Cruise Day 7- St Lucia, November 7th

If you are just joining, catch up here to see what I am sharing about in the coming days & weeks!
-Day 1
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-Day 4
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-Day 6

Cruise Day 8, St. Lucia, November 7th

Today we arrived in St Lucia. This was our first time on this island and the only island we arranged a tour on this cruise. I had emailed Herod, the owner of Herod's Tours * to set up a Land & Sea Tour.

All photos can be clicked on to enlarge!
View of our ship from one of the many vantage points. You can see the damaged life boat hanging from here. 

We had to be up and ready earlier this morning as we were to meet Herod at 8:45 right outside the ship. There were about 10 other people from our cruise joining us on the tour, a few of them I knew from our roll call. My family got our own vehicle which was nice, in case the little ones got antsy, I didn't have to worry about them fussing around the others on the tour. Our van was nice, spacious and clean! We altered between having windows open when it wasn't raining to having the a/c on when it was. Also provided throughout this tour was water, soda, beer & homemade rum punch.

St Lucia isn’t like many of the Caribbean islands which are mostly flat and known for their beaches. St Lucia is mountainous with lots of rain forests as well as a volcano. This island's main attraction is the Pitons around the volcano in addition to the banana plantations, waterfalls, natural beauty, etc.

View out the window of the van during a brief rain shower.

We loaded into our van and shortly after we did, it started raining. He said this wasn't unusual and that it would clear up after a while. There are literally no straight roads in St Lucia! We were lucky if we saw one quarter of a mile of straight road. Because the island is so mountainous, the roads are full of twists and s-turns. One popular sign we saw all over the roads were “caution, hairpin turn ahead”!! In fact, as they go around these tight turns, they honk their horn to warn oncoming traffic. The roads would barely be wide enough for 1 vehicle in the US, but they get 2 vehicles on them somehow. Many times I thought for sure we'd clip a passing vehicle! They also drive on the opposite side of the road compared to us. I won't even mention that there really isn't much of a shoulder on these roads and you could easily see down the side of a mountain from the vehicle! We had a wonderful driver though who told us a lot about the island and also engaged us in conversation.

Our first stop was a banana plantation. Herod explained how bananas grow and the care that goes into them. It was quite interesting and educational! It takes almost 9 months for one of those bunches you see in the photo below to grow! They cover them with the plastic bag to protect them from insects & diseases. They are then harvested by hand with a machete!

Banana Plantation

 Then we were each given a freshly picked banana to eat. I gotta tell ya, they taste way better than the bananas we get shipped back home.

Marigot Bay St Lucia
Marigot Bay

From there, we were on the road again to an overlook point over Marigot Bay. This is a small inlet surrounded by mountains. Boats are brought here for shelter when a hurricane hits. While here, our driver bought the kids some coconut candy from a stand at this stop. Pieces of coconut were dipped in a nutmeg, ginger & brown sugar concoction. We loved it!

Throughout our time on the road, we’d occasionally pull over to take photos from many breathtaking vantage points on different places of the island.

A view of the Pitons in the distance

We were eventually making our way to Soufriere (pronounced So-Free) where the Pitons and volcano are located. On one of our photo stops, there were people selling their handmade wares as well as a lady cooking up fresh fried, salt fish. Our guide bought us a few pieces she had just cooked and we devoured it! He was insistent that we try out as many local foods as possible. There are many small fishing villages on St Lucia so fresh fish abounds!

We eventually reached the volcano and headed into the center of it. The last eruption was in 1776 so there was little chance we had to worry about seeing any lava today! Our guide stated that we would smell sulphur from the hot springs that leaked steam. Not long after he stated this, Olivia says loudly, “who farted?!” Yes the sulphur smells a bit like rotten eggs. HA!

Notice the steam coming up from the ground and how nothing grows here in the center of the volcano

We walked to the area that allowed us to see big piles of steam coming up from the ground. You could tell we were in the center of the volcano as nothing was growing there. One of the options we had on this stop of the tour was to take a mud bath. I decided to do it with just a few others from our group.

