Caribbean cruising, 7 days and 6 amazing islands

As I have said before, cruising in my opinion is one of the best ways to travel. Waking up somewhere new each morning is so exciting and knowing that I don’t have to lug my suitcase around is even better. Booking a cruise allows you to maximize your time on vacation and avoid all the stressful aspects of traveling. As a bonus cursing just so happens to be one of the best ways to see the Caribbean. 

Birds eye view

Birds eye view

In terms of cruise lines, you are spoiled for choice in the Caribbean, all major cruise lines offer different itinerary’s and durations, meaning you have lots to choose from which can be slightly overwhelming. I chose to cruise with Carnival for two reasons, firstly it was the most cost effective and secondly they had a great itinerary with only 1 day at sea. Now I must preface this with while it is a cheaper cruise line you certainly get what you pay for, if I had my choice I would have booked with Royal Caribbean but they are usually double or triple the price. That being said I really enjoyed the cruise here are some of the highlights.   


Day 1: Puerto Rico

The cruise starts and finishes in Puerto Rico and I would highly recommend spending some time here. There are lots of great things to see on the island including the old town, window cave, snorkeling, and the only Rain Forest in the National Parks System. 

Feeding the Pigeons in Puerto Rico

Feeding the Pigeons in Puerto Rico

Exploring the streets of Puerto Rico

Exploring the streets of Puerto Rico

Snorkeling Tour, sadly the reef has been destroyed so the only other option is to drink rum and float around

Snorkeling Tour, sadly the reef has been destroyed so the only other option is to drink rum and float around

The Window Cave - A must see in Puerto Rico $20 entrance fee

The Window Cave - A must see in Puerto Rico $20 entrance fee

The only Rain Forest in the National Park System

The only Rain Forest in the National Park System

Discovering the streets and colors of Puerto Rico

Discovering the streets and colors of Puerto Rico

 I just love the Old Town

 I just love the Old Town

Having a squawking good time 

Having a squawking good time 

Day 2: St. Thomas

The first island you will dock at is St. Thomas one of my favorite islands of the trip. If you are into snorkeling I would highly recommend booking a private tour through That VI Guy (https://www.facebook.com/thatviguide/) the tours are very reasonably priced and it will enable you to see things you won’t if you go snorkeling by yourself. Will was very knowledgeable and even managed to get my friend, who was scared of snorkeling, in the water and loving it.  

Snorkeling with my favorites 

Snorkeling with my favorites 

Sea Turtle - St. Thomas

Sea Turtle - St. Thomas

Day 3: Sailing Day (Day at Sea)

Today is the only day at sea, so sit back relax by the pool and soak in that Caribbean sun!

What a view!

What a view!

Do not disturb... 

Do not disturb... 

Day 4: Barbados

The next island you will dock in is Barbados, out of all the islands I visited this was by far the least impressive. I didn’t really like the look of any of the on board excursions so I rented a car on the island which was very easy and cheap to do and took myself on a tour. Be prepared for some crazy driving but I would recommend visiting the Animal Flower Cave, and one of the beaches of course. 

Animal Flower Cave

Animal Flower Cave

I think I found a tropical paradise

I think I found a tropical paradise

Views are always better when shared

Views are always better when shared

I think I made a new friend for life. This guy came straight over for some cuddles

I think I made a new friend for life. This guy came straight over for some cuddles

I need vitamin sea

I need vitamin sea

Day 5: St. Lucia 

I have to say St. Lucia was by far my favorite island, I would love to spend a week here hiking and enjoying the island. As I was short on time I booked a tour through Joy's Adventure Excursion and Coastal Cruises, which takes you on a boat ride around the island, to the mud pits, and finally to the beach to snorkel. The tour was ok, but if I was to do it again I would of just rented a car and explored the island myself. 

The water is so clear here

The water is so clear here

St Lucia snorkeling

St Lucia snorkeling

Day 6: St. Kitts   

By day 6 I was in desperate need of a relaxing beach day and St. Kitts is certainly the perfect island for that. When you disembark from the boat there is a number of taxi companies that will take you to and from the beach for a set rate which is very reasonable. There are so many beaches to choose from I headed to Cockleshell Bay which was really nice. You can rent sun beds and umbrellas for a very reasonable price, you will have full food and bar service so be prepared to spend the day lounging.

