Document Your Life #120 – From MIA to PUJ

It’s time to check out of our hotel, to say goodbye to Miami…and go home.

Our trip back goes very smoothly. When we get to the airport, a guy comes up and asks if we want to check in curbside. It’s never worked before, but we try it and voila…we’re good to go. We have to pay for all our luggage and I think he gave us a discount because we pay less than expected.

Even though we’re flying on economy, we have priority boarding with American Airlines and somehow also end up getting TSA Pre-Check so going through security is so quick and easy, we can hardly believe it or stop talking about it.

Knowing we won’t get any food on the plane and well be hungry before we’re home, we decide to look for a place to eat at the airport. We come across a nice (and quiet) wine bar & restaurant and it’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy a nice meal and wine. Anders and I share a bottle of Whispering Angel…always a pleasure.

Our flight departs on time. We watch a movie (the new Terminator), I fall asleep once or twice and before we know it, we’ve arrived.

Document Your Life #119 – Christmas Shopping in Miami

Ahh, Miami. I really like this city and the vibe. I’ve been here several times before, but this time we’re here to do the last bit of Christmas shopping.

We’re staying at the Me Miami hotel once again, but unfortunately have trouble getting a room that’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of noise from the freeway just across from the hotel. 3rd time is a charm and we end up with a great room on the 15th floor, overlooking the swimming pool.

So, we spend 2 days in Miami doing Christmas shopping. Any hopes & dreams of a zero waste, minimalistic Christmas just aren’t going to come true…Christmas for us means A LOT of presents. And by A LOT, I mean…A LOT!

Of course, there’ll also be lots of food, wine and good times.

yesterday, we went out to Aventura Mall and I managed to find the very last Christmas gift that I was missing. I’ve already bought everything else on Amazon, which makes my life easier… but doesn’t do much for the planet. Oh, dear.

I’m not such a big fan of this particular mall, mostly because I think it’s too expensive. It’s definitely a beautiful and upscale mall…

At Aventura Mall, we had lunch at Bella Luna, which is an Italian restaurant. I noticed a man sitting with his family at the table behind us and whispered to Anders that he looked like some sports star…a celebrity. After a little while, people started coming up to him, he posed for photos and there were a lot of commotion.

We asked our waiter who the guy was, and it turned out to be the Dominican baseball player David Ortiz (Big Papi).

Nice.

Today is our second day of Christmas shopping in Miami and we’ve decided to drive north to Sawgrass Mills, which is about a 30-40 minute drive from our hotel in Miami.

This mall is so great and so…HUGE. And they have a nice variety of upscale and cheaper stores, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Marshall’s, H&M and Target.

So, shopping here is much easier. Even though I don’t really need to buy any more Christmas presents, I end up buying a few small things plus a few things just for me.

Anders and I have lunch at a wonderful French bakery called Paul and we both have a sandwich in a baguette with turkey, bacon, lettuce & Brie with hand cut fries on the side. Unfortunately, it turns out that there’s mustard dressing on the sandwich so Anders can’t eat it.

The waiter quickly exchanges it for another without any dressing – without any problems or extra charges for the sandwich they’d already made.

This is great customer service with noting and mentioning!

Thank you.

Document Your Life #118 – All the Things We Did & Didn’t Do

It’s early in the morning and we just got back to the port of Miami. It’s still dark outside and Anders is sleeping.

I got up early and wanted to go to the gym for one last workout on the ship, but (sigh) it was CLOSED. Okay, I get it…it’s a busy day for the staff and who wants to work out on departure day anyway?

I was thinking about all the things we didn’t get to do during this past week on board Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. You see, even on small(er) cruise ships there are a ton of places and activities available that you never end up seeing or taking part in. We usually find our “comfort zones” pretty quickly and tend to hang out at a few good places.

For us, the “adults-only” Solarium with pool, Jacuzzi and comfortable lounge chairs is definitely the place we spend most of our time. It’s just a great place to relax, work, read a book, take a nap…and another nap…and maybe another.

The gym is another of my favorite places and I try to get a daily workout in – preferably in the morning. On sea days, I’ll go to the gym a second time late in the afternoon. After a whole day of lounging around, it’s nice to get up and get the body moving…

We went to the theater a few times and saw the funniest stand-up comedy show and laughed the entire time. We watched the crooner, Mark Preston, give a fantastic performance and Adrian Fische (I’m pretty sure I spelled her name incorrectly, sorry!) pour her soul out on stage.

After dinner, we’d go to the Schooner Bar to listen to “The Piano Man”, Simon John play the piano and sing…and he was fantastic.

But, as I mentioned, there were places we never went to…

On this trip, some of the things we didn’t do or places we really didn’t visit were:

  • The sports deck with Flow Rider surfing, basketball court, miniature golf and rock climbing wall
  • The library and card room
  • Johnny Rocket’s burger joint
  • Park West Art Gallery & auction with free champagne
  • Several bars and lounges, e.g. the Cosmopolitan Bar
  • Studio B ice skating rink

Regardless of all the things we didn’t do, we had a fabulous time.

