A Week in the ABC Islands

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Earlier this year the Queen and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. So after the hustle and bustle during the majority of 2016, we decided to treat ourselves to an 8 day cruise in a spacious mini-suite aboard the Caribbean Princess.

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The itinerary took us to the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. We had already been to the A of the ABCs (Aruba) before and were looking forward to saying “Bon Bini” to the B and C portion for the first time. They did not disappoint.

Our first stop took us to Curacao (and you can get all the island details HERE) after two days of sailing. As with all Southern Caribbean islands, it was of course, beautiful.

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I don’t remember the name of the excursion (snorkeling, of course) we undertook. To be truthful, it was forgettable. The water was spectacular  – a comfy 83 degrees – but the double decker on-boat logistics and aloof crew left us frustrated. From the time we anchored, we waited nearly 15 minutes to get into the water because the crew wanted to let the ground floor snorkelers out first – about 50 of them. Couple that with another on-site double decker boat with around 70 snorkelers in the water, and it was 30 minutes of being kicked and run into the whole time.  So by the time we finally got into the water, it wasn’t pleasant.

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The city center was better, as well as lunch. We hit up the Burger Bar and had a couple of stacked burgers. Pretty expensive, but tasty.

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Back to the ship…

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and onto the next stop:

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Bonaire.

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Bonaire….is beautiful. It’s that simple. It has the clearest water we’ve ever seen. We thought Grand Cayman and Cozumel were the clearest – that is until we got to Bonaire.

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The water was like swimming in an aquarium. Spectacular. The fish were not afraid of humans and you could swim right up to nearly touch them.

We went out on the Mushi Mushi and the folks there were beyond charming. Very informative, friendly and kind. Their rum punch was pretty good too. Strong. So they get another thumbs up for that one.

Once we got back to shore, there was a delicious wafting in the air. Smelled really good. Picture a cartoon Shell King smelling food and floating in mid-air towards it. That was me.

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I floated towards a little Indonesian food booth where Mama-san was cookin’ up some real island goodies.

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All locally made – grilled asian chicken with rice, noodles, pickled cucumbers and chicken livers and hot hot hot sauce….and it was only $8.50

We knew it was gonna be good because we were told that the island locals swarm her booth when she opens. Good lord. It was amazing. Yet another reason why we’d like to go back to Bonaire tomorrow and set up a Shell King satellite office. All kidding aside – Bonaire is now my favorite place in the Caribbean.

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Our last stop took us to Aruba, where in the morning, we traipsed around the city doing a little shopping.

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Later that afternoon, we snorkeled and boated with the world famous Jolly Pirates.

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Those guys and their ship were flat out awesome.

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We spent three and a half hours snorkeling, swimming and drinking rum punch. What a ball.

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The Jolly Pirates are also known for their rope swing. You stand on the platform (to the top right of the Queen in the pic above), swing out and let go into the water. You know I couldn’t resist.

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We had a ton of fun in all three of the ABCs.

Eight days was simply not enough. Not enough good food. Not enough good rest. Not enough good times.

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….So we’re going to need to do all of this again real soon.

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Happy 10th Anniversary to My Queen.

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Until next time, friends….

Snorkeling and Lobster (Kind of)

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What a great time for a getaway. Between work, studying and more work, the Queen and I were more than ready to jump in the car and head somewhere stress-free. What better place than the Florida Keys? Or more specifically, Key West for the 2015 Lobsterfest.

We visited last year and had an absolute ball. You can read about last year’s trip here.

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Last year we hit Pennekamp and did a snorkel trip prior to heading off for KW to fill our bellies. This year, we decided to stay a bit closer to KW, as the drive back to the hotel in the Upper Keys – after very hot weather and lobster – was brutal.

We stayed in Marathon this time (which is a wonderful area) and stopped by a quaint little spot known as Sombrero Beach.

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Sombrero Beach is a smallish spot off the beaten path with a couple of rocky ledges that are good for snorkeling and clear water for swimming.

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With all the rain Florida has gotten this year, I was sure the water would not be as clear and I was correct. However, murky for the Keys means you only get to see 15-20 feet in front of you as opposed to 50 feet. 😉

We nestled in under a big palm tree and hit the water for a couple of hours. Lots of fish and too many sea urchins to count, and quite a few ended up in the ol shell bag. I found this killer cone as well. He was occupied so he went back into the water. But dang! Look at the color of that shell! I thought it was mucky at first, but as I scraped I noticed that the color WAS the actual color. A camo cone shell. Definitely a first!

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After swimming and snorkeling for a while, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap and then enjoyed a nice dinner at the Island Fish Company…we enjoyed a wonderful view.

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After dinner, we fed some parrot fish and relaxed in preparation for our big day in Key West.

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The next morning, we got up, grabbed a bite of breakfast and headed to one of our favorite beaches anywhere – Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.

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It is a stunning beach with crystal clear, warm water. We visited here two years ago as a Florida Beaches Royalty Tour spot and were itching to come back. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back last year, but the wait was worth it.

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There has been a considerable change to the beach on the West side, as the formerly rocky shoreline has been replaced by soft, white sand. So what did I do? I went North and tore my feet up trying to snorkel what? The rocks. I snorkeled from about that ship almost all the way up to the point. However, a couple of barracuda I encountered along the way forced me out of the water. So I climbed out, strapped on the GoPro and we hit the water.

In the first pic on the page, you can see the Queen conch we found after about 2 minutes in the water. It’s a no-take park at FZ (and the shell was occupied) so back in the water it went. But a cool way to start off the snorkel.

 

So many fish to see in the water….and many of them too fast to get snapped on cam. Twice I was buzzed by large fish. Once by a HUGE jack and the other, a hogfish – which was very cool, but scared the crap outta me.

Like, I said. I tried to snap the hogfish (above), but he was just too dang fast. You can make him out if you look closely.

Notice anything in the bottom of the picture above?

Yep, one of these guys:

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That’s a Caribbean Reef Squid.

I swam up on a little squad of these guys. They all took off except this one. He thought my GoPro was interesting, and he stopped to pose for a few shots. What a beautiful and amazing creature.

We hung out at Fort Zach for a couple of hours, showered off and made our way over to Duval Street for the festivities.

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Boy, was it HOT.

Hot hot hot.

So hot, I needed to buy a hat before walking the main drag.

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When it’s that hot, all we wanted to do was have a cold drink. But we came there for lobster.

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So it was time to find some lobster.

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After walking the main drag, I settled on a Maine Lobster Roll…just like last year.

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I was so thirsty that the Coors Light went down in two gulps.

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Queenie got herself a Lobster Slider. Well, ok I had one too.

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and we washed em down with a couple of SnoCones.

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We hung out for a little while longer until the heat was just too much. Good thing we packed up some cold drinks in a cooler.

We had a ball as we expected. There is just something about the Keys that screams “MOVE HERE BRO”.

Who knows? Maybe some day. Until then, we’ll just hafta keep coming back.

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We sure don’t mind that.