Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nina’s Gelateria and Pastry Shop, Niagara on the lake

If you are ever spending the day in Niagara Falls the Clifton Hill area is not the only place you can go for great desserts.
Niagara on the lake also has many restaurants to choose from as well as shops, parks and picnic areas.
On my last visit to Niagara on the lake I stopped in at Nina’s Gelataria and Pastry shop. At Nina’s not only is all the gelato made in house but it also contains no artificial colors, flavours or preservatives. The gelato is sweet, creamy and the flavours are very bold and fresh. I had the amanrena cherry gelato and the rum raisin.

Scone (frm my camera)
 I also had a deliciously soft blueberry white chocolate scone which was the best scone I have had to date. The scone was moist and cake like with large chucks of blueberry and chocolate.

Nina’s also serves sandwiches, cookies, pastries including cookies and fresh espresso and coffee.
So the next time you visit The Niagara Falls area venture down to Niagara on the lake and stop in at Nina’s.

The Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe, College Street

Taste of Little Italy Festival June 18th 2011

This year I attended the Taste of Little Italy festival that was held on College Street in Toronto. The weather was perfect. There was music, entertainment, games for the kids, and lots of food. I love Italian food and after much debate about which patio to have lunch at we finally decided on The Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe. Although most of the menu is geared towards rich mouth watering desserts, they also have a few other items on the menu to choose from and the patio offers a nice view of the streets activities.

I ordered the grilled chicken panini with mayo, lettuce, roasted peppers and provolone cheese for $6.50. The sandwich was large, filling and very good, although I would have preferred a  bit more flavour on the chicken breast itself.

I also had some Sicilian ice cream and gelato which comes in a variety of delectable flavours. This is a great place to go to for dessert, to have a beer, and spend an afternoon on the patio!
from my camera

Restaurant Blog: Raddica's Hot and Spicy Doubles

The Flavour of Trinidad
By: Erica Davis
June 8th, 2011

Toronto is a bustling metropolis that is infused with multiculturalism and diversified traditions and with this comes an abundance of flavours. Toronto has a substantial population from the West Indies, and West Indian culture is incorporated into our cities lively summer festivals with such events as the annual jerk fest and the colourfully popular Caribana festival now known as The Scotia Bank Caribbean Festival.

Trinidad is an island that gives us calypso music, carnival and a wide variety of tasty foods that are infused with African, Indian, Chinese, Spanish and Amerindian influences. If you haven’t tried a doubles, aloo pie or curry chicken roti then you are missing out on an array of spicy bold flavours that dance on the taste buds and will have you going back for seconds.

While sampling from many different Trinidadian restaurants I look for key ingredients to satisfy my experienced taste buds and bring out the authenticity of Trinidadian food. When I bite into a delectable roti I want images of my grandmother standing over the stove kneading dough and mixing spices to resurface to my mind in a nostalgic yet tempting memory causing my mouth to water. For Trinidadian families food is an important factor that nourishes family bonds and is central to any major event. Although I was born and raised in Canada the Trinidadian culture and strong roots were passed down to me through traditions and food. I would often hear of the large gatherings that are custom in Trinidad where families and friends gather at a river or park and have a huge feast of a variety of homemade Trinidadian food. In Toronto many Trinidadian families still carry on these traditions passing on recipes for generations.

A great place to get authentic tasting Trinidadian cuisine at an affordable price is a small restaurant located in Brampton called Raddica’s  Hot and Spicy Doubles. This small gem is tucked away at the corner of Torbram and Steeles and has a loyal following of regular customers that can no doubt attest to the restaurants smooth, simplistic Caribbean vibe and chutney music; which is music that is infused with Indian and calypso rhythm and lyrics.

