Category Archives: Troy’s Blog

A Travel Reminder From Japan


The recent natural events in Japan have gained and required the world’s attention and reminded us that there are events that are beyond anything we can control. Forces of nature will eventually test what people have built and the political choices (or lack thereof) that have been made beyond what has been conceived. These earthquakes and tsunamis have physically altered Japan permanently and even altered time even if only a miniscule fraction. In some cases travelers are reminded of a place they have visited which now will never be the same as it was when they were there. People often use the phrase “SOMEDAY”. Well, for those who may have wanted to visit parts of Northern Japan, someday can never come. At least for those that wanted to experience Northern Japan as it use to be.


There are a number of events that can often change a destination that we may want to travel to such as natural disasters and more often political or religious tensions. Such examples include the Soviet Union splitting apart into several different countries or East and West Germany uniting into one country. Volcanoes erupt creating new landscapes, hurricanes destroy places, and rain can wipe away hillsides. It is easy to take for granted that a country will still be there tomorrow or a mountain will stay has it always has appeared. As we continue to gain experience one thing becomes more evident all the time – The world is constantly changing.


One of the lessons from the natural disasters in Japan is to make plans to experience an area of the world of your choosing instead of planning on going someday. This doesn’t mean that you should make plans to travel immediately if that does not fit into your budget or commitments. It does mean to put together a plan to travel including a potential budget needed, paperwork required such as visas and/or passports, and most importantly a date. At the very least putting together this plan increases the likelihood that you will be able to experience a new destination instead of someday which never comes. We can’t control this changing world and yes we can still miss seeing someplace as it is today but at least by putting together a plan, there is a greater chance of getting there.

There is another effect. I believe that those who have ventured into a foreign land and witnessed traditions of a culture other than their own experience the news and videos of Japan differently. Traveling to a foreign land teaches us that while there are many different beliefs we are all similar in many ways. These similarities are often not broadcast on news programs or in newspapers but people who have traveled have found a number of resemblances. We all need to eat and sleep and want to give our children the best that we can. Methods of communication and our personal beliefs based on what we have learned in life are different but the fact that we communicate in one form or another and have beliefs based on personal experiences binds us together.


Travelers have witnessed this first hand and this gives us a different perspective on the tragedies of Japan and how people there are affected and respond to it. We all are reacting to these events differently. One aspect to keep in mind is there is something to learn from every situation. For travelers, if there is a destination of interest make a plan to get there and stop saying someday.

The Top 5 Best Parts of Our Travels to South Florida


There are a lot of great memories from our recent adventure to Miami and the Caribbean. Here are the top 5:

Peace sign made out of coconuts in Key West
A Peace Sign Made Out of Coconuts In Key West

#5: The Beautiful Florida Keys. Whenever travel to southern Florida is mentioned, the keys are often talked about or written about and have been a destination that has intrigued me for several years. This seemed like a good time to see why they are mentioned. Our first official key was visited in Biscayne National Park however during our driving adventure we arrived in Key Largo first. I never knew how close Miami was to Key Largo. It seemed a lot further on the maps I was looking at. There was a lot of activity and traffic heading back towards Miami. It was Sunday night so we thought it was just people who were returning home after a weekend in the keys. As it turns out, there was a Seafood Festival taking place and we arrived just as it was ending. Continuing south I was amazed at how many islands actually make up the Florida Keys. It was great to experience all of these keys and the number of bridges with people fishing from them. Driving on the seven mile bridge was interesting as this is a well known expanse of road. We finally arrived in Key West just after sunset. While in Key West we drove around the key, watched people get off of a cruise ship (so many people it was difficult to drive), took our pictures at the Southern Most Point Monument, and found lunch on the beach. One other memorable part of Key West was standing on a pier getting our last views of the water on this island when a stingray swam right next to the pier, stopped, and covered itself with sand waiting for its next meal. We all had a great time on our visit to the Florida Keys.

