St. Maarten “Tiki Hut Relax & Snorkel” 01-2014

St Maarten ViewWhat a beautiful view we were greeted by in the morning we arrived. We had purchased a “Tiki Hut Relax & Snorkel”, adventure from the ship. It was set to leave at noon but since the ship got there at 7 am we decided to explore the shops and walked around. We saw the bicycles at the roundabout but no one was there to answer questions on renting the bicycles. We asked and we asked and were pointed in all directions but did not find a single person that could answer our questions and so we just walked and took pictures here and there. We got a bit bore so we got a map of the island sat down and waited for the first Tiki Excursion to arrive, hmm, no one was passing by with a sign that said Tiki Hut & Snorkel so we went back to our cabin got a few more things and got ready for the 11’ o’ clock excursion. We went down aand were told they wouldn’t leave until 12pm, but we decided to wait anyways. As we were waiting a lady came by and strapped the sign to a pole and told us she would be back at 12 p.m. and at around 10:45 a.m she comes back and we realized that at the dock they were all working on island time! Oh wow! Well, atleast we did not have to wait for another hour. Off we went to the Water Taxi that was to take us to the Tiki and to our surprise we had to wait on another group from another ship. This was now a recurring theme of bad luck in Sint Maarten. Finally!!!! We were on the way as the captain told us a few safety things about the craft and told us we were going to take 8 minutes to the Tiki and not the 20 minutes we were told. Seas were a bit rough and wind was about 25 knots, the water looked very sandy in color not a good thing to look at when all you want to do is snorkeling. The lady said it was about 12 foot visibility and they normally get 30 feet visibility at the Tiki. We arrived! First impressions were not so great, the place looked on the small side and a bit crowded, but as we boarded others left of the water taxi making lots of room for us. We were given a small safety course about the sea urching and the fire coral on the ropes and rocks, a small explanation of the area was given letting us know where the sunken sailboat, sunken helicopter, and sunken cannons where.

St Maarten View

St Maarten    St Maarten

Below we are at the snorkeling location, location, location, just great views

Tiki Hut Relax and Snorkle St Maarten view   Tiki Hut Relax and Snorkle St Maarten view

 I started snorkeling and was plagued with bad luck because visibly was only about three feet and so if I wanted to see anything I had to free dive to it and so I did. I then went closer to the cliff and the snorkeled around the rocks, there was some visible sea life and saw dozens of black sea urchins. As the included rum punch and the hours went by I went back in and this time visibility was better, I could actually see the sunken sailboat from our chair. My wife got me a piece of bread and another rum punch as I prepared to go back in. The bread attracted dozens of black and yellow Sargent majors, a few yellow tail snappers one of which seemed to have escaped the hook of a fisherman and it had a huge gash that did not allow it to swim upright, but it did not stop it from getting some free bread. I took a small video of it, hope you all can see it when the video is ready. I then took the bread to a rock that was submerged about 2 feet from the top of the water and went down to about 15 feet. I scattered the bread to bring some of the sea life to the camera and then free dove to the bottom with the bread scattering it towards the top bringing in some more yellow tail snappers and this time some bar jacks with it. There was not much sea life but was glad to see some brain coral, some horned corals, perhaps some black coral, and other types growing on the rocks it seemed like a new beginning in sea life around the rocks a good sign of health in the ocean.

Brain Coral in St Maarten   Sea Urchin in St Maarten

wrasses in St Maarten   wrasses in St Maarten

  snorkeling St Maarten   snorkeling selfie

Below are the sunken sailboat, cannon, and helicopter. There are more sunken items but were not visible to to water clarity.

sunken sailboat St Maarteen   sunken cannon St Maarten   sunken helicopter St Maarten

 After a while I decide to just lounge on a chair and eat a nice grouper sandwich with my wife and of course some more of the included rum punch that had many people happy and jumping off the platform doing belly flops and cannon balls into the ocean. I just had to do it too and my wife joined as well, then a lady a former Diving Team of some place showed off her skills with a triple vault that left every jaw on the platform and no one dared to jump again or maybe their bellies were just hurting.

