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Caribbean Cruise 2013

Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam

Once again we sailed the high seas and again it was on Holland America. This is our third cruise on this line and have never had a bad experience (I assume you have seen the news). We had a great occasion also as it was our twenty year anniversary!!!! What a better way to spend it than on a glorious ocean liner with a beautiful wife!!

We started by taking a red-eye flight to Ft Lauderdale, my first time to Florida! The problem with that was our arrival was very early in the morning and we couldn’t board the ship until early afternoon. We killed time by hanging out in a Starbucks and walking around a shopping center that most stores hadn’t even opened yet……booooring! When we finally were in the boarding area, we had a big surprise for some friends of ours. Cordell had to stay back in Snoqualmie. He gets to go over and stay with Jenny, our pet sitter! When she picked him up, she was on her way to take care of our friends Rich and Gloria Monsoor that live up here on the Ridge. We talked about where we were going and she said it sounded very familiar. She checked their itinerary, and we were on the same cruise! What is weird about this is, it is the SECOND time it has happened! They were on our last two-week cruise to Alaska! When we found them in the boarding area, they were floored! Now we had cruise buddies!

It was a wonderful cruise and the weather was warm and the seas usually calm. We made stops at Grand Turks where we did a Segway tour and some awesome snorkeling. The overall impression we had there wasn’t that good. People seemed lazy and there was litter and trash everywhere. Seen it, don’t need to go back. Then we hit San Juan, Puerto Rico! What a vibrant place and pretty clean. We hit the Bacardi Distillery and went to the old fort of El Morro and walked through the old tunnels and took great pictures and a video of the surrounding area! Next we stopped in St Maarten on the Dutch side of Philipsburg. It was pretty hot and muggy there but we absolutely loved the place. It was so cool and the people were happy and content. The place was spotless. We walked about the shops and along the boardwalk. We stopped at the Blue Bitch Bar for some refreshingly cold beers and something to eat! Across the Bay we saw some condos that we may be able to stay in via our timeshare so we may be back to the beautiful place! Our last stop was at Half Moon Cay which is a very beautiful island, but owned by the cruise lines and just a place for the passengers to drop some more money! It was fun anyway and they provided a good BBQ! Then it was back to Florida boo hoo! Since we had almost a full day to kill since we were taking a late flight back to Seattle, we decided to do one more excursion. This one was to the Everglades for an airboat ride and a visit to the wild animal center there! It also included a transfer to the airport so that worked out great! We only saw one alligator on the boat ride. The Everglades are very dry and this upsets them and they move to other areas with deeper waters. The animal center was very cool. Debbie held a baby alligator and even touched the tail end of a huge boa which is a feat in itself since she is terrified of snakes. Finally we got on the plane for an uneventful trip home. It was a great time! Check out the pictures here! Can’t wait to see what happens during the next twenty years!

Maui

Another vacation in the books and the big adventure this time was a trip to Maui! We took the trip in May and it just so happened, it coincided with my birthday! What a place to be spending that!!! It was my first trip to any Hawaiian Island. Debbie has been to Hawaii before, but it was her first time on this island! The weather was nice and warm and sunny, just what we needed to offset the horribly cold and wet Spring we have endured this year! We rented a private condo at Hale Mahina Resort which was right on the beach and very nice and quiet! The setting was awesome, although the unit we stayed in could have been a bit cleaner and we could have done without the little mouse that scurried around from time to time. No big deal though, as it was time to start our adventures!