An American Alligator One of the Many American Alligators We Saw

#4: Alligators, Crocodiles, and Manatees Ohh My! While we were in Everglades National Park, our main goal was to see a manatee. Not really knowing much about alligators and crocodiles, I was a little nervous about running into one. In an effort to face this nervousness, we participated in an alligator talk to learn more and possibly see one. Not only did we see one, we saw over 20 of them in one afternoon. During our time in the Everglades we also were able to see crocodiles and witness firsthand the subtle differences between the American alligator and the American crocodile. Our mission to see a manatee began to appear as though we wouldn’t accomplish this goal as time was running short and we needed to leave to get to our next destination. The last opportunity was to join a ranger program on manatees and hope the park ranger had better luck than we did. During the program, the ranger was looking for a manatee in the spot one was last observed but with no success. Finally, a manatee was spotted and gave us several opportunities for pictures although we had to be quick as it only surfaced long enough to exchange oxygen and then quickly re-submerged. Having met our goals of seeing some of the local wildlife, there was a sense of satisfaction as we left the park. I certainly could have spent several more days exploring but the time there was fulfilling.

A Stingray Kiss
We Also Had the Chance to Kiss a Stingray

#3: A stingray massage takes this spot. For the short time we were in Grand Turk we enjoyed a snorkeling excursion. This was Kristy’s first time snorkeling and Lysa’s first time going off of a boat. It was a lot of fun watching them swim around the reef and watch the corals and fish in a natural setting. Once our time at the reef was complete, our excursion took us to an island to play with the local stingrays. After watching them swim in and out of our feet, one of the stingrays was caught to allow us to take pictures with it and then get a stingray massage. It was an interesting adventure.

Being pushed by a dolphin
Being Pushed by a Dolphin

#2: Our greatest experience was swimming with the dolphins. I absolutely believe this was a once in a lifetime experience. Just remembering the dolphin swim puts a smile on my face. Personally being able to touch dolphins and go dolphin skiing was amazing. The only way an adventure such as this could get better is to be able to watch your spouse and children do it also. Seeing the exhilaration on their faces as the dolphins swam right next to them and popped their heads out of the water to say hello was remarkable. The huge smiles we all had after skiing with the dolphins is a memory all of its’ own. This experience is one that has been talked about over and over again since we did it. The kids love to share videos with friends and watching their expressions helps to realize what a lifetime event it was.

Traveling with family
Traveling with Family

#1: This may seem a little cliché but the number one part of our travels was being able to share this adventure with family. We were fortunate to be able to go on this trip with four other family members in addition to the four of us. There are experiences that we can share and talk about for the rest of our lives. There were certainly some challenges in trying to see and do as much as possible with a larger group as each person has their own interests. I believe all of us got a lot of enjoyment out of our travels together if at the very least we escaped winter for ten days. What great memories for Kristy and Lysa to be able to share as they get older and remember this adventure.

Has Winter Overstayed Its’ Welcome?

Orchid Collection
Spring is Coming!

I decided to get a little off topic this week as I just have not been myself lately and thought a good rant may be entertaining.  At this time of year I hear almost daily how tired people are of winter and how they just want the snow to be gone.  This does not include everyone as there are a number of people who love ice fishing, riding snow mobiles, skiing, and several other cold weather activities. Early springtime weather can provide some of the best days with warmer temperatures and more daylight hours.  In addition, as the weather warms up, nature also becomes more active with the animals out enjoying the warmth as they search for tidbits to eat, play, and look for their summers home.  Myself… I’m more of a summer type of person and I think all this cold and snow has finally gotten to me. 

More Snow
Snowing Again!

It all started about two weeks ago.  I lost all interest in participating in many of the activities that I usually enjoy, including this website.  There are many hours spent each week on the computer writing posts, maintaining and upgrading, reading other travel websites, participating in social media, ect…  In addition, there are numerous activities during the week when you have younger children as any parent can attest to.  Surprisingly there was one item on my daily list that still held some interest and that was feeding the fish in our aquariums and maintaining those aquariums.  Knowing this could help determine the cause of my lack of interest in most other activities. What does a person do when they lose all interest in daily and weekly activities?

A nice view during the Winter

Well, for me apparently I become obsessed with orchids.  It didn’t matter what kind of orchid.  All I wanted to do was learn about and acquire orchids.  Tropical orchids… hardy orchids… native orchids…  (Did you know there are orchids native to the coldest parts of the United States?) It didn’t matter because orchids became my passion and every free minute I wanted to spend researching them or acquiring them and still could not satisfy my desire and alleviate a lack of interest in other things.  In all fairness, I am a horticulturalist so working with plants is not that big of a leap. Also, I did go through a little orchid craze a number of years ago in college but it was definitely not as consuming as this one was/is. It certainly did not help to have an orchid specialist about five minutes away that breeds and collects unique orchids and then grows them up for sale. 

