I will start by saying the reason I booked a cruise (on the Epic) is because we wanted to go back to Great Stirrup Cay. We haven't been there since 2012.
We tried to make it back in 2014 on the Sky and the port was cancelled due to high winds and it would be unsafe to go. We were so disappointed and we spent the day at sea.
So once again, we got the itching to go back and looked for a cruise that went there. We were in luck. The Epic was goin there and that's the ship that Sakari had been begging to go on since she was little and first seen it.
Well...they decided to continue with some renovations and the island was shut down to receive ships until it was completed. They invested $25 million in renovations and it was due to be completed right before our cruise. I was super excited.
They had added some new things since we were there last:
Zipline, Underwater Sculpture (Snorkeling), New Dining facility, and then the renovations continue into 2017 with additional things as well. The kids were wanting to do one of the swims with stingrays or dolphins or something (Courtney and Kolin have never done any before and neither has Brayden).
BUT.....NO.....once again, we would not make it there. THANKS MATTHEW you jerk of a hurricane. You just had to screw things up. This lovely hurricane category 5 decided it would create havoc on the Bahamas and word had it that this would now delay the renovations and they would not be open in time. Ugh
So we got word that we would be going to Nassau instead. Oh just lovely. Although we have managed to have a good time when we go there (Blue Lagoon, Melia, Sail & Snorkel excursion) it's still not one of the ports I really care for.
I had REALLY hoped that for this inconvenience, they would decide to allow us to stay a little longer in St Thomas 2 days prior. But, that didn't happen either.
I had to suck it up and make plans for Nassau instead.
We had thought about going to Blue Lagoon again (Kolin absolutely loved that place), but I really wanted to go somewhere new. I had thought about trying Balmoral Island, and there were a lot of mixed reviews for the place, but I thought I would like it and it's some place new for me and a new place to review.
So since this was almost a last minute change for NCL, they decided NOT to make any of the excursions available to us to book (which you needed in order to get to Balmoral or Blue Lagoon). I even called NCL a few times and got the response that we would need to book once we are on the ship when they could see what might be available for us, since we weren't due at this port to begin with. We were to have 4 other ships with us there (I believe), or maybe it was 5 ships but one had stayed all night and would be leaving at 8am when we were coming in (or so they said).
Wee...lucky us. All the excursions could potentially be booked up and we get the left-overs IF there are any left-overs. I guess that's the name of the game. Then someone on our roll call said they opened up reservations, a few days ahead of time, but they must have immediately closed them back down because they were all gone by the time I looked that night.
In the end, since we were unable to book prior to cruising and know for sure 1) where we were going and 2) the price, the kids just decided that they didn't really want to spend that kind of money for this day. I think the Baths and Scuba broke the bank for them.
I immediately tried searching every place that I could for a day pass that was close by the port (walking distance). Every place I found and we would all agree that it would be a good place to go and spend the day, for a decent price...they ended up being completely booked up.
I finally just gave up and said..."We are going to walk to Junkanoo and that's final. It's free transportation (our feet) and the beach is free and that's that!"
So...Junkanoo it was.
I had been here in the 80's and a lot of people talk about going here for a cheap day and easy walk. I knew exactly where I was going. Out of the port we went and to the right.
The road kind of curved out and around some buildings, but we knew we were headed the right way when we seen a sign that said Junkanoo. Once you go around that building and curve back around, Junkanoo is right down the street.
It took us 15 minutes to get there.
When we arrived, there was hardly anyone there on the beach.
We decided where we wanted to sit and of course we were immediately approached by people wanting us to rent chairs and telling us their specials. We really didn't feel like drinking (although they do have some awesome deals for chairs and drinks all day long) and the hubby is the only one that decided to get a chair. I believe it was $10 and that included a free drink. Everyone else just threw their towels down on the sand and that's where they would be for the day.
The kids immediately headed to the water.
Sakari morphed into a mermaid instantly and I hadn't even realized that she got her tail out yet. She's quick.
I had seen a few videos of snorkeling in this area and it looked pretty decent with some things to see that I hadn't seen before. So, I was determined to check this place out.
I headed to the water....OH EM GEE....it's was FREEZING cold. Wow. Such a big difference from St Thomas and Tortola. Sigh. Ok, I got this. I'm a fish. I eased myself in and told the Littles "let's go" and they followed.
We were immediately greeted by a barracuda in the distance. I noticed there were a lot of old engines thrown in the water and critters managed to claim their real estate in all of them. They also used these engines to tie a rope to, with a balloon/buoy of some sort, to float at the surface. I'm not sure what they signify since it had nothing to do with the buoys around the perimeter.
Sakari prefers to be on the bottom when snorkeling. I prefer the top with my snorkel. LOL She's always under me when I look for her.
