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Travel Diary | Cruise Grand Turk Port – 2

Hi all,

blue beach island

Island overview of Grand Turk right before our ship arrived at the port

Grand Turk, of Turks and Caicos island was the first port on our cruise itinerary.  I had heard so much about these islands that I was so excited that it was going to be one of the ports on our holiday cruise.  This island, however was quite small– which was a disappointment, and if we didn’t have two excursions planned for the day I’m pretty sure we would have headed back to our ship stateroom after a few hours on the island.

cruise beach tourists

Cruisers heading into the island

We booked all our excursion through Holland America after our first day on the ship. There was an informative meeting held by the on-board excursion staff who helped us decided exactly which excursion’s we would like to do on each island. We decided to book through the cruise and not on the island mainly due to security of knowing they were Holland America approved, we would get English speaking tour guides, would be “mostly” on time, and HA keeps track of feedback from cruisers.

turks and caicos island beach holiday

Downtown Grand Turk –quite small!

As soon as we got off the ship everyone lined up by where their excursion was departing from, or headed straight to the closest beach. We weren’t there for beach time so we didn’t even bother going to the beach.

boat beach blue water island

Heading on a boat to our semi-submarine excursion to see marine life

In order to get to our submarine excursion we had to first take a short ride on a small boat. I was so thankful that I took my motion sickness medicine before getting off the ship otherwise I would have been sick the whole time and it would have been such a waste to not enjoy our semi-submarine excursion.

semi sub truks and caicos boat

Our yellow submarine!

The staff of the semi-submarine excursion were courteous, polite, informative and funny. The staff emphasized safety since many of the tourist on the excursion were elderly, thus nothing was hurried. The actual semi-submarine was quite small and could seem claustrophobic for some. The windows to look out to the marine life were also small and we weren’t able to take great pictures, however we still had a great time since seeing the marine life of Grand Turk is one of the highlights of the island.

grand turk semi sub scuba diving

The captain of the submarine decided to scuba dive with the marine life

IMG_5600

Here is the captain showing off his scuba diving skills by making these bubbles

The underwater marine life was beautiful to watch, we got to see so many beautiful coral for miles, lots of different fish and sea creatures, and there was even an area in the ocean that takes an immediate dip/edge of ocean where you can only see darkness since no natural light reaches there–kinda scary.

coral reef blue sea

Beautiful coral reef– pictures don’t do justice.

Our first excursion was about two hours long, thus we booked an ATV adventure tour around the island a hour after. With the ATV tour we were able to check out the “land” portion of the entire island without having to walk around, and it was fun driving an ATV for the first time.

atv adventure cruise excursion

Getting ready for excursion #2 on Grand Turk

Here is Umair getting information for our ATV adventure tour.  This tour was suppose to start at 11am, however it ran late since only two other couple’s were signed up and I guess the company was waiting to see if anyone else wanted to sign up before we went on the tour.  What made the ATV company then start the tour (30 minutes late) was the fact that the cruise excursion staff kept checking in on each excursion staff on the island to make sure they were on schedule (another reason to book through the cruise).

island tour

Island lighthouse we saw on our ATV island tour

cruise beach

Here I am in my “fancy” orange vest we had to wear for the ATV excursion

island tour cruise

The sun was bright! We could hardly keep our eyes open to pose.

beach island shells

Beautiful full size conch we saw all over the island

The ATV island tour excursion was great because it was on a ATV and we had fun driving it around the island, however the tour itself was mediocre since we quickly realized that it is a very small island with “downtown” being the hotspot for the island. On the ATV tour we drove 360 around the island, driving on the left side (British system) and staying mostly on the street thus it being a “street tour” rather than an actual sightseeing tour which we thought the island offered. It wasn’t the tour companies fault it is just how the island is laid out–the main attraction being the ocean life/beach, not the actual island.

island excursion

There had to be the ATV shot, of course!

marine life island

Tentacles of a jellyfish–how amazing. On one of the stops in our ATV island tour we stopped by at an area where we got to see some marine life up close.

live marine shell

This was the first time we got to see the animal living inside the conch shell. Some of our fellow cruisers said they had eaten it many times and enjoyed it. I don’t know about that, but it was fun to see up close.

sea life marine

Sea urchin–how cute!

During the tour we made a few stops along different “hideaway” beach spots which weren’t fancy or clean like the actual downtown beach, however during these spots we learned a little bit more about the history of the island and got to see/touch some sea creatures up close.

grand turk marine life animal

This is a brain coral with a interesting looking starfish on top of it.