Native Ladyslipper
One of our popular native orchids

Oh ya, there was another part to this craziness.  All I wanted to eat and drink was candy and colas.  Not sure where the sugar frenzy came from.  I resisted this as much as I could and tried to consume healthier foods but my success rate was fairly low for a few days. 

One of the Aquisitions

I like to learn, experience new things, and create new challenges so wanting to learn more about orchids and accept the challenge to grow them and flower them would be normal for me.  Becoming absolutely obsessed is a bit extreme. After about 10 days, I tried to understand what the cause could be.  I came up with a few possibilities.  Winter has grown very long and has been unusually cold with a lot of snow so seeing flowers could be a way to deal with that. Although at work I see flowers every day so not sure this makes sense.  A mid-life crisis may be brewing. This obsession has seemed to be tamed with the purchase of a few specific orchids and I wouldn’t expect that to compensate for a mid-life crises.  This could however explain the sugar frenzy. Can a mid-life crisis occur and end over a two week span? Maybe I just needed to add to my list of hobbies.  NOT LIKELY! 

Another Aquisition

I believe the most likely scenario is the long winter explanation.  The fact that I still enjoyed our aquariums which include fish and plants leads me to believe that I’m feeling confined inside and ready to get outside with a nice green landscape. Orchids just happen to have my attention and present a challenge at this time that I believe I can achieve. Still not sure about the sugar frenzy and how that fits in. 

The One That Satisfied the Craze

What’s your solution to a long, cold, and snowy winter? (By the way, it is snowing again while I write this  :-(

A Vacation Post Mortem

The Only Way to Fly

What exactly do you mean by a traveling post mortem? This is something that is done by almost everyone with ever realizing it. For most people this is done by simply unpacking from a vacation, putting away any souvenirs, and looking over their photos. It’s a great way to remember all of those memories you created and experiences that you have to share for years to come all the while wishing you could be back on vacation. I take my vacation post mortems a little further.

Heading Out to Sea

I like to see how many miles we flew, drove, and walked during our adventure. Trip cost get broken down into categories such as hotels, meals, car rental and gas, airfare and luggage, park entrance fees, souvenirs, and any other miscellaneous expenses related to each trip. If I remember to reset the trip information on my GPS I will also record average speed, max speed, hours moving, and hours stopped. I put all of this information into a document for each adventure we take. What is the purpose of keeping track of all this information?

Relaxing on the Beach

There are a couple of reasons that this information if kept track of. First of all, it’s interesting to see how many miles we travel and how those miles are traveled. Also, it’s always a good idea to make sure costs add up with receipts and whatever method is used to pay for those items. Portions of vacations are paid for at different times which makes keeping track of all those costs a little more challenging. After a few of these adventures I can average out the costs per trip giving me an idea of how much I need to save in order to cover the costs of any upcoming vacations.

Looking Below the Surface

This was an idea giving to me from a family member a number of years ago. I didn’t fully appreciate the benefits of doing this at the time and decided it was more work than I wanted to take on after a trip. Once we started traveling our Monopoly National Parks edition, the decision was made to track costs along with some other travel information. So what where some of the stats from this last adventure:

Miles Traveled:
By air: 2,222 miles
By sea: 1,197 miles
By car: 732 miles
By foot: 11 miles
Total Miles: 4,162

Wow! Now that I look at the numbers to think we did all those miles in only 10 days. Let’s take out the air miles and that leaves us with 1960 miles in 10 days. That is 196 miles per day and I know there were days that we did less than 50 miles such as 2 of those days while we flew to Florida and back from Florida. That leaves us with 232 miles per day taking out 100 miles for the two air travel days and dividing 1860 by 8 days. Either way you look at it, it’s about 200 miles per day either by sea, car, or walking. That leaves a lot of things to see each day.

Playing with the Dolphins

(Please excuse me for a few moments while I go shovel the driveway as we are getting another blizzard.)

