving the computer at home, and carrying important information (scans of passport etc.) Along with access to people back home. Anyway, just join the 21st century and be savvy. Compared to traveling 6 and even 3 years ago, having a SMARTPHONE make a HUGE difference and is worth the time/headache it saves.

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Seventh: Buy disposable entertainment. MEANING: download audio books/digital books (utilize the library), books you can leave at a hostel, movies that are digital, music that is digital etc. This keeps things lightweight and also if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have to feel guilty about lugging around the weight.

Eight: Pack minimal clothes and buy new things. I try to leave some room in my budget and suitcase to buy some clothes. This is my “backup” for not only weather conditions and “unknowns” on what might be fashionable or more comfortable for the travel conditions. This acts as an awesome souvenir and a great amount of fun.

Happy Travels!

~Rebecca

To Hell and Back

Caribbean, Cruising, Travel

In Grand Cayman there is this cool little spot in the middle of the main island called Hell.

Hell is a funky bunch of rock formations that are limestone which have been worn down into their funky shapes through biological erosion. Algae is one of the main culprits and its acidity have worn into these crazy spires and formations that look…well if there is a Hell, what it must look like. Read more on the geology here.

If you are mostly interested in something different to see, most tours stop here on the way to or from other locations. And it makes for some cool photo opportunities and a look at some of the unique geology that makes up the Caribbean islands.

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The final tip, and the only time I’ll tell you to bring your passport out of a safe or safe place, is to bring it to Hell and have it stamped at the little shop! Then you have the proof of having been to Hell and back!

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Coolest Thing I Did last year

Caribbean, Cruising, Travel

Okay, actually I did a lot of really great stuff last year! REALLY cool stuff. But one of them, that is by far one of the most unique experiences I have ever had is going to a Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman while Ryan and I were on our cruise! For about $60 each we got an AMAZING adventure!

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The Grand Cayman Turtle Farm was established in 1968 as a way to not only help restore the depleted turtle population of Grand Cayman, which had been run down in the early 1800s but also provide educational resources for those already in Grand Cayman and those that visit the island.

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Look at those babies! (I was warned not to sneak any home)

They also use some of the turtles for meat, which is the national dish of Grand Cayman. Ryan and I did not eat any turtles in the making of this vacation. Learn more here.

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Ryan got into it too!

The great part, and the reason we signed up for the tour was that it provided a unique experience of getting to see baby turtles and also getting into tanks to swim with them and hold them. SCORE for this animal lover! Beyond that I found out they release 1/3 of the turtles born back into the wild, which means that my money for that tour was going to helping the fragile sea ecosystem. It was a win-win for me, and Ryan was excited to do something with water.

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However, what really blew us away was that not only did the venue have thousands of turtles of all ages, sizes and backgrounds, they also provided really nice breeding environment and plenty of well-educated and animal loving people to make the project work! Not only that but they had a lot of other wildlife experiences. They had a massive tank with shark and barracuda in them, which Ryan loved. Then they had a saltwater swimming area where you could actually swim with turtles!

AND I would have been in there for the whole time if my bikini top had not given up and broke BEFORE the tour even began….luckily I was wearing a t-shirt. I did not have anything for backup and we were too far from the boat to go back…

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Beyond the water adventures they had a beautiful large aviary with a bunch of local birds that were quite a delight to see and experience! And to finish the adventure they had a nursery full of 2-day-old baby turtles! *squee*

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Finally, Ryan finished our time by taking a trip down their water slide at their fresh water pool and then we were on our way to hell….

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They had wild Iguanas everywhere! They were sooo cool!

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Cruising- Luxury, without breaking the bank

Caribbean, Cruising, Travel

I just got back from a cruise to the Western Caribbean. And though, for my boyfriend and I it was a pricey and luxurious break from our lives, we did a lot but didn’t spend too much.

