Nevis – An Unspoiled Caribbean Gem

This is the time of the year that many people head south to escape the worst that Minnesota’s winter can throw at us.  While Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic remain the most popular destinations for Minnesotans heading to the Caribbean, they are starting to suffer from the problems of overtourism and crowds.  For people seeking a more serene, authentic experience, the good news is that there are lots of excellent options available.  The island of Nevis, part of the southern Caribbean nation of St. Kitts & Nevis, is a perfect example.

Located about a five hour flight from Minneapolis, Nevis is a small, unspoiled, relaxing island of approximately 36 square miles and about 10,000 residents.  Non-stop flights to the neighboring island of St. Kitts are available every Saturday during the winter/spring season, or daily connecting flights are available through Miami.  From the St. Kitts airport, it is 30 minute transfer by taxi and water taxi to Nevis, and you’ll truly feel your stresses and worries vanish as you make your way to the island.

Visitors to Nevis will find high quality, luxurious accommodations scattered throughout the island. For the luxury-minded traveler, there is a stunning Four Seasons Resort located on a beautiful stretch of beach, boasting a Robert Trent Jones II golf course, a comprehensive family program (including babysitting service), and the top notch service you’d expect from Four Seasons. 

Other accommodations are equally luxurious, yet offer a far more intimate setting.  The Montpelier Plantation and Nisbet Plantation resorts are two of my favorites, each offering a distinctive island experience paired with superb cuisine.  Each occupies the site of a former sugar plantation, with charming accommodations in a highly private, uncrowded setting.  I am reliably informed that the rum punch served at Montpelier Plantation is the best in the Caribbean, and I can say from personal experience that the Johnny Cakes (similar to a fried pancake) at Nisbet Planation are outstanding!

There are no all-inclusive resorts on the islands, which encourages guests to leave the property and discover authentic regional cuisine in a variety of nice restaurants, none of which is more than a 20 minute drive from the resort.  Nevis boasts some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, many offering open air or even beachfront dining.  The annual Nevis Mango and Food Festival, held in July of each year, brings chefs from around the world to compete in a series of competitions designed to showcase local food and produce.

Pleasant beaches surround the island, offering relaxation or a chance to go for a swim.  Snorkeling, scuba diving, and other water sports are readily available throughout the island.  For the active traveler, biking around the island can make for an enjoyable day.  Fancy a bit of cricket?  The island’s well-regarded home team hosts matches throughout much of the year.  Looking for a unique destination for a wedding or honeymoon?  Nevis offers some very romantic options.

Nevis is also an island rich in history.  The American founding father Alexander Hamilton was born on the island, and his birthplace is a museum that doubles as the island’s local parliament assembly.  The capital, Charlestown, is a charming mélange of Georgian English architecture mixed with bright Caribbean colors.  Elsewhere on the island, remnants of the once-dominant sugar industry can be seen, offering insight into Nevis’ unique history. 

The island’s residents, called Nevians, are friendly and welcoming, and very eager to share their special island with visitors.  If you’re looking for a unique destination to visit next winter, you’ll definitely want to put the island of Nevis on your list of places to go!

Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests a private world of luxury at sea. Every suite and villa provides guests with the finest amenities, and the expert services of our concierge and 24-hour butlers. Step outside your residence and you’ll enter a secluded Courtyard where you can spend your sea days relaxing, dining and enjoying exquisite privacy. We call it The Haven by Norwegian. You’ll call it pure paradise.

Available on Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl.

Melissa Recommends: Seasickness Cruise Advice

I like to think that I have a pretty strong stomach.  Not too much will upset me, not food, travel, stress, etc.  But boats/ships/ferries, they all throw a monkey wrench into my plans.  I feel like I’m at one of those ‘meetings’, so, my name is Melissa and I get seasick (sometimes).

OK, so not really seasick, so much.  More like……..hmmm…..I would say more like just a little queasy if the boat is a-rockin’.  I especially don’t like when I’m sitting at the evening show in the theatre, and just before the show begins, they have the curtains pulled, and I’m innocently sitting there, watching the curtains slowly lean to the right, and then middle then slowly to the left……makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

Motion sickness is a battle of your senses, or so described by WebMD. “You get motion sickness when one part of your balance-sensing system (your inner ear, eyes and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving, but the other parts don’t. For example, if you are in the cabin of a moving ship, your inner ear may sense the motion of waves, but your eyes don’t see any movement. This conflict between the senses causes motion sickness.”

I think if people say that you won’t feel the motion, the ships are so large, the equalizers, the sheer size, these are the same people that probably don’t ever get any sort of motion sickness.
So I’m here to tell you that it’s not so much that you WON’T feel the motion, it’s just determining how quick your body will adjust to the motion?  Mine might be a little slower than yours.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s worth it.

There are so many different methods out there to assist with motion sickness, it’s worth looking at all your options.

