10 Ways The Norwegian Bliss Is Bringing Magic To The High Seas

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I was fortunate enough to be one of the very first people to live aboard the Norwegian Bliss this past weekend in New York and I don’t think I was fully prepared for all its magic. As a very long time cruiser of NCL and after about 10 cruises with the brand – I can assure you that the Bliss IS everything we have been waiting for in a ship.

I strongly believe each Norwegian ship has something to offers its guests that I love – and that’s why Norwegian has long been a favorite of mine. I have only ever cruised one time with another company and I disliked it so much that I have never left Norwegian since – they are that good!

With the coming of Norwegian Bliss you are going to be blown away by this mega-ship and its offerings. There is so much stuff to do on board AND Norwegian does an incredible job of planning daily itineraries so that there is always something to do.

Here are the 10 ways I think this ship is bringing the magic!

The Food:

The Norwegian Bliss is coming in hot with 27 dining options! That is right .. 27!! By calculation, I could not even eat at each place on a week cruise, which means there is plenty of options to choose from. My personal favorites and new additions to the ship are: Coco’s crazy delicious milkshakes, elote and table side guacamole from the first Mexican restaurant on board – Los Lobos, Food Republic – bringing tapas style plates on a globally inspired menu, and Dolce Gelato – which gelato is not new to Norwegian but it was new to me.

Can we talk about food presentation? Norwegian is always delivering!

*Side note – I 100% judge a place on its ability to poach an egg. Everyday on board I order poached eggs for breakfast and even find them on other dishes – and each time, Norwegian delivers.

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Food Republic

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Savor Restaurant

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Food Republic

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Dolce Gelato

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Coco’s

Starbucks at sea:

That is right coffee addicts – you can now get your fix with a view! What I loved about finding this gem on the ship is that they have the same drinks and food that you would expect at a Starbucks back home (limited menu on the food) but all the greats are there.

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Racetrack at sea:

Whaaat? I know right! You can now go atop the ship and utilize the 2 level racetrack with go-carts! Imagine being at sea and racing your friends and family with the breeze in your hair and views of the open ocean – does it get any better?

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Unobstructed views on the Waterfront: 

This is new for Norwegian as they are offering this waterfront along one side of the ship that has outdoor dinning and lounges with nothing blocking the views. In times past the safety boats were there but have been moved to give you a more serene experience at sea.

You’ll find options to dine outside on the waterfront at places like Los Lobos, La Cucina and Ocean Blue. There is also Dolce Gelato, Maltings Whiskey Bar and The Cavern Club.

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Blissed out luxury

Its all in the details! Every inch of the Norwegian Bliss was designed carefully bringing more luxurious touches around every corner. Some of the details that caught my eye were the wainscoting, art, simple yet elegant sitting areas, plush seating in the main dining areas, and overall elevated decor throughout the ship.

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678 Ocean Place

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678 Ocean Place

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678 Ocean Place

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Observation Lounge

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Sitting area

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A List Bar

Vertical drop slide 

Calling adventure junkies: imagine walking into a slide and when the door closes you fall vertically into the waterside that hangs over the side of the ship AND you can see the wide open ocean during your slide!

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Silent disco 

If you have never been to a silent disco you have no idea what you are missing out on. You know how at some point in your life you have been to a party or club and hated the music but only one thing could play at a time? Silent disco aims to change that by giving each of its attendees their own headset with multiple channels to listen to music. So while Debra over there might want to boogie to 80’s music you can still get down with your dance music.

People enjoying silent party.

Silent Disco – retrieved from ncl.com

Observation lounge:

You know .. for viewing glaciers and Caribbean islands! There is actually 2 observation lounges on board. The Haven has a private observation lounge called the Horizon Lounge for those who book within that category. For the rest of the ship there is an Observation lounge.

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Horizon Lounge

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Observation Lounge

Broadway Shows!

The Bliss is offering a show that is brand new called Havana! The only way I can describe this performance is muy caliente!! So definitely see this show.

Jersey Boys is also on board and it is not a condensed version of the show – its the real deal.

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Havana!

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Havana!

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Havana!

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Havana!

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Jersey Boys

Sugarcane Mojito Bar:

A bar comprised of all things mojitos, its like they know what we want! The pineapple mojito was my favorite.

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I know what you’re thinking, “Oh buoy! I can’t wait to book this!” I, too, am hoping to get back on board and explore Alaska! 

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norwegian bliss

*Disclaimer: this post written in partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

 

Checking In: Seagate Hotel & Spa Delray Beach, Florida

Sargent Photogrphy

The Seagate Hotel & Spa is located in Delray Beach, Florida among the Palm Beaches. Nestled beautifully within the Delray neighborhood, it has easy walking throughout the city to many bars, restaurants and shops.

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Delray

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Lobby and Reception

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Sitting Area

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Sitting Area

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The hotel has a private country club with 18 holes for golf and 9 tennis courts, a beach club, private beach access with umbrellas and chairs, pool, and 2 restaurants offsite that you can take their shuttle to for use during your stay.