Catching waves on Pegasus

Catching waves on Pegasus

Day 7: St. Maarten   

The last island on the itinerary is St. Marteen also known as the airplane island. You will want to disembark as soon as the boat docks and head to Maho Beach. The best way to get to the beach is by Taxi you can even organize your return journey form the same driver so you don’t have to worry. I would highly recommend renting a sun bed and umbrella, then just sit back and wait for the planes to land. The bar has a surfboard which has all arrival details so you know when to prepare your camera and GoPro. 

Maho Beach

Maho Beach

Love watching the planes land

Love watching the planes land

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Cruising Norway with Hurtigruten

This 7 day cruise with Hurtigruten is a one of a kind experience and one not to be missed. The cruise runs year round, however I chose to do it in winter for all the great shore excursions on offer.

Hurtigruten Ship, Norway

Hurtigruten Ship, Norway

Why Hurtigruten?

Hurtigruten embarked on its first voyage in 1893 and was intended to bring regular service along the coast of Norway. The primary purpose of the ships, was to carry freight to the remote fishing villages along the coast. 120 years later, Hurtigruten still carry’s freight and now passengers. It is important to understand that Hurtigruten offers a very niesh type of experience. Unlike the larger cruise ships there is no scheduled entertainment, mostly everyone watches the constantly changing scenery from the observation decks and participates in educational activities.

Day 1: Embarkation in Bergen

The cruise begins in Bergen which is also known as “The Gateway to the Fjords of Norway” and is a well-established cruise port. The city is packed with history and tradition, it’s a big city with a quaint small town vibe. Bergen is well known for its Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf, the Fish Market, and surrounding mountains and fjords. Be sure to check out all Bergan has to offer before you board your ship. 

Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf, Bergen Norway

Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf, Bergen Norway

Day 2: Ålesund

Your first stop will be Ålesund, a beautiful town known for its Art Nouveau architecture. You will want to visit the towns Mountain and viewpoint Aksla which offers panoramic views of the archipelago, town center, and Sunnmøre Alps. To reach the view point you will need to climb 418 steps up from the town park, or take the city train up to Fjellstua.

Ålesund, Norway

Ålesund, Norway

Ålesund, Norway

Ålesund, Norway

Day 3: The Royal City of Trondheim

Trondheim was Norway’s first capital city, sites to see include:

Nidaros Domkrike

This cathedral is Scandinavia’s largest medieval building.

Trondheim Museum of Arts

This museum has Norway's third largest public art collection and consists mainly of Norwegian art from the last 150 years.

River Front

The storehouses along the river are built on wooden stilts and are a colorful contrast to the pure white snow that covers the city during winter.

The Royal City of Trondheim, Norway

The Royal City of Trondheim, Norway

The Royal City of Trondheim Sunset, Norway 

The Royal City of Trondheim Sunset, Norway 

The Royal City of Trondheim, Norway

The Royal City of Trondheim, Norway

Day 4: Arctic Circle and Lofoten Islands

On day 4 of the cruise you will cross over into the Arctic Circle, keep your eyes peeled for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)! The crossing is celebrated with an Arctic Circle baptism on the main deck by King Triton himself, the mythological Greek god of the sea. If the weather and ice conditions allow it the ship will sail into the entrance of the famous Trollfjord.

Recommended Excursion

The ship offers a Viking Feast dining experience at the Lofotr Viking Museum, which is a recreation of one of the largest Viking Buildings ever found. The original Chieftain’s house was established around 500 AD and was inhabited until around 900 AD. You will dine in the banquet hall and feast on meats, vegetables and of course Mead (honey wine). The staff will entertain you with sacrifices to the gods, praying for the return of the sun to Ragnarok. On the way back to the ship I caught my first glimpse of the Northern Lights, certainly a sight to behold. This excursion is $163 USD per person. 

