Summer At Life By Olivia

Hello Lovely,

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As far as I’m concerned we’re officially in the summer season. School closes in two weeks and the heat is merciless. So I just wanted to quickly share my summer plans with you guys.

As you know this is a very difficult time for my family, with the loss of my cousin. That is why I took the past two weeks off to grieve and collect my thoughts. I’m back next week with all new posts for you featuring new recipes and fashion.

As always I’ll be taking July off to travel and create content without the pressure of a deadline. So the last post before my summer break will go live on June 21, the day I head out for my cousin’s funeral. My summer travel plans this year are very simple (given the circumstances). I plan to visit Toronto for the first time (I connected there overnight but didn’t actually get to enjoy the city). I’m excited to go downtown and see all of the major attractions, while hitting up some local festivals. This will be my first truly solo travel in that I’m not meeting anyone when I go and I will be alone the whole time. It’s a little scary, but here’s to adventure!

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Posts will resume on August 12, with the usual 3 posts per week. I’ll be sharing my summer adventures as well as my back to school plans. In addition to travelling, I’ve decided to spend the summer completely immersed in art projects. Once a week, I’m going to pick a craft project, whether it’s sewing, painting or some other DIY as well as one photography adventure per week. This is my way of healing and I’m hoping to start an art journal that I can’t wait to share with you. I’ll definitely try to go to the beach about 3 times this summer since I have like 6 or more (probably more) swimsuits. Even if I have to go by myself, I’m going to embrace doing more this summer instead of dying in the summer heat in the house.

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Swimsuit Details: You can purchase this Brush Print Scoop Top With High Leg Bikini Set from SheIn for only $13!

Here’s to an amazing summer! See you soon!

How to Create a Travel Itinerary and Why It's Important

Hello Lovely,

There is something to be said for aimlessly roaming the streets of an energetic city popping into quaint cafes and talking to the locals, not knowing what you will find. When I went to Amsterdam, I only had two things on my list that I absolutely had to do: try the local “herbs” and go to the Red Light District. Sadly I never made it to the Red Light District. I planned the hotel with a shuttle to and from the airport and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the adventures, street fries and stroopwaffles and I’m sure our drunk shennigans began to annoy one of the bartenders. We literally popped into random stores and restaurants and just wandered aimlessly. It was a miracle I remembered the way back. Ever since then, I try to have an itinerary.

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Here’s how I organise an itinerary:

Do Your Research

If you want to get the most out of your experience, you need to know what you want to do and what will make the ultimate travel venture for you. Are you fascinated by a town’s history, culture or food? Do you want your trip to just be about crazy adventures and a city’s vibrant nightlife? Answering these questions means that you need to do some research for the area you are visiting.

Prior to going to London, I looked up tours of all the must-see Landmarks and booked them (well most of them). Even though I had planned a lot, there were still a few hiccups along the way: immigration, currency, my bus pass…so while you always expect the unexpected, always have a backup plan as well.

Use Symbols and Addresses

What’s key to a successful itinerary is coding. I like to use company logos so that at a simple glance, I have an idea of where I wanted to go. Adding addresses makes it easier to remember where something is. Let’s say you want to go to a specific department store. By jotting down the location ahead of time, I was positive I was going to the right store when I plugged it into my GPS.

Download the map area in advance

If you’re travelling internationally, Google Maps has a handy feature that allows you to select a certain area on the map and download it to your phone. That way, whether you have data or not, you’ll have access to GPS. This helped me a lot when I lost my GPS. And if it’s a place you plan on visiting often, all you have to do is update the download periodically so that it doesn’t disappear.

DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT THE ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST!    CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD    YOUR FREE PACKING CHECKLIST AND NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING BEHIND AGAIN!

DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT THE ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST! CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING CHECKLIST AND NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING BEHIND AGAIN!

Keep your Itinerary Offline

I really feel like I mastered the itinerary with my Girl’s Trip to Miami last October. It’s so important to keep a version of your itinerary on your phone offline. Papers can get left behind or lost and internet is so unreliable. Save the document in the cloud, and keep it available offline as well as downloading a copy of it to your phone. You can’t be too careful.

