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Belize by Cruise Ship

20 Dec

The second stop on our cruise was Belize. There, we decided to take a trip to the Altun Ha ruins. The ruins are about an hour and half from the port. We decided to purchase a tour of the ruins after we tendered from the cruise ship to shore (due to the sensitive nature of the coral reef surrounding Belize, cruise ships cannot actually dock in port. The cruise line provides a small boat to take you to and from shore). We paid $40 per person for a trip there and back and for a tour guide while we were at the ruins. It is definitely worth it to pay more for a tour that has a guide. Our guide knew a lot of information about the significance of the Altun Ha sight and Mayan culture generally. He really enriched our experience.

The ruins were amazing. They are partially excavated and you can climb to the top of some of the temples.

And on our way out of the port, we enjoyed watching sailboats sail past our cruise ship:

However, as with Roatan, there is a lot of poverty in Belize and while it is a nice port to visit on a cruise ship, I don’t think it would be a destination I would stay at for more than a day or two.

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Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras by cruise ship

14 Dec

Paul and I went on an amazing and very relaxing cruise last week. Our first stop was Roatan, Honduras. It was beautiful, as you can see.

However, there isn’t much to see in Roatan besides port area (pictured above), which was built solely for the use of cruise passengers, and the amazingly beautiful beaches (not that we are complaining!), so without much debate we headed to West Bay Beach. If you’ve ever cruised before, you know that the shore excursions on the ship are quite pricey. For example, to go to West Bay Beach via cruise ship excursion, it was $59 per person. We paid $12 per person, round trip, to take a “tour” to the beach. Since we were on a tour instead of just a taxi, they pick you up and drop you off. You can also ask to to go specific spots on the beach. We wanted to go to the private portion of the beach, because they have more facilities there (bathrooms, restaurants, and chairs for rent). We were dropped off at a restaurant called Beaches. You can rent chairs there for $10 per chair for the day, but Paul and I were content on our towels (and there is no obligation to rent a chair simply because you are dropped off at their beach). After lounging on our towels and enjoying the water (which was warm, even in December!), we bought some local brew and a snack at the restaurant before heading back to our ship. We spent about 3 hours on the beach and it was perfection!

I would have only two things that I would warn you to watch out for. First, private property signs, like the one below. The beaches are public, so the private property signs refer to the off-beach property, not the sandy area.

Second, there are a lot of people on the beach trying to sell you things. I found that if I laid on the beach with my sunglasses on, they left me alone. Even considering those small things, it was a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach on a beautiful island.

Overall, it was a beautiful stop on a cruise, but with the limited number of attractions, I am not sure that I would ever fly there to stay for a more extended trip.

Osborne Spectacle of Lights at Disney

6 Dec

Every year, my family goes to Disney World in Orlando to see the Osborne Spectacle of Lights. This is when the Christmas season starts for us!

The light show is set up in one of their fake downtown areas in Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). The streets fill with people waiting for the show to start as the sun sets.

Once the show starts, it is truly an amazing sight. Not only is the display beautiful, but every few minutes the lights are set to music!

I have several tips for visiting the lights that I have learned over the past few years:

  • The snow is soap – try not to get it in your eyes, it burns! (Yes, I started with the most practical tip!)
  • Go on a slow weekend. We went the weekend after Thanksgiving (one of their slowest times) and it wasn’t crowded at all. Plus, the lines for the rides were actually reasonable!
  • Stay at a Disney hotel. They provide bus transportation to and from the park. You avoid the traffic, because they use some lesser known back roads, and you avoid the parking fees. We stayed at the Pop Century resort. This is the newest of their lower price tier hotels. We paid $89 a night, so it was a fantastic deal! If you are a Florida resident, you can get really low rates by booking directly through Disney, but I also found comparable rates on Hotels.com
  • If you don’t have an annual or seasonal pass, try to plan to stay at Disney for a few days. The one day tickets are fairly expensive. Once you get up to 3 day passes and up, the per day prices become more reasonable.

 

Travel: Near and Far

30 Oct

One important thing that I want to enjoy before I get pregnant is travel. My sister-in-law recently took her 4-month-old to China. Let’s just say a jet-lagged baby is not something I want to deal with. However, it’s not just far-away vacations that can be difficult with a baby or while pregnant, sometimes ones nearby can become difficult too.