It consisted of us walking down to this area where hot, ash water pooled up in section that was 4 feet deep. This water comes from the hot springs that bubble up from underground. Granted we were quite a distance away from where it originated so by the time it hit the area we were at, it was “only” about 100 degrees. The water is black from the ash so we were instructed to get wet in here then we climbed out to where they gathered buckets of grey mud that comes from the volcano. You rub it all over your exposed skin & face. It has a gritty feel and a bit of a sulphurous smell. Then you were to let it dry and then go back into the hot, black ash water and rinse it off. It really exfoliated your skin and we were told the mud has many health benefits to it. My skin felt amazingly soft when I got out! That was a really fun experience!

Me (center, all black) covered in mud

Once we left the volcano, we drove nearby to the tour guides mothers house for lunch. They have a huge open air porch with a gorgeous view of the Pitons.

Our view during lunch. You can see one of the Pitons in the background.

 She had a buffet style of all sorts of creole food. I can't remember what each dish was but my favorite was the creole marlin fish. She also served us fresh passion fruit juice.  Because bananas are a huge food there, they make tons of things from bananas. Banana hot sauce, banana ketchup and banana bbq sauce are a few that come to mind. I dipped some of the fried plantain in banana ketchup and it was actually really good!

A view of our delicious buffet!

My plate! YUM!

After lunch, we headed to some waterfalls where you could get in the water to swim under them. The water was a bit cooler so only Kevin went in but we snapped some neat photos. It was surrounded by rainforest.
The waterfall

The next part of our tour consisted of us boarding a speed boat for our sea portion of the tour. Our guide took us to a bat cave that was a huge crevice in the side of a mountain where the bats stayed during the day. We could hear them as we approached the cave and see thousands just looking inside it. It was raining at this point so none of us dug out our cameras, so no pictures of the bat cave.

Our next stop was to Sugar beach where we were given 45 minutes to swim or snorkel. It started raining so we pretty much just hung out under a big umbrella hut.

While there, I heard another gal talking and she mentioned she was from Schaefferstown! (a town not far from us at home) So I introduced myself and said we where we are from. She said she has found many on our ship that live local to us. The kids wandered around the beach for a little while the littles & I chilled out under the hut.

Our view of Sugar Beach

We finally boarded the boat for our ride back to the ship. It wasn't until after being back, that Kevin mentioned how the boats gages & dials weren't working, yikes! Once or twice he hit a wake that sent us clinging while he slowed down.  It rained off and on on the ride back but we managed to snap a few photos along the way.

A gorgeous view of the Pitons from the boat ride. Finally one of the moments the clouds & rain let up.

Along the way, he pointed out different sites on the island. We saw where an episode of The Bachelor was filmed as well as the rock tunnel that was in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The rock tunnel from Pirates of the Caribbean movie. There were a bunch of guys jumping from above the tunnel into the water.

A view of the tunnel after the boat drove through it.

Our guide also pulled into Marigot Bay and pointed out homes situated on the top of the mountain of the bay, owned by Oprah, George Foreman, Sophia Lorenza & Mick Jagger, all within a stones throw of each other. It was neat being able to see the bay from down below after we had viewed it from up on the mountain earlier in the day.

The house with the pointed roof belongs to Oprah.

 Also, the original Dr Doolittle was filmed here and the one restaurant was renamed Doolittle restaurant.
The Doolittle restaurant on the water. The resort behind it can only be accessed via a boat ride across the inlet as there are no roads to get to it. Talk about secluded!

 Our sea tour went around a good part of the island and we finally arrived back near the ship around 3:45 (the last leg of the boat ride was about an hour long). Unfortunately it rained off & on during our boat ride which meant we didn't get to take as many photos as I had hoped for. I was admittedly thankful to feel land under my feet after that boat ride. I think I was a bit paranoid not having a life jacket and seeing them locked in the cabinet in front of us, a lot of good THAT would do if something happened!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed Herod's Tours and would highly recommend him!

The view of our ship as we came back to port from our sea tour.