Dramamine works for me, there is a less drowsy option too.  I have always had really good luck with this option.
The patch works for many, this one is a small patch you can place behind your ear to help stabelize you.
Wristbands are a nice alternative to drugs.  People that I have recommended this option to, love it, and swear by it.

Final advice:  Cruising is worth it.  Just a little preparation goes a long ways!!!  Have fun!

Client Review – Disney Fantasy Cruise

Melissa,

First let me say thank you for all your assistance on planning our family vacation cruise. It was awesome and we all had a marvelous time.

Arrival at Art of Animation – People were great from arrival to departure. The only issue we had was with the bands we wore to open doors and pay for things. It seemed there was a problem with my band in the programming and with the door lock at our room. No big deal but it took 3 calls to get someone to the room to fix the lock which meant that I ended up walking back to reception 3 times to talk to the front desk to find out when someone would get there so we could get in. Total time about 2 hours. This took me away from spending that time with family. Check out was easy and quick.

Happy Limo from Hotel to dock – Jessica was our driver and was on time and friendly. All went well. Baggage staff at the ship were quick, friendly and I felt bad for them as some people were not understanding that they should be tipping these workers as they are not with Disney.

When it came time to board, it went very fast and oh so glad we didn’t have to worry about our luggage. All lines moved quickly and we got our family photo and moved to the lunch area which totally Wow’d us. Could not believe the spread they put on.

Right after lunch our rooms were ready and while others were unpacking, I took the opportunity to visit the Guest Services and sign up for a couple days of wine tasting (awesome) and to check out the ship to locate the primary areas. Let me add this about Guest Services. I stopped by there a number of times with questions and needs and each time the wait was short and the staff were friendly and professional. It was so much fun with all of the staff from around the world which allowed me to practice my Spanish and French. I think they appreciated my effort to speak to them in their own languages.

Back to the rooms. Again…Awesome! Thanks for getting us together with the veranda’s. It really made family time special being able to hang out with a view of the ocean. The beds were so comfortable and having the split bathrooms really did make a difference. We met our wonderful Stateroom Attendant right away and had a long chat with her (Ria). Over the week, she became like family. When we left, we all gave her a loving hug.

The restaurants – I think the Royal Court was the favorite, followed by the Garden and then the Animation. All were great but because we were not sitting where we could have the character interaction, we rated the Animation a little lower. However, the night we had to draw a character and then got to see them come to life was really exciting. At the Garden we were seated over the engine and so there were steady vibrations. We just went with the idea that we were sitting in a massage chair. The food in all was exceptional. One night they served a beef rib bbq which was the best I’ve had. I asked if I could get the recipe and the next night, they had it for me.

Our dining staff (Oppie, Kevin and Witt) were the best. We had so much fun with them all each night. They really work hard but find time to interact with every person at each of their tables. We actually met Kevin when we arrived and had lunch. He was one of the table waiters in the buffet room. He told Oppie that he met this family and hoped that he gets to wait on us. With all of the international staff, it was fun being able to utilize our limited skills in French and Spanish with them during the week. Even the boys were practicing both languages with Kevin who spoke French, Spanish, Dutch, German and English. And each night one of these 3 would do some table magic for the boys. At the table next to ours there was a little girl (9), her mom and grandma. They were from French Quebec, Canada. Each night our family would toast with our wine glasses and on the first night I raised my glass to the little girl and she got embarrassed and laughed as did her mom. On the second night, her mom encouraged her to toast her soda glass with me and by the 3rd night, she was looking over and waiting for our toast. It was so much fun.

The bars – we visited a number of the bars on ship and settled in with two. One was the Pub and the bartender was a guy by the name of Ashley. We had a number of chats and he was very curious about my Stress Management business (I gave him a card the first night). He had lots of questions and so I gave him a copy of my book. I also gave one to Ria along with her gratuity. My oldest son Jamison and his girlfriend Kelly settled in on the upper bar by the adults only area. It became their special place for the cruise.

Rain Forest – everyone liked this place but there was so much activity that we didn’t get to spend all that much time in there. Not sure if I would sign up for this again as there is an adult hot tub on 11 that we used and was usually available. But I did like the sauna’s in the Rain Forest.

The tours – The St. Maarten Tour was probably the best as we actually got to learn something about the island from the driver who was plugged into a loud speaker so we could all hear him. The St. Thomas tour wasn’t really a tour. The driver was great but had no speaker and so we learned nothing about the island. Basically he was a taxi driver who drove us to Coki beach and Ocean World. Ocean world was somewhat disappointing as two of the major attractions were closed that day. The most interesting thing there were the Iguana’s that were running around freely. Everyone liked the beach as there were lots of fish and things to see while snorkeling. We even had a mother chicken and her chics running along the beach. One interesting fact is that Kelly knew someone in our drivers home country that was a relative to the driver. Small world.