Tiki Hut relax & snorkel St Maarten   seatrek and tiki hut side by side St Maarten

Time to go! We washed off the salt with the fresh water wash-down they had and changed in the bathroom. Up the water taxi came and off we went. We asked him to take us to downtown, but he said it was too late since he had to go back every half hour to the docks. Oh well another piece of luck that runs out for us. We got to the dock and decided to walk to downtown ourselves; it only took us 10 minutes by foot. We got there and got a few refreshments, walked around a bit and checked out the beach which was nice and had sailboats and other boats anchored within 20 or 30 feet from it. We took some snap shots of Petersburg ate a roti and went back very tired to the ship. As we got to the ship we took a shower changed our clothes and woke up the next day in St. Thomas. OOPS!

sun on the underwater rocks of St Maarten

Grand Turk Ultimate Snorkeling Adventure? 1-27-14

Getting ready to depart, exploring the ship

Another great vacation just had started for us, a nice 8 day cruise to the Caribbean islands celebrating our 28th anniversary. We started with Grand Turk and continued on to Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten (St. Martin), and St. Thomas. On this cruise we were prepared for the trip. We took our allowed 12 bottles of carbonated drinks and 2 bottles of wine plus we purchased a liter of JWBL which was to last us 8 days and to be enjoyed in our room. I also purchased a little surprise for my wife; room decorations to make her feel as special as she deserves to be. As we had gotten to the room and settled down we headed to the Lido deck (deck 9 where the pools and food were) and started exploring the ship, there is nothing better than to know where everything is at with your own eyes. The ship’s crew always does a great job at letting you know where the fun is at and what the schedule is for that day. As we went to the Lido deck we were surprised to find Indian cuisine being served from 12:30 to 3:30 (on the Carnival Fun Times Daily schedule). We love humus and naan! We checked out the pool at the bow (the front of the boat) and the hot tubs, the same mirror image pool and tubs were at mid ship and aft (the back of the boat), the only difference was that the pool at aft had a retractable roof, so in the colder weather we departed in was an indoor pool and as we got closer to Grand Turk it was an outdoor pool. It was great to see that as we have boarded smaller ships that only have a pool at mid ship. This time we were able to choose where we wanted to be, at the almost crowded bow pool, at the laud music mid ship pool, or at the a bit emptier aft pool. Nah! Later on we went to the serenity pool which is for 21 and older. It was enough about exploring the ship and so we started to unpack and settle down in our cabin. Next, it was to hit the lunch buffet, relax, get some excursions at the desk, relax, eat dinner and relax. At dinner we met a nice group of people some with a language barrier but the night went along nicely. As we came back to our cabin we were unpleasantly surprised to see a green paper at our cabin inbox, our bicycling tour in Sint Maarten had been canceled due to negotiations with the vendor. ARRRRGGGG!!!! Now we had to spend more time looking through the Shore Guide and shop for a replacement excursion. Here are some pics on the ship.

Room decorations
Room Decorations

Our allowed drinks for the voyage

Soft Drinks and allowed wine   Part of the allowed 12 soft drinks per person

The lobby

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Part of the casino and Havana bar

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Aft pool with retractable roof

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Mid ship pool

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Kiddie pool on the sides of the ship and us getting ready to depart

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First formal nigh dinner party

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Grand Turk!
We booked an early a.m. 2 snorkel trip to the 7,000’ drop Wall and to the Oasis Reef it was called “Ultimate Snorkeling Adventure”. Like everyone online says you cannot see anything but darkness after you get past the 30’ depth. The drop is immense and snorkeling may not be the best way to enjoy that drop. If you are a certified diver it would probably be better for you to enjoy it that way. I must say that I did enjoy it. I cannot take credit away from such a marvel. I did go down to about 25’ free diving and the snorkeling crew showed off by passing me and disappearing into the darkness of the depths. I took a few pics while down there and immediately went up for some air. The crew had some chum inside water bottles making the yellow tail snapper and Bermuda chubs come up to the surface near the bottom at the 30’depth I only saw tangs and parrot fish there but the drop was something to witness and worth it in the end. After 20 minutes or so of snorkeling I saw a few fish dash towards what seemed like chum on the water, the fish went crazy and there were plenty of them so I went to take a few snap shots of them. To my dismay it was not a crew member with a chum bottle, it was a tourist chumming the water as she snorkeled, CRAAAAPP!!!  I was swimming around PUKE!!! And so was my wife! Watching this made her a bit sick but she endured it until we got back on the boat. She is such a trooper; she even free dived down to see the wall up close.

