Roseborough’s own Wanda Hamm talks about her Grand Voyage around the globe.
Holland America & Overall Cruise Experience
The excitement that goes along with a cruise is contagious, the days before leaving all my friends and my family were so excited for me to be going out of the country for the first time! Since working at Roseborough lots of clients have asked me what cruising was like and before this I wasn’t able to answer the question, but now I can.
Thinking about being inclosed in a 100,000 ton vessel generally wouldn’t be someone’s idea of a good time, but with shows, pools and quiet hide aways to read a good book it quickly became mine. From getting to the port to leaving the port again seven days later i was immersed in a world of wealth and knowledge aboard Holland Americas Ms Eurodam. From the Lincoln Center Stage to the Pinnacle Grille I was treated to a level of service that I wasn’t used to. Everyone was so polite and knew the best way to get the job done and how to cater to their clientele.
Getting on the ship was a smoother process than I originally anticipated, once we got to the port we were swept in line and checked in in a matter of minutes; before heading onto the ship we were offered a kodak moment, then onto the ship to soak up the Fort Lauderdale sun on the Lido Deck before we departed out into the deep blue sea. Watching the coastline disappear behind us was a weird feeling, but once we were out in open water starting the night settling into our cabin those thoughts were far from the fore front. Speaking of cabins, they were so beautiful and nicer quality than I expected. I know we’ve all had bad hotel experiences and I had a thought in the back of my mind that what was waiting for me behind the door; not a spacious room with a nice shower and bath.
Nesting into our cabin, suitcases unpacked and under our beds I spent an hour sitting on our balcony staring up at the stars, watching other cruise ships pass in the night and enjoying the serene feeling of being at sea. Not rocking and rolling thanks to the ship’s stabilizers.
Dining was a dream, the Lido Market had everything from just a sandwich to smoked salmon on toast. There were tons of options for every taste bud. We had the chance to experience two of the three exclusive restaurants on board which were an absolute dream. Pinnacle Grille was evey meat eaters paradise. The steak i had was so buttery and to die for. Tamarind was an asian fusion restaurant that had something for even the pickiest of eaters. I tested my more adventurous side and had some sushi, which wasn’t my cup of tea but everyone else loved it.
There was an array of choices for nightlife. The Lincoln Center Stage has classical music, then right down the way was BillBoard’s live; any taste of music will be satisfied. There was a show every night on the mainstage ranging from a comedian to a play.
Waking up and eating breakfast surrounded by blue water was a cool thing, but waking up and seeing a new island to explore was even better. The process of getting off the ship to Grand Turk was very easy, even with all the other passengers doing the same thing as me. Going down to the first deck we were all greeted with ship staff dressed in white waiting to get us off the ship as quick and painless as possible. Giving the attendant my ship key, I was off with a scan and a smile. The port of Grand Turk was underwhelming, some generic gift shops and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Scoping out a few lounge chairs me and traveling companions set out towards the crystal blue water outstretched in front of us. Swimming so close to the ship was an experience we even saw some fish! When swimming no longer held our attention we were starting to think not booking an excursion was a bad idea until one of us had the bright idea to rent a golf cart from one of the locals outside the port walls.
I’m sure to someone who’s never been to Grand Turk the idea of renting a cart from a stranger is sketchy idea, and in the beginning it was; but once we were out on the island exploring things we know others on the ship wouldn’t get to see it was worth the $80. We were able to go down small dirt roads and see beaches that no one on those big tour buses were going too. The best thing we came across was an abandoned what would have been a beautiful beach front resort. Dilapidated cabanas and the concrete shell of what would have been a gorgeous pool sitting hauntingly back in the palms and the brush.
The day for me began late and watching the ship pull into port was very interesting. Seeing the wake behind us and another ship on our tail. Getting off the ship again was easy as pie, stepping right off the ship into the area surrounding the port; bombarded with fake purses and taxi’s vying for our attention to take us around the island. My companion couldn’t get far into the port due to mobility issues so I was set off by myself. I wandered around San Juan for a few hours, stepping into shops when I felt inclined but mostly trying to absorb the culture around me. Being the history buff i am I wanted to get into one of the old forts, which I did with forty five minutes to spare before they closed. I sat out on the top of one of the towers and just marveled at the ocean. How clear it was and that out there somewhere was the US and it sunk in that i was away from home.
