Monday, March 17, 2014

Carnival Victory AGAIN: CoCo Cay (Little Stirrup Cay) Part 2

After a couple hours out there I finally made it back to my dear boyfriend who had found a lounger under a nice palm. Once I returned, we took a walk to the closest bar and went back to relax. It was about 85* so I managed to reapply sun screen plenty but it didn't help. I was out in the reflective water for too long and managed to get a free sunburn souvenir! It wasn't bothering me so we took a walk to where lunch was being served.

They offered a BBQ lunch for free as they do on Carnivals private islands, Half Moon Cay. You were able to use your sail and sign card at the bar but the drinks were WAYYYYY more expensive than on shore. I am sure that it costs them an arm & a leg to rent out the island and that is the reasoning for the extra cost. I was disappointed that they didn't offer my mocha chocolate getaway that I had been drinking all week but they only were serving generic Daiquiris & mixed drinks.

We decided to eat lunch at a shaded picnic table and then went exploring. They offered a walking tour of the island as an excursion. They had someone explaining about the low tide, animals & plants. We decided to just walk the trail by ourselves but I am sure the tour was nice. We got to see a lot of iguanas and small lizards as well as seeing where the people who take care of the island lived. It was getting kind of hot so we slipped our feet in the water for a bit more before walking to the beach closer to where we entered the island. The area was crowded and there was a lot of music playing but people seemed to be having a good time. A lot of people were playing out in the water. They had one of those inflatable water parks as well as some seadoo rentals and different snorkeling activities.

We stayed there for quite some time enjoying our last bit of time on the island. We stopped by the cash only market to do some shopping from locals who came by boat to sell their goods. After that we hopped on a tender and then headed back to the boat.

We would definitely like to come back to CoCo Cay again as well like to  try some other private islands. It is a relaxing day in port for sure! Have you ever been to a cruise line private island? Which one? What did you like about it?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Carnival Victory AGAIN: CoCo Cay (Little Stirrup Cay) Part 1

Friday February 7: 7-5

Let me first clear up what some people may find confusing: Why does this island go by two names? Little Stirrup Cay is the name that appears on their itineraries. However, they rent this private island from Royal Caribbean. RCI calls this island CoCo Cay. It appears they rent this island occasionally through out the winter season to Carnival and possibly other lines on days when it is not needed.

The island is gorgeous, the water is amazing and its "wildlife" can be entertaining. This was our first time at a cruise line private island and we LOVE the private island life. We were up early again this port day and were greeted with another beautiful sunrise. As with most or all private islands, there isn't a normal dock so you take a small tender boat to shore. They got started rather early this morning, with a tender dedicated to the crew & materials needed to take onshore along with a passenger tender.

                                                  A MSC ship was in port at the private island next to CoCo Cay

We also had never taken a tender boat on any of our previous stops so I was interested in the process. Since we had purchased FTTF we were able to for go the lines and be directed to the front. We didn't need to use that feature since there were so few people getting off so early. Later in the day, if you do not have FTTF, you would go and get a numbered tender ticket which let you know what tender you would be going on. They had you wait in the Caribbean lounge until your number was called. I am sure this is a tedious process and am glad we didn't need to go through this.

                                           The tender in the back was the crew only tender taking supplies on shore.

The tender ride was only about 15 minutes or so and then we were off for our first taste of a Bahamian private island. We walked along to the right as we were headed to Barefoot Beach. I did my research and heard that this was the place to be. It was further than most people wanted to walk and therefore a lot more serene that the first beach you come to. There were bars here and there that we passed along the way as well as some lively roosters, chickens and chicks and an iguana hanging out in a tree.

Walking past a bar and some lovely hammocks in the shade, we finally made it to our destination. Let me tell you, the view from Barefoot Beach is AMAZING. I have never seen anything like it. The water here was in low tide so there were people walking hundreds of yards out (I would soon join them.) The many palm trees here made it a perfect shady spot on the beach and the quietness of it all added to the paradise.