Downtown Delray Beach The Seagate Beach Club

Delray Beach

Hamlet Country Club

Golf

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Seagate Beach Club

I love that the property is a boutique property and isn’t overly big – it felt more catered to the guests. There was never any lines to check-in or out or a wait for anything. The pool was also never crowded.

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Amenities:

  • High speed internet
  • Concierge
  • Newspaper delivery
  • Twice daily housekeeping
  • Business center
  • Luxury car service – available from 8-11 within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. First come basis.
  • 24 hour valet
  • Seagate spa
  • Steam rooms
  • Fitness center with classes
  • Outdoor pools with Jacuzzi
  • Seagate Beach Club’
  • 24 hour room service
  • Pool bar service 11-5 daily

The Room:

During my stay I checked into a Deluxe King Room. Offering 500 generous square feet of space right in the heart of Delray, oozing with luxury. Some of the features I loved most about the room were the balcony overlooking the pool, the deep soaking tub with bubble jets, gorgeous marble bathroom, super soft Egyptian cotton sheets, and the nightly turn down service that came with a box of delicious chocolates and a purple orchid.

Bonus: I slept with my doors open for that nice Florida breeze as it isn’t too hot yet and I could hear the water lightly.

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Deluxe King Room

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Deluxe King Room

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Minibar Snacks

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Luxury Bath Amenities

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Sitting Area

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Nightly Turn Down

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Chocolates

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Balcony Views

Room amenities:

  • SMART Room Technology
  • 42″ HDTVs
  • DVD players
  • iHome docking stations
  • In-room movies
  • Three telephones
  • Mini-bars
  • Microwaves
  • Safes
  • LEED certified
  • Luxury Egyptian cotton linens
  • Luxury bath amenities by Gilchrist & Soames
  • Keurig coffeemakers
  • Umbrellas
  • Glass-enclosed walk-in showers
  • Lighted makeup mirrors
  • Blow dryers
  • Robes
  • Slippers
  • Scales

Dining:

Due to my busy schedule I did not get to dine in any of the fabulous establishments within the hotel but I did order room service my last morning and it did not disappoint. I was delivered the fluffiest of pancakes with pancakes.

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Overall:

Loved my short stay with Seagate Hotel and Spa! Boutique luxury is my favorite kind of luxury and the hotel met and exceeded my expectations in every way.

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Additional Information:

  • Address: 1000 E Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33483
  • Phone: (561) 665-4800
  • Distance from West Palm Beach Airport: 19.2 miles ~ 30 minutes drive
  • Parking: 24 hour valet

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seagate hotel and spa

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Palm Beaches Tourism Board and the Seagate Hotel, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

9 Foodie Spots You Must Try In The Palm Beaches, Florida

Never have I been to a destination where everything I ate was so fresh, so delicious and begging me to return. I recently returned from the Palm Beaches and truly believe the area is a culinary delight. I’ll be honest – usually when I travel I find a dish or something I don’t really like .. but not this time. Every single dish was incredible.

Here are my recommendations for food in the Palm Beaches:

Salt7: for the meat eater 

The Executive Chef, Paul Niedermann won a season of Hell’s Kitchen and is now serving up incredible food at Salt7. I love that this restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating and welcoming vibes to its guests.

For food I would highly recommend the peppercorn crusted sirloin and the Australian lamb lollipop! The meats were cooked to perfection with lush pink coloring and flavored perfectly.

For drinks I would try the smoked peach old fashioned.

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Salt7

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Salt7

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Salt7

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Salt7

Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen: for the best avocado toast

Now I realize you can order this anywhere .. but it is vastly different from restaurant to restaurant. This one from Farmhouse Kitchen had green pesto and ricotta and I added blue crab. It was all placed atop a thicker piece of toast and garnished with radishes and sprouts. It had the perfect amount of toast crunch with its toppings.

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Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen

Breeze Ocean Kitchen at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa: for the freshest food on the water

Not only is Breeze Ocean Kitchen situated perfectly on the water with the best beach views but the food is sensational. I opted to let the beach vibes pick my dishes!

For food you should definitely get the locally caught ceviche as it is made with avocado and passion fruit – and I cannot think of a better combination! Also delicious are their salads and coconut sorbet.

For drinks get the mojito made right in a coconut!

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Breeze Ocean Kitchen

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Breeze Ocean Kitchen

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Breeze Ocean Kitchen

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Breeze Ocean Kitchen

Deck 84: for the BEST fish tacos

I almost did not eat here because I was so tired and I am SO glad I did!! Hands down, Deck 84 has the best fish tacos I have ever had around the globe. They make them with their fresh catch and you pick how you want them cooked, I opted to have them fried. Then they are layered with creamy coleslaw and pickled jalapenos. So.Dang.Good.

I also ordered the crab stack and a coconut sorbet that were unbelievable.

