The newly announced ban on electronic devices may have a slight impact on your travel plans, but planning in advance will help you stay productive during your trip.
Here is what you need to know to navigate these new rules:
I just returned from a week of FUN on the NCL Escape. My friend and former colleague, Lybbi, sailed on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. The week was full of entertainment, exciting excursions, and lots of Caribbean sun.
The Escape is a mega ship that holds just over 4,000 guests. I would have never guessed that it holds that many people because I never felt crowded. There are so many restaurants and entertainment venues throughout the ship that everyone is spread out depending on their interests.
I loved the center of decks 6, 7, and 8 that opened up to specialty restaurants, bars, and shops.
Also around deck 8 is a walk around deck called “The Waterfront” where you can have a drink or even have dinner outside.
The amount of activities on the top decks were also a highlight. Lybbi and I did the ropes course at sea. It was very thrilling to zip line right over the ocean! We also took advantage of the fun tube slide that takes you through neon lights and views of the ocean. I was feeling brave and slid on the racer slides where you start standing and the bottom drops out. Talk about a thrill!! There was also
mini golf, a basketball court, and ping pong tables offered.
I was really impressed with the size of our stateroom and particularly the bathroom. There were lots of cubbies all around that we felt comfortable fully unpacking and taking over the room!
There was certainly no shortage of entertainment throughout the ship. I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy so I was eager to see the stand-up comedians perform. We caught a couple of shows in
The Headlines Comedy Club—both the family friendly and the late night show. There was also a larger performance in the big theater featuring all three comics.
The Supper Club is a smaller dinner theater on board. Lybbi and I decided to splurge a little and pay for the lunch show of Wine Lover’s the Musical. This was certainly worth the $30 upcharge because they provide 6 glasses of wine! The show was an extremely cute story about some young adults taking a wine class to learn how to appreciate wine. We saw a dinner show of The Company Men singing mash-ups of popular songs in The Supper Club as well. We also caught their big performance with a live band in The Escape Theater. I was a big fan of their mash-ups and even bought their CD!
In The Escape Theater we saw big shows For the Record: The Brat Pack and After Midnight, which were both full of some amazing talent. Every night there was a party on the top deck at Spice H20. We made it to the 80’s night and Glow Party. The deck was full of people have a great time and shaking their stuff! One night, I took a quick “salsa dancing lesson” and had a blast pretending that I was a talented dancer.
Although we loved the comedy, shows, and activities on board, I think the highlight of the entertainment was our Cruise Director, Andre. Andre was full of such genuine fun that everyone couldn’t help but have a good time around him! Our first treat of Andre entertainment was the pool deck on our first day at sea. Andre led the Mr. Sexy Legs competition. About 30 men of all shapes and sizes took to the pool deck to prove they had the most sexy legs. The unlimited beverage package may have also brought on some confidence to these men who stopped at nothing to win over the judges. I have never seen a crowd of people so engaged in an activity! The newlywed game and celebrity dance off were also top contenders for our top laugh-until-you-almost-cry moments. Trivia sessions were also in full swing with Harry Potter Trivia, Big Bang Theory, and Star Wars Trivia. And let me tell you, Andre had an outfit for it all!
Food and drinks:
I was impressed with the options of food and bars! There was a choice of the main dining room, The Manhattan Room, for slightly more upscale dining or the buffet. We ate at both of these and I was very pleased! We also splurged a little and tried some of the specialty dining restaurants. Cagney’s was our fancy night where we enjoyed steaks with some of our new friends. We also tried La Cucina for some delicious Italian pasta. Lastly, my favorite was Food Republic where we ordered small plates of different fusion food recipes off of an iPad. There were half a dozen more options that we didn’t even get a chance to try! The a la carte pricing for the specialty dining restaurants was extremely reasonable. Some people even had the specialty dining promotional package so you get to try out some of these complimentary.
The options of different bars seemed to be endless. Being big craft beer lovers, Lybbi and I spent a lot of time The District Brew House. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe of the lounge and they often had musicians playing. This is also where we met our new friends on night one—more on them later! If you’re in the mood for a treat then the Sugarcane Mojito Bar is the place to go. These showy bartenders crafted up the best mojito I have ever had! I also made my way to The Cellars wine bar for a class of Chianti.