The ATV tour guides were friendly, had great humor, spoke proper English (with slight accent), and made an otherwise boring island tour actually something enjoyable. However, if we were to re-visit this island we wouldn’t take or recommend any “land” tour.

beach life island vacation

Serene blue ocean of Grand Turk

Last week I blogged about our overall cruise experience on Holland America. If you missed it you can check it out here. Next blog post will be on our second port stop, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Thank you for visiting and have a great week!

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

Travel Diary | Eastern Caribbean Cruise – 1

Hi all,

Cruise mojito wrap maxi dress hijab

Vacay has to begin with a mint mojito in hand!

Over the December break the husband and I went on our first ever cruise together to the Eastern Caribbean.  We sailed with Holland America’s ship Nieuw Amsterdam, and traveled to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay ports over 7 day’s.  The cruising experience was quite relaxing and worry-free for us that we felt our vacation was well-spent. We would definitely love to sail to other ports in the future and try out other ships.

cruise orange wrap maxi hijab

Oh & a pina colada too!

Holiday cruise hijab red maxi skirt chambray

Walking around the pool area while listening to live steel-drum music

cruise lunch sea view Holland Amercia

Lunching at the buffet-style dining “The Lido” while enjoying the sunny ocean view

Here are some snaps from our “cruise day’s” which included two formal nights, shows, and special decor since the cruise took place during the Holiday’s.  Our first night on the cruise was spent trying to figure out how to navigate around the ship, figure out the dining areas, showroom, pools, etc.  It is quite amazing how much there is to do indoors that we almost had to make an effort to go out on the ship’s deck to enjoy the sunshine/pool areas.

Holland America cruise afternoon tea

Enjoying afternoon tea with the husband. It became a tradition for us to enjoy tea everyday at 3pm. So fancy!

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam captain toast

Captain’s welcome toast and first formal night

Caribbean cruise formal night

My dashing husband getting ready to eat some yummy food!

Cruise hijabi formal night outfit

Carefully deciding between all the entree options

muslim couple on holiday cruise

The happy couple! We ate at the Manhattan Dining Room for our formal dinner’s

We decided to sail with Holland America mainly due to the fact that it fit our dates of travel, ports we were interested in, fit our budget and lastly was geared more towards adults/couple/mature cruisers rather than families/kids/college crowd.  The Nieuw Amsterdam ship is well-kept, constantly cleaned/maintained, is one of the newer/renovated ships, and what we truly appreciated about the ship was that majority of the staff on the ship was Muslim!  It was so nice to arrive to our cabin on the first day to be greeted with “as salam u alaikum” by our room steward, and then throughout our days on the ship to be greeted in the same manner by several workers several times a day.  In addition, whenever we wanted recommendations on what items were “halal” they always gave great suggestions.

Nieuw Amsterdam NY theme atrium muslim couple cruise

NY themed atrium and holiday decor that was not over-the-top-in-your-face

Holland America cruise review

The carpet in the elevator changed everyday so we made it a habit to take a picture with it everyday

Our room was cleaned several times a day, all our important papers/itineraries would be set out during the turn-down service, we never had to complain about getting extra towels/toiletries, nor did we have much trouble with our order during dining regardless if we went to the buffet or sit-down dining rooms.  At times at the buffet if we arrived late some of the items would not be available but there were always other choices for us to try.  As far as the food goes, it was decent American food, with huge salad bar, sandwich station, burger’s, entrees, desserts, to so much more that there were stations that we never even got a chance to try.

sting-ray towel animal

A towel animal was left every night during turn-down service along with the itinerary for next day

holiday cruise outfit hijab

Waiting in the Blues lounge for the live music to start. This became our go-to place after dinner every night. It was one of our favorites on the cruise.

Nieuw Amsterdam blues lounge

One of the live performer’s at the Blues lounge who was amazing along with the band!