I followed the "trail" out about 200 yards to what looked to be deeper water. Once out there, the deeper part was actually just a lot of sea grass that made it look deep and dark. The water here varied, never going higher than mid thigh on me and it was the perfect temperature. Here I explored, finding a couple of conchs, sea snails and some sea urchins. There were plenty of types of fish swimming here and there and many people found star fish. There were some barracudas off to the side and the snorklers & kayaks close by saw some sharks! I later was able to swim with a small ray right off shore.

                                                                  People walking out along the shallow trail

Another conch I found along the way

                                                                                                Sea Urchin

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Carnival Victory AGAIN: Grand Turk

Wednesday Feb 5  
7 am - 5pm

First let me just mention that the time on Grand Turk was a huge reason why I booked this itinerary. Most of the GT cruises are 5 days with 3 islands instead of 2 which means you usually have significantly less time in port. The Victory itinerary that is 5 days with stops at Nassau, Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk give you 7-2 on the island as do a lot of the 7 day cruises with stops there. We arent early risers usually so I really liked the longer stop. As it turned out, both port days we made a huge effort to be up early to make the most of our time in port.

Grand Turk quickly became one of our favorite ports thus far. The island is absolutely beautiful and the  beach being literally feet away from the dock is ideal. As mentioned we were up early. I went ahead out to the secret deck to take pictures of us coming into port and was greeted with a beautiful sunrise. I went back to the room to get ready and wait for our breakfast to be brought up by room service. This really is handy on port days. The lido deck can be quite busy and it is a little stressful at times. You also can eat in the MDR for breakfast on port days until about 9:30.

We ate and then headed down to deck 3 for our day in Grand Turk. You walk through the duty free shop and come out into a cute little market place with a small number of your typical stores. This is something that I think Grand Turk could have more of but it does give the island more of a quant feeling. They have a couple of jewelry stores, a Ron Jon, Piranha Joe's, a few other t shirt shops and then there is Margaritaville.  This is the major point of the cruise center. We walked through and grabbed a couple of drinks.

If you prefer to not stop for drinks at the bar or a bite to eat, keep walking past the amazing pool area, cabanas, and flow rider and you are at the beach.  The beach has tons of loungers for you to choose from and you are greeted but the prettiest water and a view of your ship docked. It is great.  Of course, as with most islands, there are locals walking around offering tours, getting your hair braided, etc. They are all very friendly and a simple no thank you is understood and off they go.

The beach area right off of Margaritaville is nice but as you walk in the water it is a bit rocky at first so you may want to bring some water shoes. I swam over these parts but was thankful to the other swimmers who warned me. You can see the rocky areas since the water is so clear so just be careful.

We were lucky to have wonderful weather on this trip. It rained hard for a couple of minutes in the morning and once again in the afternoon but the sun came right back out. It was about 85 degrees and there was a nice breeze. Perfect day for laying under a palm tree in the Caribbean.

We went back into the port area to shop and head on board for lunch. The prices on GT are easily the most expensive we have ever come across for basic items like shirts and shot glasses. Once we had our burger/ hot dogs etc we went back to the island to explore a little. We walked around to the right of the cruise center where they have some displays from NASA as well as a large whale statue. Whale watching is very big there for certain months of the year. I believe late February leading into march is said to be the best time. We then went back through M'Ville to refill our drinks and headed to the right along the beach to take some pictures.

We saw a couple of horses and some dogs along the way. Grand Turk seems to have many animals roaming about. To the right there were some more small bars and restaurants and what looked like a casino. There were a couple of excursion shops this way as well as an inflatable water park with slides and trampolines. We headed back and relaxed at the beach enjoying our view and not wanting to leave. One last stop at Margaritaville was in order. They had a DJ (maybe one from the ship?) who was playing games and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It is worth it to note that it was very loud and some of the dancing games may not be kid friendly. Margaritaville also offered bathrooms that you could get to from the shopping area as well as from the bar / beach. They were basic but were nice enough.

Pool at Margaritaville. 

Seriously a beautiful island. If you are considering a cruise that stops here, DO IT. We will definitely be back.

Once back on board we showered and got ready for dinner. We attended the love & marriage show which was hysterical thanks to the oldest couple competing. Afterwards we headed to the Lido for a Caribbean Beach party. They did the typical line dances but also gave out glow sticks and threw out beads.  I thought it was pretty fun.