Arctic Circle Baptism 

Arctic Circle Baptism 

Arctic Circle baptism, Norway

Arctic Circle baptism, Norway

Lofotr Viking Feast, Norway

Lofotr Viking Feast, Norway

Northern Lights, Norway

Northern Lights, Norway

Day 5: Tromsø, the gateway to the Arctic

The ship will first stop in Finnsnes and continue onto Tromsø which is the capital of the Arctic.

Recommended Excursion

A trip to the arctic wouldn’t be complete without a dog sledding adventure.  The ship offers an excursion that begins with a drive to Kvaløya where you will change into the appropriate clothing and footwear for the adventure. You will have time to meet the dogs and enjoy a warm drink inside a traditional Norwegian Sámi lavvo (hut) before the dogs pull you across the frozen landscape. The ride will offer wonderful views of the frozen landscape, mountains and surrounding areas. During the polar night the team will use headlamps to guide the way. I was fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights for a second time during my sled ride. The excursion is $242 USD per person. Note: the ride is quite jarring, I would not recommend it for anyone with a bad back. 

Dog Sledding Adventure, Tromsø Norway

Dog Sledding Adventure, Tromsø Norway

Warm up in the hut before and after your dog sledding adventure

Warm up in the hut before and after your dog sledding adventure

Day 6: Honningsvåg and the North Cape

One of my favorite stops on this cruise was the North Cape, the northernmost point on in Europe. This excursion will put you at 71° 10’ 21” N, only 2,000 kilometers from the Geographical North Pole. The North Cape plateau rises 307 meters almost vertically from the Arctic Ocean and offers one of a kind views. The tour includes a visit to North Cape Hall where you can view a very impressive 180 degree panoramic film about Finnmark and the North Cape. This excursion is $190 USD per person. 

The North Cape, Norway

The North Cape, Norway

North Cape Sunset, Norway

North Cape Sunset, Norway

Day 7: Kirkenes, the voyage turning

The last port of call on this journey is Kirkenes which is just 10km from the Russian border and the northern most town in Norway. Kirkenes has many fun activities to offer and is home to the Snow Hotel.

Highly Recommended: This tour is not offered by Hurtigruten but was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Arctic Adventure Resort

I spent a day with Arctic Adventure Resort and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The day started with a 3 hour Snow Mobile adventure through the backcountry towards Norways end. Mount Jarfjordfjellet offers easy terrain, and deep powder. The staff serve tea, coffee and biscuits to keep you warm.

Next up was a King Crab Safari which involved a boat and a man in a wetsuit who jumped in the freezing arctic waters to catch us some king crab to eat (it doesn’t get any fresher than that ladies and gentlemen).

Finally it was time to bath in the icy waters of the Barents Sea. Wearing a survival suit, you will be dropped off on the ice and able to lower yourself into the icy waters which have a temperature between 0 and 6 degrees Celsius year-round. You float around in a “weightless” condition enjoying the peace and tranquility of the lapping of the waves. Be careful as the current can be strong, I started drifting over to Russia but luckily I was brought back before wondering off too far!

http://www.arctic-adventure.no/

Snowmobiling, Norway

Snowmobiling, Norway

King Crab Fishing, Norway

King Crab Fishing, Norway

King Crabs fresh from the sea, Norway

King Crabs fresh from the sea, Norway

Standing on the Ice in Norway

Standing on the Ice in Norway

Floating away to Russia, Norway

Floating away to Russia, Norway

Recommended Snow Hotel

The Snow Hotel is constructed each year in the Gabba Reindeer Park and boasts Norways largest Ice Bar. Upon arrival you will be served an ice cold crowberry (a local berry) shot, locally known as “Rudolf’s Revenge” appropriately named for the location. The fun doesn’t stop there, you will be invited into the dining room where you will grill your own Reindeer sausage and feat on local fish. After dinner the staff will show you to your room and demonstrate how to get ready for bed, this involves many layers of clothing and jumping up and down in your sleeping bag to get warm. You will spend the night on a bed made out of ice, but not to worry the reindeer skins will keep you warm.

