Destination wedding, ‘family-moon’ and lots of love!

Miami, FL/Carnival Cruise (Nassau, Bahamas, Amber Cove, DR, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, Princess Cays, Bahamas)

Overview

As the tears of joy (and sadness that the party is over and the family went back home overseas) are drying out, as the blisters on my feet from all the dancing have finally healed, as the reality of being back to work in cold Boston sinks in- what is cheering me up is looking through the photos and videos of one of the most emotional, exciting, whirlwind weeks of my life! It would be simply selfish of me to not put it in writing and share it with the world 🙂 .  The post will consist of four parts- the days before the wedding, the wedding day, family cruise and the last days in Miami afterwards. I hope you enjoy it!

PRE-WEDDING BLISS (AND ANXIETY!)

First of all, I would like to explain how we came to the idea of the wedding in Miami (as I get asked that a lot). Neither of us are from Florida, Sean has only been to Miami for the first time when we went to meet the vendors and see the church in April 2017.

Well, the short answer is- that is simply us. We love to travel and destination wedding seemed fitting. Boston is not famous for a guaranteed good weather even in summer. Neither is my home country Lithuania.  As we got engaged in December 2016,  summer of 2017 would not have been possible to get any places available in Boston- everything books a year or two ahead. Whereas November in Miami weather is close to perfection- little to no rain, end of hurricane season and it’s not too hot or humid. We picked a weekend before Thanksgiving knowing that we would be taking a cruise after (that allowed us to take less time off from work- Thursday and Friday were holidays). The idea of the cruise with the families (we invited everyone that wanted to join, but only the closest family was able to make it) came soon after we decided on Miami location. Lots of cruises leave from Miami port, neither Sean nor my family had been on a cruise, there are enough stops to sample a few islands without having to pack and unpack and go to different hotels- basically it’s convenient and relaxing way to spend the week after all the craziness that planning a wedding involves. We wanted to have an opportunity for both families to bond, spend more time with each other, while at the same time have a warm vacation away from cold Lithuania and Boston. And looking back, I would not change a thing.

I will not go into too much detail how the planning went- I have to say it was very smooth and without any major hurdles.  We chose St Patrick church in Miami Beach based on the availability and cost. It’s beautiful and peaceful with one of the best singers  (brother Mark) we had a pleasure to listen to. For the cocktail hour/reception we went with Marriott Stanton South Beach, located 15 min drive from the church.  Most of the planning was done via email/phone and we went to see both places and meet all the vendors in April, 2017.

We took a few days off before the wedding and arrived to Miami early on Wednesday morning (wedding day was on Saturday). If anyone is curious how I got my wedding dress from Boston to FL- we flew with it as a carry- on and were randomly very lucky that the third seat in our aisle was empty – so the dress ‘sat’ right next to us 🙂 !IMG_3657

For anyone giving a sideways look at the big puffy bag on a plane, we just said- “it’s a wedding dress!” and the faces would turn into happy smiles and congratulations 🙂 .

As we landed in Ft Lauderdale, we rented a car for one day, so we could collect the things that friends and family brought over on our behalf, bring them to the hotel and do any last minute errands. But before heading to Miami, we made a stop at our favorite breakfast place for an acai bowl- Sarava Acai Cafe. We discovered it during our visit in April and made a point to go back for a healthy and delicious breakfast.IMG_3668

As my cousin’s family booked their stay earlier and were staying in Miami a full week, we decided to have two nights at the same hotel as them, so we could spend more time together. Hilton Cabana Miami Beach was a bit more north and away from the hustle and bustle of the South Beach, but a nice place to stay and try to relax before the wedding.

 

 

After the initial disappointment of the room with the two double beds, they were kind enough to upgrade us to the suite with the huge balcony and a bit of an ocean view.