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Deck 84

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Deck 84

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Deck 84

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Deck 84

The Circle at The Breakers: for the best brunch 

Breakfast and brunch are my favorite meals. I am obsessed. I 100% judge a restaurant on its ability to poach an egg and it was perfectly poached over the hash at The Circle. In addition, I ordered a probably the best yogurt parfait I have ever had. They make the granola in house and the presentation is just incredible as well as delicious.

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The Circle at Breakers Resort

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The Circle at Breakers Resort

3800 Ocean: for the best charcuterie board and mix of ingredients

Located in the Marriott on Singer Island, this was my last dinner of my trip and it was a fine finish. The chef brought me a beautiful charcuterie board with meats, cheese, nuts – the works, and if you know me I am such a big fan of cheeses. I took a risk and ordered a salad with ingredients I wasn’t sure would pair well together and surely I came out wrong – but that is the best part of eating, trying new things. I went with the watermelon and goat cheese feta salad that was on arugula with pistachios and lychee vinaigrette. Highly recommend both dishes!

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3800 Ocean

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3800 Ocean

Subculture Coffee: for the best coffee 

I had heard about Subculture Coffee before ever going and it is rumored to be an institution by those who have been. Artisan roasted coffee and delicious food. What more could you ask for? I went for a cold brew and fritatta sandwich.

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Subculture Coffee

Guanabanas: for the best Floridian fritters and waterside lunch

I really fell in love with Guanabanas! I love that they have Adirondack chairs lining the front of the establishment when you arrive and that the restaurant is so lush with greenery and facing water.

I went out on a limb and tried 2 things I had never had before: Floridian fritters and a fat Cuban. The fritters are made with local shrimp and have this incredible sweet mustard sauce paired with it. The fat Cuban was oozing with cheese and so good!

For drinks I would recommend Guanabanas’ Cat 5 – made with rums and fruit juices! So fresh and delicious.

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Guanabanas

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Guanabanas

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Guanabanas

The Seagate Hotel and Spa : for the best breakfast room service

I stayed at the Seagate for 2 nights during my trip and opted for a delicious room service breakfast during my stay. I went with the buttermilk pancake stack and bacon and it was just scrumptious! I am a big fan of bacon and they cooked it just perfectly. The bacon is also not pictured because I ate it before I could photograph it.

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Breakfast at Seagate Hotel

 

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Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Palm Beaches Tourism board, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

21 Photos To Inspire You To Visit The Palm Beaches, Florida

I just returned from a gorgeous trip in the Palm Beaches, Florida and I am overwhelmed with how incredible the area is, how fresh the food is and how nice the people are. I don’t know how else to say this, but you are doing yourself a disservice everyday that you don’t book a trip and head here.

I remember when I was coming in for a landing at the West Palm Beach airport and I could see the stunning shades of blue that the water had to offer its coastline beaches. I am already planning my return. Until then .. I hope these photos inspire your trip!

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Sunrise at the Marriott Singer Island

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Flagler Museum

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Fish Tacos Deck 84

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Palm Beach

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Flagler Museum

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Breakfast at Seagate Hotel

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Seagate Hotel Trolley

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Salt7

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Palm Beach

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Crab Stack Deck 84

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Delray

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Salt7

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Flagler Museum

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Floridian Fritters Guanabanas

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Sunset at the Marriott Singer Island

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Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen

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Twisted Trunk Brewing

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Lunch Guanabanas

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Lunch at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

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Breakfast at Breakers Resort

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Seagate Hotel

 

 

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Palm Beach Florida

*Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Palm Beaches Tourism Board – but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

14 Day Southern Caribbean Cruise On The Norwegian Breakaway

The Norwegian Breakaway used to be home to New York and you can see the beautiful design on the front of the ship where Lady Liberty graces. The ship now also does cruises in Europe along the Baltic Sea. Part of the newer Breakaway Class, this ship can hold over 3,900 passengers (based on a double occupancy).

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If you have ever cruised on an older ship before, the Breakaway is going to wow you with all of its modern updates, sleek designs, the number of activities available, and how it has become a foodie destination at sea. But don’t get me wrong, the older ships have their perks as well! These big newer ships have just been updated to a modern standard and have a lot more amenities to offer its passengers. I love that you can now make reservations for shows and meals and book excursions right from your TV in your stateroom, NCL has an app you can download and it works while on board, there is USB ports next to the beds for charging, and ample storage space!

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Gorgeous chandelier

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Pool and slides

Cruising is just one of the ways I like to travel. For me, cruising is about taking it down a notch, relaxing, having amazing food, sleeping in the same bed for a week+, unpacking and staying put, being able to explore more than one place without having to do all the work of flying and shuffling to hotels, and really just enjoying my time on the open water.

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Balcony sunset

The Itinerary:

For this cruise it was a 14 day itinerary out of New York to the Southern Caribbean.