Hotel: http://www.radius-kirkenes.com/

Snow Hotel, Kirkenes Norway

Snow Hotel, Kirkenes Norway

Inside the Snow Hotel, Norway

Inside the Snow Hotel, Norway

Snow Hotel Rooms, Norway

Snow Hotel Rooms, Norway

Feeding the hungry at the Gabba Reindeer Park , Norway

Feeding the hungry at the Gabba Reindeer Park , Norway

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7 Days cruising the Hawaiian Islands with Norwegian Cruise Line

This is a 10 day cruise itinerary that will take you to 4 out of the 8 Hawaiian Islands. I really enjoyed this cruise as it provided a wonderful overview and showcased the diversity of the islands, each unique in its own way. If you’re into cruising your choice of cruise lines in Hawaii is extremely limited and by that I mean you have a choice of one, unless you want to waste multiple days at sea. I cruised on “The Pride of America” with Norwegian Cruise Line that started and ended in Honolulu. The ship is very unique and was the first U.S. flagged cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years when it debuted in 2005. It is therefore the only ship that can cruise around the Hawaiian Island without having to stop in Vancouver or Ensenada. Hence why your options are limited to one.

While I am a huge fan of Royal Caribbean (RC) I was excited to try a difference cruise line. In many ways the Norwegian ship is very similar to a typical RC ship, however there are subtle differences. On this ship I was fortunate enough to secure a balcony room for a similar cost to a window room on RC, I also decided to get the dining package which allows you to eat at all the specialty restaurants on board, well worth the extra money trust me. The main thing that really affected my opinion of the cruise was the disorganization of Shore Excursions, I had booked a total of 4, 2 of which were cancelled without warning and with no offer of a substitution. This did put a slight dampener on things, however I was in Hawaii so any sadness was quickly washed away with tropical fruity cocktails. 

Pride of America Cruise Ship

Pride of America Cruise Ship

Fun Facts about the Ship: It weighs in at a whopping 80,439 tones, it can carry 2,186 passengers and 917 crew, it is 920.3 ft in length and has a max beam of 119.8 ft.

Day 1 & 2 Honolulu, O’ahu

Even though the cruise is marketed as 9 days only 7 of those days are spent aboard The Pride of America. The other two days are spend at the Marriott Resort and Spa in Waikiki, Honolulu the cost of which is included in the price of the cruise. I really enjoyed my stay at the Marriott, the hotel is wonderful and situated in a perfect location, but let’s be honest not much time is spent in the room when the location looks like this.

View from the Balcony of the Marriott Hotel in Waikiki, O'ahu

View from the Balcony of the Marriott Hotel in Waikiki, O'ahu

If you are looking for somewhere along the beach to grab a cocktail I would highly recommend Dukes Waikiki. They have a cocktail called “Tropical Itch” which has passion fruit juice, orange, curacao, vodka and rum in it, it also comes with an actual back scratcher stuck inside the drink. The drinks are great however the food is pretty average, but if you go before sunset the view is pretty great.

Recommended: http://www.dukeswaikiki.com/

Duke's Waikiki, Honolulu O'ahu

Duke's Waikiki, Honolulu O'ahu

Fun activities I would highly recommend doing while in Honolulu include:

Sky Diving in O'ahu

If you are up for a little adventure why not jump out of a perfectly good plane? This was the second time I have been Sky Diving and I must admit my favorite. The view of the mountains and ocean are breathtaking and the rush is well worth the $169. If you are interested in sky diving I would highly recommend going with Pacific Sky Diving Honolulu, not only are the staff fun and professional but they also guarantee a 14,000 ft jump or its free, with a fantastic safety record and no fatalities it’s a clear winner.

Recommended: http://www.pacificskydivinghonolulu.com/

Shout out to Kai my jump instructor from Houston, he was awesome! 

Shout out to Kai my jump instructor from Houston, he was awesome! 

Pulling the Parachute! Can't beat that view

Pulling the Parachute! Can't beat that view

Pearl Harbor Tour

Visiting Honolulu wouldn’t be complete without a tour of Pearl Harbor where the attack by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941 was the immediate cause of the United States' entry into World War II.

I booked my tour through Robert’s Hawaii and I must admit I was not impressed. The tour is quite expensive at $88, and I am not sure what you get for that other than a bus ride to and from the location and your admittance fee. I looked into doing it myself but reviews said lines for tickets can sometimes be a 6 hour wait, however there was absolutely no line when I was there so I am not sure this is actually the case. I think my dislike of the tour was compounded by our bus driver who didn’t seem to know what he was doing and was terrible at narrating the tour. Pearl Harbor itself is very interesting you can visit the museum, the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Battleship Missouri which was my favorite part.