Up to the arrival to Miami we both were pretty calm and collected. Maybe the early flight, very little sleep, traffic jam from the airport- all these things put together, anxiety started  to kick in. It did not help that while we were visiting Marriott Stanton where the reception will be held (and the cocktail hour on the outside terrace) the winds were about 20 mph. Hotel staff started talking about plan B and plan C and I was starting to panic inside. It helped finally seeing my family and having a relaxing dinner with them, but the night did not bring much sleep…I woke up at 4am, still dark out and could not fall back to sleep. The most absurd worries were coming through my mind. One of such- that my eyelash extensions will come out and on the wedding day I will have missing patches 🙂 !!! No, it did not happen of course. They actually lasted longer than expected and I would highly recommend any bride to invest in them, especially if she thinks she will be crying (no mascara to run off!).

So what do you do when you can’t sleep? Wait another hour or so and wake up your future husband of course! I am not the one to suffer on my own. Sharing is caring, amiright 🙂 ? Poor Sean was very understanding and VERY sleepy. But he did agree that we can go do some yoga on the beach and watch the sunrise 🙂 .

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I am so grateful for his patience. I mean just to take this pic, there were a few tries involved and he did not complain once!

As we started the day early, we were up and ready to go as soon as my family woke up. It’s their first time in Miami, the day was pretty cloudy, so we decided to explore and leave the beach for the another time. We heard great things about Wynwood Walls- the urban district with colorful paintings on the walls and decided to start there. Uber is easy to get in Miami and even though it was 6 of us, it was not a problem.

The Walls were definitely worth the visit. And we only saw a fraction of them all, since the clouds started gathering and we wanted to see the downtown before it rains. Absolutely make a stop there if you like this type of art and need a break from the beach!

Next stop- Bayside Marketplace. It’s basically a big outdoor mall with shops and restaurants and a nice area to walk around near the water.

We did not do much shopping, but walked around the marina and headed to the nearby Metromover. It’s a free mass transit automated people mover train system that serves the Downtown Miami, Brickell, Park West and Omni neighborhoods. It makes several different loops around Downtown and is a fun way to get a lift! We chose the one that stops at the Brickell City center and enjoyed the ride. IMG_3835It almost felt like a mini roller coaster, but with glass and no seats 🙂 ! It takes you high above the ground and no traffic to sit in!

Brickell City Centre was another mall- very big, and clean and shiny. We had to drag ourselves out of there before we spent too much and we had rehearsal at the church to go to. No time for shopping now! IMG_3863But there is always time for eating 🙂 !

We stopped at the vegan restaurant nearby called Crate. None of us are vegan, but everyone was up for trying something new. And we were pleasantly surprised how great the food was! Not that vegan food suppose to be bad 🙂 we just did not expect it to taste SO like not vegan! For example my BLT tasted just like it would contain real bacon and there was no meat anywhere near it. Cheese also tasted just like real cheese, but it was made out of cashews! IMG_3846We left light, satisfied and happy.

The rehearsal at the church was quite interesting to say the least. The wedding coordinator was sweet lady, but wow she was quite ‘out there’. She had difficulty remembering names and said that at one wedding the bride’s hair caught on fire! Also mentioned in passing something about priest dropping the ring- basically all the things that already an anxious bride should NOT hear 2 days before the wedding day. I left the rehearsal more confused on when/who will do what, but we figured at the end of the day we will end up being married anyway 🙂 .

For the family rehearsal dinner we had reservations at the Poseidon Seafood restaurant. We got recommendations about this place back in April and loved the Greek food there. Moussaka was my personal favorite as well as the octopus appetizer dish.

The most important though was that we got to spend more time with our closest family and friends.

The day before the wedding is a blur. We checked out of the Hilton and checked into the Marriott Stanton South Beach hotel, where the party is going to be the following day.

Wind was still pretty strong as the hotel is right on the beach, but we finally got some sun and were able to lay by the pool for a couple of hours. I have to say- I was NOT relaxed. There was a laundry list of things “to do” going through my head- call the wedding dress steamer to confirm she is coming on time tomorrow, call the florist, check with photographer, go get the nails done and so on…In the meantime everyone is texting, asking where exactly what is going to be, transportation to the church company calls to say that the bus we ordered broke down-  it seems like a nightmare now that I put it in writing 🙂 . At that point I was really wishing that we had a wedding planner to direct all of this to. I even said to Sean- I want to be a guest and not the bride. And when is this going to be over already?! So yes, I felt like I was finally losing my mind and turning into a bridezilla.  Don’t get me wrong- we had family and friends all offering their help. It was just overwhelming and we needed a bit of a break. So we left everyone and went to get mani/pedis 🙂 . It was honestly like magic. By the time they were done, we were like new people ready to get married AND excited about it! An hour away, just the two of us, no texts, calls or emails. We stopped at the beach for about 10 minutes and just sat there taking it all in. Then we were ready to get back and enjoy the dinner with everyone who were already in Miami.