  • Day 1: Leave New York, at sea
  • Day 2: At sea
  • Day 3: At sea
  • Day 4: At sea
  • Day 5: Aruba
  • Day 6: Curacao
  • Day 7: Bonaire 
  • Day 8: At sea
  • Day 9: Martinique
  • Day 10: St. Lucia
  • Day 11: St Kitts and Nevis
  • Day 12: At sea
  • Day 13: At sea
  • Day 14:  Return to New York

I loved the itinerary because I had been wanting to visit so many of these islands for so long and I got to experience each one in a different way – even fell in love with a few! There is almost equal the amount of time at sea as there is port days but Norwegian does a great job of providing daily schedules with things to do to fill your day OR you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.

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Bonaire

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Martinique

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Floating Market – Curacao

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Caribbean Sea

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St. Kitts

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Bonaire

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Curacao

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Bonaire

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Kite Surfing – Bonaire

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Salt Flats – Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Arriving in Bonaire

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Martinique

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Aruba

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Aruba

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St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

Excursions: 

Pro tip: book your excursions before you leave or as soon as you get on board to avoid them filling up and missing out. You can view excursions online before getting on the ship here.

My two favorite excursions that I booked were the See and Sea tour in Aruba and the Scenic Railroad in St. Kitts. I loved the tour in Aruba because it was the best of both worlds – an island tour and a glass bottom boat tour. I also loved the railroad tour because it was a 2 hour, 18 mile ride through scenic St. Kitts showcasing the islands beauty.

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Aruba

I hired a private driver in Bonaire right outside the port for a couple hours for $100 USD and that was one of my favorite days on the entire cruise. This wonderful person showed me the southern part of the island, told me all the history (good and bad), and he even found flying flamingos for me! I highly recommend this but I also want to say this is not sponsored by the ship or covered – this is a take at your own risk activity. You will be responsible for getting back on time before the ship leaves.

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Flying Flamingos

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Salve huts from the past

In Curacao I woke up early and got off the ship before everyone else and walked the city for about 4 hours taking in all the beautiful colors it offered. I did not take an excursion here but absolutely fell in love with the island.

Entertainment and Activities:

The Norwegian Breakaway offers a plethora of entertainment to keep those of all ages engaged aboard the ship. From Broadway shows, comedy, music, swimming and slides, jogging track, gym, art auctions, spa days, wine tastings, bingo, sunningand mind bending Cirque du Soleil – there is an endless stream of fun to be had.

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Slides

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Haven pool

I really loved the Broadway shows Burn The Floor and Rock of Ages! Both shows are amazing and the cast really outdoes themselves. One of my favorite things about seeing a show on board is that you completely forget you are even on a ship at sea and feel like you are right in Times Square on Broadway.

Since I had already been on this ship I did not see the Cirque du Soleil show again, but I loved it the first time around. Its a dinner and show. *Tip – book a top floor seat, I found the views up there looking down to be amazing. 

My room was on the 15th floor and had a door down the hall with direct access to the spa and gym, which was nice since I had a thermal spa suite pass (you can either book a spa room with access or buy a thermal spa suite access pass for the duration of your cruise). So many sea days and nights I spent winding down in the hot tubs, sauna or just relaxing on the heated chairs overlooking the ocean. This is a must if you like to relax.

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Thermal Spa Suite

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Thermal Spa Suite

Staterooms:

This ship offers a wide variety of staterooms fit for any need. The first time I was on this ship I had a balcony stateroom that I loved. This time around I stayed in the Haven, which is a luxury enclave – ship within a ship. If you are looking for the most luxurious experience and rooms aboard, then the Haven is absolutely where you want to book a room.

During my cruise I stayed in a Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with a Balcony. I loved this room and think it is the best room I have ever stayed in on a cruise ship. I loved that the room was significantly bigger than any other room I have stayed in, the upscale design elements, a full bathroom with a tub (having a bath tub in your room on a cruise is a luxury in itself), king sized bed, luxury bath amenities, and then all the features of the Haven: 24 hour butler service, priority boarding and disembarkation, private parties, private pool, bar, and the best part: the Haven Restaurant.

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Welcome amenities – Haven and Gold Latitudes

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

Room Features:

  • Room: 328 sq. feet
  • Balcony: 58 sq. feet
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and oversized bath towels
  • Luxury bathroom products – Bvlgari
  • Bathtub/shower combo
  • 2 closets
  • HD TV
  • Dining set for 2
  • Lavazza Coffee machine
  • Mini Bar and glasses for most drinking occasions
  • Love seat sofa that folds out into a bed
  • Extended room service menu – at no cost
  • Movies on the TV were free
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Daily towel animals

Food:

This was a different experience on this ship for me this time around. When I cruised on this ship before I stayed in a balcony room and ate at several of the restaurants on board. This time I stayed in the Haven and I ate nearly every meal in the private restaurant or through room service. Now that may seem silly with so many options on the ship but there is a reasoning behind my madness – the food in the Haven is just a cut above the other restaurants. If I booked a Haven room again, one of the top 3 selling points would be the food in their private restaurant.

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Room service breakfast

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Room service breakfast

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Room service lunch

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Breakfast

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Lunch

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner Dessert

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Haven Dinner

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Haven Dinner

So while I did not indulge the other restaurants this time, I do remember my experience before when eating at them and will share.