And I can’t wait to go again…

Document Your Life #117 – The Art On Board the Navigator of the Seas

The Art On Board the Navigator of the Seas

On the last day of a cruise, I like to walk around the ship and take photos. I’ll walk up and down all the stairs of the ship and through the decks and photograph the restaurants, common areas, pool area, etc. This is usually best to do early in the morning or at least before lunch…before there are too many people walking around the ship.

When you walk around and take your time, you might notice that the ship is actually full of beautiful art. I’m not referring to the art that’s sold at the Park West art gallery, but the art that’s on every floor of the ship and all along the stairs.

The better the ship, the better the art…I guess. Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, which I was just on…

(…) contains US $ 8.5 Million dollars in art, displayed in stairwells and public areas. Navigator of the Seas main Atrium sculpture spans over seven decks and is based on the bubbles a scuba diver makes when swimming under water. Her promenade also features lighting that changes color based on the time of day and with events occurring on the ship. –Wikipedia

Most of the time we took the elevators to go up and down between the decks, which means that I didn’t really see many of the paintings, photographs, statues, etc., until the last day.

Most of the art on this ship was by Scandinavian artists (Norwegian, Swedish, Danish), but I also saw some by Dutch and Polish artists. My absolute favorite were 3 paintings by a Swedish artist called Dorina Mocan called Secret Garden (acrylic on canvas):

Curious as a bird, big-eyed as a cat, the girl searches for hidden treasures in the garden. Cheering over the arrival of the chestnut on the adorned tree.
So remarkable is the foliage on the old stone wall, and in the birds nest the big secret sleeps within its shell, awaiting the little girls arrival.

I also loved another of Dorina Mocan’s paintings entitled On My Right Side.

This painting is about the mystic nature and stories that surround Gotland, the fairy tale Swedish island in the Baltic Sea.

Apart from paintings, there were also several sculptures and photographs. My favorite was a photograph by a Norwegian artist, Thomas Brun, called Primary Colors.

Document Your Life #116 – The Food On Board the Navigator of the Seas

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FOOD!

Food is definitely one of the most important part of our vacation and traveling on a cruise ship is no different. We love food and we love good food (and it shows!).

So, when we go on a cruise, like this current cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, we always buy the package for the specialty restaurants even though all meals are already included in the trip.

Breakfast & lunch are included in the ship’s Windjammer buffet and dinner is served at the Sapphire main dining room. And the food is usually pretty good, but (for us) the ambiance is too crowded and noisy and you’re in & out in practically an hour. For us as Danes, we’re definitely missing the element of hygge in those places.

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For our last few cruises, we’ve booked a dinner package to eat every night at the specialty restaurants. On this cruise ship, we got a fantastic deal on the Ultimate Dining Package, which included dinner in any of the the specialty restaurants and lunch on sea days, 40% discount on bottles of wine less than US$ 100 or 20% discount on bottles of wine more than US$ 100. And since we drink (a lot of) wine, this particular package made total sense for us. Each meal cost us about US$ 24 per person – for a 3-course dinner in a smaller and less crowded restaurant, with the best waiters on the ship and good food.

The Food On Board The Navigator of the Seas

Well, it turned out that we had mixed reviews of the food. It was especially the red meat (steaks) that caused a problem due to a general lack of seasoning. Since I don’t eat steaks and always ordered fish, salads, chicken…I must say that I never had a bad meal on the Navigator of the Seas.

The Navigator is a smaller ship, so the number of specialty restaurants is limited. We could choose from:

  • Sabor (Mexican)
  • Izumi (Japanese)
  • Giovanni’s Table (Italian)
  • Chops Grille (American Steakhous

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Izumi became our favorite restaurant and they served really excellent sushi, wakame salad and udon noodles (so much flavor!).

I liked the Sabor too, which had good guacamole & nachos and also tacos (especially the shrimp tacos).

At Giovanni’s Table, I preferred the mozzarella salad with a side of arugula salad (I mixed the two together) and the ossobuco for main course. My husband also ordered the ossobucco and exchanged the polenta for risotto, which he said was amazing.

At Chops Grille my favorite were the goat cheese salad, salmon with green asparagus and mushrooms…and the cheesecake topped with raspberries and cream.

Our waiters at all the restaurants were (funny enough) all from the Philippines – and all really nice and excellent. We probably had the best waiter at Sabor (Amber), but our waiter at Izumi (Emely) and Chops Grille (Manolo) were also the best.

The only problem that I’m left with (after all this food) is…how to get rid of all the extra calories that I’ve consumed!

Document Your Life #115 – Oranjestad, Aruba

Oranjestad Aruba

This is my 3rd visit to Aruba – the happy island.

Enjoy life’s sweetest pleasures in Oranjestad, Aruba.