Doubles (frm my camera)
On my visit to Raddica’s I decided to purchase one of Trinidad’s most popular foods, doubles. A doubles resembles the Trinidadian version of a sandwich, it consists of two pieces of bara (a fried bread made from flour and peppered with turmeric). In between these golden pieces of bara is a nice helping of chana (curried chick peas in a curry sauce with some spicy chutney).
Admittedly I am a huge fan of a good doubles and have consumed a hearty amount of doubles in my days, but Raddica’s doubles are scrumptiously soft, the chick peas are perfectly curried and complimented with the spicy chutney and they only cost $1.50 each . There is no meat in this dish but with such titillating scrumptious flavours you don’t miss it. Vegetarians will find it to be a meal that surpasses the blandness of less creative veggie dishes, entering the realm of great tasting cuisine. To be on the safe side I’d suggest ordering your doubles with either no pepper or slight pepper because when you ask for hot you may be biting off more than you can chew, Raddica’s homemade Trinidadian style pepper sauce is extremely hot and has the ability to set your mouth on fire. Doubles also comes with a variety of other fillings including curry shrimp and goat.

Chicken roti (frm my camera)
Another popular dish that Raddica’s prepares to perfection is the curry chicken boneless roti, which is also the national dish of Trinidad. The roti is called dhalpuri roti which is flour dough that is stuffed with ground yellow split peas, cumin, garlic and pepper and then the dough is rolled flat and cooked on a flat iron cooking surface called a tava. The roti is stuffed with curried chicken, potatoes and chana and folded so it is easier to eat. The rotis at Raddica’s are flavourful and large. The chicken is tender and seasoned well; the chunks of potato are also blended into the curry making the meal quite filling. The roti is moist and becomes saturated with the spicy curry sauce which is delectable. If you aren’t in the mood for chicken you can always try your roti stuffed with shrimp or curry goat. The roti cost $8.99 and will have you leaving satisfied.

Although Raddica’s sells soft drinks and familiar beverages, if you want to experience something a bit different I’d recommend the peanut punch. Peanut punch is a creamy, sweet, peanut flavoured drink that is popular in Trinidadian cuisine. Raddica’s sells this delicious drink in juice box size. Sipping on cool peanut punch during you meal is like not having to wait for desert.

Kurma (frm my camera)
If you want to finish off your meal with something sweet to balance out all the spicy flavours try the kurma. Kurma is a sweet that was derived from East India and made its way over into the Trinidadian culture. It is made with dough that is cut into rectangular pieces, deep fried and coated in sugary syrup. Biting into the crisp sweet kurma sticks reminded me of a harder version of funnel cake pastry. The kurma is sold per bag for $2.00 and is a wonderful finale to a savoury meal.

Based on my positive experience at Raddica’s I give this restaurant a rating of 4/5 based on overall taste and price. The only downfall I found was in relation to the decor; although the restaurant has a very casual dine-in experience in a very small area, newer tables, chairs and decor modernization would be a nice adjustment.

If you are looking for a tasty meal then try Raddica’s Hot and Spicy Doubles, for an authentic Trinidadian experience.

**Please note Raddica's will be relocating to Queen and Rutherford in Brampton please call to inquire at: (905) 487-0888***

Restaurant Blog: Lahore Tikka House

Tented patio (frm my camera)
Looking for some great restaurants in Toronto this summer? Try Lahore Tikka House on 1365 Gerrard Street East Toronto. You won’t find anything fancy at Lahore as you dine on plastic chairs, tables and picnic benches but what you will find is tasty authentic Indian cuisine. If you like Indian food then you should definitely try Lahore; the prices are reasonable and the tented patio decorated with colourful sari fabrics only adds to the overall experience. Not only are the waiters friendly and hospitable but the food arrives incredibly fast and always simmering hot.
This is by far the best Indian restaurant I have ever been to in the GTA  even though I have to drive into the  busy downtown area to get there. The food is always well worth the trip and the restaurant is always teeming with people as Lahore's fan base continues to grow.

The ordering process is a bit strange, you have to mark down what dish you want directly on the menu and then head over to the cashier to place your order. You are then given a number which you must place on your table before your food is brought to you. At the end of your meal you must again make your way to the cahier to pay for your meal. Although it seems a bit redundant somehow the waiters manage to keep track with impeccably prompt service, and the food is well worth the hassle!