There are several restaurants that are free and Norwegian sails with the “Freestyle Dining” philosophy which allows you to come and eat whenever you want (if the restaurant requires reservations this would not apply).

Free Restaurants:

  • Savor – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Taste – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Manhattan Room – sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • O’Sheehans – open 24/7
  • The Haven – exclusive to Haven guests only
  • Garden Cafe – buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Extra Fee Dining:

  • La Cucina – Italian only open for dinner
  • Le Bistro – French restaurant only open for dinner
  • Ocean Blue – seafood only open for dinner
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese only open for dinner
  • Cagney’s – steak house only open for dinner
  • Moderno – Brazilian steakhouse only open for dinner
  • Raw Bar – only open for dinner
  • Wasabi – sushi for lunch and dinner
  • Cirque Dreams and Dinner
  • Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville at sea – I think this goes without saying .. it’s 5 o’clock somewhere
  • Room Service – 24/7
  • Gelato
  • Bakery

Norwegian often has deals that allow you to book some number of free perks with your room. I have seen free specialty dining nearly every time – so look out for those deals! Then you can dine everywhere at no cost.

All of the food on the ship is good to me – but I have some favorites. Moderno, the Brazilian steakhouse is my favorite outside of the Haven. You decide what you want and when you want it. You get a red and green card and you flip green to go and red to stop – when its on green staff members with fresh meats come to your table and cut you off a piece of whatever you want. In the last decade these restaurants have become widely popular and its a fantastic experience. Tip: go hungry and try not to eat too late if you have an early morning.

As for the free restaurants, Savor, Taste and the Manhattan Room keep the same menus that change daily. The Manhattan Room is a bit fancier so if you are looking for something a bit more than a relaxed “come as you are” meal – then dine here. They also have live music at dinner and dancing if you like.

 

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Le Bistro

Additional Information:

  • Wifi is available on board for a fee – keep in mind that it is satellite internet and not as fast as you would have it at home – however, the have now added plans that allow you to stream Netflix so that would be an extra cost to have internet with a speed that fast. You can purchase an unlimited package during the first 2 days on the ship and is the best deal to stay connected.
  • You can bring your own wine aboard the ship to have a meals – you will just be charged a corkage fee
  • Soda and alcohol are not included in your booking unless you booked a package that included it. You can purchase all-inclusive packages when you board the ship during the first 2 days

Overall:

I really loved this itinerary and the ports. One of the best things about cruising is the ability to get a taste of other places and make the decision to go back and explore more. I have already booked trips back to 2 of the islands! That is how much I loved them. As for the ship, Norwegian does such an excellent job of building itineraries with things to do each day on the ship that it would be near impossible to ever be bored.

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*Disclaimer,  I did partner with Norwegian Cruise Lines but as always, opinions are entirely my own.

Visiting The Cherry Blossoms In Washington, D.C.

Every year in the early spring cherry blossoms bloom around Washington, D.C. with the majority of them around the tidal basin. I don’t think you can fully comprehend just how magical this experience is until you arrive. I put off going day to day because of various things but decided to go one night for sunset and it did not disappoint! I was so lucky that the sunset was hues of purple with the white and pink blossoms. It is truly one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Tips for visiting:

  • The trickiest part about seeing the blossoms is knowing when they will peak. It tends to be some time in March or April which leaves a large amount of days to guess. The National Park Service makes updates on their site.
  • What defines peak bloom? When 70% of the Yoshino cherry trees are in bloom.
  • The tidal basin is extremely crowded during this time .. plan accordingly. Traffic is extremely heavy.
  • Nearest Metro to the tidal basin is Smithsonian and abut a half mile away.
  • Uber and Lyft are available – just note that traffic is heavy and wait times can be long.
  • Weather: unpredictable. Some years it is hot and some years it is cold. Check the weather before visiting and bring layers just in case.
  • Best viewing: anywhere along the tidal basin, Jefferson Memorial, from a boat, or walking around town.

Here are some of my photos from the Cherry Blossoms ❤

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Jefferson Memorial Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossoms

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Duck in the sunset

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Sun starting to set

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry Blossoms

 

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Cherry Blossoms (1)

7 Experiences To Have In Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech was my first trip to Africa and a solo trip at that. I did an extensive amount of research before I went and I fell in love with the city. There is so much going on and it can be overwhelming on all the senses, but if you are open to it, Marrakech will wow you in ways you never thought possible. My life is somehow different having traveled through the winding roads of the Medina – but I assure you it is all for the better.

Here are 7 experiences I recommend when visiting Marrakech:

Get wonderfully lost in the Medina

Easily the highlight of my trip and will most likely be yours too. The Medina can be – overwhelming. Knowing that before you enter is probably the best way to tackle it. The winding roads, the salesman that are on the brink of being too pushy, overwhelming scents of spices, being immersed in the food being cooked around you, the motorbikes whizzing by, the beautiful cats – its a lot to take in at once but its also amazing. There are many hidden treasures to be found here whether is through the rugs, lamps, secret garden, amazing food (that is very cheap – I think I got a full meal for less than $5 USD), all the beautiful doors, and in the people you meet. Everyone has a story to tell – be open to hearing it.