Leave Room for Opportunity & Be Realistic

There are always times while exploring a city that something incredible sidetracks you, and if you are scheduled with events back to back you may have to miss out. Of course you’re going to want to see and do everything on your trip, but also be realistic.

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Don’t Forget the Extras

Add your flight numbers, hotel addresses, maps, etc. to your itinerary file for easy access. All my itineraries include this information, plus the currency exchange rate (so I know how much 1 US dollar is worth in the country). It is much easier to look at one file then have to scroll through dozens of emails or check different apps to find what I am looking for.

October Favourites

Whew! Where did the year go?

It’s crazy how fast the months are flying by, I guess that’s what happens when you’re knee deep in a new job. But October has been a weird month of ups and downs. The dating thing is just not working out for me and I think this month I reached my emotional limit with the BS. I'm talking, random girl I've only met once coming up to me at a wine tasting to tell me that the guy I was sorta dating but not really dating has a pregnant girlfriend in Tanzania type of BS. I swear I can’t make this stuff up. Some days really are torn out of a Days of Our Lives script. Luckily I'm surrounded by great people and a job I honestly wake up excited for every day.

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I can’t walk into a classroom without an army of students running up to me for a group hug. Teaching and counselling Pre K-6 is a LOT of work! Even though I love what I do, I was super grateful for the escape I got over midterm break last week. It was so necessary to recharge with my closest friends. In addition to quality time spent with friends and family, I found so many fun things on the internet this month, that I’m excited to share with you.

READING

Life After Coffee
By Virginia Franken

I finished reading Virginia Franken’s Life After Coffee novel and honestly, I have a lot of mixed feelings. The main character was someone who at times I sided with, and other times, thought to be the most pretentious person on the planet. The story begins with a woman about to leave for another business trip. She’s a buyer for coffee and takes pride in it. But it’s her son’s birthday and he resents her for travelling so much, while her toddler daughter has an emotional breakdown every time she leaves. On her way to the airport, her boss calls her into the office to fire her because the business is closing down. She then has to learn how to actually be a mother to her autistic son (never specifically stated but it’s obvious) and bratty toddler. Her husband is utterly useless and her ex boyfriend makes a surprise guest appearance. I’m not sure I would recommend reading this, because seriously, she’s pretentious.

MUSIC

I’m in love with the COLORS showcase, so when I found their playlist on Spotify, I had to hit play. I love so many of the songs and discovered new artists like Tank and The Bangas, Tobe Nwigwe, and Seinabo Sey. My taste in music is always evolving, but there’s usually a particular type of rhythm and message that I look for: Feel Good/Woke.

MAKING (or wanting to)

I’m always inspired. Lately I’ve gotten a sudden urge to make a Fall wreath. I know, I know, it’s practically Christmas, but I’ve never made a wreath and I really want to try. I actually bought a wreath making kit from Joann’s (wreath not included) so I’ll give it a try this weekend and let you guys know how that goes.

My favourite recipes from the month were the Creamy Tomato Soup, Apple Pie Egg Rolls and the Acorn Squash Pizza with Spinach and Feta Cheese. I made a lot of treats for Thanksgiving that you’re going to have to wait until next month to see including a special ice cream that requires no machine! I’m also really excited about Christmas cocktails and I’m trying to figure out what my signature Christmas cake will be this year now that I finally have a stand mixer.

For work, I want to try making something called a worry doll. The process is meant to be a meaningful and creative way to explore themes connected to anxiety and worry. Making worry dolls provides a great opportunity for storytelling, to discuss coping, and the repetitive, patterned nature of wrapping the yarn around the clothespin can be soothing and calming.

WENT

I went to several events this month. It started with a wine tasting at Mahogany House (really didn’t like any of the wines this time). I went with my friend Gary and we met up with our friend Denaricka. This is where all of the drama of the hidden baby mama was revealed. That same weekend I went to the International Food and Culture Festival with my family. I ran into a lot of friends, colleagues and old classmates. I tried sio-mai which are Filipino dumplings and although they’re spicy, they’re still really good. I also enjoyed a smooth slushie called the “Panty Rippa” (my underwear stayed in tact). The following week I enjoyed another wine tasting at Young’s Fine Wine.