Thus far I have been satisfied with everything I have ordered which includes the biryani vegetable rice, the chicken biryani and the chicken tikka biryani. I have also tried the butter chicken, the mango lassi and the tea. My favourite by far are the chicken or beef kebabs with the regular or garlic butter nan bread.

Chicken and beef Kebabs (frm my camera)

garlic nan bread (frm my camera)

Tea (from my camera)

Biryani veggie rice (frm my camera)

If you love Indian food and haven’t been to Lahore you don’t know what you are missing!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

E-readers vs Paperbacks

E-readers v. paperbacks

The e reader craze took some of us by storm and as expected once one company made it big with their innovate idea many others followed in hot pursuit. It wasn’t long before we had a large variety of e readers on the market claiming to be the thinnest and most efficient for all our mystery, harlequin, and non fictional needs. Like so many people I rode the wave of technology and bought into the fad of owning an e reader. The idea of electronic books seemed so modern while plain old paperbacks and musty library books seemed a thing of the past.

There is now so much we can do with hand held electronic devices, they seem to simplify our lives and allow us endless hours spent indulging in engaging applications. I figured that since I am an avid reader the Pandigital e reader with its color screen and wifi connection was a rational purchase and thus I added it to my Christmas list.

Since this blog is intended to be a general comparison between e readers vs. paperbacks I won’t go into a detailed analysis of the operational issues I have had with my Pandigital e reader, but let me take a moment to jot down a few facts:
1.       I never managed to successfully connect to my email account,
2.       terrible and inexperienced customer service representatives
3.        ongoing device malfunctions.

Now that I got that off my chest let’s move on.

Let’s start by examining the PROS of e readers:
One of the functionality aspects I love most about my e reader is the convenience of purchase. I no longer have to head out to a Chapters or Coles to buy the books on my reading list; I can search for the books directly on my e reader, purchase them through my account and upload the book within seconds all without having to leave the comfort of my own home. If there is a new best seller on the market, or a book that is getting raved reviews and being hyped up by celebrities I don’t have to sign up to be on a waiting list at a local book store or search several different retailers to find what I want.

With my e reader I am supposed to be able to link the device to an e mail account to check my mail. My device also has a wifi connection so I can search the web and read articles and magazines. I can also upload photos, acquire different applications and store contact information. Although I will admit the wifi is slow and the device does not have the ability to stream videos it is an e-reader after all not a lap top so the capacities are rather basic.

The e reader is also rather thin (or at least most claim to be) and they are made to be rather compact, so they are easy to take with you on the go and fit into a bag.

Now for the CONS:
With my e-reader I cannot share my e-books with friends or family. One of the benefits of paperbacks is that you can lend and exchange them with other people. With my e-reader I cannot send my e-books electronically nor can they be uploaded to my computer. I think that once you purchase a novel it is YOURS, you own it and you should be able to do with it as you wish. E-reader manufacturers and the associated book retailers limit the freedom you have with your purchases. I am extremely more willing to lend out a paperback than my e-reader. After paying a hefty penny for my device I find that I am a lot more vigilant and reluctant to lend it out in case of liabilities.

Paperbacks or hard covers can also be taken with you on the go and on travel; unless it’s a large cumbersome book, most novels are also very compact for travel. E- readers also unfortunately limits your reading time, they run on a rechargeable battery that only lasts for so long. You may find yourself worrying about your battery dying or finding a place to recharge as you desperately search for an electrical outlet. With a paperback you can read as much and as long as you like, there is no chance that your paperback will disconnect you on a long boring flight.

Personally I like having the physical book because you can add the novel to your home library or office and it will always be at your finger tips. You can collect e-books, but if you do no matter how extensive your device memory is there is always a limit. Device malfunctions and losing your library is always a risk with an electronic device.

With the rise of Ipads that can also be utilized as e readers among many other functions, e-readers may soon fizzle out into extinction.

 Until the next big technological craze comes along I will continue to purchase both e-books and paper backs depending on if and how I want to store and keep my novels.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hidden Calories

Nowadays many more of us are opting for a healthy lifestyle. We try to eliminate saturated fats, processed foods, sugars and artificial additives but what happens when the healthy foods we chose are misleading and deceptive?  