After the fort was closed, I have an alcove attached to it that was still open to the public and just watched the sun set slowly into the ocean. Watching the locals prance around and try as best as I could to not look like a tourist and marvel at what they see everyday. Once the sun was gone I set my sights back to the port and mosied around the streets coming alive with local nightlife, since two of the four ships that were in port were gone already. With the ship in spitting distance and old San Juan behind me i stopped for a margarita and some nachos and this little shop that was situated right next to my ship, I was able to do my favorite past time, people watch, and enjoy my last few minutes in San Juan.
Today, I was feeling under the weather. The sun and fresh air was just what I needed. Again like in San Juan I set out by myself to wander the island. First thing that caught my attention was a cable car ride up the mountain that lead to breathtaking views of the island and the ocean surrounding us. The island was bustling with local life just outside the port, crossing the street was interesting because they drove on the different side of the street from us. They had lots of the same shops as us, when I went into a Payless Shoes I even found a pair I was looking for back home but could never get them in my size!
Overall it was a beautiful friendly island and I can’t wait to go back to see the things I missed the first time around.
Half Moon Cay
For this stop, we had to tender off the ship. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I was told we had to take another ship from our ship to get to the island it certainly wasn’t this. The boat we were ushered onto was a two story contraption. It was not scary or rickety like I imagined, but modern and an easy ride to the island. Getting of the tender boat we were ushered onto the private island with rows and rows of lounge chairs. We spent the day lounging in the sun until we were invited to BBQ on the island with some of the best burgers I’ve ever had!
Sitting in the sun slowly baking and taking in the last day of this wonderful vacation was bittersweet. The ship looming out in the distance a reminder that tomorrow we were being thrown back into the real world. Breathing in the island air one last time before boarding the tender back to the ship, I imprinted the picturesque scenery to my mind.
Grady DiGiovanni is the Adventure Assistant and a Travel Agent in the office at Roseborough Travel Agency. If you’d like to ask her more about her travels and experiences, please feel free to contact her.
Visiting Puerto Rico was a great experience. We got off of the cruise ship and walked. And walked and walked. We were hoping to find a beach to spend the day at. We found a beach pretty quickly and at that point started walking the beach when we could, or walking through town when we had to.
We ended up stopping 3.2 miles from where we started. We found a hotel with a bar and pool on the beach. As we walked up the steps, there was a security guard there, standing on the steps. We assumed he may stop us but he did not so we went to the bar and ordered a drink. We sat there for a while and watched the waves. Words cannot describe how beautiful the beach and waves are in Puerto Rico. We ordered another drink and then headed to the pool, again, no one caring that we were there. We took a swim and then headed back toward our cruise ship. It was very exciting to see how the people lived in Puerto Rico. We took the streets back as opposed to the beach. We stopped at a restaurant and had a $2.00 beer and then continued our journey.
A while later we stopped at a tiny little bar with a pool table. There were a few children there, one playing pool, probably 15 or so. We sat down and ordered a beer and began talking to this man that told us he had cancer. We talked to him for quite a while, he told us so many great stories about his life and growing up there. He later told us that the bar was for locals and not tourists but he was very glad that we had stopped there. He bought us a drink and we in turn bought him one. Funny how ignorance is bliss, we didn’t know we didn’t “belong” and loved socializing with everyone.
As it started to get dark, we headed back to the ship for dinner and to call it a day. It was a spontaneous, wonderful day that I will never forget.
So when we visited St Thomas, we decided to get off the ship and just play it by ear, nothing planned. I was hoping to rent a scooter and sure enough that is what we did. It was only $65.00 for the day, which to me was very reasonable.
It took a lot of getting used to as you drive on the opposite side of the street and there are a lot of mountains and hills and very sharp turns. We laughed a lot as we had several close calls but being adventurous and spontaneous, we just went with it.
We stumbled upon a park, paid $10.00 to go in and walked the beach. It was awesome. Very few people there, a pavilion and several picnic tables, wooded. We walked for a long way, as far as the beach would take us.
