Tag Archives: Holland America

Travel Diary | Cruise Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Port – 5

Hi all!

Oh no! It’s Sunday again. The dreaded day of the weekend that goes by way too quickly and the day you remember all the things you need to complete before Monday.  Today in Chicago it’s freezing and snowing, actually it’s been freezing this whole weekend, however we were able to do a few outings since it was Valentine weekend.  We went to the movies on Friday and saw The Imitation Games and The Kingsmen: Secret Service, which was comedy mixed with lots of fun action – I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.  And on Saturday, we went to watch the India vs Pakistan cricket world cup match at a friends house– I won’t talk much about it since I know very little about cricket.

Half moon cay bahamas cruise

Welcome!

half moon cay beach port

We got to Half Moon Cay on a small boat since there wasn’t a docking area on the island– you would think with $17.5 million they could have made one. Regardless, this was about a 10 min. ride from the ship.

Anyways, back to talking about the last stop on our cruise vacay back in Decemeber, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.  Again, it has taken me so long to put up all the posts since I’m quite busy with school, however looking back at all our vacation snaps is really making me miss the sun and beaches.

Chicago to half moon cay

Chicago was only 1297 miles away from Half Moon Cay– we were getting a bit homesick. hehe…

We had heard a lot of great things about this island since it is Holland America’s private island.  We were really looking forward to our time on this island, however if you have been following my cruise review posts then you know the husband and I are not the beach bum type, thus this island was a let down for us.  I would describe Half Moon Cay as Disney World-meets-a-wealthy friends-private beach.  Literally, we walked off the cruise ship and saw the main areas in 10 minutes and were thinking about going back to the ship.  However, we had paid for an island tour so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and decided to wait around for that.  Our original excursion ideas was to go horse-back riding but those were sold out by the time we booked our excursions.

half moon cay beach port

The main area of Half Moon Cay where you meet for the excursions, check out shops, or chill at the bar area.

half moon cay beach port

Private beach overview

half moon cay beach port

Kiddie area at the beach

half moon cay beach port

“Abandoned ship” and bar area close to the beach

The island tour was an hour long tram ride covering the different aspects of the private island.  We learned the island was leased for $9 million, and remodeled for another $17.5 million –enough said! The beach sand is made from very fine milled coral, and the whole island is laid out as if you are visiting different shows/activities in Disney World, except you had to pay for them on this island and call it an “excursion.”

half moon cay beach port

Ahhh…envious of the horseback riders. During the tram tour we stopped at each of the excursion areas.

half moon cay beach port

Here a worker is feeding the stingray at the swim with stingray excursion area

half moon cay beach port

Another beach shot with some water excursions taking place

Majority of the worker’s on the island live in other close islands such as Nassau, Bahamas and only a few maintenance workers actually live on the island. There were hardly any shops to visit, a few bar areas, basketball area, and picnic area.  Every time a cruise ship stops on this island there is a buffet-style BBQ picnic that takes place with several veggie and non-veggie items.  After our tour we decided to enjoy the picnic even though the long lines didn’t make it enticing, and we almost decided to leave and enjoy better variety on the cruise ship.

half moon cay beach port

Enjoying the views from the “abandoned ship”

If it wasn’t for our tour, that cost about $25 but could have actually been free or no more than $10, and the picnic we would have explored the island in under an hour and been ready to head back to the ship.  With that said, it was still a nice relaxing last port day of our cruise vacation but I think in the future we would prefer to visit a major Bahamas island –for the real experience.

half moon cay beach port

Of course, photo session during our tram tour breaks

half moon cay beach port

And a photo with the husband!

Our cruise experience overall was a great one and shouldn’t deter any Muslim couple/family from enjoying their vacation, however on AnUblog.com we give our honest feedback on our experiences since we pay for these trips and excursions our self, and give the Muslim/hijabi perspective.

Half moon cay bahamas cruise

We did dip our toes and feet in the sand and water even though we didn’t swim.

Thank you for visiting our blog and following our cruise travel diary.  If you missed any of the posts check them out here (cruise part 1, Grand Turk part 2, Puerto Rico part 3, and St. Thomas part 4) or would like to see more snaps from our cruise then click here.

Half moon cay bahamas Hollan Amercia cruise

Goodbye beach and sunshine until we meet again.

Have a wonderful week!

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

Travel Diary | Cruise St. Thomas, USVI Port – 4

Hi loves & Happy Valentines day!

St. Thomas USVI cruise port

What a breathtaking, picturesque island!

Today I’m sharing with you our favorite stop on the Caribbean cruise, St. Thomas.  Oh my, was it alluring from every 360 angle.  We took loads of snaps on the USVI  because it was so scenic.  We definitely will love to visit this island again in the future.

iguana on st. thomas cruise

On our arrival, we were greeted by this fella’ and his friends since we were waiting for the shops to open. Quite friendly!