If you have been working out and trying to eat healthier then you should see results right? Well it can be rather difficult to achieve results when the seemingly healthy foods we eat have hidden calories that many restaurants and food retailers try to keep on the down-lo. We work extremely hard trudging away on that treadmill and lifting weights but if you aren’t shedding the pounds maybe it is time to take a closer look at the foods you consume on a daily basis.

Like many Canadians I like Tim Hortons and could be spotted grabbing a quick coffee, yogurt or whole grain bagel on my way to where ever I was headed that day. But when I looked up the nutritional information on their bagels, low fat items, soups, sandwiches and real fruit smoothies I was shocked to find that what I had been consuming as seemingly healthy meals were in fact loaded with sugar, and salt. This revelation led to an epiphany moment for me, it got me wondering what else I was putting in my body that appeared to be healthy but wasn’t.

The more sugar and fat we consume the more our bodies crave it, and putting hidden calories into foods that should be healthy not only gets you hooked on them but also makes you believe that you are eating healthy and has you coming back for more day after day! No medium REAL FRUIT smoothie should have 46 g of sugar in it! I find that quite appalling.
Many foods that claim to be non-fat may indeed be non-fat or low fat, but that provides you with no information about the sugar or salt content. The non fat chocolate milk they had on sale at my local grocery store was non fat alright but it also had 23g of sugar in it which totally defeats the purpose of a healthy choice.

What we have to do is be informed consumers, it is imperative to read labels thoroughly and know exactly what is going into our bodies, after all they are “our temples” so we have to take care of them. Try to cook your meals at home and resist the temptation to eat out on a regular basis. If you do eat out try to do some research online before you chose what dish to have. Salads may not always be the best option and they can be rather dull, even if you get low fat dressing on the side you may not know exactly how many calories are hidden in your salad. Most restaurants have nutritional information posted online, be prepared and chose the healthiest option for you before you go out to eat. At the restaurant you can ask your server if your meal can be adjusted to reduce the amount of oil or salt that it is cooked in. Every little adjustment and cut back is beneficial to your body.

Preparing meals ahead of time can save you a lot of hassle when it comes to mealtime, freezing dishes is also an option for those nights when you are too fatigued to lift a finger. Buying and cooking your own meals is substantially healthier for you and helps keep you fit.

I am in no way suggesting that everyone should stop eating out all together, eating out on special occasions as a treat is perfectly fine and indulging every now and then in our favourite foods is a simple pleasure in life we must allow ourselves; what I am suggesting is that we all make informed decisions about what we eat and chose carefully.
Diet along with regular exercise is a healthy way to live.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Cell Phones Attack!

I want to dedicate this post to something that has recently happened to me and caused a rather substantial inconvenience in my life of technological devices. My Trusty (or not so trusty) Blackberry has caught a virus!

We are in an era when our smart phones have become like attachments at the ends of our limbs, always connected, always clicking away at the keys. We rely and store imperative information into our cell phones these days but what happens when they turn against us? Phones are like any other technological devices, they can go down without a moments warning and disrupt life as we know it.  You would think that buying a $400 dollar cell phone would give you the right to some advice and protective services for you phone, well it doesn’t!  And for those who are not technologically savvy you might not even be aware that cell viruses can occur.

From the little research I have done  pertaining to cell phone viruses, they are not very common or easy to catch...if that’s so then I must be one of the unlucky few who took a wrong turn on our world wide web of information. I love my blackberry or as some refer to it for its tendency to become addictive “crackberry” and I, like many others use it for business as well as pleasure and have tons of information, personal and otherwise stored on my device. I rarely use my cell to leisurely surf the web, mostly it’s utilized for looking up information quickly. Today my cell caught a virus. Out of the blue my device seemingly began operating itself, web pages were being opened, text messages and picture messages were being sent to my contacts, and people were being called randomly from my phone book, it was like my phone was possessed and I had lost all control.

I hastily took my phone to my provider and he took one look and told me that it was a virus and a bad one at that. He also told me that I was going to have to send it in for repairs and that I would lose all my settings and information.
After weeks of having to wait for my phone to return I will then have to spend the time configuring and re programming and I will not get back any of my important information.