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Doors inside the Medina

Marrakech Medina

Shopping

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Beautiful rugs

*Tip – a lot of the streets of the Medina are not labeled. I was lost for quite some time and it felt like I was walking in circles. I recommend paying attention to street corners when you turn them or you can ask anyone in the Medina for help – just make sure and tip them.

**Tip – it is expected you tip if anyone does anything for you – so keep small bills on hand.

Prior to visiting Marrakech I had heard very mixed reviews about the city, especially the Medina. Everyone has a completely different experience when traveling anywhere – just be open to getting lost and experiencing the culture – which may include some cat calling and very nice salesmen – but I found them to be harmless.

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Le Jardin Secret

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Medina Shopping

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Spices

Eat all the food!

Traditional Tajine Dish of Meatballs and Couscous

I feel like this goes without saying – one simply doesn’t visit Marrakech and not eat everything! There are so many amazing dishes to try so I narrowed down a few of my favorites:

  • Couscous
  • Moroccan crepe
  • Dates
  • Tagine
  • Olives
  • Fig
  • Pastries
  • Corn on the cob
  • Tangerines
Moroccan food

Figs, dates, nuts, breads

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Tangerines 

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Tucked away in the Medina (and it took me a few tries to actually find it due to the winding streets) but worth the effort. This used to be an Islamic college until it closed in 1960, and reopened 22 years to the public in 1982. I promise you will be blown away by the beauty of this historic site. The tiles, archways, design – all of it is gorgeous. Makes me wonder how a college could be so beautiful and close its doors. I would never leave.

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Stay in a Riad

Riad in Marokko

Stay inside the Medina for at least 1 night in a Riad – which is typically owned and ran by a family and its a home that usually has a courtyard or garden in the interior, sometimes pools. A stay in a Riad typically comes with a Moroccan breakfast – which will not disappoint.

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Explore Majorelle Garden

Marrakech Majorelle

Located outside of the Medina on a sprawling two and a half acres is this gorgeous garden .. in the desert. Originally owned and designed by Jacques Majorelle for about 40 years and then later purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, where they restored it and lived there. The garden is popular for its vibrant blue walls and building with cacti growing among it.

Drink copious amounts of mint tea

Moroccan mint tea in glasses on a tray and kettle

A tradition in Morocco and you will find it just about everywhere. I am a huge fan of tea and this mint tea was fabulous. You won’t have to go far to find it – I can recall being offered mint tea just about everywhere I was – even shopping in the Medina.

Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa

Famous Jemaa el Fna square crowded at dusk. Marrakesh, Morocco

This IS the icon of the Medina. Everything is happening in this square and the streets branch out through the Medina. You will find fresh produce, restaurants and food everywhere, snake charmers, witch doctors, dancers, people of all ethnicity’s and backgrounds telling stories – and most likely, a cultural experience for yourself.

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Marrakech Morocco

Fairmont Washington, DC: Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea

 

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Its that time of year again when spring is upon the city and the Cherry Blossoms are almost in peak bloom. For the next few weeks the city will be dazzling in all things cherry blossom, including an afternoon tea at the Fairmont in Washington DC!

Swaying away from traditional English tea, this modern take on tea is bringing the sweet and savory in a two tiered wood and slate bento box. While the tea sandwiches are similar to a traditional tea you won’t find typical items like Devonshire cream, but instead a more bountiful dessert selection.

I loved the concept, the food was amazing and very filling (so come hungry) and the tea is being served in the beautifully (and recently) renovated Loggia Lounge.

Menu:

Savory:

  • Curried chicken, mango, toasted almonds, cherry marmalade, brioche
  • Smoked salmon, horseradish creme fraiche, salmon pearls, dark rye
  • Prosciutto & cucumber, boursin cheese, mini croissant
  • Heirloom tomato, burrata cheese, va butter, sourdough

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Sweet:

  • Rooftop honey tea scone, cherry jam
  • Rose panna cotta, rooftop honey
  • Sour cherry almond pound cake
  • Chocolate cherry donut

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Tea Selection:

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Fairmont Washington, DC is offering LOT 35 Tea for options during this experience. With options of black, green, white, and even caffeine free flavors.

I did the black cherry almond tea and it was really good. Almond and cherry notes were perfect for the pairing.

You can do an add-on rose or brut with tea as well! I loved the rose!

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Rose

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Rose

Additional Information:

  • Address: 2401 M St NW, Washington, DC 20037
  • Phone: (202) 429-2400
  • Reservations: —> HERE 
  • Dates: March 20-April 15th
  • Served daily from 2:00-4:00pm
  • Price: $40/person without champagne $50 to include rose and $55 to include brut

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*Disclaimer: I was a guest of Fairmont Washington, but as always, opinions are entirely my own

16 Photos To Inspire You To Visit The Colorful Island Of Curacao

Curacao is located in the very southern end of the Caribbean right above South America, with its two sister islands Bonaire and Aruba. All three islands are part of the Netherlands and ultimately, the European Union. Recently I explored the colorful island of Curacao on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line and it truly is the most vibrant island I have ever been to.