It was hard to find a place that would host 50 or so people and would not charge extra service fee, so we found a bit of a loophole. Sean made a reservation for twenty people, Sean’s mom for another fifteen and I had a separate one for the rest. We chose a place close to the Marriott Stanton, since most of our guests were staying there. Cibo Wine Bar (South Beach location) was perfect.

The restaurant is spacious and the staff did not complain about us making three big reservations. We pretty much took over the place and enjoyed good food, drinks and laughs. If you do a destination wedding and want to spend more time with your guests, that is the way to go. Dinner the night before the wedding gave a chance for people to meet each other and for us to catch up with the guests, especially the ones we have’t seen in a while.

Before going back to our rooms (Sean was staying with his Best Man David, while me and one of my closest friends Vilma took over the bridal suite) we prepared the welcome table.

The whole crew was put to work- 65 mini suitcases had to be folded and filled with Lithuanian candy. Luggage tags with everyone’s names had to be prepared, signs written and table organized- it was past midnight when we finally went our separate ways and will see each other at the altar!

The BIG DAY

The countdown is over. The wait is finished. The long awaited day is finally here! From all the advice people gave us, the one we heard most was that it goes by SO fast and to enjoy every moment. And so we did! As already new norm, I woke up early and started tidying up the room before the dress steamer, makeup artist and photographers came. Soon after, we arranged to have breakfast and made sure that Sean does not run into me in the hallway- we took this ‘cannot see each other until church’ VERY seriously 🙂 .

There were no more nerves. Somehow I felt calm and at peace and very happy.IMG_3963 Everyone arrived on time and hotel even sent a surprise champagne/orange juice package, so we could enjoy the mimosas while getting ready!

As my dress was being steamed (Lisette from Bless the Dress did AMAZING job) and my mom and sister were getting make-up and hair done by the most incredible ladies Sharon and Lisa, I decided that there is no point of me to sit in the room and wait for my turn- I’d rather get some sun and walk around the pool/beach with Vilma. Yes, I know, sounds a bit nuts. The wedding is in four hours and the bride is strolling around the beach 🙂 – well, that’s what made me happy and so I did!

We walked to the South Pointe Pier, posed for a few pics and walked back. It felt good to be moving and feel the sun.

At around 11 am it was time to get back to the room and start the serious preparations- meaning I sit there and let the professionals do their job 🙂 .  I trusted Sharon completely and she made it very easy to relax. It was not as relaxing for her when the team of 5 photographers showed up and started taking photos of the details, once in a while snapping a pic of me with partial make up and hair being curled – I cannot wait to see the photos, but some should be pretty funny (gel mask under my eyes and white strips on my teeth- yea, those photos will not be published 🙂 ).

As everyone was all dolled up and pretty, I had asked all the girls staying at the hotel to come up and have a toast and take a pic together. I am glad I did, because I don’t think we had any time to do another girls group photo later in the day…

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And off to the church we went! Already slightly late, but turns out there was no rush- the priest was not there yet- he got called in to the hospital for an emergency to give someone their last rights…

Turns out the wait for the priest was actually in my advantage- the girls brought the steamer to the church and were able to iron the few wrinkles that formed while sitting in the car for fifteen minutes. But the best part was not even that. The florist, who did incredible job at the table decorations (pics later), forgot to put the purple orchids in my bouquet. So when it was brought to the room, I was a bit disappointed. I felt like it really needed a touch of color and my makeup ladies Sharon and Lisa saw the sadness in my face. The priest just arrived and my sister (Maid of Honor) already walked down the aisle, my mom and I just waiting for our cue to walk – I see Lisa running up from the taxi with the two purple potted orchid plants! Incredible ladies went to the store, got the flowers and just seconds left till my entrance made it to the church! She quickly stuck the purple accents into my bouquet and it made a world of difference! I will never forget their kindness and the fact that they went out of their way to make my special day even more special!