After the initial shock and disappointment, I decided to let people know what happened to me in hopes of preventing this from happening to anyone else.

Make sure that when you buy your cell phone you ask about warranty and keep your receipt for future repairs. You can also check to see if there are any programs that will protect your phone and check for viruses and most importantly back up all your important information in case your cell shuts down on you unexpectedly.

Take the necessary steps to help prevent this, it isn’t worth the hassle.


Reply from Oprah

Many of us have been watching Oprah on TV for years; we invited her into our living rooms and followed her around the world as she spread her warmth and joy to help the less fortunate. Her final show has ended after 25 years of informative programming, interviewing numerous celebrities and people who told amazing stories of survival and strength; and although it will be sad to see her go I am sure she will continue her humanitarian efforts and keep entertaining us with her new network OWN.

On her final show Oprah invited the public to send her emails to and I decided to write to her thanking her for delving into people’s hearts and bringing about awareness on some serious topics. I was a bit shocked when I got a reply to my email so I want to share it with everyone on my blog.

I wrote to Oprah saying:

Hi Oprah,
 I have been watching your show ever since I was a little girl and have been a loyal fan ever since. You have always been an inspiration and a mentor to me when I needed that small push of encouragement to follow my dreams and aspire to be something greater. I listened to all of your guests with an open heart and an open mind. I felt their pain and struggles as if they were my own; I prayed for them and cried along with you.

Your story of being born into a situation that didn’t provide the best nurturing beginning and how you broke free from the chains of stereotype and pain and transitioned into a beautiful inspiring woman is a story I will always look to for guidance. You made me believe that my dreams of being a great author, counsellor, wife, mother humanitarian and person is attainable. You have a wonderful spirit and I appreciate you for all you have done.

Oprah wrote:

Oprah Winfrey (
May 27, 2011 2:00:17 AM

Got your email.
Thank you for watching the finale. I could feel your beating hearts, along with mine, through the TV screen.
I'm off to take a little rest, and then I'll get busy working on OWN.
Take care of yourself.

Although it was short, I appreciated her taking the time to write back at all considering the thousands of emails she must be getting.

Good luck Oprah and keep up the excellent work.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cruise on the Celebrity Century

Trip to: Miami, Key West and 5 day cruise to Jamaica (Ocho Rios) and Georgetown Grand Cayman

One great thing about going on a cruise that departs from Miami is that you can plan your vacation to stay in Miami for a couple days before your cruise is set to embark. In this blog I will share some of the attractions I saw on my cruise to Jamaica and Cayman, as well as some of the things I did while in Miami.

ocean drive from my camera

South Beach: On most of our trips to Miami we spent a lot of time on South Beach. Here you can find lots of bars and restaurants, clubs and patios. It is a great place to have your meals and some restaurants (due to competition) gave us FREE drinks if we sat to have lunch. We also got FREE passes to a rooftop club just by being on the strip.
The beach is located across the street so you can  walk over and spend your time there, on warm days it is usually bustling with people. The adjoining streets consist of many hotels/motels and shops.
Note: I found that most of the hotels on South Beach were a bit run down, it seemed like many rooms had previously been occupied by varying groups of young adults who came to the strip to drink and party, so the rooms aren’t of the best quality. If you don’t mind staying in a room that is a bit run down  and outdated then you can opt to stay right on the strip; but for those of you who are like me and prefer to stay in a nice hotel with amenities you can opt to stay just outside of the area and rent a car to get around. We stayed at The Courtyard Hotel in Homestead; it was new, clean and offered an amazing breakfast, Internet service and heated pool.
Miami from our ship (from my camera)

Our hotel

Dolphin Mall:
This mall was great for shopping, it is located at: 11401 NW 12 St
Miami, FL 33172, United States.
The mall had many great stores including Dave and Busters and a great bar/club that is open at night.