We got back to the ship and cleaned up for dinner. It was a pretty quiet evening since we were all tired from our long day of touring. Tomorrow is a beach day in Barbados!

Here's another view of our dinner table. You can see how we are surrounded by windows which gave us amazing views during dinner time!

My 2 clowns being silly after dinner!
All photos can be clicked on to enlarge. The photos I am sharing are a combination of ones I took as well as my kids and husband on a variety of cameras and iPhones, hence the varying quality.


Gluten Free Cheddar Biscuits (like Red Lobster!)

Many in our household have gone gluten free due to health issues and thankfully it hasn't been too much of a transition. We typically eat a whole foods diet anyway thanks to our garden we grow every year. I can & freeze our produce and cook most things from scratch, all while avoiding processed food.

Even still, there is always that longing for a delicious, warm roll or slice of bread. Thankfully, I've come across some great recipes using coconut flour, almond flour & flax meal, all of which are gluten free (and so much better for you than white flour!)

I was ecstatic the other day to try a new recipe that claimed it tasted just like Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits. If you have ever eaten at Red Lobster, their endless biscuits are to die for! They are warm, soft & melt in your mouth.  BUT if you have issues with gluten, they are a HUGE no-no!

Gluten Free Biscuit, Trim Healthy Mama S

I am here to tell you, after I tweaked the recipe a little, the result was a biscuit that tastes almost IDENTICAL to Red Lobster's mouth watering biscuits and yes, they are GLUTEN FREE!!! YAY!!! I even gave a bite to my picky eating husband and he assumed it came from Red Lobster! Score!

Also, double bonus, if you follow Trim Healthy Mama, these biscuits would be an S.

Ok ok, I'll shut up now and give you the recipe!

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup of coconut flour
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted (1 tablespoon reserved for brushing after)
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, baking powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and butter until evenly distributed.
  4. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until there are no lumps.
  5. Fold in the cheese.
  6. Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto a greased cookie sheet. (I made 9 biscuits)
  7. Bake for about 13 minutes until the edges of the biscuits are brown and the tops are golden.
  8. Brush top with additional melted butter out of the oven.

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Cruise Day 6- Antigua, November 6th

If you are just joining, catch up here to see what I am sharing about in the coming days & weeks!
-Day 1
-Day 2
-Day 3
-Day 4
-Day 5
Cruise Day 6, Antigua, Thursday November 6th

 We had a laid back morning today. Knowing we were only going to do a beach day, we didn’t rush off the ship when all was clear at 8am. We went down to the MDR for breakfast. While the buffet is nice for choices, I love being served in the MDR. Nothing like being poured a cup of coffee right after sitting down and having someone waiting on you! For the record, I had Asian inspired scrambled eggs that had shrimp & stir fried veggies in it (with a side of bacon I asked for).

After breakfast, we came up to the room to finish getting stuff together. I have a small cooler backpack that we put in yogurt & cheese to take on shore for a small snack around lunch time. We also take with us a few single serving boxes of cereal for the littles for a quick snack (all things we get from the Windjammer). Each of us fills up a bottle of water as well to carry with us.
Millers by the Sea Beach

We weren't sure which beach we wanted to visit. This was our 3rd trip to Antigua and we have gone to 2 different beaches so far. Antigua is known for its 365 beaches. We debated about which one to check out this time and after talking to a local, we decided just to go to the beach we were at last in 2010 (when I was about 8 weeks pregnant with Olivia, so I guess “technically” she was here before, HA!)
The water in the Caribbean is simply breath taking!

Millers by the Sea is only about a 5 minute drive from the port. Around 9:30, we caught a cab, better known as an old jalopy van that looked like it was held together by duct tape, to head to the beach.

You can't make this stuff up people!

 I had forgotten that the islanders drive on the other side of the road here. If the road has a bend where you can’t see around it, they honk to warn oncoming vehicles they were coming around the corner. Needless to say a few times I could've reached out the window to hi five the passing vehicle! Yeah we were that close!
A family vacation just isn't the same without our precious Noah

Once we got to the beach, I was surprised to see the amount of people here. When we were here 4 years ago, there were barely 20 people besides us there as it was a little known beach. Now it appears the ship brings tours here. It still wasn't crowded but had more people than we expected.