In the early colonial days, the massive Fort Zoutman overshadowed the town. It even had a name long before the town did, which was otherwise known as “the town on the Bay of Horses”. A few decades later, Oranjestad finally got its name (after a king no less), and with the discovery of gold nearby, it soon became the bustling Dutch capital of Aruba. Nowadays, with its sensational casinos, lively nightlife, gorgeous beaches and exotic desert landscape, this Caribbean beauty is one name you’ll never forget.
Oranjestad is full of colorful outdoor markets and historic sites. Its pristine waters offshore are perfect for snorkeling. And just a but further out, you can dive down to some of the most famous shipwrecks – now luxury condos for tropical marina life. But if you’d rather stay above the surface, there are plenty of activities on land too. Join the caravan through the Aruba countryside, passing stunning rock formations and old gold mines. Or take in the panoramic views and desert scenery from the golf course while you play a round or two.

I love this little island and have good memories from my first 2 visits where Anders was playing in a local golf tournament. People here are very nice and we have several good friends on the island. So when we told them, we were coming for the day…they made plans to see us for lunch.

But before that, we had a few hours to kill and spent them walking around the little market and the shopping mall right by the cruise ship harbor.

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As we were looking around for souvenir magnets (this is the one thing we always buy when we travel), I kept thinking about where all of these souvenirs come from because I swear they’re ALL THE SAME.

Luckily, we found a lady sitting in the midst of all the typical souvenir shops and making her own, hand-painted souvenirs to sell. Her souvenir magnets were really beautiful so we all bought one (3 in total) even though they were just a few USD more expensive.

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Around lunchtime we took a taxi to the Divi golf course (located at the Divi Resort) and had lunch with our friends at Mullingan’s. I wasn’t too hungry, so I just had the Tuscan Chicken Pasta: Farfalle pasta (I switched to linguini) topped with grilled chicken, tomatoes, artichoke, spinach, cheese, basil, mushrooms and house-made tasty alfredo sauce. It was pretty good – nice and creamy but not too much flavour.

If we hadn’t made these plans for the day, I would definitely have liked to go to the beach. Aruba has amazing beaches. My favorite is Eagle Beach which is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to – ever. It’s been many years since I was there, but I just remember the soft, white sand and how incredibly beautiful, warm and smooth the water was. Just the best…

 

Document Your Life #114 – Kralendijk, Bonaire

Bonaire turned out to be an incredibly interesting place to visit. The island is a municipality of the Netherlands, but oddly enough they only use USD as the island’s currency.

Dive into the underwater paradise of Bonaire.

Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is a bona fide “diver’s paradise”. That’s what all the license plates say. Take one glance beneath the surface and you’re likely to agree. The surrounding reefs within the world-famous Marine Park are protected and abundant in sea life, offering some of the best snorkeling and diving on earth. Kralendijk is the sleepy capital of Bonaire. Wander about town admiring the pastel pink and orange hues of all the homes. Just south of the capital is Bonaire’s famous pink beach. The semi-desert landscape with its interesting rock formations and cacti is astoundingly beautiful.

As soon as we got off the cruise ship, we got a taxi driver to take us around the southern part of the island. We paid US$ 25 per person and it ended up being a 2-hour tour, so the price wasn’t too bad. Bonaire is so easy to get around – there’s just one road that goes around the entire island and you can drive around in 3-4 hours (according to our taxi driver).

Our first stop was at the salt pyramids. Wow, this was such a pretty sight. In the “middle of nowhere” we found these gigantic, snow white mountains of sea salt glistening in the hot sun. We took lots of photos and even got to sample the sea salt.

2Just as we were leaving, a guy came driving up to us in his pickup truck and he had big chunks of sea salt. He offered us one each to take with us as a souvenir.

Our next stop, not too far away, was at the tiny white & black slave huts. These huts were built side by side right in front of the beach and were used as camping/sleeping facilities and storage for the slaves that once worked in the salt ponds. A little further south, we passed by another “camp site” with orange slave huts.

Our friendly taxi driver drove us further south along the coast of the island. We passed by the famous Pink Beach, which apparently wasn’t so pink anymore as a storm had blown most of the sand away. We passed by a small neighborhood where he lived and saw his house and 3 cute dogs. We passed by Sorobon Beach, saw lots of wild flamingos and wild donkeys along the way.

The landscape was incredibly dry everywhere. Our driver was telling us that it hardly ever rained on the island and that they could easily go 6 months without any rain. Well, it sure does show on the vegetation, which is very scarce and dry.

No paradise can escape the effects of our (humanity’s) plastic consumption and you definitely see this along the coast of Bonaire. We were driving along the rocky coastline and suddenly I noticed lots of colors. Different colors were popping everywhere amid all the gray and black rocks.

After a while I realized that these colors were plastic! Oh, no. How very sad.

All along the coastline, plastic waste was just sitting there as the most natural part of the landscape. Some people had even stacked the rocks and made sculptures out of rocks, branches and plastic (for photos?). I’m guess that all of this plastic had washed ashore and probably traveled hundreds or thousands of miles before ending up on Bonaire. I was shocked, but (unfortunately) not surprised. It seems that plastic waste is becoming an increasingly natural part of our landscape, regardless of where in the world you are.

We ended up at Spice Beach Club for lunch. I had a really nice burger with fries and a mango mojito. The beach club was pretty crowded and it was so hot, so we only stayed for lunch.