Returning to the City

O.K. got the first wave of snow cleared from the driveway. Now, where was I? Ohh ya, our Florida trip post mortem. I was recently going through our pictures. We ended up taking over 700 pictures. It certainly would be nice to be back in those locations on this snowy day. That’s an advantage to the digital age in cameras – if you are unsure about taking a certain photo take it. You can always erase it later but you are not likely to have the opportunity to take the exact picture again. I rarely erase a photo. It really doesn’t cost me anything extra to save the picture on a cd or dvd with all of my other pictures. Who knows, I may want that picture again someday or just enjoy viewing it and remembering the experience associated with it.

Remembering the Sunny Caribbean

A post mortem of an adventure helps to solidify the memories created on that adventure and will become more valuable to you as each year passes and you want to recall a detail or two about the many adventures you’ve been on. This will also help in budgeting for future vacations and give you an idea of where you spend the most or least during a trip. If you really need to reduce costs you can see which categories are the highest and work on ways of reducing that category or categories. A thorough trip analysis can also help determine what you could do differently that would make the next adventure more meaningful, enjoyable, and memorable!


Driving the Florida Keys

On the Way to Key West

The Last part of our trip had arrived. I have seen US 1 on several movies and have been intrigued by the length of bridges connecting the different keys. Also, I wanted to see Key Largo and Key West. Like much of our vacation, we only had a short time to experience the keys. In order to see where we were going we left Everglades National Park mid-afternoon. Entering Key Largo the Seafood Festival was just wrapping up so there were a lot of people heading back towards their cars to return home giving us the opportunity to look around as we drove slowly through the key. As the drive continued, I was surprised at how much of this highway was built on ground instead of over the water. The other thing that surprised me was how shallow the water was all around us.

Long Bridges Separating the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean

As we continued towards Key West there were more bridges with some impressive stretches over water including the famous seven mile bridge. It could not have been a nicer day with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The timing of this drive could also not have been better because as we neared Key West the sun was setting giving us a beautiful view of some of the keys surrounded by the ocean. We arrived at Key West right as the darkness overtook the island so there wasn’t much for to see on this day. Anticipation for exploring the island in the morning was building however it was a long day and rest was much needed. This was our second to last night in the warm Florida weather so I took a few moments to step outside our hotel room and feel the ocean breeze and gaze up at the stars shining brightly. The night sky was the most beautiful star lit sky we witnessed during our entire trip and there were some nice nights to star gaze from our cruise ship.  

A Watching Beautiful Starfish While on a Leisurely Stroll

The next morning started with breakfast outside on the hotel patio while taking care of a few things on the computer. A reminder of what summer is like and how much I enjoy it. Following breakfast, we took a stroll by the ocean smelling the ocean air and watching the ebb and flow of the water as it crashed against the shore. Upon returning to the hotel we packed up and got ready to leave when something to one of our cars was noticed as being out of place. Further inspection showed that some trim around a passenger door window was bent out indicating that someone had tried to break into the car overnight. This was disappointing and delayed our leaving the hotel as we examined for anything missing even though there wasn’t much left in the car to take and notified both the hotel and local police. We certainly weren’t going to let this ruin our adventures in the keys. 

The Southern Most Point Monument

One highlight of Key West that was on the top of our priority was to see the Southern Most Point of the continental U.S. We had a fun experience to be at this monument and share this moment with the entire group traveling together. Once the pictures were taken (we did have to wait in line a few minutes to get these pictures) it was off to find a souvenir or two. Irony hit us in this quest as we neared a number of stores we couldn’t find a place to park and even had difficulty navigating the streets as there were so many people crowding Key West due to a cruise ship that was docked for the day. A great perspective of how much of an impact a cruise ship can have on a port and what impact we had at each of our destinations on our recent cruise experience. The decision was made to abort the souvenir portion and head to the beach in search of a restaurant. Success was had in this objective as we enjoyed our food in an open air restaurant watching the people stroll on the beach with the ocean in the background.

Can You See the Tail and Eyes of the Stingray?

After lunch we had time for a stroll along the beach and on to one of the piers allowing the opportunity to smell the ocean and hear the waves as they crash into the sandy shore. On our way out to the end of the pier we spotted several fish and a sailboat or two. Now for the toughest part of the day, the return to the car knowing it was time to head back to Miami to get ready to leave the Florida sun in exchange for ice and snow. As we walked back towards shore like condemned souls we noticed a stingray swimming by. The stingray slowed and eventually stopped and began burying itself in the sand waiting for its next prey. As we watched, it was evident that the stingray was also watching us because the longer we observed the more sand it buried itself in. This completed our experience on Key West and gave me a sense of satisfaction and completion of our adventure along the keys. Now back towards Key Largo and on to Miami.