TRAVEL

This month I got to travel to Miami for midterm break with my best friend Tiana. Miami isn’t anything fancy. I really only went for the shopping and to catch up with my friends from college. When I say we shopped, I mean we shopped! I got 6 new pairs of pants for work, about 4 new jackets for work, 4 new dresses, 6 new pairs of shoes (including Nike AND Puma tennis), over $100 worth of holiday ornaments and wreath making supplies for only $45 (don’t question my skills), workout gear and at least 15 new short-sleeved blouses for work. Since working out my clothes don’t really fit any more, and my new job has a pretty strict dress code, so I needed to get clothes that I could wear to work.

But shopping wasn’t all I did. On the first day we had lunch at a restaurant called Bolay and honestly, I could eat there every single day! There are so many healthy options on the menu. Everything is gluten free and there’s vegan and vegetarian options. The first day I had Basmati rice, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and tofu topped with Parmesan cheese and carrot ginger sauce. The second time I got the exact same order but with sweet potato noddles instead of Basmati rice.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Wynwood other than Ladies Night at R House, but I did go to the Flamingo Road Nursery for the pumpkin patch, hayride, frozen apple cider and paint a pumpkin. We didn’t paint the pumpkins because we were shocked to see how much everything was really for children. The pumpkins were tiny and there were no chairs at the tables to paint the pumpkins so we weren’t about to bend the whole time. Despite this, it was still a fun experience and I’m looking forward to going to more pumpkin patches (for adults).

I had a lot of fun this month. Even though it was off to a rough start and everything didn’t go as planned, I’m really grateful for everything I did get to do. Did you do anything exciting this month? Share your adventures, favourite blog moments or anything you’re looking forward to in the comment section below!

October: What I'm Doing This Month

Hello Lovely,

I’m so excited that it’s October! There are so many things happening this month, I feel like I’m going to burst! On Monday I was in an extra good mood, which isn’t normal for a Monday, but the first of October signals many things: It’s officially Fall, so no one can hate on me for consuming every Pumpkin Spice; we have and holiday and mid-term break this month and we’re almost to Halloween, which really means, IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!! I love Christmas. Holiday seasons are the best not only for the time off from work, but the decorations and recipes get me so energized that I’m trying something new practically every day!

This weekend is going to be filled with fun! My niece will be turning one tomorrow! I’ve grown to love her so much this past year. Even though she often bites me, pulls my hair and tries to fight me, she always so full of energy, with the most infectious laugh, I can’t help but love her. She’s standing on her own and grabbing everything in sight. She walks if you hold her hand, but she practically tries to run. She crawls everywhere and is obsessed with sneaking into the kitchen. I even started her own email address and occasionally send photos and videos of her with personal letters that I hope she’ll look at someday. Her parents are having a birthday party at Outback for her. That same day I’ll be attending Shakespeare in Paradise with two of my best friends. I’ve been curious about this show for quite some time, so I’m really interested in seeing how the cast interprets the play. We’ll be watching Short Tales: Ten short works by new writers, directed by new directors. A pair of women plot to seduce a faithful husband. A maintenance court case takes a surprising turn. A radio DJ gives his boss a lesson in community spirit. In keeping with its mission of developing new talent, Shakespeare in Paradise presents ten short plays by ten writers.

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I was originally supposed to spend mid-term break in Houston with a friend, but the airfare wasn’t reasonable for such a short amount of time so I decided on Miami instead. Miami isn’t in any way a better option that Houston (a city I’m still exploring) but this trip is going to be much better. Not only am I meeting my best friend’s baby and catching up with friends I haven’t seen since last October, but my best friend Tiana is coming along making this a girl’s trip! I’ve wanted to have a girl’s trip for three years now, but I could never find a time that worked for everyone. Now that Tiana and I are both teachers in the same organisation (different schools) this is the perfect getaway! Between the shopping, IHOP, shopping, partying, pumpkin patches, eating (and did I mention shopping) this is the break we BOTH need.