Back in town, we walked around and looked at a few of the shops. At La Placita Square, we found a salt shop selling the original Bonaire sea salt and bought a few souvenirs – regular sea salt and bath salt with mango fragrance.

I can’t wait to try them when I get home.

Document Your Life #113 – Willemstad, Curaçao

It was really hot and sunny in Willemstad, Curacao today.

Colorful Willemstad is a bright shining star in the Caribbean Sea.

Between the natural beauty of the island and the colonial treasures of its historic capital, Curaçao is perhaps one of the richest Caribbean destinations. Even the first Dutch settlers realized early on they had hit the jackpot. The saltwater ponds became a major source of income as the world got hooked on salt.
Meanwhile, merchant ports from every nation came to find shelter in the natural deep-water harbor of bustling Willemstad. And while fortunes were being made off of the salt and slave trade, the real wealth came later, with the discovery of oil in 1920. That’s when people from all over the world flooded the island, the largest of the Netherlands Antilles.
Nowadays, Willemstad is known for its oil refinery, cultural diversity, and gorgeous Dutch colonial architecture. A stroll through this World Heritage Site is an absolute must. Another memorable experience is the famous “floating market”. Outside of town, the old plantation estates with as many dive sites, caves and beaches as this one.

We took a taxi from the cruise ship pier to the city and walked around to see a couple of markets. The first was an indoor market where lots of people were selling fish, vegetables, shampoo, soaps, coffee, clothes, souvenirs, etc. A lot of the items were (believe it or not) the exact same items that I can buy at the supermarket where I live. They even sold Santo Domingo coffee and Dominican Mama Juana!

The second market was the Floating Market outside. It was mostly made up of fruit & vegetable vendors all lined up along the sidewalk of the street and with the harbor behind them. They had boats lined up in the back (I guess where they store and transport their products) and the vendors were all (?) Venezuelans. The produce looked good (although a lot was wrapped in plastic bags) and the market was incredibly colorful and nice to walk through. There were also a couple of fish vendors at the end of the market and souvenir vendors here and there.

Anders had found a good looking French restaurant called The Wine Cellar which had received nice reviews on Trip Advisor. So we started walking around to find it…and it was a long walk in the heat and the sun. When we finally arrived, we were absolutely sweaty and in much need of cooling off. But the food, service and ambiance of the restaurant was definitely worth the walk! It was nothing short of amazing.

I had the Caribbean red snapper filet with vegetables and mango-chili salsa – amazing! For dessert I had the cheese plate with toasted bread, pecan nuts, honey and red grapes – also amazing!

We’d ordered a bottle of Chablis, but the restaurant hadn’t gotten it from their supplier so the owner/manager of the restaurant offered us the Premier Cru instead and at no extra charge even though that bottle was about twice as expensive.

Oh wow! Can you say SERVICE?

We ended the day with a quick half hour visit to the Slave Museum, Kura Hulanda. We only had half an hour since we only got there 30 minutes before closing time. But it was enough time to visit the most interesting part of the museum and just browse through the rest. Definitely worth the visit.

Document Your Life #112 – Save the Waves

It’s day 4 of our 9-night South Caribbean Cruise and we’re at sea. We left Labadee, Haiti and are sailing further south towards the ABC Islands – Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao. We were actually surprised to discover that we sailed all the way around the Dominican Republic, so when we got up in the morning…we were passing right in front of Punta Cana!

I was thinking a lot about cruise ships and the environment today. I read somewhere that the air quality on a cruise ship is worse than in the center of London and that a cruise ship pollutes as much as 1 million cars do a day!!!

So, of course, this creates a huge dilemma – for me.

Cruising has become a very popular way of traveling and each year, more and more people go on cruises. In my particular case, this is my 3rd cruise vacation – this year! So it’s definitely also becoming more popular for my husband and I.

So, how exactly do I align my concern for the environment with my wish to do what I can in order to help clean up the environment and lower my carbon foot print with all the traveling that I do?

I think the answer to that is – I don’t.

The two things just don’t align. They don’t match. All the things that I try to do in my day-to-day life when I’m at home are basically (more than) wiped away by every trip I take, every time I travel on an airplane or go on a cruise.

Even though I try not to generate waste, use plastic, or waste food when I’m traveling. Even though I bring my reusable water bottle and coffee mug when I’m traveling and try to avoid using plastic straws or getting plastic bags.

Cruise ships are, however, getting more and more high-tech and better at lowering CO2 emissions, handling waste & waste water, and becoming more energy efficient.

I’m happy to know that our preferred cruise line, Royal Caribbean (which also owns Celebrity cruises) is focused on protecting the environment through their program Save the Waves – or so they write/say.

We have a responsibility to the guests who sail with us, the people who work for us, and the communities we visit, but most critically we have a responsibility to the oceans, which are at the very essence of our business.

Of course, one could argue that operating cruise ships and sailing them across the globe in itself isn’t doing anything to protect the oceans. That no matter how many initiatives are taken to Save the Waves, the results will never be anywhere near as good as if these cruise ships didn’t exist at all. So, the dilemma between operating a business and making money or not existing at all – for the sake of the environment and the ocean – is indeed very real.

