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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘Cruise’

Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 27, 2017

Fun in the Sun Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas
Sponsored by Florida Romance Writers
February 16, 2017

As soon as we boarded Independence of the Seas, we headed to lunch in the Windjammer Café. Entrees were tempting. They had the grill with burgers and hot dogs inside here instead of out on the pool deck like on other ships. Desserts were not overly appealing, especially after the artistic confections on Celebrity Equinox. The cookies were the crunchy type, whereas I prefer soft, chewy centers. However, there is a soft ice cream machine on the pool deck that’s free to guests.

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We strolled around and unpacked a bit before the lifeboat drill. This one took place outside on the deck where we lined up like sardines and stood there for a half hour until dismissed. No life vests required for the drill, which was a bonus. However, I prefer the cruise lines where you sit in an air-conditioned lounge to hear the spiel.

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The FRW Meet & Greet Welcome Party had the editor/agent panel where we heard what each industry guest has on their wish lists. This event gave us a good chance to mingle in the Olive or Twist lounge on Deck 14. Here I am with my agent, the wonderful Evan Marshall from The Evan Marshall Agency.

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Shortly thereafter, we attended dinner in the King Lear Dining Room. I’m not a late diner, and eating at 8:30 led to a long evening on a full stomach. Some nights we didn’t finish until after ten. While the food was good, it wasn’t exceptional. Nor was the dining room service as efficient as on other vessels.

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Our cabin service was excellent, though. The balcony cabin was spacious with adequate storage. We had an extra-long couch across from a desk console. The shower is the round manhole cover shape but at least it has a glass door. Don’t drop your soap on the floor. You have to be a contortionist to pick it up. I used my slumber mask as light came in from outside the ship at the edges of the drapes. Bathroom amenities included bottles of lotion, shampoo, and conditioner. The bar soap was very thin. I missed the robes we get on other cruise lines.

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We awakened at our usual early hour. I prefer the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast in the Windjammer Café offered varied choices, but they didn’t change much from day-to-day. A chef would do made-to-order omelets. Pancakes and waffles were always available along with the usual fruits, pastries, yogurt, and more.

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Our conference workshops began promptly at 8am on Friday. Stay tuned for more in the next installment. See all photos HERE.


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Posted in Conferences, Cruising, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Celebrity Equinox – The Food, Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 29, 2016

The Oceanview Café’s breakfast buffet had stations for omelets or eggs made to order, toast including bagels and English muffins, rolls, Danish, croissants, muffins, yogurt, berry medley, cereal, whole or cut fruits, scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese. English breakfast. Asian breakfast. American breakfast. Bacon, ham, sausages. Smoked salmon. Herring. Roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Grilled zucchini, sautéed mushrooms, Eggs Benedict. Hungry yet? Our only complaint is that the buffet opens at 7. If you’re an early riser, you can only get fruit and yogurt before then. It would have been nice to have pastries available earlier.

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Lunch could be taken at the outdoor grill with burgers or hot dogs and French fries, at the very small spa café by the solarium pool on Deck 12, where some items cost extra; in the formal dining room, or at the Oceanview Café. Here you had a choice of freshly carved meats, deli meats, sandwiches made to order, various salads, salad bar, hot dishes, Asian foods (we particularly liked the vegetable fried rice), Indian foods, British foods, soups and breads, pizza and garlic toast, pasta, and an array of tempting desserts including an ice cream bar. Free drinks included lemonade, iced tea, a fruity drink, water, and hot beverages at a coffee station. The Lavazza coffee served throughout the cruise was very good. Real half-and-half was available in urns along with milk. Inside the ship, you can get free desserts at the coffee lounge but no free sandwiches or appetizers like on other cruise lines. I missed having this extra choice. For a ship of this size, free dining choices are limited.