There’s so much to do! Monday is a holiday and I could totally use that extra day! I’m planning on hosting my friends over on that day. I’ve stocked up on chips and not much else, so I think I’m ready.

What are you looking forward to doing this month? Any big plans? Share what you’re up to in the comment section below!

Getting Wet at 27 Charcos in The DR

Hello Lovely,

The last stop on my summer tour is The Dominican Republic. I was really excited about this one. And why shouldn't I be? The mountains, the culture, the coffee! Okay can I just go on record as saying that every time I travel to a foreign country, I must buy coffee. Especially if it's not a predominantly English speaking country. I absolutely hate American coffee (Dunkin Donuts being the only exception) and my favourite is Haitian coffee. Although I must admit, as I write this post, I'm enjoying the hazelnut New Orleans coffee my dad bought me. I prefer medium roast, tolerate light/blonde roasts and basically just NEVER bring me a dark roast.

Whoo! Sorry that was a long, random tangent about coffee. Back to what really matters. The DR! This was my favourite stop! In researching it, I saw that we were going to Amber Cove, which was described as a cay off the DR mainland, so I was a little bummed. But when we arrived and I saw that Amber Cove is actually just the name of the port the ship docks in, and it's very much attached to the DR mainland, I nearly did a cartwheel!

I chose to spend the last stop with my dad and new step mom and sisters. It was the first time I had spent any time with them since the wedding. We were all kind of doing our own thing on the ship. Once we left the ship it was just chaos. The walk felt long in the heat; it's probably the same length as the walk from the ship in Grand Turk. After walking through a gift shop, we were met with various excursion options like ziplining and waterfall adventures. We opted to get a taxi that was supposed to take us on a full tour. Our taxi driver spoke very little English, but we tried our best to use the little Spanish we knew. So a lot of things weren't really explained.

When we first started the tour, there were a lot of empty lots, filled with lush green lands. We passed a lot of businesses and I was surprised to see the price of gas was so high (my calculations may have been wrong but it was about $8 per gallon). Our first stop was the 27 Charcos, one of the waterfalls that can be found in the DR. We thought we would just be going to look at a waterfall, take some pictures and continue the tour. We didn't realise we would have to walk a path to get there. When they started giving us helmets, life jackets and water shoes, we all became increasingly aware of our mortality and wondered what the heck we were getting ourselves into. They said it's a 15 minute hike to the waterfall, once we got there we would jump off and then it would take another 15 minutes to walk back. They strongly advised we carry bottles of water to stay hydrated. At first we weren't going to since it was only a 15 minute walk, but eventually we agreed and trust me, you need to get that water bottle. IT TOOK TWO HOURS!!!!!! We climbed up stairs and steep mountains in dangerously high rainforest temperatures. Then as we approached the top, they told us, we wouldn't be jumping once, but SEVEN times!!!! My camera battery actually died after the first jump.

Here is the video of our trek:

Climbing 27 Charcos on vacation in The Dominican Republic. It takes about 2 hours to do the entire course and you MUST stay hydrated. My camera battery died so I couldn't record all of the jumps.

This is where we actually got annoyed. While the experience was truly amazing and I would recommend it to everyone I know, it was very misleading. Had we known it would've taken 2 hours out of our day, we would've planned better. We could've made it our last stop, or split the group so that half did it, while the other half continued the tour. I felt guilty that the half of the group that didn't do the hike had to sit there the entire time and couldn't leave because they didn't know when we would be coming out. If you're on a cruise with only so many hours at port, this may not be the activity for you if touring is more important.

After that we were so hungry, our priority was to get something to eat before it was time to return to the boat. We were horribly disappointed with the food in Puerto Rico so we were really hoping our luck would change at Polanco. The restaurant has free open WiFi and the staff was very friendly. None of the waitresses spoke English so the manager had to translate for us, but the service was efficient and fast. Even better, our food tasted amazing! The fish just melted in your mouth like a cheesecake! I know that's an odd comparison but I was really impressed. 