St. Thomas was our first port. We booked a catamaran cruise and snorkel trip over to St. John. I love to snorkel and love a good beach so this was a no-brainer for us. The catamaran motored off through the breathtaking US Virgin Islands while the crew gave us a brief history of the islands. We stopped at Honeymooner’s beach in St. John, jumped out and started to snorkel. I saw lots of tropical fish and some neat coral. We then swam on over to the beach to lay out in the sun.
The ride back to St. Thomas was a bit different. The wind was with us so we hoisted up the sails and enjoyed our all-inclusive beverages on our way back to the port. We sipped mimosas (that quickly turned into just champagne) and ate some sandwiches while soaking in that Caribbean sun. We got back to our port with plenty of time to spare. A stop for some grub and local Virgin Island beer was in order. We then took the Skyride up to Paradise Point for a view over the island. St. Thomas was a fantastic first stop and probably my favorite port.
Next up was Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Here we headed on a ferry over to Virgin Gorda to explore The Baths. After a short trek down to the ocean we came upon a beach and beautiful view of the ocean. Then we headed over, under, and between rocks to get to a more secluded cove. The way out featured some minor climbing and trekking through The Baths to another beach and food hut. This was the most scenic of all the islands we saw! It was a level 3 excursion, so be sure you are healthy and up for some light climbing if you are going to The Baths.
Nassau was our last port. True to our last two ports, we got off the cruise ship, got on another boat to go to a different island. This time we headed to The Blue Lagoon Island. The Blue Lagoon Island is a little island set up for dolphin swimming, Segway tours, and more. We opted for the Safari Segway tour. I typically have great balance, so I thought I would rock it! Turns out that riding a Segway was just a little harder than I expected. Once I got the hang of it and started to relax it was a lot of fun. Our guides were extremely helpful and also quite entertaining. They took us around the island with stops at a shark bay, an old lookout tower, and some beautiful look outs. After our tour we got our included BBQ lunch and took in the beauty of the island. We decided to take the early ferry back to Nassau. Instead of going straight back to the port we actually got off at Paradise Island to looks around the shops by Atlantis. The local water taxi back to downtown Nassau was only a couple of dollars and then we walked around the markets and shops by the cruise pier for a bit.
I have to say this was one of the most fun vacations I have ever had! A cruise provides so many options of things to do and people to meet. On our first night on the cruise we ran into a group of people who were staying in the studio cabins. The studios cabins are built for one person and priced for the solo traveler. They have a studio lounge on board where solo travelers can meet others cruising alone. The group meets around 5pm each day and has some scheduled dinners and shows that they can go to. They also have a dry erase board where you can leave messages for other travelers to join you for activities. The meet-up is meant for those who are traveling alone and also those who want to meet others. We joined in on the meet up the next day and ended up hanging out with this group for some dinners and lounge time. We also made friends on our excursions, dances, and at the pool. Everyone is on vacation to have a good time so there was no shortage of making friends!
THANK YOU to the staff and crew of the Norwegian Escape for a fantastic cruise! I can't wait to sail again!
Our travel consultants frequently take remarkable journeys and they always come back with exciting stories and stunning pictures. Recently, Emily Medina took a trip with Princess Cruises through the Panama Canal and was amazed by this ‘miraculous bridge of water’.
In April 2017, I sailed on the Island Princess on the 10-day Panama Canal Voyage out of
Ft Lauderdale, FL. Our first stop was beautiful Aruba where we explored the rock formations and other city highlights.
Our second stop was Cartagena where we explored the Old City, born at the height of the Spanish empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We shopped and even saw a Colombian folkloric dance and music show.
Next was the Panama Canal which is a true wonder. We did a tour in Colon where we saw wildlife in their natural habitat as we cruised through Gatun Lake.
In Limon, Costa Rica we explored vibrant rainforest filled with exotic tropical plants and spotted lots of birds, monkeys and sloths.
Our last stop was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We visited the botanical garden, the beach and
Dunn’s River Falls.
To book your next trip to the Caribbean, be sure to email Emily
or call her at 314-439-5700 ext. 107.
Aulani…Aulani simply saying the name which in Hawaiian means “the place that speaks for the great ones” or “messenger of a chief”; it makes me want to go back. The resort is located on the island of O’ahu and only twenty-five minutes from Honolulu International Airport.