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Dinner on Day one for me was Shrimp Louie with Avocado, a Chicken Egg Roll, Caesar Salad. Prime ribs came with buttered French green beans and mashed potatoes. The portions of all the meals were generous. For dessert, I had apple pie a la mode. Dinner Two was a shrimp cocktail, braised lamb shank with broccoli, carrots, and mashed potatoes. Other meals included braised beef short ribs, vegetable Wellington, lobster with butter sauce. The salads at dinner were varied each night, like kale with roasted walnuts, dried cherries, and diced butternut squash. The French onion soup, available each night as an appetizer along with shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad, looked delicious but would have been a whole meal for me. My mouth waters at the thought, and now I want a crock of hot onion soup with melted cheese on top. I miss these scrumptious meals.

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Celebrity Equinox

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 23, 2016

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Part 1: The Ship 

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Celebrity Equinox is a beautiful ship. She seems relatively new with a clean look and modern furnishings. As usual on Celebrity, we were greeted on board with a welcome glass of champagne. After dining at the buffet lunch in the Oceanview Café on Deck 14, we made our way to our cabin on Deck 8. Located in the center near the stairs and elevator, it was closer to the aft side than forward. We unpacked, finding all the cubbyholes and shelves to put away our things. The bathroom was the best ever on any ship we’ve encountered. It had adequate counter space, enough storage, extra toilet paper and tissues. And the shower was the best. Plenty of room to move with a soap dish, bar soap, and even a thick steel rod to rest my foot on when I shaved my legs. Lotion, shampoo, more bar soap, and conditioner were other amenities along with robes for each of us. The shower head was forceful enough and the hot water was nearly instantly available. Amenities also included small glasses for our toothbrushes.

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Our room had a desk, a flat-screen TV above a console with drawers, and an enormously long couch where another person could easily have slept. Our balcony let out from sliding glass doors, and even this was a generous space with two chairs and a small table. The drapes folded over each other so no light shone through at night, and no peephole in the door also ensured a dark interior. The bedding was soft and the pillows comfortable. The safe was large enough to hold my iPad, and the room also came with a stocked fridge. Cabin service was excellent, and we still got chocolates on our pillows each night although no towel art on this cruise.

We explored the 15 decks before the lifeboat drill that was held without life jackets in a lounge or dining room, depending on your muster station. Then it was time for dinner. We skipped the first night’s show since it was a juggler, and that’s my least favorite entertainment. All the other shows were great and varied between the ship’s singers, dancers, and acrobats to a ventriloquist and a variety of solo singers.

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Deck 15 has a grassy lawn area where you can sit and watch the view, or observe a Hot Glass Show during the voyage. Deck 14 has the Oceanview Café and the outdoor grill. Overlooking the pool below are many lounge chairs, some undercover to provide shade. This ship had more shaded seating spots than I remember from other cruise lines. Even the pool areas on Deck 12 had wide overhangs to protect the lounge chairs. If you got too humid, you could sit in the solarium with its covered glass roof and air-conditioning. On Deck 5 by the life boats are a few scattered chairs on an outside deck but not many, and you can’t walk all the way around the ship there.

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The shops inside the ship did not have merchandise that appealed to us. It was one of the poorest selections that we’ve noted, at least for our tastes. Not even the costume jewelry attracted me except for their occasional sales. These were held in a crowded corridor instead of a lounge like other ships. They had the usual souvenir logo items, resort wear, hats, liquor, fine jewelry. All seemed pricey.

In the evening, musicians played in the central atrium on deck three. This was generic-sounding except for a cello player. A small dance floor here sufficed since there wasn’t anywhere else to hear dance music except after 10pm in the Sky Lounge. This is a shortcoming of this ship that has limited lounges with dance floors. There’s a Gastropub that serves small plates and beer; another lounge with occasional piano music; a Martini bar. But nowhere else with a dance floor. The Sky Lounge forward on Deck 14 was a favorite place of mine for quiet daytime sea views and for the evening cocktails for Elite members. But it would have been nice if they’d had dance music here earlier instead of the atrium where you’re in view of people several decks high. That’s not very private. Regarding the music, these same bands played by the pool. We like Caribbean music when cruising and sitting outside, and this group played the same generic tunes you get on the radio. But overall, we loved the ship, the relaxed environment (few kids running around) and the excellent service.

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Coming Next: The Food and the Ports of Call

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Writers Conference on Cruise Ship

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 14, 2016

Cruise with your Muse aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Fun-in-the-Sun Conference sponsored by Florida Romance Writers.