As Ave Maria was being sung by the wonderful Brother Mark, my mom, Aurelija, who raised me and my sister after our dad passed away, walked me down the aisle. I am so incredibly lucky that she was able to do it and I could not imagine holding anyone else’s hand during that walk. The church is pretty big, but it seemed like we made it from the door to the altar, where my handsome husband was waiting, in a blink of an eye. I was so happy, so overwhelmed with joy and at the same time I feel like it went by way too quick.  So yes, truly enjoy every moment!

We had traditional Catholic Mass, the priest was assigned to us only a few weeks prior to the wedding and funny as it sounds, he forgot my name 🙂 ! ” We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Sean and…(silence, then me whispering “KRISTINA”). Ahh, looking forward to that wedding video 🙂 .

Other than that, it all went smooth- my hair did not catch on fire, the rings did not fall and we had no trouble putting them on, and in about an hour, we were Husband and Wife! Yes, we could not wait for the “You may now kiss the bride” part :)!

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After the ceremony, guests had a two hour break, while my HUSBAND and I went to J. Fritz and Frances Gordon Park in Coral Gables, FL to take photos.

It was about 30 min drive from the church and we were racing with the daylight to make it in time before sunset. The place is quiet and beautiful, we only saw one more couple taking photos and I cannot wait for the professional pictures to be available from our fun team of photographers (“Focused on Forever”) . As we had not had any lunch and were starving by this time, one of the guys shared his apple and crackers with us to hold us over until dinner 🙂 ! One more lucky coincidence today- the rain shower came through during the two hours before reception where the hotel was. Yet not a single drop reached the park, only half an hour away!

Starving as we were, we decided to make one more stop by the beach for a few more pics, but it was pitch black and we might have some cool photos with the palm trees, but definitely no ocean. All in all, that was expected and we made good time to get back to the hotel right around when the cocktail hour began outside on the patio.

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Now if you recall, it was VERY windy when we came to visit the hotel on Wednesday. It was beautiful and completely calm night now! No plan B or plan C needed. So grateful and so lucky! What I was also extremely grateful for was our wedding coordinator Elizabeth, who brought us a plate of apps to the room before we went down. Had she not done that, we would have been literally starving until dinner. There is no doubt- bride and groom do not get to eat enough on the wedding day 🙂 ! Elizabeth helped to bustle my wedding dress and Sean (true love right there) held it over my head when I went to the bathroom (no, it is not possible to pee by yourself in the kind of a dress that I had 🙂 ).

And then it was the PARTY! One of my favorite moments – confetti poppers shooting over us as we got introduced as husband and wife!

DJ Louie (LR Entertainment) was perfect combination of serious and fun (well prepared, extremely well organized and also very happy and funny!).

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There were speeches, dancing, tears of joy and more dancing!

We barely sat down the whole night and that’s exactly what we wanted the party to be! Yes, there was unplanned and not a pleasant surprise when the food came out to be not as amazing as it was during the tasting back in April. Apparently the head chef had left and Marriott did not inform us about it.  Disappointment aside, that did not prevent this from being one of the greatest days of our lives!

FAMILY CRUISE

Ship activities

Yes, some people laughed and jokingly asked us if we are on the “familymoon” when they saw the pictures of us with the families getting on the cruise the day after the wedding. I guess call it whatever, but for us it was a fun extension of the wedding celebrations. Why have one day, when you can have fun for seven more 🙂 ! We will go on our honeymoon to French Polynesia in March, when the cold winter will be still lingering in Boston. But for now, we were extremely happy to have our closest family with us on the Caribbean cruise!