This will, of course, never happen. As long as people are happy and willing to cruise the world, companies like Royal Caribbean will exist…and thrive. And, let’s face it, most people aren’t willing to give up traveling and instead stay at home in order to protect the environment.

I certainly am not. I want to travel the world and have these amazing experiences, help support local economies where I go by purchasing locally made souvenirs and spending money on the destinations that I visit…and then live a more minimalist lifestyle when I’m at home.

Traveling is not the only thing that creates a large amount of pollution in this world…what we eat and buy, e.g. online that are “made in China” and shipped on a container ship or a cargo plane across the world, also creates a large amount of pollution – maybe even more, I don’t know.

There is, however, a genuine dilemma here, which I and many other people have to live with. I can just hope that these companies are indeed sincere and doing everything they possibly can to make sure their ships, etc., are keeping their pollution as low as possible in all areas and aspects.

This video is also really interesting: http://www.takepart.com/video/2015/04/23/cruise-info-graphic

On the other hand, I’m also thinking that YES passengers on a cruise ship create a lot of waste, sewage, pollution, etc., but the same passengers would create all of these things AT HOME too. So, maybe we’re just moving everything from one location to another? Maybe the total amount of waste and pollution is the same regardless of whether all these passengers spend a week on a cruise or a week at home – eating, drinking, shopping, driving in cars, etc., etc.

Or what?

Document Your Life #111 – Labadee, Haiti

Today we arrived in Labadee, Haiti which is the 1st port of call on our cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. We’re on a 9-night South Caribbean cruise visiting Haiti, Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba – 4 ports of call and 5 days at sea.

On the north coast of Haiti sits a tropical haven we can call our own. Set amid spectacular mountains and lush foliage, Labadee, our first port of call, is reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean International guests. Though privately owned, this breathtakingly beautiful destination still retains much of its local color. In 1492, the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World. Originally named “La Isla Española”, it was later colonized by the French, whose influence is still prevalent in both culture and language.

We got in at around 7.30 AM and were welcomed by a marching band and dancers who went up and down the pier and played music. It was a very loud and very festive welcome. I’d just gotten back to the room from the gym after my morning workout, so I was already up and found the welcome quite lovely. The music woke up Anders and my in-laws and I don’t think there were as enthusiastic about it as I was.

We decided not to get off the ship as we’d been here before and this particular destination wasn’t very interesting for any of us.

Labadee is like a private “resort” owned by Royal Caribbean. It’s a closed area where you can go to the beach, do a zip line excursion, go souvenir shopping at the market, etc.. They bring food from the ship to serve lunch on the beach – buffet style.

We were here a few years ago and did the beach thing and went through the market, which (honestly) wasn’t a great experience. I’m all for going to local markets and supporting the locals by purchasing a few souvenirs, but I found these vendors to be very pushy and some even rude. Some of the vendors got upset with us when we didn’t buy anything from them or didn’t want to come into their shop to look at their merchandise. There are a lot of shops, so, of course, we couldn’t buy from all of them even if we passed a lot of them.

Instead, we spent the day on the ship and just relaxed in the Solarium by the pool.

Quote from Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Compass.

Document Your Life #110 – What I Pack for a Cruise

This is my 3rd cruise this year and every time I go, I end up packing a little lighter as I become better at figuring out what I really need (and don’t need).

I try to remember to pack light as closet space and space in general is limited in a normal cruise ship stateroom (cabin). I always count on wearing clothes at least twice, I.e if I’m going for a 10-day cruise, I’ll bring maximum 5 outfits for daytime and 5 dresses to wear for dinner.

How many pairs of shoes do you really need? I personally prefer to wear flats over heels, so I’ll just bring:

• 1 pair of fancy flats that goes with all of my evening dresses

• 1 pair of flip-flops

• 1 pair of training shoes

• 1 pair of sneakers or walking shoes (I’ll usually travel in these shoes)

Bring a travel coffee mug to avoid using single-use coffee cups & plastic lids. This is a must for me. I usually do an early morning, post-gym coffee run and the travel mug is perfect for brining a large cup of coffee back to the room.

Buy bottled water before you board the ship to keep in your room (preferably big bottles) or (even better) pack a big travel water bottle to refill at the water stations around the ship. There is usually always water available at the buffet or some café where you can get a refill. I always bring my little Hydro Flask with me, which keeps the water cold for hours.

Bring a reusable drink cup and ask the waiters to pour your drink (cocktail or beer) in it to keep it cold when you’re by the pool…and don’t get the plastic straw.

You’ll be eating and drinking a lot (!), so bring your workout clothes & shoes and make plans to exercise daily at the gym or participate in a class ($). The gym is usually open from 6 am to 10/11 pm, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to get a workout in during the day. I’m an early riser, so I prefer to go first thing in the morning. On some cruise ships, the gym is very crowded in the morning so you might be better off working out late in the afternoon before you go to dinner. I also always bring my yoga mat to work out in the room.