FRW Cruise2017

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of Cozumel with Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Hoyt and Special Guest Speaker Michael Hauge.

Guest Speakers

Sail from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 and return to port on Monday, February 20th, 2017.

Editor/Agent appointments, writing workshops, and social networking events.

Interior Cabin: $480.72 per person with a $50.00 on board credit per cabin
Promenade $441.47 per person
Oceanview $563.22 per person with $100.00 credit per cabin (H)
Balcony category E3 $642.47 per person (E3)
Junior suite $1050.72 with $300.00 credit per cabin

These prices are only sample fares, contact our travel agent at 305-666-1010 to get the current pricing. Promotion offers are frequently available at lower prices.

Cruise includes ship accommodations, ocean transportation, meals onboard, entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Cruise fee deposit is due when you reserve your cabin and is paid directly to our travel agent. 

Pre-sail Party on Wednesday night February 15, 2016. Details TBA.

Conference fee:
FRW Members –  $160 conference fee through 7/1/16
RWA Members – $180 conference fee through 7/1/16
Non-members – $200 conference fee through 7/1/16
Companion/Spouse  $50 conference fee

To Register, go to http://frwfuninthesunmain.blogspot.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Cruising, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Labadee: An Island Paradise

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 20, 2015

Day 8, Saturday, December 5, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation

Labadee is a beautiful beach hideaway private to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. It’s at the very tip of Haiti if my geography is correct. The sea is a magnificent aqua color and mountainous terrain adds beauty to the scenery.

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RCCL (which owns Celebrity) supplies chairs and towels for all guests. All you need do is tip the beach attendant to put a chair where you want it. Then you can laze about, swim, or participate in various activities sponsored by the cruise line. Bring sun screen, sunglasses, a hat and beach sandals. It gets hot.

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Plenty of bars and rest rooms are scattered about for your convenience. The peninsula is big enough that you can even ride a free tram around to the various stops. Be aware that swimming is allowed on one side only, at the bay with its multiple beaches. The other side faces the ocean and is suitable for sunbathing and admiring the sea.

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The beach barbecue is always fun. You can choose hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, or chicken plus side dishes and cookies. Free cold drinks are available in dispensers.

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At one end of the place is a zip line and roller coaster up on a hill. Near this at the base is the shopping village, where you can buy lovely gifts for your friends at home. Mahogany bowls, colorful Haitian art, native jewelry, dolls, wood carvings and more all can be yours, preferably for cash. Bargaining is expected.

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This area had grown since I’d last been here, and I lost my cousin Janice among the warren of shops. We reunited later at the tram stop. An air-conditioned indoor section offers a respite from the heat. The marketplace is a good site to pick up gifts for folks back home. Here’s a lovely serving dish I couldn’t resist:

Bowl

I could revisit this setting endlessly. The scenery is magnificent; the bay water gentle and warm; the beaches rife with palm trees and lounge chairs. Food is provided, and there are shopping opportunities. What more could you want?

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P1050363Nancy and Janice Trio

View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Last Two Days! Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Coming Next: The Final Journey

Posted in Cruising, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Celebrity Cruise

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 8, 2015

Day 1, Saturday, on the Celebrity Constellation

There’s nothing like the exhilaration you feel when sailing away from land and knowing you are escaping reality for a week or more. We set sail from Fort Lauderdale for a ten day cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. Here is my shaky video of the sail-away:

 

Naturally the first place on the ship we headed was the buffet. I don’t remember what I grabbed for lunch, but I finished it with rum cake and pina colada ice cream. Dinner was shrimp cocktail served with guacamole in this martini glass:

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I had a salad and prime ribs to start off my gastronomic adventure. Apple pie a la mode polished off the meal. From here we went to the welcome show, which entertained us with a comedian, singers and dancers, and two spectacular aerialists. We’d see more of these performers throughout the trip. Below is my cousin Janice who accompanied us on this cruise. You may find a character named after her in Peril by Ponytail.

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Coming Next: Ship Review, then the Ports of Call.