The first thing we did was to head over to a local dive shop and rented some snorkeling gear and headed up to Honolua Bay Reserve. It was absolutely beautiful and the snorkeling was spectacular. We spent most of the afternoon cruising the bay checking out the sea life. One minor glitch occurred when we were told at the beginning that we weren’t allowed to use sunscreen immediately before entering the waters at it harms the sea life. Therefore we experienced some bad ass sunburns on our lily-white Seattle skin! This made some poolside sun bathing difficult for a day or two. Next we rented a couple of moped/scooters for a screaming deal (you’ll find out why later). We had a blast on these little bikes and did some serious cruising. One drive we took them on was up to a Kahakuloa Village, just about as far as we could go on them and get back safely! This was like stepping back in time to old Hawaii, very remote and very beautiful. We were told to visit Lorraine’s Shaved Ice where Lorraine makes the best banana bread and shaved ice on the island. Boy were they right!!! She and her husband are very nice and gracious! Her store is in the basement of her home and you can sit in their backyard and enjoy your treats and socialize with her and other visitors who happen to be visiting. It was a very cool experience! This day also happened to be my birthday and we spent the late afternoon having some brews at Maui Brewing Company and then dinner at Roy’s …….yum!!! I couldn’t have had a better day!

Next day it was up early, and I mean very early 2am. We took the sunrise bike tour down the Haleakala Volcano. We were picked up at the condo and transported up with a group to the top of Haleakala to watch the sunrise from 10,000 feet! It was beautiful and cold! At 10,000 feet in elevation very early in the morning, you are up above the tropical weather in the valley and have to dress for it. We watched the sunrise and also looked around the area and crater. There is also an observatory and military installation up top which is not accessible to the public! Check out the sunrise pictures and all the photos of the trip in our gallery! After watching the sunrise, we biked down the mountain on specially braked bikes. You need great brakes on these bikes because you are going down the highway and it is a very steep grade for miles! On the way down we stopped for breakfast at a very strategically located market, can I say gold mine! It was an unforgettable experience and we were quite wiped out for the rest of the night! Another day of adventure took us on the road to Hana! On suggestions from friends and people we ran into here, we stopped at Charley’s Restaurant for breakfast on the way and were glad we did. The road to Hana is a long and winding road through beautiful and lush scenery, numerous waterfalls, glorious views of the rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. It is well-travelled and at times very narrow. At the end is the small and quaint town of Hana (Heaven). What a cool and laid back place to live! We slowly made our way back, stopping at waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and outdoor roadside markets. We also stopped at the Garden of Eden, a botanical garden and arboretum. It was full of beautiful fauna and great trails, but a little on the expensive side to be honest.

Other days were spent sunning at the pool or beach, we snorkeled right at our beach and saw numerous sea turtles. Some swam so close to you, you could almost touch them, which we didn’t because it is illegal. We explored Lahaina, Napili, Wailea, Makena, Kaanapali, and Kapalua. We loved Kapalua, very nice place and it looks spendy! We took in the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt and did lots of shopping and eating at Whaler’s Village. We spent ten fabulous days in paradise, but wait, there’s more! I mentioned the deal we got on the scooters and also the luau was basically a two for one deal too! Why, you may ask! Did we get suckered into a timeshare presentation to enjoy these deals? Ummmmmmm yes! Ok ok now hold on before you jump to conclusions. We are not fans of the timeshare presentation as we have been to them before. The worst experience was in Cabo where we wasted three plus hours of our vacation trying to tell them we weren’t interested. We went to another one in Whistler which we might have bought had we not already decided on buying a boat! Well we went to another one and were cold and defiantly there just to bear it and enjoy our deals. This one was through Wyndham Resorts and our sales presenter, Timothy Gunn was a great guy that offered us no pressure what so ever! We didn’t have to sit through any sappy sales videos and sit in the boiler room of terminals, and high pressure sales reps that everybody else had to. We were immediately ushered into a private office after signing in and sat down with Tim. We told him how skeptical we were of the “timeshare thing” and he understood. He was a very good sales person, and after unravelling the timeshare mystery and showing us how it would work to our advantage, we were offered a deal that we absolutely could not refuse!!! We ended up buying and our base resort will be at the Kauai Beach Villas on the island of Kauai. Debbie is already learning the ropes of working the timeshare network. She took the responsibility herself! As a matter of fact, she has been the vacation travel agent for us quite awhile now and does a very good job! So expect many vacation adventures coming in the future from the Givens Estate! Now I must be off for a day’s worth of household chores and thanks for stopping by!

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