Fun Fact: The name Pearl Harbor is due to the large amounts of pearls that were found in the bay before it was developed. 

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu O'ahu

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu O'ahu

Pearl Harbor USS Missouri, Honolulu O'ahu

Pearl Harbor USS Missouri, Honolulu O'ahu

Big Chiefs Lu’au

While you are visiting Hawaii don’t miss out on attending a traditional lu’au. While the boat offers a variety of lu’au shore excursions nothing can compare to Big Chiefs in Honolulu. With a beautiful backdrop of Makapu’s Meadows, backed by sea cliffs and overlooking the ocean this lu’au is a one of kind experience.

The lu’au includes transportation to and from Waikiki, a three course meal (although the food is very average), 3 drinks, and lots of fun interactive activities. The show is simply spectacular and provides an overview into pacific island culture. The highlight of the night is the fire twirling by world champion knife dancer, be sure to get the expensive tickets so you can be close to the action, you won’t be disappointed.

Recommended: http://www.chiefsluau.com/

Big Chiefs Lu’au, Honolulu O'ahu

Big Chiefs Lu’au, Honolulu O'ahu

Big Chiefs Lu’au Fire Dancer

Big Chiefs Lu’au Fire Dancer

It’s time to board your ship and officially set sail, boarding begins at 11.30am however I wouldn’t bother getting on the boat until after 3pm as the ship doesn’t depart until 5pm. Once you are settled onboard head up to the Aloha Café, there is bar at the back of the ship that offers wonderful views of Honolulu as you pull out of port. Keep your eye on the shoreline as there are fireworks almost every week.

Tip: Each day the ship offers 1-2 cocktails of the day which are priced at $6.95 rather than the usual $9.95, I have sampled them all and can attest they are all delicious. 

Aloha Café, Pride of America 

Aloha Café, Pride of America 

Day 3 & 4 Kahului, Maui

Molokini Crater Snorkel, Maui

On my first day in Maui I booked the Molokini Crater and Turtle snorkel which I really enjoyed and highly recommend. Molokini Crater is the remnants from an eruption that occurred thousands of years ago and now serves as a home for marine life and birds.

The tour is conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to save whales from extinction. The crew aboard the large catamaran are very friendly and highly knowledgeable about the ocean and its residents. The adventure begins at Ma'alaea Harbor, where you'll board the Ocean Odyssey. It takes roughly an hour to get to the crater and a tasty continental breakfast is served onboard.

The boat stops at Molokini and allows you plenty of time to explore this remarkable mid-ocean oasis. Usually the boat will then stop at Turtle Arches known for its abundance of green sea turtles, however due to the conditions we were unable to stop here. Instead we spent more time at the crater. Lunch is served onboard before returning you to port around 3pm.

Recommended: http://www.pacificwhale.org/

Ocean Odyssey, The Pacific Whale Foundation

Ocean Odyssey, The Pacific Whale Foundation

Molokini Crater Snorkel, Maui

Molokini Crater Snorkel, Maui

Spotting Fish in the Molokini Crater, Maui

Spotting Fish in the Molokini Crater, Maui

Waterfall Rappelling, Maui

If you are looking for a little adventure in Maui then look no further than this excursion. You will spend the day in the lush green jungle of East Maui and drop into paradise during an exhilarating decent down a waterfall. Never rappelled before? Not to worry neither had I, your guide will explain everything you need to know first and let you practice on dry land before descending down the beautiful waterfalls.

This six-hour excursion combines hiking, swimming and rappelling, all under the direction of trained canyoneering guides. You will rappel down a 30 and 50 foot waterfall and splash around in deserted pools. Lunch and all the gear you need including a harness, helmet, life vest and shoes are provided.

Fun Fact: After lunch you will get the chance to see the canyon where they filmed the open scene from the original Jurassic Park move in 1993.