One of Beautiful Resident Chickens

A Taste of the Everglades


An Everglades Sunset
Is this the result of crocodiles?

Eventually we wandered into the visitor center to peruse the displays and ask a ranger for the best chance to see some crocodiles and perhaps a manatee.The everglades are the only place in the country where alligators and crocodiles overlap. We were given a location and immediately headed for the recommendation. Scouring the water from shore we became more and more disappointed as there were none in sight. As we continued to explore, a crocodile was sighted although we weren’t convinced that it was a live crocodile because there was no movement for a long time. I think the only movement for about an hour and a half was opening its eyes. This crocodile kept it mouth open for that entire time which seemed unusual for a live animal. Later we found out that this is one way for a crocodile to regulate its temperature.

A Crocodile Resting on a Branch

Early in the afternoon there was a ranger program about manatees which we decided to attend. While waiting for this program, a nest above the visitor center was spotted where an osprey was feeding its young. Another satisfying discovering on this great adventure!

Sighting a Manatee

The manatee program got underway with some great information about manatees such as their resemblances to elephants and the amount of food required for this animal to survive. Manatees are able to live in fresh or saltwater and their largest predator is a propeller from boats. After taking in this information, we headed to the area suggested for sighting a manatee and searched and searched to no luck. Then out of the dark water emerged a manatee surfacing for air. Once sighted, we were able to see this animal a number of times. Satisfied that we had accomplished what we had set out to do, it was time to leave Everglades National Park and continue our adventure to the Florida Keys and Key West.

An Anhinga Hiding

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Cruisen the Caribbean

Mesmerized by the Motion of the Water

Time for the R and R portion of this trip/vacation.  The beds are made and the food is prepared and all within a short distance from wherever you are on the ship. The first day was a full day at sea watching the clouds drift by and the waves go up and down.  Unfortunately the waves went up and down a little more than desired rocking the ship back and forth due to the higher winds.  That just meant holding on to whatever you are carrying very tightly anytime you’re outside.  It’s amazing just how quickly we can adapt to a different environment.  We landed in Miami and left all the thoughts of snow and ice at home and immediately transitioned into the green grass and open water where the birds were singing and the fish frolicking around boats and rocks in search of their daily fill.

A Great Tropical View

We left the Port of Miami to hundreds of police cars, motorcycles, and boats with their lights flashing as they were honoring two of their fallen officers.  It was truly humbling to see the respect and honor given to those killed in the line of duty.  As part of that respect, our ship left dock without the familiar sound of the horn blown three times signaling our departure.  Then it was off to the Caribbean waters for a day of sun and sea.  While Lysa and Kristy enjoyed the pool, the rest of us took advantage of the time for some conversation and to soak in our surroundings.

Playing with the Stingrays

Our first stop was Grand Turk of the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We only had a small number of hours at this location so quickly got off the ship as soon as we arrived to take in what we could.  There was a little time in a few nearby stores, learning about the Mercury 7 splashdown, burying our feet in the incredibly soft sand, snorkeling above a local reef, and kissing a stingray. All of this in the short 7 ½ hours we had on shore at Grand Turk.  On to Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. This is a private island only for guests of the cruise ship.  We spent some time snorkeling off the beach and then exploring this small island full of beautiful landscapes. Our third and final destination was the capital city of the Bahamas – Nassau. This was our longest stop of the cruise but also seemed to move the fastest.  After conquering the taxi and hair braiding gauntlet, we had the opportunity to quickly explore a few stores near the pier. Then it was off to swim with the dolphins for the rest of our time in Nassau. It was an amazing experience to spend some time this close to these very friendly (and well trained) animals.

Up Close with the Dolphins

Leaving Nassau we were quickly confronted with reality that this was our last night aboard the ship and it was time to pack for disembarkation.  While enjoying our evening meal we spent much of the time trying to figure out how to bring our server and room steward home with us.  The thought of not having them around was more than we could tolerate. Well, there was no viable solution so we decided to concentrate on our next destination – The Everglades.