The beach didn't disappoint though! The sand was perfectly soft, no rocks or shells as you went out in the water. There were a few waves but if you go just past the break, you could easily stand and be lifted with the roll of the water and not get tossed by waves. And the color, oh goodness the aqua colors that radiated especially when the sun hit it! This by far is one of our favorite beaches because of the beautiful water! You can go super deep and still see your feet, clear as day! And the temp of the water felt like bath water! You know how typically you have to get used to pool water or the ocean? Nope, you could just walk right into the water here up to your neck and it felt amazing!!! We were blessed with a beautiful day. The sun was in and out (probably good it wasn't always out to help prevent us from getting burnt).

My 7 children!

A guy taking some horses for a swim

Despite this island having such beautiful beaches, you can’t help but be sobered by the obvious poverty that you can see everywhere. Just in the short jaunt to & from the beach, there is so many run down & broken houses, trash piles, stray dogs running around and people who look desolate. I've heard from others that if it wasn't for cruise ships coming to their island, they would be even worse off than they are. This goes for many of the Caribbean islands we have visited. Their beaches are amazing but outside of that, your heart just aches for so many that you see.

The kids and I in front of our ship

We got back to the port about 2:30 and ran into some friends who have basically adopted the kids as their grandkids. They took the girls into a shop and bought them some hair clips that turn color in the sun (the shop is called Del Sol, apparently found on most islands). Once back to the ship, it was time to get everyone showered and a snack for the little ones. 
A view of Antigua from the ship at sail away

My 2 littles dressed for dinner watching sail away

Sun setting as we leave Antigua

A rare photo of me dressed for dinner at sail away!

We dressed for dinner and took the littles up to deck 12 to watch sail away under the setting sun then headed to dinner where we found our loaf of challah bread awaiting. It tastes especially good dipped in honey!

My ceviche

Tonight they had ceviche as one of the appetizers (the options change every night) so I ordered 2 as I love ceviche! I was introduced to it when I lived in Peru. Our friends sent us over 2 appetizers of garlic scallops as well. We didn't stay for dessert tonight and typically we don’t. Yes we are the crazy family who doesn't eat a ton of sweets.

The towel animal our room attendant left us

Tomorrow we have the only tour we have planned this cruise. We are taking a land & sea tour of St Lucia, our 1st time to this island. Pray for our safety as we travel all over this island in an almost 7 hr tour and like the title states, we will be on both land by van and on a boat by sea.

Port time keeps me hopping so that is why emails are a little delayed. Hope everyone is having a great week!
All photos can be clicked on to enlarge. The photos I am sharing are a combination of ones I took as well as my kids and husband on a variety of cameras and iPhones, hence the varying quality.

Cruise Day 5-St Maarten, November 5th

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Cruise Day 5, St. Maarten, Tuesday November 5th

 This morning when we woke up, we were greeted with glorious sunlight!!! (that is, once we went up on deck as our rooms are pitch black without light, ha!) We weren't supposed to dock until 9am but were given the all clear announcement at 8:30am that we could go ashore. I had packed what I could for the beach the night before and finished up this morning.

The massive Oasis of the Seas

There were a total of 5 ships in port today which totaled about 18,000 people! I was glad we were able to go on shore before the Oasis of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s mega ships! We headed to the taxi area as we knew what beach we wanted to go to. While this was our 4th time to St. Maarten, on our 2nd trip to St. Maarten in 2010, a couple told us about a little known beach that is perfect for the kids so ever since, we've been going to Le Galion every time we visit St. Maarten.
We were in a taxi and on our way to the beach by 9:05am!