After lunch, we really didn't have time for anything. We were approaching 30 minutes to get back onto the ship before the doors would close. We didn't have time to see or do anything else. I barely had time to buy two bags of coffee and a bottle of rum (it's called Brugal Coco-Pineapple infusion rum) 25% alcohol per volume and it tastes absolutely divine! Well maybe divine isn't the right adjective, but you get the picture. If you like fruity drinks, this is the one. It's so smooth, you wouldn't even know it's there so I usually mix it with a dark rum for more a bite. I made a cocktail out of apple juice, plantation rum, the Brugal pineapple rum and peach schnapps and everyone loved it! I practically had to fight the cup back from my best friend, Tiana!

Well that's it for my summer travel adventures! I won't be travelling again until Christmas (maybe). I really hope you guys enjoyed my travel guides. Don't forget to leave a comment in the comment section below to tell me what you thought! If you missed any of them, you can check them out at the end of this post. And if you're planning on travelling soon, don't pack without my new packing checklist. I promise you'll never overpack, under-pack or leave essential items again!

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I Went All The Way To St. Thomas to Get Tatted

Hello Lovely,

The third stop on my cruise was St. Thomas. Before going on the cruise, I knew there was only one thing I wanted to do in St. Thomas.  You guys might remember that I went to St. Croix a few years back. I was told that if you've seen St. Croix, you've seen St. Thomas and St. John, but St. Thomas would be nicer. But I didn't see enough of the island to really know. Apparently if you're only taking a taxi to get to a particular stop, and you're not taking the tour, the tour guide won't explain anything until you're off. That was kinda harsh, and while I understand, I can't say that I agree. I got dropped downtown and walked a part of the waterfront to get to the studio: Salt of The Earth. You're probably wondering why I chose to get another tattoo. After my step dad died, I did a lot of soul searching. Around June, I realised that I wanted another tattoo but it had to mean something. I don't see the point in getting inked if it doesn't mean something to you, because this thing is going to be permanent. But before I show you my new ink, I want to share the few photos I was able to take of the island while I was there.

My only regret is that I didn't leave earlier. Had I left the cruise ship earlier I would've been able to see more of the island including a bakery I had arranged to meet with. Eventually I found my way to the arcade (or alley as it's commonly known) where the Salt of The Earth Studio was located. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I would definitely consider it one of those hidden, off the beat paths. If I had more time, I definitely would've gotten lunch at this gorgeous restaurant.

Salt of the Earth Tattoo is the tattoo and art studio of artist, Kristin Forbes-Mullane. She's super nice and patient and I loved every moment. I wasn't in pain until the shading and even then, Kristen was really friendly and encouraging. Here's how it turned out:

I LOOOOOOVE my new tattoo! It says, "She believed she could, so she did", which is the quote on a bracelet my mum bought me as a graduation present. That quote means so much for me because there's a lot I have accomplished simply because I didn't give up. There have been so many trying moments so I see my tattoo as a reminder of my strength to overcome those negative moments and feelings. I highly recommend her for anyone who likes to collect tattoos from artists around the world. Even if you're not a tattoo person, her artwork is incredible and you should definitely check it out.

Well that's it! I'm almost done with my cruise recap. Have you been enjoying it so far? I can't wait to show you the last stop, which was my personal favourite: The Dominican Republic.

 

What I Loved (and Didn't Like) About Puerto Rico

Hello Lovely,

Our second stop was Puerto Rico. I was really excited to see Puerto Rico because it's filled with rich history and gorgeous architecture. I was also looking for any way to give back to the country after the devastating hurricanes last year. We landed in San Juan and set off on foot to explore. Just as I like it, no signs were in English so we all had to rely on our high school Spanish to get by (not being sarcastic). I don't know why I was surprised to see how modern the buildings were given that it is a U.S. territory, but there's still a colonial theme in their designs.

We walked up Recinto Sur Calle, where I saw the most gorgeous blue cobblestone street, and almost got knocked down while I stopped to take a picture of it. Then I saw the colourful buildings I had longed to see. When it comes to architecture, my favourite designs are colourful buildings and Gothic cathedrals. We ducked into a little bar and got Sangria in a pouch for $3. I really thought I was going to get to drink it out of the pouch like an adult CapriSun, but apparently that's not how it works.