Half Moon Cay

Travel Preparations

Getting Ready to Leave for Miami

Preparing for a family trip of 10 days is no simple task. There are many things that need to be taken care of while we are away. We began making arrangements several weeks ago so that things are taken care of while we are away. Enjoying the company of pets has its price. They have to be taken care of when we’re not here. Fortunately we have family members in the area and one of them has agreed to live at our house during our travels. Other items that needed to be planned weeks or even a few months ago where snow removal so our guest can move a car out of the driveway in the event of a significant snowfall and water changes for our fish. We have a few larger aquariums to maintain so scheduling water changes to compensate for our time away is part of our travel preparations. I planned out when the first water changes could happen when we return and worked backwards to determine which aquariums needed to be changed at which dates to provide the best environment as possible. Some of those fish tanks only need to be changed once a month while others need to be changed every week and a half.

Checking It Twice

Getting closer to the actual travel dates bring many more items to take care of. Mental packing lists and items needed for our trip help so that when it’s packing time we have everything we want to bring with us. Many people actually write down a list of items to pack however we choose to make it a little more interesting by just using mental lists. Fortunately we have gained experience over the years and have a good idea of what we need to have and items that if we forget, there are places at our destinations that we can get them. In order to get this experience, we have forgotten many things and have figured out how to improvise. Essential medications are probably the most important item to bring as they can be difficult to get especially if traveling out of the country. I place cameras as a high priority item however as they have gotten less expensive over the years they become less important. Things such as toothpaste or socks can easily be replaced at most destinations.

Do We Have Everything?

A week out and our travel documents should probably be printed out as our arrangements are all made online. It’s surprising to me how much paper we go through with all of the air, hotel, car, and cruise documents that we need. I’m bringing a small book of reservations! There are a few tours we know right now that we want to participate in so we booked those. That adds to the small book so we have confirmation numbers, times, dates, addresses, and telephone numbers that we may need. These documents are always kept in our carry on so that they are with us all the time. Other information that is often helpful is telephone numbers for credit card companies, emergency contacts, and personal physicians in case something happens and medical information if needed, not necessarily in that order.

Looking Ahead

Packing for a 10 day trip takes almost a full day after clothes have been laundered and missing items acquired. The first part includes deciding appropriate dress for the destinations we’re going. In order to gage this we look at the extended forecast for each place we will be spending time. This has changed how we pack more than once. Initially we may be planning on bringing more summer attire and then check the forecast for a specific area and realize that it is not expected to be as warm as we thought it would be. Getting each person’s items for each part of the trip and putting all of those items together into a pile is the next thing we do. Once we know how much we are trying to put into a few suitcases, these piles can be organized and packed using every bit of space as efficiently as possible. Socks can be put into shoes and other open crevices. We add small items inside our snorkel flippers and masks to help increase efficient use of space to reduce the amount of luggage we have to carry through the airport and into hotels. As we are packing our suitcases, we always remember more items that we need/want to bring. The final piece to packing for an extended week trip is to get the suitcase closed. I have had to sit on a suitcase to close it a few times. Once it is closed, each suitcase is wheeled to our bathroom scale and weighed to get a general idea of how heavy it is. If it is too close to being considered heavy by the airlines we will do some adjusting to reduce the weight which I have also done a time or two.

Is This All We Have?

I think all of our travel documents have been printed off and placed in the carry-on and our bags are about 90% packed.  Come Friday night we should be ready to go without staying up most of the night packing.  We have spent many nights before a trip packing and I do what I can to eliminate this as I like to get a full nights rest before traveling.  That may be the last full night for a week as there is no place like home for a comfortable place to sleep.

The Caribbean

Which One is Ours?

As we continue planning our Caribbean cruise portion, it has been duly noted that none of these locations are on the board.  We have declared it alright to take some side trips and add destinations as we are able to and desire to. When plans were being made on how to travel our National Parks Monopoly board we saw the Florida Everglades and planned on adding a cruise to this property.  What was unexpected was adding Biscayne National Park and a drive through the keys.  In order to accomplish all of these places and at least get an introduction to them we had to compromise and shorten the length of the cruise.  Our Eastern Caribbean cruise was chosen because there are 3 stops on a 5 day cruise, 2 of which we have never been to before.

Our first stop is to Grand Turk after a fun day at sea.  While researching some of the attractions of this location, I was surprised to learn that this is where John Glenn was taken after he splashed down in the Atlantic.  He also trained at the US Air Force Base and space tracking station located on Grand Turk.  We are expected to be in port a little over 7 hours.  Looking through some of the excursions offered by the cruise line, this should be enough time to enjoy one excursion and still provide time to do some exploration and shopping.  There are many references to the coral reefs around this island and the chance at seeing humpback whales as they migrate for the winter.

