I often say that traveling creates memories and makes you a storyteller and whole heartily believe it. Lets be honest, do you want to tell the story about you cave tubing in Belize or what Karen did at the office. Answer, no one cares what Karen did.
In my post today, I talk about my Top 5 experiences in my travels.
Over a decade ago, I sailed on Holland American in Alaska. It was a 7 Night Southbound itinerary from Seward Alaska to Vancouver BC with stops in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and cruising Glacier Bay.
I was on the cruise with my father and sister and while in Ketchican, they decided to do an excursion I was not interested in. Cannot remember what it was. I chose to do an excursion taking me on a paddle across a lake in the middle of the rain forest. Now, this sounded pretty cool and it was but I was hesitant before I went. See, Ketchican is in the Tongass Rainforest and there it rains 300 days out of the year. Well, that day was one of them. I considered cancelling but I am glad I didn't.
We took a bus to the lake and there we were given rain gear and its a good thing, it was pooring. Appearently it had been raining for several days because one of the docks was under water. We boarded, if you could say that, a 10 person canoe with a guide. Each person had a paddle and we started off across the lake in the rain and hearing some history about the area and information about the rain forest.
When we arrived to the other side, we had a snack and took a brief hike along a trail. Fortunatly we did get short break from the rain but it started as we headed back.
When we got back to the bus, I learned one of my first travel tips. Have an extra pair of shoes and socks when doing any kind of excursion that includes water. I rode back on the bus and walked back to the ship barefoot. And yes, my first stop after the cabin was the hot tub.
Now you might say, it rained, why was that fun. It was the purity of it all and the beauty of the rain forest. Yes, it would have been great if the sun was out and it was warm but I had a great time paddling a war canoe across the lake.
Last Summer I sailed on the Carnival Liberty with my Nephew who had never been on a cruise before. One of the things I had never done was the behind the scenes tour which Carnival calls the Behind The Fun Tour. These are usually not available to book ahead of time so you have to book it once you are on board. So when we got on board, we went right to the shore excursion desk and booked it.
We met in the library with about 15 other people and a tour guide. A couple things to note about these type tours, wear closed toed shoes and no cameras.
The tour took us throughout the ship, mostly in areas where only crew are allowed. The tour took us to the laundry room where they have the coolest machine that drys and folds the sheets. Love to have that my house. We also saw the engine control room where we learned about some of the systems on board and the crew training area.
For me though the highlight was the bridge and meeting the captain. We spent about 20 minutes up in the bridge where we could look at some of the instruments and ask questions. Of course, it was limited on where we could go but what an amazing view. Can't wait to do a tour on a different ship.
For more info, check out the full blog post I wrote about the tour.
One of my favorite sounds especially why on vacation is the steel plan. And yes, I learned that its a pan not a drum and will explain more later. While on the Regal Princess last year, they offered a class on the steel pan taught by a gentleman by the name of Trevor Cole. Trevor would often play in the wheelhouse bar and sometimes in the atrium.
The class was held in the Symphony Dining Room which was an odd place but it worked. We just had to wait for the end of a crew meeting. They handed each person a steel pan with letters and indentions on them along with the sticks.
By tapping the letters in a certain order and with some nuances to those taps, we learned the first line to One Love from Bob Marley. "One Love, one life, lets get together and feel alright". The lesson was only 45 minutes so mastering it was not going to happen, at least for me but it was fun.
Last April I sailed a 6 Night Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Vista and one of the stops was new to me, Ocho Rios Jamaica. Jamaica has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean but its also covered in mountains and green foliage.
I decided to step out of the box a little and do a tubing trip down the White River.
It started with a white knuckle ride up a mountain over some really thin switchbacks. The bus arrived at a staging area where we were fitted with helmets and life jackets and given the opportunity to order some jerk chicken. See this was the ending area so we could pick up our chicken after the float.
They took us down to the drop in point, picked up our tubes and pushed off. The water meet the 3 Cs, clear, cool and clean so I was excited from the start. We floated down a pretty shallow river with guides close by making sure no one got stuck on the bank because the river did move pretty quick.
We did encounter a couple shoots of rapids which were minor but still fun. I did have one incident where I was unable to avoid a tree across the river and had to limbo under pretty far. Thought I was a dead man.
The river was lined with trees and bamboo hanging over. The trees provided a lot of shade, but still got burned which made an interesting tan line where I wore my life vest. And by the way, you won't get thirsty because there was a guy half way down the river selling Red Stripes. You just paid for them when you got back to the staging area.
After a break with a couple beers and a snack, we headed back to the ship on some of those same switchbacks.
The tour company for this was Chukka Tours and I would highly recommend them for your next adventure in Jamaica.
Sting Ray City is number one because I never though I would do anything like this and so happy I did. In 2017, I sailed on the Carnival Glory for a 7 Night Western Caribbean cruise that included Grand Cayman. Now I had been to Grand Cayman before but had only shopped and hung out on Seven Mile Beach.
Sting Ray city is located off the west coast of Grand Cayman north of the cruise port. Its a sand bar where fisherman used to clean their fish which attracted the stingrays. Now, they associate the boat motors with food so they come around when to tours show up.
It was a short bus ride over to the port and then about a 30 minute boat ride out to the sandbar. I brought my own mask and snorkel but they will provide them if you want. Prior to getting in the water, they told us a little about stingrays and of course the rules about not grabbing the rays and to shuffle your feet.
Once in the water, its controlled chaos. There were dozens of rays swimming everywhere around your feet and bumping into you. Sounds like it would be scary but it was so cool. You could feed the rays with squid and they also would hold them so you could take pictures. Of course, they would sell you the pictures but if I remember right, the prices were not bad.
The boat ride back was nice with some rum punch to enjoy. The next time you visit Grand Cayman whether on a cruise or flying in, be sure to check out Stingray City.
I have a passion for travel and believe travel is about experiences. Experiences create memories and are the stories we tell to friends and family - even with a little fudging on the facts.