Winter Escape

Our January winter escape to Florida worked out really well so we decided to go for another.  This time we picked a cruise out of Port Canaveral and we flew since we had free tickets on United.
MNM and Atlantis

 

Yep, Like a kid!

We arrived a couple of days early because we wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center before our cruise.  We rented a car and drove about 30 minutes to the visitor center.  There we visited the Atlantis Shuttle Exhibit, watched the IMAX show about the International Space Station and took a bus tour throughout the launch area; ending up with a visit to the Apollo/Saturn exhibit.  The entire visit was awesome and emotional; evoking tears of memories and pride in the USA at every turn.  We definitely want to come back!

Us and Our Shipmates: Randy and Mary Ann

We spent two nights on Cocoa Beach meeting up with cousins Randy and Mary Ann on the second night.  They were on the same ship and celebrating their wedding anniversary.  Next morning we headed for the port.  Randy and Mary Ann are Platinum Members of Carnival so they got expedited boarding.  We are not, so we expected an hour before we go on board.  NOT. The lines moved incredibly fast and within 15 minutes we were on board and heading for Guy’s Burgers. There we met up with Randy and Mary Ann and enjoyed the sail-away festivities.

Next morning we docked at Nassau, Bahamas.  We debarked and headed out to find a geocache.  Our target cache was located at the British Colonial Hilton where Sean Connery stayed when filming the James Bond movies.  Incredibly cool hotel and beautiful grounds….we’d love to come here to stay in this hotel!

We then wandered the streets of Nassau,

Fresh Conch!

 

Nassau Officers

visiting the Parliament and walking by hundreds of shops.  The best thing about the shops was the air conditioning blasting out the doors.  We stopped at Conch Fritters to have a couple of Bahamian beers in honor of our friend Trae and to use their WiFi.  Then we moved on to a little local bar right on the waterfront.  There we linked up with three crazy guys from our ship: Chris, Brett and John.  We traded stories, drinks and jokes with them for a couple hours and then made our way back to the Liberty…a little worse for the wear but happy happy happy!

St. Thomas was our next port of call.  We had a couple of errands to run before our excursion so we debarked and headed out.  First task was to find a geocache which was only about 500 feet from our ship.  Finding it took only a few minutes and then we were off to shop.  Bought our items, dropped them off on the ship and then headed back out to join our excursion on a catamaran to St. John’s.

It was Mona’s birthday and she chose to celebrate on the Champagne Catamaran excursion from Carnival because it took us to St. John’s AND it had champagne!  The excursion started with a twenty minute bus ride to the other side of the island where we took off our sandals and boarded the catamaran.  Our crew was Micky, Michael and Alex the captain.

My “Jaws Pic”.  I was snorkeling and happened to look up as
the crew was boating Mona back to the Catamaran.
We sailed over to St. Johns taking about a half hour. Along the way the crew briefed us on how to use the snorkel gear and where the best spots were in the bay. As soon as we arrived I jumped in to see lots of fish, rays and spiny sea urchins. Others on our boat saw turtles, but it wasn’t my day for them. Mona doesn’t snorkel so the crew boated her to the beach where she enjoyed shelling and talking to other non-snorkelers.  She was perfectly happy there!
We were in the water for about an hour, then back to the catamaran. We sailed back to St. Thomas while enjoying champagne, rum punch, cheese and bread. Okay, more champagne and rum than cheese and bread.  Lots of fun sailing but no dolphins.
Mofongo!

Next up was San Juan, Puerto Rico.  This was our third visit to the island and this time we were determined to try mofongo; a local speciality made of crushed fried plantains molded into a cup shape and then stuffed with the meat of your choice.  We made our way to the Aji Dulce in Old Town  and once there we chose mofongo with pork and mojitos.  We both loved the new tastes and maybe, just maybe, the Mojitos might of helped make it taste even better.

Mona with Jack’s Shack owners, Jack and Joan

Grand Turk was our last port of call.  Here, as with our last visit, we waded to the left of the pier for about a quarter mile till we came to Jack’s Shack.  This little place has a volleyball net, a bar and tables and a grill which puts out some of the best jerk chicken we’ve ever had.  We spent several hours here, talking to the owners, trading stories with other visitors and just enjoying the sun and breeze.  There’s nothing fancy here, just quality relaxation!

Our time on ship was spent watching shows, eating, playing trivia and just laying in the sun or shade as our whims dictated.  The Liberty has activities for all ages and we had no trouble finding something to do at all times.  And, since there are plenty of quiet spaces we had no trouble finding ways to just relax and listen to the sounds of the ship cutting through the water.

 

The Liberty has Carnival’s new American Table Menu which we really enjoyed.  It has lots of new selections as well as many of the old-time favorites.  What we liked most was the port-specific selections which offer foods that are typical for the post just visited.  This had the effect of extending our stay on the island and we love that!
All too soon our cruise ended and we took the Road Runner Shuttle back to Orlando.  We spent several hours in the United lounge before flying back to Chicago. Our flight was delayed several times but we didn’t mind too much as we had free drinks and food.  From there we drove home to 11 inches of newly fallen snow. We are already ready to escape again!

Travel Tips

We get a lot of questions on traveling so I decided to add this new section to the blog to share a few of our tips and experiences.
Free airfare: We both flew free round trip to Orlando.  We found a promotion where you sign up for a United Airlines Credit card and you get enough miles for a free ticket.  We both got cards, charged the minimum and got the tickets.  We paid off the charges immediately so we didn’t pay any interest.  As a bonus, we both got free passes to the United Lounge which really paid off as we had a multi-hour wait at Orlando.  Free drinks and food all day!
Sleep and Park: We bought a package deal at the Elk Grove Quality Inn and Suites.  The deal included a shuttle to and from the airport plus free parking for nine days.  Essentially, we stayed for free (instead of paying for parking at the airport) plus they shoveled out our car and cleaned the windows before we got back.  Also note, this is a Choice Hotel and they have a promotion right now for a free night’s stay after two nights.  We’ll get the second night in March.
Medical Issues: On Grand Turk I stepped on a rusty nail sticking up from the deck.  (Okay, two tips here: get your shots and don’t go barefoot!)  We quickly reviewed my tetanus shot history and breathed a big sigh of relief as it’s been less than 5 years since my last shot.  When you plan your cruise you aren’t thinking about medical issues, but you need to think about what will happen if you have problems on a trip.  Carnival offers medical insurance that’s worth considering.

 

Thrifty Rental Cars: We had prebooked a rental car at Thrifty for our trip to the Space Center.  However, when we got there they reneged on the deal.  I surmise that they could rent the car for more to Daytona 500 visitors.  Lesson learned: I won’t be booking with Thrifty again.
Booking Flights: I just learned about Google Flights.  This is an amazing tool to help you find bargains: Google Flights from Huffington Post
The Points Guy:  As always, if you’re looking for ways to maximize your frequent flyer miles we highly recommend you follow The Points Guy: http://thepointsguy.com  He also has tips on the best credit cards for travelers, ways to maximize hotel points, etc. etc. etc. The Points Guy is just an awesome reference for any traveler!

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One Response to Winter Escape

  1. Sheryl July 29, 2015 at 7:43 am #

    Great pictures and stories to go with them. And I remember one of you tips you talked about before…..a good question to ask local people when they have gone on vacation where is the first place they want to eat when they get home.

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