I spotted a few yellowtail Damsel fish (there were a lot in this area). I also spotted a sea urchin and went down to retrieve it. I ask Sakari if she wanted to hold it. Her response "Nah, I've held plenty of them before" Well alrighty then miss I've done it all and it's getting old and I would rather find something new to hold. Brayden volunteered and then I totally screwed up the picture.
They had some pretty nice sized Palometos here. There was a family of striped grunts hanging out under here and there was also a Lionfish, but he wasn't coming out enough for me to get a good picture. You can see his fins poking out. Beaugregory Damselfish were in the area as well.
Back to the beach I went and the hubby was relaxing and playing a game of video cards. lol
The kids decided to build a sand castle.
I see another ship coming in the distance. Things are about to get a little more crowded. Just great. Man it looked like a massive ship. What the heck is it? It would get closer and closer and I yell "ESCAPE! THAT'S THE ESCAPE!!!" Everyone on the beach was snapping pictures of her in all her glory. This is the newest NCL ship.
She holds 166 more passengers than the Epic and is 8,727 gross tons more as well. She was massive. Remember how I've been saying that after this cruise I just feel like I would enjoy smaller ships more due to not being as crowded? Well here I am wiggling my headed back and forth and saying "Yep, that's the Escape. Yep, I have her booked next year. Yep, I'll be on that beauty" and claiming her like I was something else. (Oops, just staring at her beauty made me completely forget saying I wasn't going on bigger ships anymore).
I was so busy taking pictures of the Escape as she rolled by and Kendra goes "mom, do you see who's out in the water?" (It was Billy. We take every opportunity to make fun of Billy if he goes any where near the water).
Do you notice how he's busy looking down? He's looking for fish. He's making sure that he doesn't see any fish around him. All of a sudden he would come running out of the water AND FALL! In front of everyone. We couldn't help but laugh and I was so busy laughing (because I knew it was from seeing a fish) that I forgot to get a picture.
He knew exactly what we were laughing about too.
Ok, back to the Escape. She was now turning and was going to back into her spot...right beside the Epic. From our standpoint, she looked as if she took up the entire area. Carnival Valor was coming in too.
Ok, enough of that for now. Back to the kids and covering up the evidence that there was a mermaid on the loose.Kolin always thinks he's funny when he gives sissy a pair of tata's. A sand bath will wash your tan off.
More and more people were coming in and it was getting a little crowded. They were putting chairs up all around us and remember we only had 1 chair and the rest had towels down. Well you all know how I like to be in the front row so that I can see the Littles if I'm just sitting on the beach. Well, we decided to all move up closer so that they wouldn't put any chairs in front of us and block the view.
See how we are situated? The hubby sticking out, I was beside him, Courtney, Kendra and Billy along the back and moved back just a little, then Kolin and the kids were along the other side and the middle so that they could "play".
Kendra and I would later decide to go out and snorkel. Well, the only reason why I told you about the positioning above is that when we returned, a couple had come along and laid their blanket down right in that middle spot. Uhhhhh, really? Like they were basically right in the middle of us (their heads and upper body) and it was just plain weird. I couldn't even walk to my towel and spot without almost stepping over them and ....of course dripping ice cold water on them. Oh well....
Then Brayden had a turn at getting burried.
So like I said, we decided to walk down to almost the end of the beach and snorkel back toward the other direction. We did this because this was the direction the water/wind/flow was going and it would be easier.
When we got down to the end, there was more evidence of the hurricane there.
Kolin and Courtney came running up and said they were also going to go snorkeling with us.
The only issue was that Kolin didn't have a mask. Well, I take that back. The other issue is that, once again, Courtney is not a very good swimmer and the minute that she finds out that the water is over her head in a lot of places, she decides not to go.
I have to tell you that this place must be considered the goggle graveyard. I found more goggles here than ever before. I'm not sure what the deal was. So, I went down, got a pair of goggles and gave them to Kolin. "Ok, you're set to go now" hehe
However...these were just the eye goggles (like Sakari's Speedo's) and he would get tired of holding his breath and end up giving up after awhile...instead of just getting the goggles from Courtney and using them.
Lots of widdle ishy squishy fishy. And another barracuda watching us. They make me nervous.
Kendra is really good at spotting things that I don't see. My eyesight is not the greatest I'll admit.
She spotted a puffer fish. More of these barracudas. I seen more this day than I think I have in an entire cruise snorkeling.
There was a lot of colonies of the purple feather dusters on this in various places.
I spotted a beautiful Juvenile French Angelfish. This striped yellow and black fish will grow into a massive huge beautiful black fish with yellow marks all over it. It's amazing how these fish look so different when they are young.
Another juvenile Beaugregory and lots of schools of fish hanging out everywhere. The Beaugregorys are so pretty, but feisty little fish, and you can find them in colors that resemble blue or purple on the top. The sad part is, once they mature, they really aren't that pretty anymore and seem to lose most of these amazing colors. I seen a Spotfin Butterflyfish, which was really weird to only see one of these. You usually see them in a pair.