 It was a balmy 85 degrees by this point in time. The drive there is about 15 minutes long. Our driver was chatty and was filling us in on some facts about the island. We technically visited 2 countries today. Our ship docked in St. Maarten which is governed by the Dutch. The beach we went to is in St. Marten and governed by the French. He went on to list the differences between the countries such as how they are able to travel between both without needing documentation and how Burger King is allowed on the Dutch side but not the French. The Dutch side’s electric is 220 amp while the French side is 110. He said calling between the 2 countries consists of international calling! The entire size of the island that contains both countries is super tiny so these differences seem so funny (seriously, Lancaster county is probably bigger than this island with both countries!)

We arrived at Le Galion beach a little before 9:30. There were only about 5 people there. In fact, we weren't sure if the facilities were open as they had gotten hit with a tropical storm just a few weeks prior. Kevin went to ask and found out that while their phone & credit card system was down, the tiny restaurant & bathrooms were open. Our taxi driver offered to pick us up at a designated time so we told him 2:30.
We found a small, shaded area under a palm tree, which I believe is the same place we set up last time we were here in 2012. 

My 2 little girls & I

Our driver had told us they just had 3 inches of rain the night before & morning of our arrival which explained why there was a ton of seaweed washed up on shore. The typically clear, blue water was also quite murky due to the heavy rain they had. That was a little disappointing. We love this beach for its calmness. There is a coral reef located way out in the distance that breaks the waves so all we get at this beach is a slight movement of water, perfect for the little ones!

Ava & Olivia right before we left the beach

Ava wasn't sure at first what to make of the water but by the afternoon, she would willingly run into it and wanted to stay and play in it. The day was beautiful and we had a nice, strong breeze that kept us from getting too hot. Our driver showed up around 2:30 and we headed back to the ship. By this time, the temp was about 89!!
This was a special tent & blow up pool I brought with us. It folded very compact into a tiny carry bag but I figured this would come in handy on beaches for the littles to give them a way to play in water & protect them from the sun.

Long hike back to our ship which was the furthest one out.  You can see Ava's leg off to my right side. Lucky girl got to ride it out in the sling on me!

 When it came time for dinner, we headed down to our assigned table on deck 4. As we walked in to the MDR, our head waiter (Olivia’s buddy Dario) was greeting everyone. Even though he was talking to someone, he stopped midsentence to say hi to Olivia. She shyly waved hi and continued to look at him as she walked forward. While she watched him, she walked smack into the hand sanitizer machine!!! Everyone in the area chuckled including Dario (he later came to make sure she was ok).

Our view from our ship.
Friends of ours have a table not far from us in the MDR so we occasionally chat with each other. The night before, as we stopped to say goodnight on our way out, they had us try a piece of challah bread they had custom ordered from the kitchen (handmade of course). We told them how we really liked it and next thing we knew, they told our headwaiter we wanted a loaf of it every night!! HA So guess what came to our table tonight, yup, a hand braided loaf of challah!!

Homemade olive tapenade is in the bottom right corner of the pic

 The kids all said they do prefer this to the roll basket that came around each night. It’s true that you can seriously order whatever your heart desires and the kitchen staff does their best to fulfill all requests! In fact, one night escargot is typically offered as an appetizer. It hasn't been on the menu yet though our friends have been ordering it occasionally. Last night they sent 2 appetizers of it our way!!! Yup, this gal ate almost all of it (ok, I did share some of it with the kids!) The kids have been spoiled with chocolate milk whenever their hearts desired! (a rare treat as we never have it at home!)

Our evening ended with the older kids hanging out in teen club while Kevin & I walked the little ones outside on the upper deck under a bright, full moon that lit up the ocean! 

This is looking up at Dizzy's (which is in the center) & the girls play area which is to the right of the glass windows.

This is looking from Dizzy's down onto the pools & hot tubs.

Beautiful full moon out over the ocean.

Just to compare the beach from 2 different trips here:

Beautiful clear water

The exact same view after a massive rain storm that washed up tons of seaweed.

This is still our favorite beach at St Maarten. 3 times here and this was the first time we had to deal with murky, seaweed filled water.

You can read about one of our other trips to St Maarten here.
All photos can be clicked on to enlarge. The photos I am sharing are a combination of ones I took as well as my kids and husband on a variety of cameras and iPhones, hence the varying quality.