Bring your own (full size) bottles of shampoo & conditioner. Some cruise ships like e.g Celebrity Reflection give you those small bottles of body wash, shampoo and conditioner, which I find so annoying (so much plastic waste). Other ships like Royal Caribbean have wall-mounted shampoo dispensers, but still give you small soap bars wrapped in plastic…so you might even consider bringing your own (large) soap bar to use.

That’s it…apart from all the other obvious things that you need to bring when traveling, these are just some of the items that I never really used to think about before but that I’ve found to be very useful.

On one last note I’ll say again: You’ll be eating and drinking a lot (!), so try to eat mostly plants and natural foods. This is something that I’m focusing on during this trip as I tend to eat too much when I’m traveling. So, this time I’m doing my best to eat fruits, salads, vegetables, fish and chicken…and trying to stay away from fried foods and desserts (as much as possible).

Document Your Life #109 – There’s No Such Thing as a Free Thing

There’s no such thing as a free…anything.

This morning, I went to a “free” seminar on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas cruise ship called Detox For Health & Weight-loss, but it turned out that it wasn’t really free.

On every cruise ship there are always lots of different seminars throughout the trip. I’ve never actually gone to one, so I was quite curious to see what it would be like.

The seminar was conducted by one of the personal trainers, and he did such a great job that it was only 30-minutes later that I found out it was all just one long sales pitch.

He didn’t really reveal much…just some basic, scientific information about what creates toxins in our bodies and ultimately makes us fat.

The solution (a detox and how to detox) would only be revealed to us if and when we chose to purchase a “body scan” for the special price of US$ 99 per couple where a special machine would be used to measure the exact composition of our body – water, muscles, fat, etc. Only once we had this information, would we be able to know how exactly to detox for health and weight loss.

So, I left.

As soon as he started talking about prices, and I realized that I’d just sat through a 30-minute sales pitch, I felt scammed (forced) into making a purchase that I wasn’t prepared for nor willing to make.

But at least the half hour did manage to spark my curiosity…is it really possible to detox, how and should we be doing this?

The personal trainer was explaining to us that our bodies tend to become acidic due to our lifestyle and the things we eat & drink (e.g. foods and drinks that are not natural and that contain preservatives and lots of sodium). He said that the key to achieving a healthy body is to become alkaline, because apparently (according to a German scientist I can’t remember the name of) diseases cannot form in an alkaline body.

If that’s the case, I wonder if there are certain foods and beverages that are alkaline and can turn the body from a state of acidity to become alkaline?

It would be worth doing a bit of research (online) and finding out.

If the answer turns out to be “eat more plants”, that would just be another thing to convince me that this is something worth focusing a lot more on from now on.

Document Your Life #108 – A Healthy Trip?

I wonder if it’s possible to have a healthy trip this time around…? Can I keep my focus strong enough and long enough to eat mostly plant based food (not too much) and work out every day?

Let me try…

I got up this morning just after 6 AM (it was still dark outside), even though I was extremely tired and dragged myself to the hotel gym to work out. I didn’t do T25 today but just some random exercises with a 10 lbs medicine ball, some 12 lbs weights and cardio (jumping jacks, high knees, running in place, etc.). It was a good 30 min HIIT workout.

After 9 am, we walked a few blocks from our hotel and found a really nice Greek/Mediterranean café (www.eliamiami.com) that served breakfast and had lots of healthy options… I chose a green smoothie with kale, pineapple, banana and almond milk and a veggie wrap with hummus. NICE!!!!!

By the way, they serve e.g. smoothies and ice coffee in plastic cups with plastic lids and plastic straws…urgh! But they serve e.g. orange juice in a real glass jar. I really don’t understand it, but if we go again I’ll try to remember to ask them to serve my smoothie in a real glass – without the straw (which I didn’t use this time).

We boarded Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas in the afternoon and had lunch at the Windjammer Buffet. I went for the tilapia fish with veggies/salad and a little hummus. For dessert, I had a few pieces of fruit.

Note to self: I really need to eat more like this. I am convinced that it’s good for me, both short-term and in the long run.

My stomach just feels really good after these 2 meals. I’m not bloated nor do I have any stomach pains. Fantastic!

Document Your Life #107 – Traveling

So, we’re traveling … again.

It’s time for our annual Christmas trip to Florida (Miami, this time) and a cruise in the Caribbean together with Anders’ mom and sister.

We had a great flight from Punta Cana to Miami on American Airlines, watched the movie The Mummy and landed about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We took a Super Shuttle to our hotel, which we should never have done because we ended up sitting on the bus for about 2 hours before we arrived… Yeah, that’ll be the last time we ever do that.

We invited our friend, L, to have dinner and ended up at Bubba Gump Shrimp & Co. restaurant which was fine. It’s more or less your “typical” American fast food restaurant – lots of fried options and definitely not very plant based.

I have to re-focus again tomorrow… definitely.

Document Your Life #87 – All (Good) Thing Must Come to an End

After a long trip, we’re back where we started and once again making our way home. Just like a boomerang, we will eventually come back.