We walked up a fairly steep hill to get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. On the way a strong wind blew up my cousin's dress and apparently flashed everyone. While we were all just grateful that she was finally wearing underwear, this didn't earn us a free ride up the hill. The view from the top of the fort is breathtaking! We didn't go inside but we did enjoy a little photo break. I even got to take a photo of my 14 year old cousin, who up until that point, had been my personal photographer.

My cousin thought it was a must for us to walk through La Perla. La Perla is a historical shanty town in the steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea where the video for the pop hit Despacito was filmed. My cousin mentioned nothing about Despacito. She was excited because it is supposed to be a very dangerous area that they typically warn tourists to stay away, but given that it was her fourth trip, she felt like a veteran. Afterwards I did some research and found that the little houses that make up La Perla are clustered on the other side of the wall, where the sea crashes against the rocks. Its residents have fought tooth and nail to preserve it, and artists like Calle 13, Ismael Rivera and Ruben Blades have dedicated songs to it. With 1,600 inhabitants, it is one of the poorest communities in San Juan. Drug trafficking largely drives its economy, with the government trying in vain to clear it. On Yelp, reviewers comment on the dangers outsiders risk going there. At one point (thanks to my knowledge gained from Narcos) I identified a few "drug houses" and when two men came out to have a smoke on the rock wall, I knew that was our cue to leave because we weren't welcome. But the graffiti my cousin promised was absolutely gorgeous and worth the walk! 
 

From there we were all really hot and tired, so when we came out by Castillo de San Cristóbal, our first priority was to find a restroom and hail a taxi. Our first stop on the tour was the Bacardi factory. I'll be honest, coming from a country that used to have a Bacardi factory (and actually put Bacardi on the map) there wasn't much that amazed me, but it was still very beautiful. After the tour, you can buy bottles of Bacardi, some flavours are only sold in Puerto Rico. But I'm sorry at $160 a bottle, I can have Bacardi anywhere, because they all taste the same.

After a day of touring it was time to eat. My cousin insisted on us eating at a local favourite called Bebo's. The line was unnecessarily long and slow. I contemplated crossing the road to McDonalds but I had to keep telling myself that I didn't come all the way to Puerto Rico to eat McDonalds.She wanted us to try the national dish: Mofongo. Mofongo is often touted as the best Puerto Rican food. Whether it is or isn’t is debatable with so many tasty options to choose from; however, it’s certainly the most famous. It’s a mashed concoction of fried green plantains with garlic seasoning filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, steak, or pork. Think of your favorite mashed potato but oh so much WORSE! I hated it! And sadly it wasn't even the worst thing I ate.  I ordered white rice, mofongo and tostones. Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices. Most commonly known as tostones, they are also known as tachinos or chatinos, Platano frito, bananes pesées, and patacones. I didn't want to trash anything about my trip, but I am not lying when I say there was ABSOLUTELY no seasoning in the food. My dad ate at a different restaurant and he said everyone there hated the food as well. Lastly, my rice was so undercooked, it only could've cooked for about 5 minutes on high. I really wanted an authentic experience, but I'm so sad that I didn't like it.

Have you ever been to San Juan or any other part of Puerto Rico? How did you enjoy your trip? Did my guide prepare you for a trip to Puerto Rico? Or maybe you have questions. I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

My Dad Got Married & Other Highlights From Grand Turk

Hello Lovely,

It's still a little weird being back to real life after vacationing for three weeks! I've never travelled for so long but I must admit: as much as I love to travel, three weeks might be a little too long to travel at one time. Earlier this week I shared some tips for any first time cruisers. Cruises can be fun because you get to visit so many different countries, with 24 hour food and hospitality services. So I'm going to be breaking down the different stops from my summer cruise, starting with the first stop: Grand Turk.

Only July 9, we arrived in Grand Turk and left the ship for a very special reason. My dad remarried! My parents divorced 11 years ago and during that time my mum remarried and widowed. My dad's new wife has two teenage daughters and we were all a part of the wedding. They got married on Governor's Beach in Grand Turk. It was kind of funny seeing other tourists come to the beach and "attend" the wedding. Some even took photos. I couldn't understand why anyone would want photos of random people getting married on the beach, but it was a little nice to be commemorated in another family's vacation memories.

