Saturday, May 31, 2014

Photos from our 8-day Carnival "Breeze" Cruise to Aruba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos

Nathan and I did an 8-day Southern Caribbean cruise from Miami in April, and I've been meaning to post these pics in a blog for weeks now. Better late than never! Here's a QUICK VIDEO from Carnival on the ports of call and the ship we took.

Leaving Miami

It was the longest cruise we've ever done, and it was the 6th cruise we've taken. All of the ports of call were new to us, which is great because when you cruise from Miami a lot you can start to see the same Caribbean ports of call as options (like, we've cruised to Cozumel twice, and the Bahamas twice... not that I'm complaining, you understand).

A view of our ship from the water in Grand Turk

With such a long cruise, there are enough sea days to allow you to fully relax. I loaded up my iPhone's Kindle app with books, and brought books to keep me entertained. I also enjoyed the ship itself, the Carnival Breeze, which had watersides, the Punchliner comedy club presented by George Lopez (which we loved), and even a multi-dimensional Thrill Theater, which made you feel more immersed in what you were watching since it would spray you with water, blow wind at you and move the seats during the 3D showings.

I think my favorite port of call for the sheer enjoyment factor was Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos. It was just a simple place where as soon as you walked off the ship, you were on the beach. You didn't have to worry about taxis, going far away, etc. Everything was right there!

Our shore excursion was a boat ride to a small, private island, where the water was shallow and we got to encounter stingrays. 

Unfortunately, I left my ship towel on the small boat, so the second half of my excursion was filled with a bit of worry while I waited for it to return with the other excursion crowd. But it made it back in time for me to grab my towel and get back on the big cruise ship. We almost missed our cruise ship a couple of cruises ago in St. Maarten, and I never want to go through that stress again!!

My favorite relaxation spot in the entire cruise! Look how close our beach was to the ship... and the snorkeling was great right there.

The next port of call was the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic, La Romana. I really enjoyed the history of that place, because we took the Santo Domingo city tour. It's the capital of the DR. The bus ride was almost two hours long, but our tour guide was AMAZING and talked about La Romana the entire time... he kept it really interesting. 

The lighthouse where Christopher Columbus' remains lie... the Columbus Lighthouse honors the memory of the discoverer of the Americas.
The photo on the left shows the outside Alcazar de Colon, the palace of Hispaniola's first Governor and son of Christopher Columbus, Don Diego Colon... it had a lot of historic artifacts inside, seen on the right. 

This is the First Cathedral of the Americas! So historic!!
We walked through the Colonial Zone and visited the National Pantheon. This is a Christopher Columbus statue. I was worried about pigeon poo. Watch your head! ;)
Lots of walking, lots to see

The next port was Dutch Curaçao, which was adorable/funky! Just pulling in to the port, you are immediately greeted by the sight of those bright Easter-egg-colored buildings. Love it.

We learned during our city tour that the reason the bright painting began was because of political corruption-- a former governor said he had an eye condition that caused him pain when he looked at white buildings, so he passed a law that required buildings to be painted colors. After he died, it turned out that he OWNED the paint factories! So he was profiting from it. Despite those negative beginnings, it has probably paid off for the island in terms of recognition and tourism value through the years.

Hello, cuteness!
The flag, and our ship in the distance behind the awesome cityscape
The city tour had a nice stop at the local aquarium

We stopped at an original Curacao liqueur factory, which makes a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit
This is the famous "swinging lady," the Queen Emma Bridge-- hinged and opens for passing boats
Getting back on the boat, with a fellow passenger taking a picture beside us, haha

Our final port of call was Aruba. After singing the Beach Boys song "Kokomo" for years, I was excited about this one-- and it ended up being a tiny bit of a let-down. Maybe I was just "cruised-out," or we chose the wrong shore excursion, but I just wasn't that impressed. Still, it's a Caribbean island, so you can't go too wrong with it! ;) 

We snorkeled, and the boat ride there was fun because it took us along the shoreline so we got to see the island edges of Aruba.

I know I'm spoiled because I snorkel all the time here in Florida, but I wasn't loving the snorkeling there. Visibility was not great, although it was kind of hauntingly cool to see the submerged ship off the coastline (it was deliberately sunk to avoid capture by the Germans some decades ago).

A lot of times on cruises, you can just wander around in the tourist areas and shop, but we are not really into that. So after walking around for a bit, I was ready to hop back on the boat and head home.

The ship itself was nice and new, and the entertainment was pretty good, with the comedy club being my favorite. All I did was EAT AND EAT AND EAT, and I also loved our balcony room. It was so nice to sit on the balcony, watch the waves and read a book. :) Yay cruising!

Ship atrium
I love the cruising life! Super fun and relaxing!
With one of the hilarious comedians 
Our dining buddies
The waiters always put on a show

So, all in all, a very successful trip that left me relaxed and refreshed. I also love how your cell phone loses signal when you are off-shore, so you are truly unplugged. I highly recommend cruising if you haven't done it yet!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

New CruzTube beauty video: Mai Couture papiers review/demo/first impressions

Check out my demo of the Mai Couture papiers by clicking HERE! These little pieces of paper are like a kit of makeup in just your wallet-- just add eye makeup and lip gloss. I review the foundation powder, highlighter, blush, 2-1 oil blotting/bronzer, and I show the lavender oil-blotting papiers, although I didn't use them in this video.

They are now part of my to-go travel makeup kit, which I have tried to make minimalistic... goodness knows I'm always traveling, and I need toiletries to be convenient and take up very little room.

*Ease of application
*They are paper from pulp, therefore it's RECYCLABLE! Eco-friendly beauty! #GoGreen
*I got lucky and bought all of them half-off! (Dillard's "Edge" cosmetics)

*I got mega-oily, although I did use an ELF mineral primer. I had to use blotting papers three or four times today, versus once or twice during a typical day.

I'll try them next time with a Rimmel Stay Matte primer, and see if that helps. I'll also try to do a layer of MAC powder on top to see if that cuts down on the shine... but the whole reason I purchased them is to reduce the amount of products I have to bring when I'm traveling.