Getting Immersed In Aquatic Life

Next on the itinerary is Half Moon Cay (Little San Salvador Island) in the Bahamas. The revues of this stop have all raved about how nice the beach is with beautiful sand, crystal clear blue Caribbean water, and very friendly people.  Half Moon Cay is all about the sand and the water.  There really is nothing else on the island to see.  Perfect!!  Fishing, snorkeling, diving, and playing in the sand sounds like a great way to spend a vacation day.  Snorkeling and an encounter with stingrays top our list of excursions at this island.  Becoming immersed in the coral and colorful fish allow your mind to forget all of the facets of daily life and concentrate on the creatures beneath.  Little San Salvador Island has a protected area of stingrays where you can interact with them and feed them.  Watch out for the Stingray hickey!  Afterwards, taking a few minutes to bury your feet in the white, soft sand would be great way to end the day at Half Moon Cay.

Our final stop in the Caribbean is Nassau, Bahamas.  Watch out as you disembark from the ship or the hair braiders will get you. Fortunately there is much for them to work with on my head. There are many different experiences to be had at this location.  Those who enjoy gambling have a plethora of casinos in which to spend their day.  There are a number of pirate themed adventures that can be entertaining and educational as you discover the history of Nassau. For me, I prefer to be outside exploring nature and enjoying the warmth of the sun.  There are snorkeling, diving, fishing, and boating trips available for a day full of sun.  For us, one of the new experiences we would like to explore is swimming with the dolphins. I’ve tried to do this before but unfortunately the trip was canceled or altered due to weather.  Hopefully this time will be different.

Riding Off In the Sunset

After a short time back on the ship we will be back in Miami going through customs and re-entering the United States for the last part of our trip.  Fortunately we will still have a few days in Miami so that we don’t have to go from the warm Caribbean to the cold upper mid-west.  After getting off the ship, we get to take another property off of our National Parks Monopoly board – the Everglades and then off to the Keys.

Another Board to Travel

Chocolate Edition Board

Over the holidays we have found another board to add to the list of “Boards Traveling”.  This one should be quite easy as it is the Monopoly Chocolate Edition.  The board itself has all of the same properties as the original game but the rest of the pieces are different.  There is a spinner and the deeds/chance cards.  In this edition, the deeds and chance cards are made of chocolate. 

Board and Pieces

Monopoly Chocolate Edition is probably one of the easiest and fastest editions to play.  The rules are as follows:

1. Place the board and the spinner on the table
2. The host spins first. If the spinner lands on a colored square, the player can take a chocolate of the same (street) color from the box and put in on the board on a street square of the same color.  Then it is the next player’s turn.
3. If the spinner stops on a square with a question mark, a similar chocolate is placed in the bank.
5. If the spinner stops on the Free Parking square, the player may take ALL chocolates from the bank.
6. Once the last chocolate belonging to a color on the board street has been placed, the next player to spin this color may take ALL the chocolates of that color.
7. As soon as all streets and all stations have been distributed, the player who has won the most chocolates wins!  The winner may also eat any chocolates left in the bank.

Chocolae Deeds and Chance Cards


This game is for 2 – 4 players.  That could be a lot of chocolate for 1 person if they are playing a 2 person game as there are 32 pieces.  I think we will wait for a couple of months to travel this board as there are plenty of holiday treats still around. 

There have been other chocolate versions created such as Chocolate – Opoly which is dedicated to chocolate aficionados. Then there was the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Monopoly Edition which was made entirely of chocolate including the board, deeds, and hotels.  This edition was sold in 1978 for $600.00 according to Apparently there were only 25 of the Neiman Marcus editions made.  I would have to have a fairly large gathering in order to eat all of that chocolate.  Finishing a complete game must have been near impossible due to pieces missing (eaten). What a great conversation piece though.

Chocolate Edition Box

This edition of Monopoly may not be quite as chocolaty as the Neiman Marcusedition; it doesn’t come with that kind of price tag either.  I believed that there was a Monopoly edition for everyone before with all that have been made over the past 75 years.  Now I’m convinced with the making of chocolate versions!