Everglades (from my camera)
The Florida Everglades:
If you haven’t been to the Everglades and you like site seeing then the Florida Everglades is one of the most popular tourist attractions. We visited the wildlife park and walked through the exhibit right alongside dozens of fenced gators. Also included in our admission was a 30 min air boating tour through the everglades where our air boat took us out into the swamp lands and pulled up right alongside the huge gators; it also included an educational show about the everglades and alligators and at the end of the show you have the option to hold and take pictures with a baby gator.
Key West:
Key West is about a 4 hour drive from the city but the drive and scenery along the way was beautiful. When we got to Key West we browsed the shops, went to the beach, and spent the night eating a Mexican feast on an outdoor patio. If you have time to visit it is definitely worth the drive.

The Century

The cruise: Celebrity Cruises, our ship: The Celebrity Century
Although the Century is the smallest ship in Celebrity’s fleet this ship had one of the BEST dining experiences I have had on a cruise thus far. The ship offered a huge buffet that included authentic foods from various cultures as well as a pasta and noodle bar which were wonderful. The dining room service was above and beyond my expectations and there was always something delectable to choose from.
The ship's entertainment was also very enjoyable, the comedian and adult comedy shows were hilarious, the night club was beautiful with panoramic views of the ocean and the gym was also equipped with the same spectacular view.
This ship had many features including clubs, lounges, bars, restaurants, a theatre, library, casino, shops, basketball court, pools, hot tubs, spa, table tennis, ice bar, pizzeria and much more.
They also had a fiesta deck party with Latin style food and music.

Georgetown Grand Cayman Island:
Since I have been to Cayman before I only went on the tour because the family I was with had never been there. We went to some of the main attractions that I visited on my honeymoon and which I posted in a previous blog. This time we spent most of our time on 7 Mile Beach and in town browsing the shops.
View of the deck from basketball court (frm my camera)

Ice sculpture drink fountains on the ship (frm my camera)

Jamaica (frm my camera)
Ocho Rios Jamaica:
The ship first docked in Jamaica and instead of booking a shore excursion aboard the ship we  booked with one of the local tour guides at the port. The tour went through Fern Gully, an area of over grown vegetation that canopied the road and gave luscious views of the forested area.
We also stopped at a local pottery shop high in the hills of Ocho Rios where we purchased some authentic BLUE MOUNTAIN coffee.
We then proceeded to the famous Dunn’s River Falls and Park where you can go to the beach or choose to climb the falls. We also opted to do some jet skiing which we rented from vendors on the beach. There are also stalls at the river selling local fruits where we bought fresh coconut.
We spent the rest of our short visit to Jamaica touring the shops and sampling local foods. We had authentic jerk chicken with rice, chicken and beef patties and roasted peanuts which were the best peanuts I have ever had.

Fern Gully

Dunn's River Falls from my camera
Overall our trip was wonderful, however I prefer the longer cruises (one week or longer) because the 5 day cruises have fewer stops and your vacation is more enjoyable when you get to see more islands on a longer itinerary. I also found that since Cayman is a small island the length of time the cruise stopped was sufficient but Jamaica is a larger island with a lot more to see and do, thus we felt that the length of the stop was insufficient. Even though this was my third trip to Jamaica I prefer staying for an entire week at a resort.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Carnival Cruise: 7 Day Western Caribbean

I love to travel and I am a licensed Travel Consultant and Vacation Specialist with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers so I thought it would be fun to share some of my trips.
 7 day Western Caribbean:

Day 1 Departs Miami
Day 2: fun day at sea
Day 3: Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island
Day 4: Roatan Honduras
Day 5: Belize
Day 6: Cozumel Mexico
Day 7: fun day at sea
Day 8: return to Miami

The ship:
We sailed in September aboard the Carnival Valor which is one of Carnival Cruise Line's largest ships and can host up to 2,974 passengers. The theme and decor of this ship was very sophisticated with a lot of embellishments and rustic colors, the theme pays tribute to American and international heroes. The ship has 14 bars, five pools, spa, gym, lounges, night clubs, shops, a casino, library, theatre, an amazing dining room and much more. I liked the size of the ship, as well as the atrium with its glass roof and elevators that had a view into the spectacular lobby.
The entertainment on board was fabulous, the Broadway style musicals and comedians were very entertaining and the game shows were a joy to attend.
Atruim (from my camera)

The clubs were also very good with great music and a variety of clubs and lounges that have music for all tastes.
The food was good, there was a variety from day to day with some international cuisine and the dining room options as well as the pizzeria and soft ice cream stations were also enjoyable.
One thing I enjoyed the most on this ship which some other ships don't incorporate was movies under the stars; watching movies on the big screen while you are relaxing on the deck with a drink or in the hot tub was wonderful.