CRUISE (Food, room and on-ship FREE activities)= $1600

Excursions (1 in Cozumel, 1 in Grand Cayman) =$250

On board expenses (Massage, gratuities(have to be paid), 1 all-inclusive drink package, Makeup/massage oil)= $850

Flights= $300 (roughly)

Hotel= $0 (we stayed with my sister’s in Orlando and they drove us to the airport)

Shopping on the islands= $120

TOTAL= $3120 for two people and 9 days of fun, or $1560 a person or $173.34 per person per day

Now you may look at that and freak. Which for us, this is a lot of money, but we did extra luxury things that we don’t usually do and it was in fact worth it! Because both of us were able to refresh our batteries after what has been, at times, a hard year due to the loss of my grandma, and working hard.

Anyway, here are ways that we saved money, even though we did a ton!

  1. Book a deal. Wait for cruise prices to go down so they can fill rooms, we booked about 8 months ahead giving us $175 on board credit that paid for my spa treatments and 1 day of tips per person. We used priceline and I just got an offer that we can book any cruise in the future with no money down for already booking with them. Also, with Royal Caribbean if you have sailed once and you go again you get Gold Status that with enough times turns to silver and diamond.cruiseShip
  2. Buy the package. If you will drink more than 3 drinks (alcoholic) a day, then get the drink package. I don’t drink much, get me one and I’m happy. Yet my boyfriend enjoys drinking when he can, and when you don’t have to drive, get out of bed at 4am (his usual time). Meaning the package was worth the money for him to have margaritas, beer, wine and the like for $55/day. He then tipped on top of that a dollar or two a drink.
  3. Bring the necessities. Bring all you need from home, such as deodorant, ibuprofen, nail clippers etc. Because the mark up on these goods on the ship is INSANE! We made the mistake of forgetting a few things and paid a lot for basics. It won’t probably break the bank, but you will cringe at $12 for 24 Advil.
  4. Eat the food (don’t pay extra). The awesome part about Royal Caribbean is that all of their food is great! You have options too. Traditional sit-down 3-course meals (more if you want it), buffets, and snacks are all over the place. You can even get room service for no extra charge most hours of the day, including breakfast in bed. Yet if you want something different there are other restaurant and drink options such as Starbucks, Italian, Mexican and a fine Steakhouse. Also: for allergy sufferers they will make every effort to make sure your vacation is AMAZING, I even got a private tour of the kitchen! lobsterTail
  5. Barter. When shopping in many parts of the world it is common to barter on goods. Meaning they say a price, you make a counter offer, they say another price and you try to agree. Know it is okay to walk away if it is more than you want to spend. Also, take note of places that have prices on tags on items usually are set on that price. However, there is no harm in asking. DO NOT pay the full price they first give you, because you will get ripped off. OR pay that price, but you better get some extra goodies.
  6. Don’t get taken. Jamaica was the only place we REALLY experienced this. Where a local attached himself to us and “showed us around” and then demanded $20/30 dollars from us while he showed us where his friend’s sold stuff and talked us into buying things. I usually can walk by and say no, but my boyfriend didn’t feel right ignoring them. So DALTA took us around town. As a better tip, stay in the “designated shopping” in Falmouth, Jamaica just to avoid unwanted problems.
  7. Take the freebies! One cool aspects of Caribbean cruises is that a lot of people sail in order to go shopping for luxury items like jewelry and watches. Which, if you want a nice price for a good piece, you should go for it. Yet the other little perk is that you can get some free items from different stores just for coming by with a flyer. We took advantage of a charm bracelet from Diamonds International for my boyfriend’s daughter, which included free charms from different ports and from the cruise ship. It made for a fun souvenir that an 8-year-old will LOVE and if she breaks, loses, or dislikes it we are not out anything. Also, other jewelry shops, like EFFY will give away free gemstone pendants etc. So keep an eye out for flyers, coupons and if your cruise offers a “shopping expert” to get more information from.charmBracelet
  8. Go back to the ship. For lunch and other needs, if you aren’t too far away or if you aren’t on an excursion, then head back to the ship for food in between. It’s usually no problem and often you’ll be done with shopping and exploring.
  9. Pack lunch. Depending on the port it’s pretty easy to bring a few things with you such as bananas, nuts etc. Granola bars are a good idea as well. This way you spend less time worrying about food and if you have allergies like me, this is even less to worry about.

Happy Travels!

~Rebecca Lee Robinson