Here are my favorite photos of Curacao that I hope inspire you to visit!

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View from my cruise

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Floating Market

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Curacao

Panoramic view of Willemstad, Curacao.

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Lots of places to take a colorful break

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Streets of Williamstad

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Street art

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Cafe

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Shopping

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Another cute wall and bench

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Streets of Williamstad

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Lush

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Caribbean Sea

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Overlooking the city

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Beautiful areas of Williamstad

 

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Skyroam: Staying Connected Abroad

As a travel writer who needs to have internet access almost continuously for work, I have struggled in many areas to get a solid connection or any connection, at times. When I went to Europe four years ago, I was jumping around countries for about three weeks. There were times where I could not get internet for the life of me. Fast forward two years and I was about to head off on my second journey through Europe. Only this time, I had a lot more commitments with work and school while traveling. I had to have a reliable internet connection the entire length of my trip and I could not leave and hope for the best.

In comes Skyroam to save the day – or my trip rather. So what is Skyroam? It’s a global WiFi hotspot that allows you to connect up to 5 devices in over 120 countries around the world. I found this to be the easiest and smoothest transition for me to have internet abroad. Once I registered the device I wanted internet on, it stayed connected (until the 24 hour day pass ran out). I added my phone and my laptop to the device so I could snapchat and use Instagram while touring and then to be able to do work from my laptop at the end of each day.

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Skyroam in Curacao 

The way Skyroam works is that you get a day pass that is good for a 24 hour cycle. Once the cycle is up, you can load another day pass if you are still traveling or wait until you are traveling again. This is a huge benefit on your wallet as you know up front what the costs are and you only pay per day for an unlimited connection. Day passes on the Skyroam are as low as $8.00 USD. I have to spend more than that in a cafe in Europe to use their WiFi, assuming it even works. I kept the device in my purse and it kept my phone online all day.

On my first trip using Skyroam I was traveling with Rail Europe for eight days and spent some time either each day or every other day on a train getting to my next destination. I went to four countries, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Even when I crossed country lines, the Skyroam would update to the new country and keep me connected. I didn’t have to do anything – the device was smart enough to update itself.

It has been almost 2 years now since I started using Skyroam and here are all the places it has gone with me:

  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Curacao
  • Aruba
  • Bermuda
  • Jamaica
  • Bonaire
  • Martinique
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Iceland
  • Morocco

When I first started using Skyroam they were a new company and have expanded so much. I had their original pocket device but now they offer the Skyroam Solis. This upgraded device is better than ever offering WiFi 4G LTE & it is a power bank. There is a USB cord to charge electronics AND the solis stays charged for about 16 hours. The device is very light weight, easy to pack and mostly convenient for your WiFi needs.

I can’t imagine traveling without Skyroam now – it has revolutionized the way I travel. Having this pocket sized device that allows me to be connected in over 120 countries while traveling, gives me peace of mind that I can be in touch back home and that my work can still get done when I am abroad. If you travel abroad, Skyroam is a must!

Here are some of the places I have been and was able to use Skyroam!

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Curacao

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St. Lucia

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Iceland

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France

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Morocco

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Bermuda

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Indonesia

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Belgium

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Philippines

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Iceland

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Iceland

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Philippines

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Morocco

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Netherlands

 

*This post is written in collaboration with Skyroam. As always, opinions are entirely my own.

**This post contains affiliate links. They are of no cost to you and I get a small commission if you decide to purchase a Skyroam device, which in turn helps keep this website up and running. Thank you!

 

 

 

15 Tips For Visiting Dubai

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Dubai skyline with the Burj Khalifa towering over

Dubai is such an exhilarating city. A land of indulgence and opulence. And somewhere in between the old and new is this fascinating culture brimming with a zest for life.

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Burj Khalifa – worlds tallest building

I did not travel to Dubai solo, but after having been, I definitely would. I spent time on my own doing some things in the city and I always felt 100% safe. I went on a two week trip with a girlfriend to the city and to Abu Dhabi and we had such an amazing time! I met so many amazing people from other surrounding countries and one man from Saudi Arabia even handed me his child to hold. Dubai is such a friendly city and people were always willing to assist when I needed anything.

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Mind bending skyscrapers

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Sunset over the Burj Al Arab

I have compiled my best tips for visiting Dubai and I hope this helps when planning your trip!

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Here are my top tips for visiting Dubai:

  1. Currency: the official currency in Dubai is the dirham (or Dhs or DH). I highly recommend keeping cash on you when exploring the city.
    1. Currently the exchange rate from the US Dollar is about x 4. So 4 dirhams equal about $1 dollar.
    2. I got cash in my local airport before I left but there was also cash exchange in the airport in Dubai.
  2. Cash or credit cards?: the good news is that Dubai is light years ahead of Western countries in so many ways, one being the chip and pin on the credit/debit card. I remember being in Dubai and they had it before it was even a thing in the USA. Even in the souks in the old city there were people with credit card machines.
    1. ATM’s are everywhere and not hard to find.