Docked in Roatan (from my camera)

The staff aboard the ship were exceptional, the best I have encountered thus far, the service was phenomenal and everyone was very helpful and went out of their way to please.
One of the best and most relaxing aspects I find with cruising is the amazing spa treatments and if you can afford to do so I would definitely recommend going to the spa for a treatment of your choice.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman:
Grand Cayman is a very small island and although many ships stop here there isn’t a lot to do. On the ship you can purchase a day excursion which are rather pricey, but you can also choose to walk off the ship and purchase a much cheaper excursion from a local tour guide like I did.
The tour guide takes you to the main tourist sites of the island such as:

Hell (from my camera)

- Hell: which is a rock formation that the locals believe looks like a representation of hell

-The Rum shop: Here you have the chance to sample different flavours of Cayman rum and cakes. If you decide to purchase the shop will have it delivered right to your ship and it will be delivered to you before you depart the ship at the end of your cruise. The cakes come in wonderful flavours as does the rum, they are tasty and make a great gift.
from my camera
-Swim with the dolphins: for this stop you can watch the dolphins play and frolic about with some of the tourists and if you have time on your tour you can pay to have your one on one encounter with a dolphin as well. (keep in mind this is rather pricey if you choose to partake but you can get some great photos)

-Seven Mile Beach: This beach is beautiful and great for wading around in the water. If you have been to Cayman before and have  already seen all the tourist sites you can opt to spend the day lounging around on this beach. Some areas have stalls where you can buy fresh coconuts and fruit juices.

-The shops: Right by the port there are many shops where you can get your souvenirs and there are a wide variety of jewellery stores. 

charm bracelet

Most ships give you a free charm bracelet and you can visit the specified stores to collect the charms at each island. It makes for a great keepsake.

There are other things you can do in Grand Cayman depending on what you like but these are the things I chose to do while there.

Roatan Honduras:

Like other stops you can also purchase a shore excursion for Roatan and in this case I would highly recommend it.

Roatan (from my camera)
Guided tour: The beginning of the tour started with a guided tour through the island and towards the Gumbalimba National Park where our tour guide gave us some history about Roatan
Gumbalimba park (from my camera)

Gumbalimba Park monkeys, jungle and beach excursion: For this excursion we had a guided tour through this beautiful wildlife park. You get the chance to take photos with the parrots and monkey. You also get some historical information, cross a suspension bridge and come face to face with animals in their natural habitat. At the end of the tour there is also some time to have a drink and spend some time at the beach.

The port shops: At this port they had beautifully dressed native dancers greet us as we combed the shops in search of souvenirs. You may also have a chance to sample some native beer.

Belize was a bit more run down than I expected. The tender boat had a long trek from ship to port and the guards standing by the road with machine guns was a bit daunting.
However I would recommend that you book an excursion on the ship before venturing out on your own. If you venture out you may come across some beautiful beaches, however we did not visit the beach on this stop and Belize City was rather dirty and run down with garbage strewn at the side of the roads. 
 Despite this we did make the most of this stop and had a lot of fun on our air boating excursion.
Air boat (from my camera)

Beach along the cozumel coast (from my camera)

Air boating tour: On this tour a bus takes you to an air boating tour out on the marshes where if you are lucky you can see the manatees and wild birds that dwell there.

Bars and shops: They do have some bars and shops by the port which I recommend browsing.