We chose Carnival based on price, date (most of the other cruises left on Saturday and we needed it to be Sunday to Sunday) and the ports of call. We booked it well before hurricane season and unfortunately the ports got switched after the extensive damage that Puerto Rico and St Thomas had suffered. Instead, we stopped at Nassau and Princess Cays, Bahamas. Carnival kept the other two ports- Turks and Caicos and Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

Not to badmouth Carnival, but I cannot say that they handled the situation gracefully. First of all,  we brought nine people with us on this cruise- five cabins with balconies. We also told our cruise agent that we are going on the cruise the day after we get married. Bonnie (that was her name) informed us that it does not matter, there are no free upgrades on the ship during Thanksgiving week. After the ports of call got switched, she did not have anything to say either- basically it is what it is…There were no decorations in the cabin, no welcome newlyweds card. I know maybe it’s too much to expect, but at the same time – it IS a big day for us and we could have gone with another cruise line…

Regardless of the corporate Carnival, the staff on the ship was AMAZING. Mr. P as we called our cabin attendant was always smiling, always greeting us by name and making us new towel animals every day 🙂 .

We had daily sit down dinner at the Black Pearl restaurant and were lucky to have awesome wait staff as well. Hussein from Turkey and Freddie from the Philippines made us feel like special guests every single night. It was nine of us, perfect number to sit at the same table and allow families to get to know each other.

We kept switching seats every night and the staff still remembered our names (some are not so easy to pronounce!). Having sit down and not the buffet style dinners was absolutely the best decision.  Not only because we could all enjoy food and conversations at the same time, but also because the quality of meals is much much better than what is served at the buffet. It also helps with the portion control, though by the end, we were not so disciplined after-all (well, let’s get these three apps and that meal and two desserts…) – gym and fasting now that we are back to reality  🙂 .

It is my second cruise and I typically prefer travelling and exploring countries by air/land. But going on a big boat with a group of friends or in this case- family was so much fun in many ways.  Besides different ports (I will go into more details about them soon), there is always SO much to do. You have your music shows, stand up comedy,  casino, piano bar, live music, dance club. That’s all for the evening.

During the day, if you’re not at one of the islands, there are multiple pools, jacuzzis, water slide, mini golf (we did not even get to do that!), comfy chair lounges and endless relaxation options to enjoy.

Carnival Spendor is not the best ship out there. It’s pretty old and dated, but as it worked with our timeline, we enjoyed whatever it had to offer. On the days at sea  (one of them being a rainy day), we opted to get the Cloud 9 Spa access pass, which allowed us to enjoy kids- free spa facilities- sauna, steam room, salt water hot tub and quiet relaxation rooms.

$40 per person per day was totally worth it. We did not know when we booked the trip, but Carnival is very family oriented cruise line. There were approximately 3000 passengers on the ship, 800 of them being children. Nothing against kids, but when you want to enjoy a hot tub and don’t feel like being splashed in the face all the time by 8 children jumping in and out, you really value the kids- free zones  🙂 .

Ports of call

We had four stops and two days at sea on this week long Eastern Caribbean cruise. As mentioned earlier, the ports got changed a few weeks before the trip, but we had no choice and did not mind it too much. It was our first time in all of the islands.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS

The cruise arrived at 8 am and we had till around 4.30 pm to explore the island. Not much time and that is the main reason why we typically don’t travel by ship. I REALLY wanted to visit the wild pig island – Exumas, Bahamas and swim with the piglets. But after some research it turned out to be impossible to take a plane and another boat, and be back to the ship on time. We did not book any excursions with Carnival, but decided to explore on our own instead. First, we got out of the mayhem that the port was- everyone offering their services, shouting and trying to get your attention. We got into a cab van and for $4 per person were delivered to the Cabbage Beach. I read that it is one of the nicest  beaches in Nassau and not a very long drive away from the port.

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Cabbage Beach, Nassau, Bahamas

The beach is definitely beautiful. A bit wavy water, but clear and blue with white sand. There were a lot of local sellers offering chairs and drinks (started at $15 and when we said no, thank you, they were willing to rent them for $5). If you keep on walking and don’t mind sitting on the scarf/towel as we did, then you can enjoy the beach in peace. We did not want to be hassled, so just walked away and had a few hours of the sun, sand and sea by ourselves. Seems like a lot of cruisers chose Atlantis, casino and shopping. More beach for us 🙂 !