Holland America recycled percussion show

Recycled Percussion was a great interactive show that was performed live one of the nights

cruise recycled percussion show

Umair was called up on stage during the show to “monkey” around

They had a few paid dining rooms, which we didn’t opt for trying out because we felt satisfied with the “non-paid” options, however one of the paid restaurants, Tamarind, had complementary lunch everyday so we did try that out one day it definitely was a nicer experience with a modern fixed menu.  The items on that menu were not items you could have gotten at the non-paid dining.

cruise muslim couple outfit

2nd formal night photo-op

cruise hijabi outfit maxi

Photo-op session before lunch at Tamarind’s bar area

Tamarind cruise lunch

Fancy salad for lunch at Tamarind

One of the port days we had early morning arrival, thus requested room-service for our breakfast.  We had filled out the menu the night before, and then selected the time slot we wanted delivery and our food arrived in the morning during that time.  We did hear of complaints from a few cruisers that they were not happy with the room service because it was quite delayed, and the items that they requested didn’t arrive, however that was not the case for us.  Room service is my jam!

hijabi cruise outfit maxi dress

Ocean breeze and the endless sea

We booked a window cabin that had a partially obstructed view, and while it was obstructed the window was a floor to ceiling window that allowed plenty of natural light to come through and gave us enough of a view to know when we were arriving land.  Our cabin was quite spacious with a king size bed, plenty of closet space, sitting space with small sofa, chair + table, and even the bathroom was decent size with vanity space for our toiletries.  Our cabin was located mid-ship on deck 4, where I felt would be the most comfortable to not feel motion or lots of noise.  While I did take motion sickness tablets the first day I didn’t feel the need to continue taking them throughout the cruise.

Niuew Amsterdam window cabin

Our room for the week

Holland America cabin

Opposite view of the room with closet, vanity + sitting area

Today’s review was mostly about the ship and overall experience.  In later posts I will share snaps of our time in Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay.  In addition, talk about our excursions and what we thought of each island.

cruise food veggie curry

The last night of our cruise was “international cuisine” night so Umair ordered the veggie + tofu curry – not bad!

Last year for our December break we visited Colorado, and despite the cold we had a great time with all it’s picturesque beauty at Rocky Mountain National park, Loveland skiing, and Vail for New Year’s eve.  Check out our gallery here until you wait for part 2 of our cruise snaps.

Thank you so much for visiting and do let me know places you have cruised to or if you are planning to take  a cruise soon in the comments below!  I read each and every comment.

muslim couple holiday cruise

Last night on the cruise in the Manhattan Dining Room

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

Happy New Year!

2015 new year sparkler firework

Created with sparklers by my cousins, sister, myself and the husband on the camera side

Hi all & happy first Wednesday of 2015!

I’m back from my vacation and feeling refreshed to start the new year.  January for me is the transition month especially since in Chicago it is one of the coldest it makes me want to stay indoors, cuddle up in a fuzzy blanket, and then February is truly when the year begins!  However, staying in is not a option since my classes for the new quarter started this week and my husband is back at work.

Ft. Lauderdale cruise port

Ft. Lauderdale cruise port

We went on a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise which disembarked from a Florida port so it worked out in our favor to also visit family for a few days. This was the first time the husband and I vacationed on a cruise.  It was a great experience that we would highly recommend to those who love having prepared food always available, not having to plan an itinerary for vacation and disconnecting from the world wide web since internet service is not readily available.  I will share more about our seven day cruise in upcoming posts where I will try talk in detail about each port we visited, excursions we did, and what we liked/disliked about each island.

colorful flowers

Fresh flowers to welcome in the new year

On New Year’s eve we decided to do a small bbq with my Miami family. We cooked up some yummy hot dog’s (Chicago style, of course), beef burgers, delicious chicken tikka and bihari kabab– which didn’t turn out as great as we wanted but of course we still ate it all up. After the bbq we did our own firework show where we created fun words/shapes with sparklers. Here are a few snaps from the night.

halal chicago style hot dog

Yummy Chicago style hot dog’s with some chaat masala

halal bbq burger

My dad’s colorful plate

bihari kabab on skewers

I took charge of putting the bihari kabab on the skewers, however got the marination done with the help of my SIL

fries with chaat masala

No bbq is complete without french fries with chaat masala

mint cilantro chutney

My SIL created spicy cilantro and mint chutney to accompany our chicken tikka and bihari kabab

fireworks

Our firework for the night

excited for fireworks

Me excited with fireworks

A & U heart sparklers

Isn’t this adorable? I created the A, Umair did the U, and my sister helped with the heart

sparkle written with sparklers

Sparkle bright my loves! 2015 is yours to make as you wish!

Thank you for visiting and being part of this blogging journey with us.  I truly do appreciate each and every visitor to the site, and read every comment left after each post–those totally make my day!  Umair and I wish you all a healthy and blessed 2015.

Thanks to my sister for taking some of these awesome snaps!

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

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