We arrived early at the cruise ship harbor at Ft. Lauderdale and around 7:30 am, we were hauling our luggage and walking off the ship. That final “beep” as the security scans your sea pass card for the final time is always a little sad to hear.

We got through customs & immigration fairly smoothly and was interrogated quite thoroughly by the officer before we could enter into the good, old U.S.A. I guess, they’re always a little extra alert when they see a new passport (?). Well since we’ve renewed our passports, that has been my feeling. Every stamp sticks out like a sore thumb, I guess.

When he finally let us go, we got a taxi right away and went straight to the airport. A few hours later, we boarded the Spirit flight straight for Santo Domingo and eventually home.

Document Your Life #86 – Last Day at Sea on Celebrity Reflection

In the beginning I couldn’t believe how slowly time went by. Now I can’t believe that it’s already our last day (sigh) and that tomorrow we’ll be back home again. Well, I guess that’s how it goes.

We left Cozumel, Mexico yesterday at 7 pm and are headed back to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We’ll arrive there tomorrow morning, but for now we’ll just enjoy our last day at sea.

We did what we always do on these days…sounds crazy, but by now we’ve created a routine. By now, I have this whole comfort zone going on that will be so difficult to let go of. Anders got up around 6 am to go get two of the cocoon beds by the pool at the solarium. I got up and did my usual cruise ship morning routine…

  • Workout in the room (T25).
  • Shower.
  • Get my things (computer, books, etc.) together and head to the solarium.
  • Get coffee …in my reusable coffee cup (thank you very much!)
  • Get a light breakfast from the Aqua Spa Café (rye bread with tomato, avocado and eggs and a zucchini muffin)
  • Find Anders and dive into work, emails, etc., for the next couple of hours.

We had lunch at The Porch again and the same waitress that we’d had the other day took care of us.

On the last day of a cruise, I usually like to go for a walk around the ship to take pictures. You know, just to make sure that I have everything before we go home…just in case. The daytime is actually a great time to get pictures of the restaurants, because they’re usually empty and the tables are already set up. So, you can walk in there freely or if the host/hostess is there, just ask if you can take a few pictures and they usually don’t mind.

I took a short coffee & reading break at The HideAway (love that place) and made it back upstairs and outside to take the last couple of pictures of The Lawn Club Grill …just before the battery on my iPhone died. Great timing.

Later in the afternoon, I went back to the gym to get my last treadmill & medicine ball workout in. I’d started doing a different workout on the treadmill that the usual walk & jog routine that I’ve done so many times. I actually stopped running on treadmills after I got the most awful pain in my leg one time at a gym in…Rome? I think it was at the hotel gym in Rome this summer. So, now I just walk at around 3.5 miles per hour and move the incline up and down – working my way up to a 10 and then back down again.

In the evening, we were back at Murano for our last dinner which we thoroughly enjoyed. Although it’s been great not having to cook or clean for 2 weeks, it’ll be nice to come home and eat normally again. We definitely need a break from these daily 3-4 course dinners & wine…at least just for a little while.

Document Your Life #85 – Paradise Beach in Cozumel, Mexico

This is our 2nd visit to Cozumel on a cruise. We were here a few years ago with Anders’ mom and sister…and now we’re back again. Just the 2 of us, though. Last time, we walked around the little town that’s only a short taxi ride from the cruise ship harbor. This time, we decided to just go to the beach.

Last night I’d found a beach club online called Paradise Beach. It looked pretty good and had the largest (heated) swimming pool in Cozumel, restaurant, bar, bathroom, shops…and obviously the beach. So, we decided to give it a try.

As soon as we came through (escaped was probably more like it) the maze of shops at the cruise ship harbor, we stood in line for a taxi. The taxis were incredibly organized and it only took a few minutes before we were hopping into one and headed to Paradise…

I think the drive was about 10 minutes…maybe a little more.

We passed by a few other beach clubs just before arriving to Paradise Beach where we were immediately greeted by a hostess. She welcomed us and explained how everything worked with the entrance, etc. We paid a US$ 3 entrance fee per person, which gave us access to the beach club. Food and drinks were, of course, extra. For another US$ 18 per person we could also buy a “fun pass” to use all of the floating devices in the ocean that were lined up like a Ninja Warrior obstacle course. We decided not to.

Fortunately, we arrived “early” so we were among the first people at the beach club. We got one of their VIP cabanas for free (they said there’s usually a fee) and had the perfect spot by the pool to enjoy the day.

The beach club was incredible! The pool was so big and had a really nice and “fresh” temperature. We got our own waiter for the day and as the beach club filled up, the waiters were constantly running around serving food and drinks. One waiter went around the whole time with a mobile Margarita & Mojito cart and made fresh drinks for people.

On the beach, there was a taco truck and of course we had to try the tacos…! Anders was a bit skeptical because they didn’t really have any SPICY salsas, but he did discover one that gave a little kick in the end. My favorite were for sure the shrimp tacos, which the guy promised we’d love. We did. We had about 6 or 7 tacos and 2 bottles of water and got a bill for around US$ 35! It was definitely not cheap, but I guess you also pay for the location (we were sitting in the sand with an ocean view) and they do have to make their money somehow.