Cozumel may be small but it is very beautiful. We didn’t book a ship excursion for this stop, instead when we came off the port we rented a small car and drove around the island ourselves. We drove around the entire island in a few hours and had a chance to stop at various beaches and bars along the way as well as the Mayan ruins (which I forfeited due to an infestation of mosquitoes) and downtown. The views along the coast are breathtaking and the beaches are beautiful. There isn’t much to do on this small island but it is a nice place to spend the day

 Overall it was a wonderful trip and we will definitely be open to sailing on the valor again on another of her Caribbean destination cruises
**If you are interested in planning your next dream vacation you can visit my website at **

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Travel Blog Exuma Bahamas

For my first travel blog I decided to dedicate it to one of the most beautiful places I have been to thus far Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. My husband and I went to Exuma as one of the stops we made on our honeymoon and it was so breathtaking I had to recommend going there to everyone I knew. We booked our Exuma power boat adventure from a brochure that we saw at our hotel and decided to go on the last day of our vacation, it was a bit costly at approximately $100 dollars per person but it turned out to be the highlight of our entire trip!
We found our brochure for the power boat adventure tour at our resort (Breezes Resort in Nassau) the prices I found online vary. I would suggest you ask at your resort.

Crystal waters of Exuma (from my camera)

We took a speed boat from Nassau to a private island in Exuma and when we pulled up to the island the view was breathtaking! The water was crystal clear (some of the clearest water on earth I’ve recently learned) the view was better than a postcard! And the pictures we took can attest to that.

The tour takes about 9 hours so your day has to be free to take part.
 The tour included:
-Full day trip from Nassau to Ship Channel Cay in the Exuma chain
-Powerboat cruise to Allen's Cay
- Buffet lunch and after you eat you can throw any left over’s into the water to feed the sharks and tropical fish that swim freely in the crystal water as you dine.
- A boat ride to iguana island (home to aprox 500 iguana’s) where you get a chance to feed them if you choose.
-Snorkeling (equipment provided)
-Time to enjoy the beach and swim
- A ride out into the water where you can get out of the boat and wade through the sand dune. If you can manage to carry your camera and not get it wet you can take some fantastic photos so that it looks like you are standing in the middle of the ocean with beautiful green hills and crystal water surrounding you!
- A guided nature trek of the island
- Pick up and drop off from your Nassau hotel.

Although this was the highlight of our Bahamas stay we also did a lot of other fun activities while in the Bahamas that I would recommend including:

-A visit to downtown Nassau to the Senior Frogs restaurant and bar

-Paradise Island Atlantis: If you are not staying at the Atlantis hotel you can always go to visit and take a guided tour. The resort is a tourist attraction it itself with great shops, restaurant and many lovely aquariums to visit. My friends that have been there also recommend the night club located close to the casino.

-The Straw Market downtown Nassau: This is a must for anyone who wants to get some great deals on souvenirs and a lot of nice purses and accessories for the ladies!

Atlantis resort (from my camera)
-Luciano’s of Chicago restaurant: This restaurant it beautiful, in fact a friend of mine attended a wedding at this restaurant! Not only is the ambiance spectacular but the food is great and if you sit outside on the patio there is a beautiful view of the Atlantis resort across the water. (If you do go try the rum and raisin bread pudding! It is yummy!)

Cable Beach

-Cable Beach: This beach is great for relaxing, swimming, and water sports. You can stay at a resort that has access directly to this beach.

-Conch: conch is one of the main dishes in Nassau, it can be found almost everywhere you go and cooked in many different ways. I detest sea food but I thought “ah well when in Rome” or in this case the Bahamas do as the locals do and try something out of my comfort zone. I had the conch salad and actually liked it enough to finish it.

The only downfall I found in travelling through Nassau was the solicitors trying to get you to go to time share meetings. Everywhere we turned even on the beach of our resort there were people surrounding us like vultures to try and get us go to their presentations. They offer you incentives such as money, and you will find these people everywhere you go! Some that we encountered were disguised as tour guides and security guards. It is up to you if you would like to attend but we found that having to constantly duck these persistent people who sometimes follow you along the street even after you say no is something that the government should look to correct for the sake of tourism.

Feeding the sharks (from my camera)

Iguana island (From my camera)
Snorkeling boat (from my camera)

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