Castaway Cay was great. A party event and lots of room at the beach area. The staff did a great job serving everyone.

There was something going on all the time on ship and there is just no way you can participate in all of them. But I think everyone did as much as they wanted to do and the most important is that the boys got photos with the characters they wanted to be with.

The final night after the show and after we were packed and had our luggage out for them to take (another great idea), we had time together on the veranda to just be family. The weather cooperated all week with only the first night having rough water. Now reality sets in as I review our charges. It is great that the charges are broken down by individual card even thought everything was being billed to my room. Weather or not our family would go back, probably not, but would highly recommend it to others. Doing your prep work, being organized, getting signed up early, deciding what is important to do and getting it done early in the trip are just a few suggestions I would have for others. But using you to set things up would be my first recommendation. So thank you from all of us. We truly appreciate what you did for us.

The Happy Limo ride back to the airport worked well. We actually got Jessica again. The whole process of checking out, customs, etc was great. Again, the baggage handlers where right there waiting for you when we got off and did a great job.

Cruising Aboard the Norwegian Getaway

I sailed the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Getaway in June of 2014.  One of the most  fun things to do was a visit to the Ice Bar Brrrrr.  Everything was made of ice and we had to wear special parkas.  Wish i had brought gloves along with me.

I love the beach at  Phillipsburg St Maarten you can sit all day for $15 for two chairs and an umbrella.

The Water Park on board the ship is a magnet for kids and the young at heart as is the ropes course, zip line and Walking the Plank!

Singles can book a cabin for one and not be subject to the double occupancy rates.

Client Review: Freedom of the Seas

Travel Dates: March 2013

Traveling: Mom, Dad, 2 kids (12 and 14 years at time of travel)  with 2 cabins

Ship: Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas

Hi Ali – thanks so much for your help in organizing our cruise!

We had an awesome time and would recommend Royal Caribbean Cruises to anyone who asks.  We have now been on both the Allure (giant!) and Freedom . . and enjoyed both.  Maybe the Freedom a little bit more . . because still had all the amenities of the Allure, but not all the people.  Really liked the Entertainment/Shows onboard the Freedom . .  there was something every night that was appropriate for the whole family . . even the comedians (which often times have a hard time keeping it “clean” for the kids).  Service was outstanding all the way around.   My kids don’t do the “kids club stuff” so I can’t speak to those programs, but it did look like a lot of kids participated . . especially at the 10 and under ages.  My husband and daughter did the Behind the Scenes tour on the ship (expensive at $150/person) but said it was well worth it!

I’m attaching a couple of video clips from Maho or Airport Beach in St. Maarten. (Click To Watch St Maarten Airport Video 1 St Maarten Airport Video 2)  Was a highlight of our trip and I would recommend to anyone traveling to St. Maarten.  We rode Segways along the boardwalk/beach right away in the morning (very fun!) . . and then caught a cab/bus ($2-3/person) over to Maho Beach.  Planes started coming in around 10:30 and there was a pretty steady stream (not all big jets, but a mix of private and corporate).  I was surprised by the number as I didn’t think that many planes would be coming in on a Thursday.  The beach itself was great, too.  Nice big sandy area . . with big waves for the kids to play in . . which they did for 3 hours! . . the other islands/beaches did not have those kinds of waves . .

Another fun thing we did . . in St. Thomas . . was the Stand-Up Paddle Boarding lesson . . . the brother/sister team that leads it were very nice . . the kids caught on quickly (better balance than us old-timers) . . but I enjoyed the challenge and it was a great workout!

All in all a great vacation . . weather could have been a little better (was cloudy several days and it seemed windy ALL the time).  We attributed this to the fact that we were in the Eastern Caribbean and more in the Atlantic Ocean than the actual Caribbean/Gulf.  We would think about that if we plan another cruise. . .

Thanks again for your help planning . .

Lisa

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A Suite Review of Freedom of the Seas

Client Review

Ship: Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas

Travel: February 2013

Agent: Karen Malone

Traveling: Family of 4 with kids 8 and 6 at time of travel

…….

Karen,

Hello!  The cruise was great!  Thank you for your assistance in getting it set-up.  As you had suggested, the Freedom of the Seas was a great ship.  All the activities we wanted, but not too big.  The kids especially liked the skating rink – we spent several hours ice skating this trip.  Also, the kids club was excellent.  I was happy to see that the kids had just as much fun this time as last time.  We typically only used the club during dinner hours, but the kids looked forward to going every night.

The only major negative we had about the cruise was the dining room.  Although we had a great table directly in front of the window, the tables were so smooched together that it was challenging just finding a path to get to our table.  I don’t remember the room being nearly as crowded on our other cruises, so not sure if this is unique to Freedom of the Seas?  It was so uncomfortable that we ended up only eating in the dining room once (although we had a full dinner menu for room service which made dining in the room a real pleasure – see below).