My husband and I recently went camping in the Ocala National Forest. We stayed at the Clearwater campgrounds. It was beautiful! But not somewhere I would want to be while pregnant. Why? Well, first my eating habits while camping are horrible. Canned soup, pancakes from a bottle, you name it. Second, going to the bathroom at night involves what seems like a dangerous trek through dark woods in what is usually (with our luck) freezing or rainy weather. But, camping is still something that I want to be able to thoroughly enjoy. I understand that I probably won’t want to bring my pregnant self or a small baby out into the wilderness, so before I get pregnant, I want a chance to enjoy camping! And I think we were pretty successful:

Of course, the far trips can be difficult too. I once babysat for a couple who loved to go to football games. One weekend, they had a friend visiting from Hawaii. They had a 6-month-old who cried. All. The. Time. Unless you were holding her. And she was the biggest 6-month-old baby I have ever encountered. Or at least it seemed that way after holding her for 4 hours straight. Not only is the jet-lag awful (both coming and going), but the plane ride itself can be trying. No one likes a screaming baby on an airplane and I bet I wouldn’t like being the person with the screaming baby on an airplane.

So, Paul and I are going to take a pre-pregnancy-moon. We’re going to go somewhere far from us that I wouldn’t want to visit while pregnant: Napa Valley. 🙂

What were some trips you wish you had taken before getting pregnant and having kids?

Sweet Shot Tuesday – On Safari at Animal Kingdom

13 Sep

As I mentioned in my last post, we went to Orlando for Night of Joy last weekend. While we were there, I git a chance to see how my camera would handle taking pictures on safari! (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, of course!) Now, the animals were fairly far away, the vehicle paused only briefly and there were always the obstacles of other people’s heads, hands and other miscellaneous body parts to deal with, but I think I still got some good shots, all-in-all.

There was beautiful scenery, of course.

And there were giraffes . . .

. . . rhino . . .

. . . flamingos . . .

. . . and elephants!

 

I was very pleased with how well my camera handled the motion and took photos with pretty extreme zoom.

Sweet Shot Tuesday

30 Aug

I told you all that I was going through 31 days to a better photo to learn to use my Kodak Z990. Well, the blogger who created 31 days to a better photo also does Sweet Shot Tuesdays. So, here is my first Sweet Shot Tuesday!

These photos are from a trip my family took to North Reddington Beach (on the Gulf Coast of Florida). There will be more pictures and a description of our trip to follow, but here are a few “teaser” photos.

There was a beautiful beach just across the street from the house we rented.

The sunsets each night were amazing, of course.

So I, of course, took lots of pictures . . . .

I loved the birds and the colors of this one.

I liked the way you can see the texture of the waves rolling in in this one.

I know, a bit random, but I liked the shot.

I loved the reflection of the cloud and color.

We went fishing the next day . . .

And it was a very successful trip . . .

We had mackerel for dinner that night!

More photos and information about where to stay on North Reddington Beach coming soon!

The Ringling Museum and Breakfast House Review (Sarasota Day 3)

28 Aug

This was the last day that Paul and I spent in Sarasota. We started off the day with breakfast at The Breakfast House. We had never been before, but the reviews online looked good, so we headed over. The Breakfast House is a house. Really. So the parking lot and inside is pretty small, but very cozy. One note is that the only waiting area they have is outside, so if it is hot or raining (not that it would ever be hot or raining in Florida . . .), then the wait can be uncomfortable. We were there at about 10:30, so it wasn’t too hot and the 10 minute wait wasn’t too long.


I had the quiche and it was delicious! The coffee was also very good, but it was a bit warm inside the building so I couldn’t drink as much of it as I wanted.

After a delicious breakfast, we went over to the Ringling Museum of Art. The Museum is quite large and includes an art museum, a circus museum, a rose garden and the Ringling’s home, which itself is full of art and antiques. It is definitely a full day trip.
The art museum also has a beautiful courtyard.
The inside is a very grand space and the interior design is very well-matched to what is on display.
This is my favorite painting. I love the expression on her face.
After we enjoyed the museum, we headed home. We will definitely be returning to Sarasota, the Hyatt, Lido Beach, Cha Cha Coconuts, the Breakfast House and the Ringling Museum.