We had one more stop we wanted to check out in Nassau- the historical site of Queen Staircase, located close to downtown. Before heading there, we took another cab (they were lined up near the beach) and for $5 per person this time, he took us to get some lunch at the Tiki Bikini Hut.

We had some local beer, fish ceviche, burger and salads- it was not the best meal ever, but we enjoyed it more than lunch buffet on the cruise. From there it was about 15-20 min walk to the Queen’s Staircase.

It was a bit of a hike as we were warm and slightly tired from the sun, but it also allowed us to see the town a little more than we would from a taxi window. Colorful houses, clean streets- at least that’s the impression we got from the little that we saw of Nassau.

The Queen’s Staircase, is historical landmark that is located in the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex in Nassau. It was made out of solid limestone rock by slaves between 1793 and 1794 and it is said that it provided a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City.

These steps were later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned in Britain for 64 years from 1837 to 1901 and helped in abolition of the slavery in Bahamas. It’s not much to see to be completely honest, but since it’s about 10 min walk to the ship, I would say it’s worth a visit.

AMBER COVE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

After a day and night at sea (the rainy day that we spent at the spa fighting the slight sea-sickness that swaying boat was threatening us with) we arrived to sunny Amber Cove, DR. We loved the mountainous scenery in the distance!

Definitely a picturesque port! No pre- booked excursions either, but this time it was all nine of us and we wanted to be in a same vehicle,  so we got a ‘guide’/driver for the day. I think it ended up being about $15 per person, but we had a van with AC and Guillermo, who spoke English. We expressed the wish to see the town- Puerto Plata, to do some shopping (particularly for local jewelry with larimar stone that is only found in DR) and see the Fort San Felipe.

Guillermo turned out to be a very nice man, who told us about the local economy (not good at all, unemployment of 12%!), waited for us while we were shopping/eating and overall made a day trip pleasant. First he took us to the center of town, where we stopped at the church and the main square.

It’s all right, but there were some slightly pushy ‘tour guides’ offering their services. Guillermo explained to them that we are with him and somehow got one of them to tell us a bit of a history of the square.

Not too much to see around, so he brought us to the “shopping street”.  I am not sure how much of that was where main shopping was, or if the stores were his friends and family run, but they all were offering similar souvenirs and jewelry with larimar and amber. Initial prices were VERY high. So whatever you do- negotiate, bargain and don’t give up. We bought some rings, that we talked down almost 50% of the price and still I think we overpaid. But that’s ok. They look nice and hopefully will wear well.

Before going to eat lunch, Guillermo took us to the San Felipe Fort. I have to say- make a stop there if you are in Puerto Plata.

It’s well maintained and sits right near the ocean cliffs- pleasant to walk around or relax on a nearby bench.

It was turning out to be a pretty hot afternoon and we were getting hungry, so we asked the driver to take us to Malecon- the boardwalk along the ocean where I read a lot of restaurants were. He dropped us off at the place called La Carihuela, right near the Cosita Rica Beach. We were looking for the authentic Dominican Republic food, but it’s not really a place for that…After some struggles in ordering (staff spoke very little English), they came back to tell us that they don’t have rice OR beans- the two most typical ingredients in the local cuisine. We ended up with some salads, chicken and side of plantains – food was pretty good, just nothing authentic. When the bill came (around $250 for 9 people, so really not bad), the manager tried to convince us that we should pay by cash and not credit card. He insisted that ‘the government’ will charge us 18% fee on the credit card transaction. We decided to take the chance, as we have international credit cards and never been charged a fee. Did not get charged this time either. Seems like the restaurant themselves preferred cash, but in our case that didn’t work out.

We took a dip at the little beach to cool off and Guillermo took us back to the port.IMG_4686

All in all it was slightly hectic, but fun stop. I think it would nice to go back to DR for longer to explore it more thoroughly.