Posted in Cruising, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 30 Comments »

St. Kitts

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 21, 2012

Basseterre, St. Kitts
Nov. 9, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took tour KT67 Fairview Great House and Beach. First we drove in an air-conditioned bus through the historic streets of Basseterre. Lower levels of structures here are built with volcanic rock to guard against fires, which destroyed much of the town in the past.

Dating from the 17th century, these interesting buildings and monuments offer a glimpse into history. This is a substantial town that invites exploration. Next we drove to Fairview Great House, a former hotel that stands on a hill with an expansive view.

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Outside it has a swimming pool and a covered outdoor terrace with a bar, while indoors is the dining room, men’s study, ladies parlor, and more. Upstairs you can see a sample bedroom with a private lavatory—an ancient toilet and a basin with pitcher only. On the grounds is evidence of former stables and a bathing room with a stone bath. A gift shop is down below, next to a separate building that housed the kitchen. This was a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era. The so-called botanical garden was mostly a grassy area with labeled trees.

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From here we visited Frigate Bay Beach after a winding drive through the hills. This site boasted an expensive sit-down restaurant: $16 for a club sandwich or a burger plus 22% tax and gratuity. Chair rentals cost $10 each and we were only there for one hour. A large covered building held a bar and the costly restaurant, plus it had a pleasant sitting area under cooling ceiling fans. It’s a lovely beach if you want to soak up the sun and go for a quick swim, but it would be nice if they had a reasonable snack bar. While the beach is beautiful, it seems like a rip-off with the high prices and lack of other amenities. My caveat: bring your own snacks. You get a free fruit drink with the tour. If you want to sit in the shade, you’ll have to pay more for an umbrella or find a seat inside the structure where you can read a good book or admire the scenery.

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Back in town, we went shopping near the pier. This is a good shopping stop although St. Maarten is still better for jewelry and electronics. You could keep busy browsing the shops along the pier, eating lunch in one of the restaurants, and meandering into the historic parts of Basseterre. If you do go on a tour, a couple of hours here is all you need to pick up souvenirs and gifts.

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This concludes my recitation on Vision of the Seas. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Healthy Voyage into 2013!

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

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Antigua

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 20, 2012

St. John’s, Antigua
Nov. 8, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took the ship’s tour AN48 Antiguan Experience. Antigua is a dry island compared to Dominica, where it actually rained in the rainforest and the shrubbery is lush with tropical foliage. Here cactus grows and the hills are lower although they still offer scenic views.

After driving in an air-conditioned bus through the hilltops, we arrived at a private home open to visitors. Inside were artifacts dating back to the 16th century collected by former owners, relatives of the current occupants. Their family owns cattle raised for meat. We saw sheep without its coat that looked like goats. The way to tell the difference? Look at their tails. I think it was the sheep whose tail is down, the goat whose tail is up? Anyway, the lady owner said that whenever the volcano at Montserrat blows, they get ash blown in. We toured the house, peering at the fascinating museum-quality relics. This lived-in home gave us an idea of how a well-to-do family might live on the island. It was a peaceful, comfortable ambiance.

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From here we drove to a pineapple farm where they grow a small, sweet variety called gold pineapple. It was pretty hot out as a woman explained the growing process.

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A stop at a beach came next. I didn’t care for this portion because there was absolutely no shade. It was a fairly deserted beach, but there were restrooms and we were provided a barbecue lunch. We rented chairs for $3 each but there weren’t any umbrellas. Ants crawled on the ground and perhaps got into my shoes because the next day I got a couple of bites on my foot. I tried to go in the water here, but there was a drop-off not far from shore so that I’d have to climb over the ridge to get back. And the undertow was extremely strong. I splashed myself but then scampered out onto the sand. We broiled in the heat until lunchtime. Seats at tables were arranged under an awning but it was still hot. We ate barbecued chicken with beans and rice. Then a lady entertained us with poems and song while I fumed impatiently to go back to town. This dragged on too long. Finally, we got back into the bus and made it to the pier. There are shops lined up here where we browsed before gratefully reentering the ship.