This was our first time in a suite (last time we did a Junior Suite), and had debated whether or not it would be worth the extra cost.  Happy to say that we enjoyed the extra services provided with the suite even more than we anticipated and thought they justified the extra cost.  For example… we had never taken advantage of room service before on a cruise.  Not only did the suites have a full dining room menu, but they prioritized our orders.  We never waited more than 30-40 minutes for the food to be delivered (we heard others complaining that it took 1.5-2 hours for regular service with the very limited menu).  This was great for the kids – at the end of a long day they could relax in the room (it was big enough to actually relax in) and eat great food like appetizers, salads, steak, desserts while watching a movie (oh yeah, did I mention the room had a DVD player with lots of movie options to check out from the concierge).  Just enough time to recharge and head off to the kids club for the evening.  Luke and I skipped the dining room several times for a romantic dinner on the balcony once the kids were at the kids club.  Allowed us to eat whenever we wanted and not be tied to a seating at dinner.  Again – I was really surprised how much we appreciated the full room service.  Another surprise was the ability to eat breakfast and lunch in the private dinning rooms (the ones that serve as the “specialty restaurants” at night).  It was SO nice to grab our food off of the buffet with everyone else and then have a quiet beautiful place to sit and eat.  There was waitstaff to bring us drinks when we needed a refill.  For breakfast, we could even order off of the regular dining room menu – so the kids could hit the buffet right away and we could get a made to order breakfast.  I never minded the noise and chaos of the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch on other cruises, and was surprised how much I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the private dining area.  The cocktail hour each night (with complimentary appetizers, beer, wine, and cocktails) was also really nice.  We had a chance to really get to know some great people because we saw them every night in the lounge.  The private lunch on a deck overlooking the ocean on our Bahama day was awesome.  I was getting really nervous looking at the HUGE line of people at the regular buffet and those squatting holding plates on their beach chairs trying to eat.  How fantastic to walk right up to a private spot, no lines, real tables, beautiful view, great food.  Oh yeah, getting escorted past the 30+ minute line to get on a tender to the Bahama island and straight onto the waiting tender was a great way to start the day.  We also took advantage of the reserved seating at the shows – much better to show up 15 minutes before show time and have a great seat than having to show up 30-45 minutes early with 2 antsy kids.

What else… we (Luke and I – after the kids ate in the room and headed up to the kids club) decided to try Portofino – the restaurant with a “cover charge”.  I have a hard time with this concept as we already paid for meals as part of the cruise.  It was fantastic!  The relaxed atmosphere and attentive service was wonderful, and the food was SO worth the cover charge.  We enjoyed it so much we went back the next night!

Finally, we did an excursion in St. Maartin that I would HIGHLY recommend (not booked through Royal Caribbean).  It was with a private charter company called Captain Allen’s.  It was a 4 hour trip shuttled around on their power boats to several different snorkel and beach spots.  Simple but delicious sandwich and fruit lunch.  Super nice staff, beautiful secluded beaches, great snorkel spots.  It was our favorite day of the cruise (the kids LOVED cruising over the huge waves in the ocean), and a great value.

Thanks again for your guidance and help arranging the cruise.  It was a great trip, and we will probably do another in a couple of years.

.

Melissa sets sail on the Disney Fantasy

I went on the inaugural sailing of Disney Cruise Line’s ‘Fantasy’ ship.  It was not the normal itinerary that this ship will be doing in the future, but that’s what made it so much fun!!!

There were several times that our ship passed another Disney Cruise ship throughout our sailing.  Each time we did, our captain would toot the horns to the other ship, and it was a fun little game.  There are many different songs that the horns will play including:  When you wish upon a star, Be our guest, Hi Diddle dee dee, It’s a small world, Yo-ho, A dream is a wish your heart makes.
You can watch/hear these fun horns:   Disney Cruise Line Horns

Rotational dining onboard is fun and unique.  The service level is top notch, as your server travels to the different restaurants with you.

DCL FantasyWith Disney (anything Disney) it’s the subtle little touches
that make the whole thing magical.
This is the pillow in our room.  Melissa DCL Fantasy

Love looking out at the horizon
and seeing nothing but sunsets
and rolling waves.

 
These are the inside cabins with the virtual portholes.  There is always something interesting going on in the porthole.  We stood and watched for approx 5 minutes, and I snapped a few pictures of some fun things happening on the porthole.  When the sun is up outside, the sun is up on the virtual porthole.  As the sun is setting outside, the sun is setting on the virtual porthole as well.  Pretty amazing technology if you ask me!!!
DCL Fantasy DCL Fantasy DCL Fantasy
DCL Fantasy DCL Fantasy DCL Fantasy

Here are a few pictures out and about on the ship:

 

Always a favorite:  Castaway Cay!!!!!