GRAND TURK, TURKS AND CAICOS

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Yes, that is the beautiful Governor’s Beach in Grand Turk. The best asset of the whole tiny, hurricane destroyed island! If not for this beach, we would have been totally shocked as to why Carnival decided to come to this port before the island had a chance to rebuilt. Transportation system from the port is via (taxi?) vans and is divided into sections. If you go all the way to the end of the island, where the lighthouse is, it’s $14 per person, if you go to the closer part- it’s $5 and so on. We only wanted to visit the Cockburn Town and the Governors Beach. However, there were a few other people that wanted to go all the way to the lighthouse, so we went along for the ride. As we were driving through the town it was sad to watch- some buildings were still roofless, nothing was open.. They only got the electricity back 2 weeks ago, since September (now being end of November!). We quickly changed our mind about wandering around Cockburn town- it was simply deserted and nothing to see, do or buy.

 We reached the other end of the island in about 15 minutes and you could see the ship in the far distance- that’s how small Grand Turk really is!

The lighthouse looked nice, but also deserted. The people that planned on staying there changed their mind and went to the beach with us.  On the way to Governor’s Beach we stopped at the other – Pillory Beach that used to be very nice before the hurricane hit.

There was no point of staying there- no shade, no services of any kind, just a strip of sand… Everyone was in agreement that Governor’s Beach is where we want to go. Even there, it was no working bathrooms, not a single stand, no vendors. In a way it was great for us, because we had only about twenty people on this long, beautiful beach all day.

Seems like all of the other cruisers either stayed on board or spent their day at the shops and restaurants at the port, which were newly rebuilt right after the hurricane. We had a blast in the turquoise calm, clear water and the white sand. I would say the amount of damage this island has incurred, cruise should’ve reconsidered stopping there. However, I can also easily assure you that this beach was the highlight of the whole trip. So as Lithuanians say- there is nothing that bad that would not turn out into something  good 🙂  .

PRINCESS CAYS, BAHAMAS

Our last cruise stop was a long and narrow island of Princess Cays that Carnival leases out from the Bahamas. To get to it we had to take the tender boats, because the dock was pretty small and not suitable for the big ship.

This island was for a pure and total relaxation of laying at the beach, literally right near the dock. It was pretty much an extension of the ship, just on land – Carnival staff, towels, buffet food. Not much to do, but what more does one need when you have warm water, sunny skies and a good book/great company (and cold beer 🙂 )?

 

All in all the cruise was a great idea and we all had amazing time. It was lovely having both families for dinner at the same table every night, we enjoyed the entertainment and the pre-dinner jacuzzis. Would we go with Carnival again- maybe not. I think we all had the idea that it was great for first time cruisers, but if we go again, we might look for another company and a bit more modern ship.

MIAMI -POST CRUISE

The disembarkation from the ship is pretty early- we had to leave by 8.30 am. We chose the option of walking out with our suitcases, as oppose to leaving them near the cabin the night before and collecting them at the baggage belt. It was much faster and we were out and in an Uber in no time. It was nice to know that vacation is not over just yet- we had another full day, night and half of one more day in a sunny Miami.

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We booked a night at the Gates Hotel South Beach, which had a pool and was conveniently located in a quiet South Beach area.  Not right on the beach, but we have been on plenty of beaches in the past week, so we were OK with that.

The day was spent lounging around, meeting a friend for a late afternoon snack/drink at the Delano Hotel (check it out, it is a VERY nice hotel) and taking a ride to the beach boardwalk in a ‘tuk-tuk’ provided by the hotel.

There is a really beautiful walkway along the beach- walk, run, stroll- it begins at the Indian Beach Park and goes all the way down to South Beach.

Certainly worth checking out, especially if you want to avoid the craziness that is just across the street on Ocean drive.

For the last dinner on this trip we chose The Bazaar by Jose Andres, located at the SLS Hotel. It’s a tapas place with a unique decor and food presentation. Delicious food too!

Conclusion

It was one of the most exciting, happy, emotional and extremely joyful weeks in our lives. There is so much that can go wrong planning a big event, especially the destination one. So much you have to rely on others, and just trust that it will all work out. We were extremely blessed that everything went according to plan, with only minor hiccups. Most importantly- we got married and celebrated our wedding surrounded by the closest, most loving and caring group of family and friends. Beyond grateful for this amazing experience, for all the love and support.

 

 

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