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      ATM

  3. Language: Dubai is a nice melting pot of people from everywhere, but the official language is Arabic. Everyone I met during my trip spoke English and I never had an issue communicating.
  4. Best time to visit: Dubai is situated around desert and hot most of the year with the coolest climates being between November-March. I went in the month of February and it was shorts and shirt weather but not sweltering hot quite yet. I went in the pool, beach and water park.
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    Camel on the beach

    1. Dubai can get extremely hot in the summer months reaching temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity levels are also high. If you don’t do well in the scorching heat with humidity, the summer may not be the ideal time for you to visit.
  5. Getting there, visas & passports: flights are widely available globally to get to Dubai. The main airport is Dubai International Airport (DXB)
    1. As a US citizen I did need a passport with at least 6 months before expiry to enter. I did not need a visa.
      1. Always check online or with your consulate as each country is different and can have different entry requirements.
  6. Getting around: Dubai is not a small city by any stretch of the imagination and traffic can get bad. The good news is that there is transportation for every budget. I used a taxi to get around and it wasn’t expensive. Some of the other days I did a hop on hop off tour because it picked up where I was staying on the Palm Dubai and goes just about everywhere in the city.
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    Dhow boat

    1. Rent a car
    2. UBER – I even hear they offer helicopter service
    3. There are over 1,500+ buses in the city
    4. Rail
    5. Taxi
    6. Dhow boat
    7. Cycling
  7. Where to stay: this is an interesting topic. Dubai has over 50+ 5 star luxury properties in the city, including a 7 star hotel. Narrowing down where to stay is going to be challenging. I would recommend the Sofitel Dubai The Palm and at least one night at the Burj Al Arab – everyone should experience a 7 star luxury hotel at least once.
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    Burj Al Arab

    1. Dubai does offer other categories of properties for its visitors but it is a land of opulence and their travel style does match it.
  8. Cost of food: I found the prices to be pretty standard for Western prices. Hotel meals are more expensive in general and the fancier the hotel the more you can expect to spend.
    1. You can find cheap eats throughout the city though. Walking through the souks we found amazing local food for just a couple dirhams.
    2. We had food delivered to our hotel (and various companies offer this service like UBER Eats) and it was very cheap. I think we each paid about $10 USD for every meal we ordered.
  9. Clothing: Dubai is not like Western countries and the scantily clad women you see everywhere. They practice a more conservative culture and you should keep yourself covered. Shoulders, knees, cleavage, & excess skin should be covered out of respect for the culture.
    1. Caveat – I did notice at the hotel pools and beaches that more people were in revealing swimsuits and no one seemed to care. The decision is up to you.
  10. Religion: Islam is the largest religion in Dubai, however there are several other regions and places of worship within the city. The city is open minded about religious beliefs.
  11. Top attractions: there are so many things to do in Dubai, but these are my favorite:
    1. Burj Khalifa – go all the way to the top of the tallest building of the world and star over 1,800+ feet down  dubai-2292836_1920
    2. Visit the Dubai Mall – over 1,200 shops!
    3. Dubai Miracle Garden – open seasonally

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      Dubai Miracle Garden

    4. Palm Jumeirah – island looks like a palm tree from the air
    5. Atlantis

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      Atlantis

    6. Ski Dubai – indoor year round skiing
    7. Dubai Aquarium
    8. Catch a sunset

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      Dubai sunset

    9. Burj Al Arab – 7 star hotel on its own island and shaped like a sailboat
    10. Gold and spice souks

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      Souk Shopping

    11. Desert safari

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      Dessert Safari

    12. Dubai museum

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      Dubai museum

  12. Phone and WiFi coverage: everywhere I went offered free WiFi to its customers. I can’t think of a time I wasn’t connected during my stay. As for phone coverage, I did not turn my phone on while I was away but I would check with your phone service provider or you can get a SIM card.
  13. Safety: Overall, I felt extremely safe. But with anything, you should always practice safe measures:
    1. Be cautious of the neighborhoods you are in and time of day
    2. Let the local embassy know you are in town
    3. Let someone know where you are and when you expect to be back
    4. Set up a safety measure with someone back home to let them know all your plans and check in frequently
  14. Cuisine: Middle Eastern food is incredible. Come with an open mind as they utilize spices and vegetables in a delicious way. Foods not to miss: baba ganoush, falafel, taboon bread, and knafeh!

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    Delicious eats

  15. Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi!! It is only about an hour and a half away and the Big Bus Tour company has add-on tickets that you can get and they will take you there. I spent several days exploring here but I highly recommend visiting for at least a day to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been.
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    Sheikh Zayed Mosque

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    Sheikh Zayed Mosque

     

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