Ok I have to show you this amazing macro picture I managed to get. For some reason I decided to change the settings on my camera to macro and I ended up with a pretty sweet picture.
So here's the reason I never do macro pictures....
On my Olympus 620 and 830, if you put them on macro, what it does is ZOOM into what you are pointing it at. I kept trying to use it when we were in Grand Turk and getting pictures of this octopus and I would dive down and take a picture only to find out that it would get the eyeball or chop half the picture off. So, when I started noticing this, I would stay up at the top of the water, turn on macro, and take the picture and it would just give me a close up. If you tried to take a macro picture (like on land) of something, it had a hard time focusing if you were right up on it. You had to pull back a bit for it to focus. So, I finally gave up on close up shots and if there was really something I wanted you to see closer, I would just crop it.
HOWEVER, the macro on this TG4 is pretty amazing. I did try out a few macro shots before leaving for vacation and it was just awesome. But, I didn't think to use it while on vacation because I was so use to not using macro. This would be my first and last attempt and I have to say I'M IN LOVE. I will be practicing this more for any upcoming cruises or "dives". hehe
We had made it around a few piers and the further you got, the worse the visibility was. So, we decided to call it quits. Kendra gave me this look of "Do we really have to swim back? I'm tired". We decided to get out and walk the beach back instead.
We spotted the family up on the pier.
When I made it back to our spot, I noticed Sakari was hanging on the side of the pier and looking like she was going to jump. She's such a daredevil and as tired as I was from snorkeling for so long, I headed back out into the water to use my negotiation skills to talk her down off the ledge.
Sakari gave me her mermaid pose and then Brayden appeared as if he was going to jump. It would be a double jumper alert.
Sakari jumped off the pier and along came Brayden after her.
The last time we were here at Junkanoo was in 1998 I believe and on Royal Caribbean. Kendra was 10 years old at the time and we did a cruise with her entire gymnastics team. They held a competition in Florida and then the next day the entire team and their families went on a cruise. We had no idea what there was to do here and it was long before the internet so...we just got off and started walking around.
We would come to this beach and it was a small beach with nothing there. We didn't even have our bathing suits.
I would take a picture of Kendra standing in the water
with the ships in the background. Kendra wanted to
recreate this same picture...18 years later. However,
she couldn't figure out what pose she had done.
Oh yea, maybe it was this pose.
It had to be some type of "cutesy" pose...
we know that for sure because Kendra has
always had the same personality.
When we got home, we would discover she was all wrong. But hey, at least we got something right?
Everyone started saying they were hungry and I ask if they wanted to eat there or head back to the ship. Kendra had other plans. She wanted to go to Senor Frogs for lunch. She really liked the spaghetti meal that she got when we were in San Juan and wanted Billy to try it out. He loves Italian and pasta. So...we would gather our things and head out.
Goodbye Junkanoo. We had a decent time here and you are pretty for a cheap day. The hubby would head to the bar and use his one free drink coupon and bring me an alcoholic drink from the bar for the walk back. Great, just what I need while trying to walk. But I appreciated it and drank it all the way back.
We headed away from the beach and back the exact way we came. My camera had foggylens syndrome going on from the cold water snorkeling I'm sure and not it was hot. We were completely spread out and I think Kendra was on a mission to get there quickly...the reason why? Because it was a little after 1pm and she had to check in for her plane flight tomorrow. Flying with Southwest, you check in 24 hours in advance and if you want a good position, you need to have all your info up and ready to "push da easy button" the minute 24 hours in advance arrives. So, she wanted to hurry and get to Senor Frogs to get wifi so that she could check in. Us....however, we always by the early bird check in and never worry about it. We were dragging way behind.
She was completely out of site by now and as always...we always manage to get stuck with B. I wonder if she even realizes he's not with her.
I was staring at McD's like it was foreign and I needed to try it. It felt like ages since I had a hamburger. However, Kendra just had her heart set on Senor Frogs and Spaghetti.
I think Billy decided him racing to Senor Frogs would not help with the check in process and he started to lag behind and we caught up to him.
Along the way, people on the corner, at the restaurant right before you get to Senor Frogs, was really working hard trying to keep people from going to Senor Frogs. He walked with us and went on and on about how they were so much cheaper there and we would be paying $15 for a drink at Senor Frogs compared to their pricing and we would end up walking out of SF with a $100 drink bill alone. He finally shut up when I said "Well the good news is, we don't drink so I guess I effectively just brought that $100 alcohol bill down to $0 GO ME!" He shut up and walked away.
We seen Kendra walking around frantically and then she disappeared for awhile. All of a sudden, I seen her dart out of SF and she yells, "THERE'S NO WIFI HERE!!!" and she is in a state of panic. She tells me she's going back down the street and around the corner where she seen there was free wifi and she'd be back. She was gone for quite some time...and we proceeded (after awhile) to just go on in Senor Frogs to eat...she would later find us and all was good.