When you enter the property it is lush with beautiful trees. The friendly Aloha spirit is felt the minute you step out of your car. Women and men are given beautiful Lei. Children have their own welcoming gift of a Menehune necklace (Menehune are shy mischievous people of Hawaiian Islands that are gifted and magical).
What really opens your eyes and makes you say “wow” is the lobby. It is a tall entry way with Polynesian style of architecture. Your eyes look at the pictures telling a story of the people and the land. Then you are drawn to the ocean in the distance while looking at the Waikolohe Valley (the name of the recreation area) in the foreground.
The resort has 351 guest rooms including 16 suites and 481 multi-bedroom suites. My family and I stayed in an Island Garden View with two queen-size beds. We had a beautiful view of the garden, mountains and a partial view of the ocean. The resort is large, but it is easy to navigate. Every evening the daily ‘IWA (schedule) is available for the next day. It lists activities for the ‘Ohana (family), Keiki (children) and ‘Opio (youth 13-17years old).
We started our morning with a 6:30am stretch class by the ocean. It was a perfect way to start the day and the classes change each day. We had breakfast at ‘Ama’Ama which is an oceanfront restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was fantastic! It is one of two restaurants on property that reservations are highly recommended. The other restaurant is called Makahiki named after the annual Hawaiian festival celebrating the season of bounty. The service is buffet style and they are opened for breakfast with Disney characters and dinner.
The ‘Olelo Room a lounge open for bar fare in the evening. I thought the concept for the lounge was brilliant. Everything has a word on it. For example the word ‘Noho’ was written on the top of the chairs; since it is the Hawaiian word for ‘chair’. The whole lounge is meant to be interactive for the guests to speak with the cast and to learn about the Hawaiian language and culture.
Truly the greatest kids club is the wonderful Aunty’s Beach House. Throughout the day they have activities for children. Some require sign up because space is limited. You can arrange to have your children eat lunch or dinner based on availability and for an additional fee. Aunty’s Beach House has something for every child's interest. Plenty of rooms with different crafts, a movie room that looks dark and stormy so you want to sit and watch the movie, and a big jungle gym in the backyard to run around.
There is even more to do in the Waikolohe Valley. There are two water slides, one of them is called Tubestone Curl. It empties out into the lazy river so you can relax and let the river move you. The resort also has three pools. One is an infinitely pool that looks out to the stunning ocean. If you swim underwater you can hear whale sounds. There is a larger pool where they do activities as well as an adult only pool. Another unique aspect of the resort is the Rainbow Reef. This is a live reef with incredible aquatic life. The cast makes sure it is kept pristine and have you follow special guidelines when entering.
The beach is wonderful, complimentary boogie boards and snorkels are available. Since it is a lagoon it is easy for young children to play in the water. Paddleboards are available for an additional fee. I have been wanting to paddleboard for awhile and it was fantastic! Quite the workout. The lagoon is shared with the neighboring Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina. The Luau called KA WA’A is definitely a must see. It is right on property and as of now performed twice a week. They offer pre-show activities and the buffet highlights Hawaiian cuisine.
The Laniwai Spa is stunning. It is the only spa on O’ahu to offer Kula Wai an outdoor hydrotherapy garden. This is another example of bringing Hawaiian rituals and beliefs into the setting. The signature treatment is the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi. This massage technique is passed down from generation to generation. The Laniwai offers many different spa treatments. My family and I were having such a wonderful time at the resort, we only left one night for dinner to a restaurant across the street at Ko’Olina Station.
I really enjoyed being at Aulani for several reasons. Here are my top five:
1. The Aloha spirit of warmth and inclusion is felt the minute you arrive till you depart.
2. The Hawaiian stories and history are woven into the fabric of the resort.
3. Aunty’s Beach House was fantastic place for the children. They kept asking to go back!
4. The resort has many activities. Golf at the top rated Ko Olina Golf Club can be arranged.
5. It is a wonderful place for a family, multi-generational as well as couples to vacation.
I could go on for pages about all the fantastic activities and feel about the resort. Our
experience did exactly what we wanted which was much needed relaxation, new experiences
and fun. I look forward to our next vacation to Aulani - A Disney Resort and Spa. Next time will
explore all the wonder O’ahu has to offer.
Dana has more travel advice to share and recently completed the
Hawaii Destination Specialist Program. Contact her today to book your next trip.
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