At one point, I began to cry almost hysterically when I thought about my step dad. It's weird how grief sneaks into random moments that have nothing to do with what you're grieving, but I had to pull it together because I knew my dad's side of the family wouldn't understand (they're not the best at handling emotions). I had to give a toast at the wedding and even though I already wrote it out, I HATE public speaking (mostly speaking in front of people I don't like) so this was really anxiety provoking for me. I just had to remind myself that the toast was to my dad and no one else, so it only mattered that he liked it.

After the wedding we took a tour of the island seeing most of it. I loved the wild donkeys and horses. A lot of people may not know that Grand Turk is still under British rule and independence is a huge debate in the country. So don't be surprised if you happen to see a few red telephone booths. The island is very small and still recovering from the hurricanes, so don't expect a lot of places to be open. The simple lifestyle is very nice and peaceful. We also found out you could buy a 1/4 acre of land for only $35,000. Can anyone say vacation home/investment property?

Grand Turk was a nice but it wasn't my favourite stop. Which one was? Well you'll just have to wait and see. But until then, I'd love to hear from you guys! How was your summer? Did you travel anywhere interesting? Have you ever been to Grand Turk before? Would you want to go? Contact me for more details on how you can vacation in Grand Turk if you're interested and I can give you the low down on where to go and all the must see sites.

What You Should Know Before Taking a Cruise

Hello Lovely,

I just got back from my summer vacation and I’ve got to say, IT…WAS…A…BLAST!!! I took my second cruise on Carnival (my first cruise was 2001, and also on Carnival). While it wasn’t my original plan to spend my summer trapped on a boat with my family, the fact that my dad was getting married kind of made it a priority, regardless. We boarded the Carnival Glory on Saturday 7th July, 2018. The first part of the trip was a little stressful because we were supposed to do an online check in, but no one told me that we were supposed to do an online check in until the night before. But the moment I walked up and saw the Carnival Glory (in all its glory) I was overwhelmed in awe. Luckily it wasn’t too much of a hassle for me to get checked in at the ship. When I realised how many things were limited, prohibited or simply not included, I just knew that I had to write this guide to help anyone considering a cruise vacation. Keep in mind, ships may have different regulations or the small stuff, but in general, they all follow the same guidelines.

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1.      Wi-Fi is not included

I was pissed to find out that for the S1100 I had invested, it did not include Wi-Fi. To make it worse, there were different internet packages for different services just to force you to spend more money. The most basic was the social media package (access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc.) for $4 per day. That came out to $28 for me for the entire trip. If you wait until you're onboard, it's $5 per day. The Value Wi-Fi plan adds access to email, airline sites as well as news, entertainment (not including streaming sites), sports, weather, banking and finance. Pre-Cruise price: $10.25 USD per day | Onboard price: $12.00 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $16.00 USD.
Then there's the Premium Wi-Fi plan which truthfully provides nothing worth paying for as you still can't stream Netflix, Hulu or, well anything. This plan just boasts having the fastest internet speed. Pre-Cruise price: $14.88 USD per day | Onboard price: $17.70 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $25.00 USD.
 

2.      Online check in is preferred

U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires Carnival Cruise Line to submit a final departure manifest with specific guest information at least 60 minutes prior to departure. This allows you to print out your boarding pass and luggage tags in advance. Don't feel bad if you don't get a chance to do it, as the site wouldn't allow me to complete my online check in the day before. I was still able to check it on the ship, it'll just take a little longer (like 10 minutes).

3.      No plastic bottled beverages are allowed

Carnival’s  Liquor and Beverage Policy states that guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles. This also includes juices. But if it's in a can, you can bring it on board. You'll meet two litre-sized bottles of water in your room on embarkation day but they costs $4 each. A complimentary bottle of water will be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. Bottled water may also be purchased onboard by contacting Room Service (gratuity fees apply).