We got back on the scooter and rode around for a while and saw a sign that said public beach access. We took a very steep road down to the area and once we got there, the only sign we saw was a Ritz Carlton. We parked the scooter in public parking and walked toward the resort. We walked up to the bar and I ordered a bloody mary and a beer. Paid $22.00 for the two. That’s not me but it was a time and a place. We went to the beach and sat on a couple of lounge chairs with padded cushions. I joked they were more comfortable than the mattress on my bed.
It was beyond amazing to take this all in. The wait staff came over several times and asked if we wanted anything. I was surprised that we were there without question. We took a swim and then headed out. We had to know if over the mountain was the “public beach access” so we walked over hill and saw THE REST of the Ritz Carlton. It was beyond beautiful. They actually had a pump with several different sunblocks that you could use.
We left the resort and headed on our way. We came upon a resort that the guy that rented us the scooter said to go to. Secret Harbor Beach Resort . We sat at the bar and ordered some lunch. It was very good. We couldn’t help but notice the swim platform in the lagoon and agreed immediately we would swim out to it before we left. We asked the bartender if you had to stay at the resort in order to enjoy all of this and she said no, anyone is welcome as the beaches are not owned by anyone. Maybe that is why nobody questioned us at the Ritz Carlton??
We ate our lunch and then swam out to the swim platform. It was something I will probably never do again as where do you find that scenario??
We got back on the scooter after our swim and headed up the mountains as we wanted to see the view. We got pretty high, maybe not the highest mountain, but pretty high. We saw a couple of goats that were just running around the mountain.
After we went up, we decided to head back, get closer to the ship as we were running out of time.
Once back to the port we had a beer, decompressed and headed back to the ship.
Island number three of our cruise. Explored, adventure, risk, crazy and fun would describe the day. Another day I will never forget.
Turks and Caicos Grand Turk
Today I visited Grand Turk for the first time. We wanted to see the island but really didn’t want to take a guided tour so I quickly found a plan b, which was to rent a golf cart. It was $80.00 for the day, which I thought was very reasonable. What better way to see the sights on our own terms. The island is so many things. It is beautiful, surrounded by turquoise waters.There were many homes, looked like million dollar homes, that were half done and partially boarded up, distressed. When we returned the golf cart I asked the man that rented it to us what had happened and he said that when the economy crashed, many people that were building those homes lost their jobs and the banks pulled out of the projects. It was very sad.
We did a lot of off road exploring on the golf cart as many of the roads are dirt roads. We visited beautiful beach after beautiful beach. I wondered why someone didn’t pick up the garbage on the beaches but since they were off the beaten path, maybe no one cared. The beaches were still breathtaking, you just needed to look past it. There were several beaches that it was only us, which was very nice. While there I was relaxed and at peace.
We came upon a very interesting project. There were several cottages and an in ground pool on the ocean in a very pretty forest. It looked like it was going to be a very expensive resort. Evidently the project was never finished, all but destroyed and distressed. I wondered if it was from a storm or the economy. It had so much potential.
We visited the salt ponds and made our way to the Grand Turk Lighthouse.
My favorite thing about the island and our adventure were the donkeys and horses that roamed the island, free, content, well fed. It made me very happy to see these animals happy. The way it should be.
After our golf cart ride we made sure we had enough time to spend a good part of the afternoon at the resort area.
The resort area was magnificent. The sand so white and the water so blue. We did some snorkeling and saw quite a few fish. There were plenty of chairs and umbrellas at the beach so we were very comfortable. The island natives were friendly and accommodating. There were plenty of rentals there from scooters, to four wheelers to dune buggies, snorkeling equipment and more to fit everyone’s needs.
We did some shopping and bought a couple of bottles of rum at the duty free store. We had a drink at Margaritaville before we headed back to the cruise ship.
Grand Turk was a perfect combination of adventure, exploring and relaxing. I would highly recommend the island to anyone.
Theresa Olivetto is an Outside Sales Agent for Roseborough Travel Agency. If you’d like to ask her more about her travels and experiences, please feel free to contact her.