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The house might have been fascinating, but I was less than thrilled with the beach portion of this excursion. I don’t like it when the tours take you to a deserted beach. Maybe you’ll love it if you’re from up north, but I prefer a more active beach site with restaurants, gift shops, and facilities. Here you’re stuck waiting for the driver and others on the tour, whereas if you’re in a better location, you can amuse yourself at a bar or a shop when you get tired of the sun.

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Coming Next: St. Kitts

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Dominica

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 19, 2012

Roseau, Dominica
Nov. 7, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We did the Royal Caribbean ship’s excursion RO32 called Cooking Caribbean, Rum, and Nature.

An air-conditioned van drove us through a poor section of town with ramshackle buildings to a mountain road. We drove up a steep, winding incline. It was a bumpy ride where we jostled against each other, swaying left and right around hairpin curves. It appeared to be one lane but served as a two-way road.

We climbed up and up into the rainforest, spotting banana plants, papaya trees, clumps of bamboo, colorful crotons, broad-leafed plants and reaching vines. Wealthier, substantial houses dotted the hillside. We arrived at a lovely home and were guided out back to an outdoor kitchen under a covered patio. The view of the cloud-shrouded mountains from this location was spectacular.  Be aware that it actually rains in this rainforest! Showers swept in but quickly passed. While sipping a fruit punch, we admired the flowers, shrubbery, and distant vistas.

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Then we were summoned to take our places in the outdoor kitchen. We stood in a semicircle around a broad counter. There were 15 people in the class. Three lady cooks introduced themselves and gave us each a yellow apron to wear.

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First on the menu was marinated, sautéed tuna. This came out a bit chewy and not to my taste. Next we cooked red beans and rice that was very good. The cooks used fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs like lemongrass, many of which were obtained from the grounds. We made a salad with homemade dressing and then did fried coconut-dipped plantains. I mixed the batter which consisted of one can of coconut milk, two eggs, and 1 cup flour. Everybody participated. We had grapefruit with rum sauce for dessert, and a rum punch made with West Indies pumpkin.

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We were promised recipes via e-mail but so far they haven’t arrived. There was a tip bottle put out at the end. A long table was set for the tour participants and we ate buffet style. It was a lot of fun, and I’d suggest this as one of the best, most unusual excursions if you’re into cooking. What would I change? I’d suggest they put stools around the counter so we wouldn’t have to stand for so long. Also, they should hand out copies of the recipes. I doubt we’ll ever get them, so you might want to take notes if you do this tour.  Our stomachs satisfied, we went back to the wharf in Roseau to browse the native market.

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Coming Next: Antigua

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St. Maarten

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 18, 2012

Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Nov. 6, 2012, Vision of the Seas

On previous tours of this island, we visited the French side of Marigot. It’s a tedious drive across the island on the only road which means it’s usually congested. We didn’t find the expensive restaurants and European cafes to excite us when the ambiance in Philipsburg is charming enough and a lot closer. That prior ship’s excursion also took us to a not-so-nice beach near a nudist site. Not our cup of tea.

So this time, we went shopping in Philipsburg, capitol of the Dutch side, after taking the water taxi for seven dollars (round-trip fare) from the pier. There are shops near the ships that are adequate representations of the ones downtown, but it’s much more fun to go into the town center and stroll through the quaint streets.

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A beautiful beach faces the water in Philipsburg that is fronted by restaurants and shops. We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace. This restaurant is to the right after you dock downtown from the water taxi. I had coconut shrimp with French fries, coleslaw, and sautéed plantains for $14.95. The St. Maarten Rhumba drink cost $6.95 and packed a wallop. After I went back to the ship, I had to take a nap. Holland House is another restaurant we’ve enjoyed with a water view.

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I can recommend my favorite stores here if you’re in the market for baubles. Otherwise, souvenir stores are plentiful. I like the Guavaberry place for a taste of the island’s specialty liquor. If you tire of shopping and aren’t on a tour, you can rent a beach chair for $5 and enjoy the water. Bring cash for the water taxi, food, and incidentals. Philipsburg is my favorite port! Shopping, restaurants, and a free beach–what more could you want?

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Coming Next: Dominica

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