Important: As the water you will be swimming in is fresh you need to be careful not to ingest too much of it. Maui is known for harboring many parasites and bacteria in its streams and rivers, unfortunately my husband was unlucky enough to catch one. My advice limit the time you spend in the water.

Recommended: http://www.rappelmaui.com/

Waterfall Rappelling, Maui 

Waterfall Rappelling, Maui 

Waterfall Rappelling, Maui 

Waterfall Rappelling, Maui 

Day 5 Hilo, Hawai’i

Volcano National Park Bike Tour, Hawai’i

If like me you love National Parks and/or Volcanoes then this tour is a must. What better way to experience all the wonderful the things the park has to offer then by bike? The main advantage of doing this tour on a bike is the remote places you visit that are not accessible by car.

Your day will start at the Jagger Museum where you will get your first glimpse of the currently erupting Kilauea Caldera (you will not be able to see lava). Your guide will provide you with a detailed history of the Caldera and surrounding areas before you are fitted with your equipment for the day. The adventure will take you through the native Hawaiian rainforest section of the summit as well as the desert which makes for some pretty interesting views. Before the day ends you will visit the famous Thurston Lava tube where you will treck through a giant fern forest and walk through a lava tube. Lunch is not provided however ample snacks and drinks are. 

Kilauea Caldera Volcano National Park

Kilauea Caldera Volcano National Park

Fern Forest Volcano National Park

Fern Forest Volcano National Park

Day 6 Kona, Hawai’i

Kayaking in Kona, Hawai’i

The boat doesn’t actually dock in Kona as the port it too small to accommodate it, instead it anchors offshore and guests are tendered to the island. Originally I had booked a Kayaking tour through the boat, however it was cancelled at the last minute. The issue with this location is the proximity to the port, the best kayaking and snorkeling is located over 25 miles away and all the tours leave too early. I ended up renting a Kayak next to the port from Kona Boys Beach Shak and kayaked around the area. The large swells and general choppiness of the sea make it hard going but offer some nice views. There is snorkeling in the area and you may even spot a sea turtle, however after experiencing Molokini Crater you will be disappointed. Also be careful not to venture to far out as there are Man-O-War Jellyfish which really sting (trust me). The town of Kona is quite picturesque and there are plenty of places to grab lunch or a souvenir. I would recommend walking to the markets in town where you can sample White Pineapple (a very sweet version of pineapple) which is grown on the island but cannot be exported due to the lack of acid it rots too quickly.

Recommended for snorkeling and kayaking equipment: http://www.konaboys.com be sure to get there early as supplies are limited. 

Kona, Hawai'i

Kona, Hawai'i

Kayking in Kona

Kayking in Kona

Hawaiian Sunsets

Hawaiian Sunsets

Day 7 & 8 Nawiliwili, Kaua’i

I must admit Kaua’i is my favorite island between the diversity of the landscape and the amazing views you will also fall in love. In Kaua’i I rented a car from Enterprise which is located less than a mile from the port in the Marriott Hotel. I highly recommend renting a car and doing your own personalized tour of the island. Everything I saw was not available through any of the tour companies, and from what I understand from my fellow passengers the tours that were offered by the ship were quite lack luster, unless you like spending all day on a bus.

If you rent a car you must see the following:

Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i

Located 54 miles and approximately a 1.5 hour drive away is Tunnels Beach (Makua) the ultimate place for snorkeling and spotting sea turtles. At this beach you are almost guaranteed to spot a sea turtle feasting on the coral, but be careful, it’s illegal to harass them.

This beach is my favorite beach in Hawaii, big call I know, but where else can you see golden sand, crystal clear blue water against a backdrop of a lush tropical jungle and mountains.  Parking for this beach is tricky, make sure you continue to Haena Beach Park as there is a large car park, you will see a man selling fresh coconuts if you are in need of a light refreshment.

Recommended: In need of snorkel gear? Head to Kauai Bound Snorkel Rental which is located next to the port and offers some excellent equipment at a very reasonable price www.kauaiboundstore.com Christopher Holmes the owner will be more than happy to give you the low down of the island and mark out key attractions on a map for you. 

Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i

Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i

Swimming with the Sea Turtles Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i

Swimming with the Sea Turtles Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i

Ke’e Beach Hike, Kaua’i

After you have had your snorkeling fix, head over to Ke’e Beach and make your way up the Kalalau Trail. The trail is 11 miles long traverses 5 valleys and takes you across the Na Pali Coast line, offering stunning views along the way. I didn’t have the time or the appropriate footwear for an 11 mile hike, however the look out at 0.25 miles offers wonderful views of the bay and coast. I did it in flip flops so you can make it!  

Ke’e Beach Hike, Kaua’i 

Ke’e Beach Hike, Kaua’i 

Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i

Today the boat pulls out of port earlier than usual with an onboard time of 1.30pm. If you are willing to get up early and get off the boat around 6am I highly recommend visiting Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Located on the western side of Kaua’i you won’t experience anything like this geological wonder anywhere else in Hawaii. The canyon lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, deep valleys and rugged crags.

The main road into the state park, Waimea Canyon Drive, leads you to a lower lookout point and the main Waimea Canyon Overlook, offering views of Kauai's dramatic interior. The road continues into the mountains and ends at Kokee State Park. There are numerous trails depending on your ability and time.

As you pull out of port today the boat will make a special trip up the Na Pali Coast line offering unbelievable views of the canyon. You do not want to miss this special treat. 

Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

Watching the clouds roll in, Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

Watching the clouds roll in, Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

Hiking Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

Hiking Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i 

View of Waimea Canyon from the Ship

View of Waimea Canyon from the Ship

Day 9 Honolulu, O’ahu

Today you will be required to disembark from the ship by 8.45am. If you are traveling back to the continental US you may find that your flight doesn’t leave until the early evening. I would suggest renting a car and driving around the island for the day. I caught an Uber (taxi) to the airport and rented a car from there, that way when I returned it I was already where I needed to be. If you do rent a car these are some of the sites you can see:

Hanauma Bay, O’ahu

Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. Formed within a volcanic cone the bay offers a pristine marine ecosystem. If you want to go swimming in the bay you have to book well in advance as the bay is protected and only a limited number of visitors are allowed in each day.

Hanauma Bay, O’ahu

Hanauma Bay, O’ahu

Blow Hole, O’ahu

The blowhole located on the islands South West Coast and is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. When the surf is right, the blowhole shoot water up to 30 feet in the air. Next to the Halona Blowhole is the Halona Beach Cove which is sometimes referred to as “Peering Place”. 

Fun Fact: The site is known for the famous love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the movie, From Here to Eternity filmed in 1953. 

Blow Hole, O’ahu

Blow Hole, O’ahu

Manoa Falls, O’ahu

This short hike will take you to the 100 foot Manoa Waterfall. The trail can be quite muddy, so make sure to wear proper shoes (you will be sorry if you wear flip flops). The 0.8 mile trail gradually ascends through a lush rainforest ending at a viewing area set back from the base of the falls. Be warned you will get hot and sweaty but it’s totally worth it.

Fun Fact: Several scenes from the TV show LOST were filmed here, as were parts of Jurassic Park.

Manoa Falls, O’ahu 

Manoa Falls, O’ahu 

Lunch

If you are looking for somewhere to get a late lunch before you hop on the plan I would recommend Liliha Bakery which serves up old fashioned favorites including pancakes, omelets, sandwiches etc. all day long. The pastry section of the bakery is unbelievable and will have everyone’s mouthwatering.

Recommended: http://www.lilihabakeryhawaii.com/diner_menu

That concludes our activities in O’ahu so it’s time to head back to the airport. Be warned there are no public showers nor are there any showers in the United Lounge. I ended up using wet wipes to clean myself off before changing for the flight. 

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7 Days Cruising the Baltic Sea with Royal Caribbean

Hello and welcome to my first blog on cruising. You will soon see that in my opinion cruising is one of the best ways to travel, imagine waking up somewhere new and exciting each morning. Booking a cruise allows to you maximize your time on vacation and avoid all the stressful aspects of traveling. Wouldn’t you rather be sipping a on a cocktail or laying in your comfortable bed while you sail to your next destination? Instead of sweating while you lug suitcases around airports and railway stations. I will go into more detail about the pro’s and con’s of cruising in a later post. 