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Grand Turk Wall diver   yellow tail snappers in Grand Turk

yellow tail snappers in puke-Grand Turk 2014    Grand Turk Wall Yellow Tail Snappers
At the Oasis Reef there were a few baby nurse sharks, lots of yellow tail snappers, a few groupers, tangs, parrot fish, and other reef fish. It was nice swimming and petting the nurse sharks and the crew held them for everyone to pet, as the cats of the sea are so used to tourist they came close by me many times allowing me to pet them on my own.  I had tons of fun at this stop, but the reef seemed to be in need of nourishment? Perhaps they should leave it alone for a few months at a time and choose a different spot for a while and allow it to restore a bit.

nurse sharks in Grand Turk

oasis diver boat Grand Turk   Oasis Reef Grand Turk

Oasis Reef Grand Turk    Oasis Reef Grand Turk

After the snorkel trips was over the captain of the boat passed closed by the beach and recommended a restaurant to go and eat some local food. We got back to the dock and off we went to have a few refreshments and food at Margaritaville it was a fun stop and off to the ship we went.

Grand Turk Wreck   Grand Turk 2014-48

Margaritaville drink   DCIM100GOPRO

We were about to get changed when I noticed some people snorkeling on the beach and realized that there may have been some reef there and also the was an area that was cut to make the channel for the ships to dock. So back down we went and I dipped into the water off to explore the area. The whole place was filled with Brown and Blue tangs, also many parrot fish and a few snappers. The channel area seemed empty but some small reef fish like blue damsels and parrot fish were present. As I went on a ballyhoo followed me and as went to it it took me to a sunken cannon and then I saw a few anchors that had been set there as part of the ocean decorations (artificial reefs). That was a nice surprise for me and so I took a few snap shots.

Governor's Beach Grand Turk

Grand Turk Governors Beach

ballyhoo   tangs in Grand Turk

Governors Beach    anchor at governors beach

DCIM100GOPRO    sea urching at Grand Turk

On our way back to the ship we stopped for a photo

Grand Turk Feb 2014   Grand Turk Feb 2014

Once back to the ship, the cold mint towels and cold refreshments awaiting us were great!

Grand Turk 2014-53    Grand Turk 2014-54

I got a bit tired so I went on to the beach and then it was time to get back on the ship where we were surprised by a Gold, Platinum, and Diamond guess party. On this voyage we just made it to Gold so they gave us our bragging pins and off to the party we were. It was a thank you party where we had free alcoholics as well as nonalcoholic drinks and hors d’oeuvres. This night we had a nice dinner and watched a nice show and we then hopped to the comedy club where we laughed our pants off with new and old jokes we heard before but modified a bit. On this same night we received a $5 voucher to play roulette at the casino; we had to match the voucher and ended spending $10 playing roulette. After spending the $10 for our free $5 off to gamble, we decided to end the night and to the cabin we went to prepare for a day in Puerto Rico.

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Grand Turk 2014-56 Grand Turk 2014-60 Grand Turk 2014-59

I will be updating this post with pic corrections and hopefully some video.

Coco Cay Bahamas Vacation Cruise Adventure 8-30-13

This is one of many non fishing reports that I will be making. I hope to bring some useful info in case it might help you with any kind of decision you will be making about a trip on a cruise.Carnival Cruiselines Ship

Well, I know it was a well deserved vacation for my wife and I and also for her sister and family. We all decided to hop on a cruise and this time try a different one as we normally would book it with Carnival Cruise lines. Many people had told us about Royal Caribbean being a top notch cruise line, but to me a cruise is a cruise. One thing for sure the people working on that ship told us that they were going through some serious cut backs. Well we felt those cut backs on the quality of food and drinks (not paid ones). None the less we did have plenty of fun on our own.