We arrived at St. Thomas early in the morning on Christmas day, and were worried that tours would be cancelled and stores closed, however since the “cruise ships” actually own the port areas they were a little late in opening but everything did run smoothly for the rest of the day.

St. thomas paradise point cruise

The husband and I with the gorgeous views. The yellow sticker was to show we were with the tour.

St. Thomas USVI cruise

Lush greenery and lovely scenery. Just imagine living in one of those houses on the mountains.

For our excursion on the island we decided to do a full island tour that included a gondola ride up Paradise point, then a tour up the mountains to enjoy the island from every angle.  The tour guide and the rest of the tourists were all friendly, but mostly elderly, however we didn’t mind since it was our first time on the island and still  made the most of our time there.

Paradise point st. thomas cruise

Paradise point gondola — how scenic!

St. Thomas USVI

Posing with the islands

Magen's bay usvi cruise

50 shades of blue on Magen’s Bay

After the tour through the mountains and picture-perfect views the tour guide asked if anyone wanted to stop at the shopping area, and since we still had a few hours before the cruise departed we stopped at the massive luxury shopping area to mostly window shop.  To our surprise most of the jewelry shops were owned by South Asians and we got to chit chat with them to find out they have been living on St. Thomas for most of their lives (how lucky, and they can visit the US anytime they want).

the shops St. Thomas cruise

The shopping area overview before our tour started

shopping area st. thomas

The famous shopping area of St. Thomas–had to check it out.

We had a great time on St. Thomas, and if we get to go back we are definitely going to check out the famous Magen’s bay, and St. John.  I highly recommend this island to anyone interested in beautiful views, luxury shopping and clean, natural beaches (my meaning of “natural” will be discussed in the next post about Half Moon Cay, Bahamas).

St. Thomas USVI cruise

Can’t wait to come back!

If you missed our previous cruise posts, check out part one, two, and three.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day & weekend.  And remember love day is everyday.

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

Travel Diary | Cruise San Juan, Puerto Rico Port – 3

Happy Monday all!

My apologies for taking a hiatus after Grand Turk post, however I have been completely swamped with studies.  I know this is how it will be for majority of this year so please bare with me as I try to get new posts up slower than usual.

San Juan Port Cruise

Overview of San Juan right before entering the cruise port

San Juan Fort

View of Fort from our cruise

Puerto Rico, was a beautiful stop on our cruise of the Eastern Caribbean.  It had been a place I was wishing to visit and I was excited to find a cruise itinerary that worked for us with a stop at San Juan, PR.

San Juan cruise yacht island

Beautiful yachts and boats area next to the cruise port

For our excursion in San Juan, we decided to take a trip over to the rainforest, El Yunque. This excursion was almost 5 hours long since it took almost an hour to get to the rainforest from the cruise port. The husband and I enjoy nature and scenic activities, thus we thought this would be a fun way to explore a part of Puerto Rico that not many tourists may get a chance to explore. Also, we figured once we got back from the rainforest we would still have some time to explore areas of Old San Juan.

El Yunque Puerto Rico cruise

The visitor center area in El Yunque

El Yunque rainforest

A waterfall area in the visitor center

El Yunque rainforest puerto rico

Waterfall in the rainforest…can you spot Umair?

El yunque rainforest puerto rico

Serene water area in the rainforest

After almost 3 hours in the forest we left without covering much ground. We found out that some areas of the rainforest were restricted to tours on buses. Thus, that was somewhat a disappointment, however I had gotten a headache from being on the bus therefore I was happy to head back to Old San Juan and explore on foot.

streets of San Juan

Colorful buildings of Old San Juan

old san juan

Another shot of the beautiful streets and buildings

The cruise port was walking distance to Old San Juan where we were able to see the beautiful brick streets and colorful building that I have admired from pictures for many years. This area is quite small and of course, touristy. We had about 2 hours left before our cruise departed the island so we made the most of it by walking around the local shops. We did want to check out one of the forts on the island, however we weren’t sure if we will be able to make it back in time so we resisted that urge and admired the forts from afar.

old san juan

Island overview from Old San Juan. In the background are the mountains where the rainforest was, and the cruises were docked where the ocean is.

For the 8 hours that we were on the island, we were still able to explore a lot since we got to see new San Juan on our bus tour, along with some of the rainforest and the beauty of old San Juan. It was a nice long, somewhat exhausting day but it was worthwhile. Our tour guide was friendly, but very talkative to the point where he was talking about personal stories that I didn’t feel fit the mood of the tour. I would definitely recommend checking out El Yunque rainforest if your are in Puerto Rico as it has beauty that can’t be found other places.

If you missed part 1 on the cruise, and part 2 on Grand Turk do check them out. Thank you for visiting, and have a great week!

Umair’s Sweetheart,
Ayesha

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

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