This post focuses on a 7 day cruise that starts and ends in Stockholm, Sweden. The cruise is operated by Royal Caribbean and is inclusive of all meals aboard the ship. I would recommend this cruise for the summer months, however be warned even though it’s the middle of summer temperatures are still mild and you will need a jacket.

Day 1: Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and is built across 14 islands on the Baltic Sea. Be sure to visit the city’s oldest section Gamla Stan (Old Town) which is located on the original small islands of the cities earliest settlements and still to this day features a medieval street layout. Keep an eye out for the oldest building in Stockholm Riddarholmskyrkan which was built in the late 13th century. The city is very picturesque and makes for a great self-guided tour. If you would like to learn about the history take one of the many ferry tours which drive between the island and under more than 50 bridges!

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Old Town - Stockholm, Sweden

Old Town - Stockholm, Sweden

Day 2: Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. Don’t miss:

Helsinki Cathedral

The cathedral is an Evangelic Lutheran church and was designed by architect Carl Ludwig Engel in the 19th century. It is quite imposing in stark white with 4 green domes on its roof. 

Helsinki Cathedral Finland

Helsinki Cathedral Finland

Market Square

Located in the South Harbor you will find Market Square, Helsinki’s most international and famous market. Here you can buy traditional food and treats as well as handcrafted souvenirs. 

Market Square, Helsinki Finland

Market Square, Helsinki Finland

Day 3 & 4: St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and offers elaborate palaces, grand churches and is rich in history. It is important to note that you will require a visa to leave the ship in Russia, this must be organized well before you board the ship. If you are going on at tour organized by the cruise line they will often organize your visa for you, but be sure to check. While you are here don’t miss:

Mikhailovsky Castle (or the Engineers Castle)

The 200 year old castle is very unique as it looks different from each side. The architects who designed the castle used motifs from various styles including French Classicism, Italian Renaissance and Gothic. It is therefore a one of a kind and not to be missed. 

Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace was named after Catherine the first, the wife of Peter the Great. Originally a two story building the palace owes its opulence to Catherine’s daughter Empress Elizabeth who instructed architects to completely redesign the palace to rival Versailles.

Fun Fact: More than 100kg of gold was used in the façade and numerous statues on the roof. 

Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Gold Room - Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Gold Room - Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Gardens - Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Gardens - Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

This church is one of the main attractions in St. Petersburg and was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander the second was assassinated in 1881. The interior and exterior of the church is decorated with intricate mosaics which were designed and created by the most prominent artists of the day. The view of the church from Nevsky Prospekt is absolutely breathtaking.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg Russia

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg Russia

Day 5: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is a beautiful old city with a fairy tale like appeal, it will charm you with its bars, restaurants, shops and medieval history. Stone walls circle its preserved Old Town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Sit back and relax in the town square and sip on wine while looking at the Tallin Town Hall, the only surviving Gothic Town hall in Northern Europe. 

Old Town, Tallin Estonia

Old Town, Tallin Estonia

View Point of Tallin, Estonia

View Point of Tallin, Estonia

Old Town Tallin, Estonia

Old Town Tallin, Estonia

Day 6: Riga, Latvia

The final stop on this cruise is Riga which has been called “Paris of the North” and it’s not hard to see why. With a diverse architectural heritage that ranges from medieval to ultra-modern, Riga has the perfect blend of old and new. The best way to experience Riga is to walk through the city, take your own predetermined route or opt for a free daily tour. Use the Freedom Monument and Town Hall Square as points of reference and between them you will find the House of Blackheads, St Peter’s Church, Riga Cathedral and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.  

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Mini Love Lock Bridge - Riga, Latvia

Mini Love Lock Bridge - Riga, Latvia

Riga Boat Festival, Latvia

Riga Boat Festival, Latvia

Day 7: Cruising (Day at Sea)

The last day of the cruise will be spent at sea cruising back to Stockholm. Take this opportunity to sit back and relax by the pool with a cocktail. If you are feeling a little more active most ships offer rock climbing, mini golf, basketball and a full service spa. 

Sailing the Baltic Sea

Sailing the Baltic Sea

Sailing the Baltic Sea

Sailing the Baltic Sea

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