When we first arrived on the boat it was as any other cruise, a few lines to get in and then as soon as we got there we were ushered to the muster station, which was all done at a bar, they got us there in a rush just to sit us down and watch and hear the important stuff which was hard to hear among the so many people at the place. Same thing happens at  other ships but on this particular voyage it all felt a bit disorganized. Well the emergency instructions were given and off to our rooms we went. We went into the rooms and our luggage was not there yet, we had to wait for it but as prepared as we were my wife and I had a change of cloths with us and so we got into some comfy outfits and kept on waiting for the luggage. Well, it was taking long so we went to check and see what was going on, the luggage was just sitting by the elevators and we were told that if we found our luggage to just take it and so we did. We were used to the other cruise line have our luggage waiting for us inside our room. No biggie, after getting there at 1pm it was now about 5:30pm and so off to having some fun we went…Our group got together and decided to meet at the top deck for a few picture taking opportunities.

On the way out: Government Cut on the left and a fisherman returning from fishing on the right.

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Welcoming Party on the Sun Deck

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Some other ships were also leaving Miami so we got some in the background. A few drinks were purchased and the night went on to dinner, unfortunately the tables only held up to ten people so one couple had to sit by themselves  s on a table near us, they tried to accommodate us in one table but it was not possible due to the arm chairs taking so much space. Dinner was good but lacked flavor here in Miami we are used to lots of spices and flavorful meals, I guess you just can’t satisfy everyone but on our end the food was bland. The dessert, well the banana creme brulee was the only dessert I really did liked. I found it weird that in the main dining room menu they would put plates and coffee you had to pay for, some items which were included on other ships not of the same company so if not careful you could end up paying for a meal you though was included. You need to pay attention at the menu and items in boxes that have numbers next to them, LOL. After dinner it was off to a few night caps and some dancing and dancing we did. It was hard to find out where the fun was at not even the workers knew where to go for fun. We received our compass (itinerary) like on the second night

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It was morning time and off to Coco Cay we went, we waited for the Tender boat and arrived to a desolated island, which was nice, we had heard a=of a nice quite beach on this island called Barefoot Beach and were told we need to walk a mile but it was much less than that. We found a spot on it and I got ready to explore the water snorkeling just to find out that it was 2 to 3 feet deep for miles on end. I must say I did enjoy snorkeling in 2 feet of water through the grass and as you would go there were pockets that were about 4 to 5 foot deep and many mountain like sand formations rising from the bottom of the sea floor was something really niceCoco Cay Bahamas to see. It felt as if I was looking at pyramids on a dessert of grass at times. The water was beautifully clear and all felt as if I was inside a big aquarium but no fish were in sight with the exception of some small conch and old sand dollar skeletons. We spent a couple of hours in this area I was snorkeling while the rest of our family was resting on the shallow water. We all got hungry and so we went to look for the BBQ stands that were mentioned to us before hand. Arrg, again food was bland, but it was food and the fruit punch was more like water punch with kool aid flavor and as we saw the crew empty half a jug of juice into a bin and then filling it with water we realized why. Ok no problem I got a watermelon and added it to my juice, problem solved. After finding a table and eating we grabbed a few chairs and relaxed for a bit, took a nice nap and then it was back to our snorkeling adventure. I brought my own snorkeling set so my wife and I did not have to rent one. First impressions when in the water were ok the normal Sargent majors you find near rocks at any beach all over the Caribbean were there, then my wife and I decided to venture a little farther east to where there was a fence not allowing us to go any further, there we saw some dog snappers and nice size schools of grunts mixed in with a few blue tangs, brown  tangs, and wrasses. We decided to go towards the middle and saw a tire on the sea floor it was full of life with several species in and out it’s surroundings. After that my wife was a bit tired and so we went back to shore and after she left to let ou    r nephew’s son use the equipment I continued on to the the other side of the rocks which were facing the ocean, the water was much much cooler in this area and it was were most of the fish were. Thousands of sardines balling up getting harassed by bar jacks, yellow, jacks, blue runners, mutton snappers, and a singleBarefoot Beach Coco Caybarracuda it was very nice to swing in between a nice size school of those barjacks and to be able to see that awesome iridescent blue line on their backs as they swam alive right in front of me, it felt so good to be there and took me back many years when I used to go diving on a much regular basis. I was able to take some video and some not so great pictures but at least I will be able to remember the day almost as brightly colored as it was. The day ended and back on the Tender it was. Tonight was formal night so we prepared for the picture taking and a nice dinner. On the other company’s ship this would have been lobster night but on Royal Caribbean we got served tiger shrimp instead if you wanted lobster you had to pay $29 additionally. What a shame, but still had a nice time. The night ended with a midnight buffet of yet again more bland food and bland desserts. Can’t say that all of the food was the same way, there were plates or single items that were tasty and kind of made up for the rest of filler food as I called it. Many people have a different way of liking things, me, I like flavor and it just wasn’t always there. Here are some pics of that day and night.

