Monday, February 22, 2010
Monday Morning Melon Madness 2/22/10
What a week it was last week. My youngest son Pod was home from college for a few days. He was on Mardi Gras break. I had never heard of such, but when you go to school in Louisiana they have their own holidays. We also celebrated my wife’s birthday and my oldest son Pea's birthday as well. When they have a birthday I always get older. It was awesome having everyone in the same house for a few days. The US Olympic team has done well so far and it has made for some interesting TV viewing. The business has been a little wacko this week. The waves are still rolling in during "Wave Season". I have never seen so many specials and deals. It is just crazy! This is the year to pull the trigger on a cruise. I have been attending webinars, social networking, researching River Cruises and brainstorming ideas for potential group travel. My brain is on fire! One good thing about being in the travel business is that every cruise line and tour company that I work with offer training on all of their products. I attend 3 to 6 training sessions every week so I can stay on top on my "A Game" as your travel resource expert. Test me out sometime. I bet you will be impressed. Let's get this journey started off with a Melon Madness. Since the sun shining, why not some summer fruit? Here we go! Start with 1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped watermelon; 1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped honeydew melon, Juice of 2 limes, 1 cup of vanilla nonfat yogurt and 1 cup of ice cubes. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into your favorite melon madness glass and enjoy! It’s really not too bad. I will make this again for sure. Day 3 on the Norwegian Pearl starts off with a early trot, I mean fast walk around deck 7. This will give me time to get my mind right for our first port of call. I have never been to Samana before and was pretty excited to step on her soil. Samana, Dominican Republic is a destination for nature lovers and adventures with green mountains, long beaches and turquoise waters. Samana is the largest city on the peninsula otherwise known as Santa Barbara de Samana and is a port town that overlooks the country's largest bay, Bahia de Samana. The town was destroyed by fire in 1946 but was rebuilt to include resorts, hotels, bars and restaurants. Some of the things that you can do in Samana are visit Playa Rincon, considered one of the best beaches in the country. You can also take a walk on the "Bridge to Nowhere". If you are feeling really adventurous you can take a trip to Cayo Levantado or Bacardi Island where they used to film the famous 1970's Bacardi Rum commercials. We are not getting off the ship until 10:00 AM, so I have plenty of time to go eat breakfast. I meet Pea, Pod and my wife at Summer Palace for a little sit down breakfast. I had such good luck with the smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, bagel and prune juice on day 2 that I ordered it again. Don't ask me why I am ordering prune juice, but in one of the travel tips for cruisers that I read, it said that two glasses of prune juice during breakfast aids your digestion. I guess it is your morning jump start before you take advantage of all of your food options during the cruise. We are tendered in Samana. If you do not know what tendered is it means the ship is anchored off shore because there is no natural port or it is too shallow to dock. You will be taken ashore by smaller boats. At 10:00 we head down to deck 4 and catch or tender to Samana. We are going on our own in Samana and do not have a planned excursion. The music is playing and the local dancers are strutting. This is a grand welcome! We hooked up with some other family members and hired a local driver named Carlos to take us around and show us the sights. It made it nice that my sister-in-law could talk the language and negotiated a great rate for us. Our first stop was at a cigar shop. Pea and Pod got to turn green as they tried their first Dominican cigar. It was pretty funny watching them try to puff on a cigar. It made for some pretty cool pictures. Our next stop was going to be a small waterfall. We drove through a section of town that did not look very safe and lots of people in the streets. Our driver told us that most people in Samana are very poor and have nothing, not even running water. I was a little scared, but was still excited about seeing a county that I have never been. Our driver pulls off the side of the road and our driver says follow me as we make our way through children and locals down this trail in the woods. Ok, where are we going? As we started down the trail there were some street vendors selling local beverages so we grabbed a few beers and started on our way. We crossed several streams and after about 15 minutes we arrive at a beautiful waterfall. It was really cool. We took several pictures and headed back to our van for our next attraction. We told our driver that we wanted to go to a beach and hang out for a while. We make our way back through town and down some crooked roads as we make our way to Coconut Beach. There were several other vans there and looked like it was a good mix of tourist and locals. Carlos walks us down to an area that is less crowded and he has some chairs setup for us. There are several vendors around trying to sell their goods and for the most part they are not too annoying. Carlos has friends who have a small restaurant close by and they offer us beer and pina coladas served in pineapples all topped off with rum. We found out that they had some lobsters and snapper that they had just caught and they offered to grill them for us. There was a cost for this but it was very minimal. This is what I was wanting, but had no clue I would find this in Samana. While we waited on our lobster’s we got to watch my wife get her hair braided. It took multiple pina coladas with several top offs of rum, but she did it and she looked awesome. Pod bought a hat made from banana leaves and when he put it on he looked like the Statue of Liberty and Gilligan. Pea bought some tiki man for good luck. They set a table up in front of us as we take in the tropical waters. Grilled lobster, snapper, plantains and rice is all served beach style. Wow was this amazing and I am stuffed. Tropical fun in the sun! This has really been a great day in Samana. We make our way back to the pier to catch our tender back to the Pearl. Words of advice, if you visit Samana, don’t buy a hat made of banana leaves as it will be confiscated at the check point. It gave us some great photo opportunities and it did not cost that much. It was a legit hat though! We are now back on the Pearl and head to the pool for some sunning and a few tropical drinks. Relaxing at its finest! After a few fruity rum drinks the hunger urge sets in. A little snack won't hurt since we are not eating at La Cucina until 8:30. I make my way to the Garden Cafe and make me an international cheese plate with figs, dates and a French baguette! I think figs and dates are in the same family as the prune as they as well aid with digestion. At least that is what my cruise tip book told me. Ok, I think I need to go take a walk before dinner. I know there are still areas on the Pearl that I have not seen yet. Taking a cruise is awesome! I am super stoked about dinner tonight. We have elected to eat at La Cucina. There is a $10 charge per person for this specialty restaurant. When you take a cruise you do not have to pay to eat at the main dining rooms or the buffets. The specialty restaurants give you a choice for something different and there is a small charge. They were able to accommodate our group of 15 at one table. This was nice as most of the specialty restaurants cannot seat that large of a group. My dinner started off with beef capriccio topped off with shaved parmesan cheese and fried calamari. Then it moved to cheese tortellini with an alfredo sauce and osso bucco served with creamy parmesan polenta. I'm heaven! Oh my, did I mention that the red wine was flowing as well. Cappuccino and Tiramisu finished off one heck of a meal. The wait staff and restaurant management were so attentive to our every need and truly made our experience so worthwhile. We missed the comedy show Sharkbait, but we were able to make it too the Spinnaker Lounge and groove with Roots Link as they paid tribute to Motown. This has been an incredible day, I am dog tired and I can't wait to lay in my heavenly bed. I was somewhat concerned when I first saw Samana and she does have some rough edges that need to be smoothed out. I truly enjoyed my time in Samana. Over time I feel that that NCL will pump some dollars into the local economy and everything will be alright. Tomorrow we will be in St. Thomas. I am looking forward to see what day 4 brings us on our amazing journey. I truly appreciate all of you who are reading and following. Please leave me a comment sometime so I know who is reading. I would be honored if you share this with a friend or even followed me. Hang on for day 4 as we visit St. Thomas. Until we unite again remember to always love your Travel Agent. He needs lots of love! Remember that my services, research and recommendations are always No Charge! Keep your Cruisitude in check and most important is to Travel Your Way!