The beach was really nice too, and I loved how the palm trees were so close that the leaves made a natural “roof” and created a lot of shade. There were tons of sunbeds on the beach – both in the shade and in the sun. They had a lot of water activities (kayaks, snorkeling, jet ski, etc.) and also offered massages on the beach. They was about US$ 50 for 20 minutes, depending on the type of massage.

What I perhaps liked the most was that there were no souvenir vendors hassling you all the time (they have a souvenir shop on the beach!)… so we could just relax, swim, eat, drink and nap. After about 5 hours, we were ready to head back to the ship.

We left with a bill of around US$ 100 for the food and drinks we’d consumed all day, which wasn’t too bad.

Would I come back? Yep.

Document Your Life #84 – A Great and Unexpected Lunch in George Town, Cayman Islands

We arrived safe and sound to Grand Cayman Island and was brought from the cruise ship to shore by tender boat. Usually (I think), the port provides the tender boats but today there were 5 cruise ships in port so I guess they ran out… Celebrity Cruises used their own “tender boats”, which were actually the life boats.

Even though the ride was comfortable, I hope it’s the first and last time that I ever experience sitting in a life boat!!!!! Well, unless it’s used as a tender boat.

Again, we had the option of going to the beach but we decided not to because we were pretty sure it was going to be crowded with, what, some 20,000 people in port. The only beach that would’ve been interesting to go to was the one called “7 Mile Beach”, but we bet our money that’s where everyone was going, so instead we decided to have a look around the town.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to look at. The entire part of town that was facing the harbor and ocean was filled with one tourist shop and bar after the other. As this wasn’t really our thing, we quickly started walking away from the ocean but we soon discovered that there wasn’t much else to do. We passed a few small stores, a mini market, a spa to ask how much they charged for a 1-hour massage (US$ 75!)…and then we went back to the harbor.

We sat down at a popular restaurant located right on the edge of the water (Paradise Seaside Grill) and wanted to order a drink and a few snacks. After waiting 10 minutes without any service, Anders got fed up and we left. There were some people swimming and snorkeling right in front of the restaurant, so we went down to see if there were any fish in the ocean…and we saw lots of big Tarpon fish that were swimming right in front of us.

Fortunately, as we were walking back we ended up at what I’m sure must be the best restaurant in town – Guy Harvey’s Island Grill. We’d visited his store and amazing art gallery (upstairs) earlier, so we decided to give the food a try. And were we glad we did? YES!

Not only did we have an incredible view of the harbor from the upstairs balcony, but the food was excellent. We ordered a bottle of Whispering Angel and shared a few starters in order to try different things. The fried calamari were probably the most crispy I’ve ever had in my life. The sushi roll was delicious and the garlic-cheese bread was great. The service was great too…

If I ever come back to this place again, I’d definitely go back and have lunch!

P.S. Guy Harvey actually lives in the Cayman Islands and is a very talented painter (among other things, perhaps). He has an art gallery on the top floor of his clothing store in George Town, Cayman Islands, which is worth visiting. I only knew his name from the fishing shorts that I’d bought for Anders some years ago…so I was really surprised to discover this.

Document Your Life #83 – Sea Day on Celebrity Reflection

We’re on our way north again and sailing towards the Cayman Islands.

This cruising life is something else. The sea days are incredibly relaxing and lazy…that is if you’re just on vacation and don’t have to work.

I got up around 7 am (that’s late for me) and did my morning workout. At 8 am, I joined Anders at the Solarium on deck 14, had coffee and started working on the computer.

It’s 4:50 pm now and I’m getting ready to wind down for the day, which has only been broken up for a quick lunch around 12 pm. Ok, ok…I have also done a few other things besides work, like read, post photos on Instagram and write on this blog. But the majority of my waking hours were spent working.

In a minute, I’ll go to the gym and work out before dinner. My butt is sore from sitting all day on a lounge chair.

Yes, this cruising life is something else.

Document Your Life #82 – Cartagena, Columbia Part 2

Our cruise ship (Celebrity Reflection) overnighted in Cartagena, so we had another opportunity to enjoy this city.

Today was actually Anders’ birthday, so we started with breakfast room service and headed out around 11 am.

Yesterday, we were approached by a lady from a spa who offered us an hour massage for just US$ 30 each. So today, we went looking for her. It took a while, but eventually we found her and the spa (Plentitud Spa). After an hour and a fantastic massage, we emerged feeling slippery (from all the massage oil) and soft like butter.

The streets in the Old City were less crowded and busy today, but there were still some vendors around and some tourists.

We had lunch at another restaurant called San Pedro Cafe, which was right in front of the cathedral. The place was great, but the menu was so strange. It was a mix of seafood, Italian, Thai and Japanese…I was afraid that the food wouldn’t be good, but we both ordered Thai dishes and they were excellent.

In the evening, we continued Anders’ birthday celebration back onboard the cruise ship with a dinner at Murano, the French restaurant.

A great day.