On the Tender boat and our arrival at Coco Cay, Bahamas. Great spot for a family shot

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This is what the flats of Barefoot Beach look over and under the water

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Kayak excursion passing by on the flats

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Here is an underwater video I took in the flats of Barefoot Beach

Breaking out the snorkel at Coco Cay snorkeling area. Did bring my own and did not have to rent.

Snorkeling

Underwater images from the Snorkeling area: Barjacks and Scaled sardines

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DCIM100GOPRO   DCIM100GOPRO

Below is a video of the snorkeling and a small time lapse back to the ship

http://youtu.be/WYLtCL4XrMM

Last look at Coco Cay, Bahamas

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On formal night. Every Cruise ship has a night were they give a grand dinner and you can take the opportunity to take professional pictures and you choose only the ones you want. We have done it before, this time we decided to save some $$ and take some pictures our selves. Well these are not professional pics but will do 🙂

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Midnight buffet

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On the third day it was Nassau and visit to Atlantis, been there before and as before it was awesome. So much to do there, our plans were to take a Taxi cab straight there since the cost was only $4 per person once there we were to just go to the aquariums which buying the tickets straight from Atlantis was only $45 bucks per person and that allowed you to walk around the premises and look at all the aquariums. We went through the main aquarium Anchore at Nassaucalled The Dig, it has been about 8 months since my last visit and can tell you that most fish had lost their colors in comparison with the last time I was there. Most fish in captivity tend to do so, I was hoping that perhaps they would release most of the fish and restock with more species to keep the aquarium with lively colors. Perhaps many tourist that go there would not even know what color a mutton snapper or a Nassau Grouper really is. By the way I was really surprised to see several Nassau Groupers in captivity since they are pretty much endangered species. I was also surprised to see saw fish in captivity and big 10 to 12 foot ones at that. After the dig we went to to the predators tank which is where the saw fish were along with several species of sharks, trigger fish, barracudas, permits, and several species of groupers. In this aquarium there is a nice tunnel were the the fish swim over your heads. After the tunnel we ended by the Hammerhead tank, they keep a couple of 10 foot or so flat hammerheads in shallow water mimicking the flats of the Bahamas. You can see them fining through the water swiming in circles right behind jack crevales. There is a suspended bridge which is in between two observation towers, pretty cool to walk right through it while the hammer head swims right under. I am pretty sure the hammerhead does not appreciate being in there but that is what an aquarium is for, to show case fish and mammals. The day went by fast and we just had an opportunity to see one more aquarium and we were told of turtles so we went to see them and in the way we found a nice looking cave with yet another aquarium full of grunts shaping up a tornado figure in the water, it was pretty nice sight to see as the fish did look very healthy. As we got to the turtle pool they were being fed and soon after we got there we left. It was to late to go to the beach so we headed back to get get some souvenirs and back to the boat we went. It was another great experience being at Atlantis and so we will be back on another day.

Aquarium at The Dig

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At the predator aquarium

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At the Flats Hammerhead hanging bridge, one of the hammerheads is on the right

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Stopped for a picture with my lovely wife

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At the Cave Aquarium and the Turtle pool

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That was the end of our mini vacation of which I brought back a nasty flue that kept me in bed most of the week and out of fishing for another weekend. Goodness for Tamil-flue pills and other antibiotics!!!!