4.      That means you can’t bring your own alcohol

The ship has bars all over so it makes sense they wouldn't want you bringing on your own alcohol, which would cut into your profits. But there are ways you can sneak them on, like in travel sized clear bottles (you know the stuff you put your shampoo and what not in), or even in the Listerine bottle. Shh! Don't tell anyone I told you that.

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5.      If you’re not a US citizen, you need a US Visa

Because I'm Bahamian to go anywhere in the US, I need a US Visa. And because a lot of the ports were US territories, my US Visa was definitely a necessity. I'll never forget travelling to London last summer and thinking everything was fine, until I got stopped at the airport check in because I needed a Canadian ETA just to connect through Canada. Guests should check with their travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents necessary for each port of call.

6.      Luggage restrictions

This one isn't so bad and it's pretty much just like flying. Each checked suit case and carry-on suit case should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and when lying flat, bags must not exceed 16 inches high by 24 inches wide (the length of the bag is not a factor). For security screening purposes, all luggage should be unlocked. Oversized luggage and locked luggage may cause delivery delays. The common sense thing here is to pack sensibly, so limit your luggage to a maximum of one bag per person, if traveling on cruises of 3-5 days duration, and no more than two bags per person, for cruises of 6 days or longer.

7.      The rooms are really small

You know how hotel rooms are usually tiny? Well subtract about 20 square feet and that’s the cabins on a cruise. It’s not small enough to trigger claustrophobia (unless you have it bad) but don’t expect a grand space. The bathrooms are tiny and there are only five drawers, only two of which can actually hold clothing. There are three closets, but the hangers aren’t the best if you have the type of clothing that easily slides off the hanger.

8.      Bring a drop cord, not a surge protector

I am not kidding, there is literally one outlet in the entire cabin. ONE!!! And the way it's set up, it's at the desk so an outlet won't fit in the socket, only a drop cord. So if you have a cabin of three, it's going to be hell for the three of you to charge all of your electronic devices. However, we were told that surge protectors are not prohibited so make sure your drop cord is not a surge protector.

9.  Beware of hidden charges

On the last day, we were all shocked to find out that our accounts had been charged $90.65 for “Gratuity”. I was grateful that I didn’t attach any of my cards to my account so technically my account was in the red, and I had to pay it back. Other hidden fees include having to buy soda and juice from the bar as it’s not available from the free beverage dispensaries, having to pay for photos that are taken of you from the photo gallery, and a few restaurants and coffee shop that are not free.

10. Pre-booked shore excursions sometimes cost more

How many of you like to pre-book your activities before you get to your destination to save time and money? I know I preached this with my trip to London, but guys, after this recent experience, I have learned that does not apply to everything. When we got to Amber Cove, DR we were surprised to see the ziplining that was advertised as $75 per person, was only $20 per person at port and came with unlimited use. Had we actually booked it, I would've immediately demanded a refund! Then a guy for the waterfall excursion told me it was $110 to go to the waterfall. There was no way I was paying that much! When we got a taxi for $20 per person and the driver said he would take us to the waterfall, imagine our disbelief to see it only costs $10 per person. That is a HUUUUUUUUUGE difference! So please be careful when book shore excursions in advance. In fact, you're probably better off just doing a tour.

11. There is ALWAYS something to do

I looked forward to reading the itinerary every night for the next day so that I could know what to expect. On the last night we had a Mardi Gras party, which was full of energy and live music that simply brought the ship alive! The waiters would put on a show at dinner time that was really adorable. We had a Motown show, 80s and 90s music trivia, trivia games, raffles every day for art work and jewellery and even free fitness classes in the gym. There are several opportunities to score free booze with free rum tastings, and free champagne at the raffle events.

12. The pools suck

I've never seen people go to a pool to literally just stand in it! There are two actual pools and everything else is a whirlpool so that was disappointing. Then the pools deepest part is only 4'7". But let's be realistic, it's a giant floating hotel so naturally you can't have massive pools; and the way lawsuits go, the pools couldn't be too deep. Lastly, the pools are almost never free so don't expect to go swimming. Just stand up in your swimmy with your drink and take a few photos.