Great Stirrup Cay review

One of the beaches at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island in the Bahamas.
One of the beaches at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas.

One of the things I like about cruises is a beach day. Every time I cruise, I take at least one day where I sit on the beach, swim a little, and just relax. On my cruise to Cuba last month, I got to do that at Great Stirrup Cay (GSC). GSC (link provides video of the island) is Norwegian Cruise Line‘s (NCL) private island in the Bahamas, and it is amazing. While it doesn’t offer the relaxed vibe of a place like Maya Chan, it still presents plenty of great options. The opportunities range from the relaxing to the (middle-aged fat man version of) high adventure. In this Great Stirrup Cay review, I walk you through the flaws of GSC, what there is to do, what there is to eat, and what bar service is like. Continue reading “Great Stirrup Cay review”

Cuban Rum, Cigars, and Art Havana Shore Excursion

Most cars on the road in Havana are much more recent, but you will absolutely see some American classic cars on your Havana shore excursion.
Most cars on the road in Havana are much more recent, but you will absolutely see some American classic cars on your Havana shore excursion.

My cruise on the Norwegian Sky was amazing. The ship was beautiful, and it was a great getaway. However, the real reason I booked this particular cruise was that I wanted an opportunity to see Havana before it changed too much. This left me in a quandry. I very much respect American Treasury regulations, and I didn’t know that country. That suggested booking a Havana shore excursion through the ship. However, I speak Spanish, have an adventurous soul, and have vacationed in places like Nicaragua and Indonesia. That suggested striking out on my own. I wound up booking the Cuban Rum Cigars, and Art tour. I later found dinner on my own. This combination worked very well. Continue reading “Cuban Rum, Cigars, and Art Havana Shore Excursion”

Eating dinner in Communist Cuba

Conde de Villanueva was a lovely restaurant in the beautiful Hotel del Habano... even if they were out of several dishes.
Conde de Villanueva was a lovely restaurant in the beautiful Hotel del Habano… even if they were out of several dishes.

Sometimes, travel is meant to be an adventure. One day in 2006, for example, I went back to my apartment in Mexico City and told my wife we were moving to Abuja, Nigeria. Good times! In December 2016, I went on a bar crawl in Jakarta that involved a place which had been bombed by terrorists. It was bombed because, well, it was a bar. I got lost once in Japan, and I spent 11 days in Nicaragua once before I had learned enough Spanish. Anyway, I considered myself a seasoned traveler. That caused me to become arrogant, and being arrogant meant I quit listening. When I went to Cuba in July 2018, that meant that I didn’t listen to what restaurants were telling me about their menu. One of those places was the Conde de Villanueva in the Hotel del Habano. Continue reading “Eating dinner in Communist Cuba”

San Juan Embarkation Port and pre-cruise stay

So, overall, San Juan embarkation is smooth and it is an excellent port to embark from.  After landing, we went and picked up our luggage, and, as we flew first class, we got it fairly quickly.  We then headed for the taxi line.  Uber is not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, so this was the only option.  But, it was set up very well.  A uniformed women took our destination when we reached the front of the fast moving line, told us our fare, and directed us to our taxi.  A taxi ride from the airport to Old San Juan, the best place to stay when leaving for a cruise as the pier is right there, takes about 30 minutes.  The streets can be quite narrow at times, so be prepared to stop a lot.  But, the scenery of the old forts and buildings makes for a pleasant drive. Continue reading “San Juan Embarkation Port and pre-cruise stay”

Carnival Fascination Penthouse Suite Southern Caribbean Cruise Experience – Planning the Cruise

Mr. and Mrs. John Brawley Tophat in United first class on their flight to San Juan.
Mr. and Mrs. John Brawley Tophat in United first class on their flight to San Juan.

Hello all.  Mrs. Tophat and I just got back from an excellent Carnival Fascination Penthouse Suite cruise adventure to the Southern Caribbean.  Over the next few weeks we are going to share with you our entire cruise experience.  We sailed on May 20th from San Juan to St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Marteen.  This cruise was about the ports of call.  We are gold cruisers with Carnival, having sailed with them many times out of New Orleans and Miami, so we were familiar with the Carnival experience.  We booked this cruise online via Carnival about a month before the sail date, so we had few options of cabins, and thus we ended up booking an extended grand suite on deck 6.  But, a few weeks before we sailed, the upgrade fairy called and offered us a Owners Penthouse Suite on deck 12. Continue reading “Carnival Fascination Penthouse Suite Southern Caribbean Cruise Experience – Planning the Cruise”