Get the most out of your Bahamian Cruise

Going on a Bahamas Cruise soon? Want to know how to have the time of your life AND save money?? You’re reading the right blog! I went on my very first cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines (which is the best cruise line for thrifty travelers), and I have compiled a list of my top favorite tips and tricks for you. My cruise destinations were Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and Nassau, Bahamas. Be advised, I do not yet have children, so my tips are geared more toward singles and couples traveling without kiddos.

#1. Choose the “your time” dining option

I feel like this should be a given, but apparently some people like to put themselves on a schedule when they vacation. I am not one of those people. When you book with Carnival, you get the option to dine early (I think it is 5:30pm), or dine on your time (whenever you want!). Here’s the thing: if you spend all day on an island soaking up the sun, jetskiing, snorkeling, drinking, touring, etc., you’re going to be POOPED when you get back on the ship. Your time dining was a fantastic choice for me because I didn’t have to rush to dinner right after re-boarding. I had time to shower, nap, shop, have a glass of wine, take a few selfies.

#2. Yes, you can sneak “fun juice” in your luggage

My friends and I were reluctant to try this one. We’re not really rule breakers, but we also didn’t love the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on adult beverages. So, we took a risk on some of those “hidden” flasks that are made to look like every day items. I don’t want to ruin it for everyone by sharing specifically what my container was, but trust me, just google or amazon search “hidden alcohol.” You’ve got plenty of options. Happy Saving!

#3. Be the first one off the ship!

I have 3 reasons for this important tip: One, you won’t have to wait in line to disembark. I’m an impatient person, so if there is any way to avoid waiting in a line, I’m sold! Two, there is a limited number of taxis waiting at port to take passengers to their different destinations. Again, my impatience wins, and being first off the boat means I also don’t have to wait for a taxi. Three, you will have more time to explore. This is especially important in Nassau, as the big attraction is Atlantis. By being first off the boat, my friends and I had time to play some slots, visit the aquarium, get lost in the vast landscape of Atlantis, run around the famous Atlantis water park, AND soak up the sun on their private beaches.

#4. Do NOT be late!

The ship leaves on time, every time. With hundreds of passengers up on the deck, we watched a family running to the dock as the ship left them behind in Freeport. It was all the gossip at dinner that evening.

#5 Skip the excursions

If you’re just trying to relax on your vacation and not stress about time or money, this tip is for you. My friends and I passed on booking any excursions for multiple reasons. First, they were all so expensive! Second, we really wanted to take our time just exploring the islands. Third, they sell excursions on the ship and on site, so if we ever changed our minds, we had plenty of options.

#5. The party’s at Junkanoo Beach

Like I mentioned above, we did not book any excursions on our cruise, so when we disembarked in Freeport, we left it up to the taxi driver to determine our destination. HA! Do not do this. We ended up at an empty shack on a strip of 20 square feet of beach. There was no music, no other guests, one employee, and just barely enough sand between the shack and the water to lay down a towel. As we sat there contemplating what our next move would be, we heard the faint sound of music. Less than a quarter mile away, we could see what looked like a tiki bar, palm trees, beach chairs, people, and FUN. I’d even go so far to say it looked like the sun was shining brighter on that part of the beach. So we make the 5 minute walk over, and discover Junkanoo Beach. What a difference! There was music, dancing, excited bartenders, and even an emcee. This is also where I was crowned “Limbo Queen of Freeport.” No picture, please. I may have gotten sand in all sorts of places for that title, but I also got free drinks, so worth it. Right? When in Freeport, tell your driver to take you to Junkanoo Beach, and thank me later.

#6. Rent a “room for a day” in Nassau

This is my biggest money saving tip. You can rent a room for the day at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island hotel, directly across from Atlantis Resort. You get 2 huge perks here. A room where you can freshen up if you want to beach first, and casino after; and, FREE access to Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park! Say what! Aquaventure tickets cost $150 per person online. My two girlfriends and I rented one room at Comfort Suites, and received 3 included tickets to the water park. Huge win!

#7. Jump in!

By “jump in” I mean let loose! Make new friends, try new foods, participate in the onboard activities, and do things you wouldn’t normally. For example, I jumped in on a family game show onboard the ship, tried my luck in a game of beach limbo, and unashamedly crawled down a hallway because the swaying cruise ship kept knocking me off my feet (okay, maybe that was because of the “fun juice”). In any case, be a little daring, and make sure you document it with plenty of pictures. Happy cruising!

 

Like a Bird

No, this is not another bird-pooped-on-Falon story! Luckily for me, the most recent droppings have only landed on my towel. Pretty sure I’ve lost count of these by now. If you haven’t yet read about my bird-poop blessings, check it out in Feeling insignificant. Thankfully, this story is WAY cooler than seagulls….

Ever have that dream in which you possess the magical ability to fly? And then disappointment kicked in when you woke up because you didn’t want it to end? I have had that dream too many times to count, and the other day I lived it out in real life. Sounds impossible, I know. I was up, up, up 2,000 feet in the air, gliding around barefoot and fearless. The sun shining, the wind blowing on my face, and a clear view for miles. I felt like a bird… or a plane… or super woman! (Get it?!) It was the perfect day to fly. I definitely had my God-moment up there, taking in the quiet, and staring down at everything below. An entire orange grove looked like it could fit in the palm of my hand, and my friends looked like little ants. The temperature was close to 15° cooler, which was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity on the ground. Have you figured it out? Is the suspense too much to bear?? Alright, I’ll tell you.. I was on a hang glider! Better yet, I was PILOTING a hang glider! Holy guacamole. This has to be the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve been skydiving. Hang gliding is hands down, way more fun. I had a very experienced hang gliding master, Malcolm, giving me instructions in the sky. Within minutes I was twisting and turning and diving in all directions. My favorite thing to do was go as fast as possible, then stall out, which produced a sensation similar to a small roller coaster drop. We kept inching closer to the ground, and when the wheels touched the grass I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed it was over. It was a short 15 minute ride, but I could’ve flown for hours had it been possible. Malcolm and his team at Wallaby Ranch were fantastic hosts. They’ve done tens of thousands of tandem hang glides there since the 90s, and never had any accidents! I felt one hundred percent safe and had an absolute blast. They even fed us brunch that included celebratory mimosas. 10/10, will definitely go back. Who knows, maybe one day I will even fly on my own!

There’s a storm brewing

Most people’s idea of a perfect beach day consists of sunny skies, a light breeze, warm sand, and cool water. Maybe yours includes frozen drinks, a folding chair, or sand castle building. Mine usually involves a beach ball or football, a book, and eating snacks under a towel so the seagulls can’t steal it. Last weekend, I discovered a different kind of “perfect” beach day in Clearwater, Florida. The sun wasn’t shining, and the intense wind made it impossible to read a book or enjoy a snack, as the sand was swirling up into a sort of mini sandstorm. I was just finishing up some gator tail (a florida delicacy) at a local beach bar, when all of a sudden everyone on the beach started to scurry around like little ants. The skies grew darker and the wind had picked up, blowing a huge cloud of sand straight towards the bar. The workers frantically closed windows and pulled down porch screens; customers rapidly moved inside from the patio; tourists were running inland as the sand whipped all around them. I started to chuckle at the scene. The thought crossed my mind that it was the perfect time to go grab a rentable beach chair, since no one would be coming around to collect payment. So, I picked up my beach bag and headed out toward the sandstorm. The sensation of the sand lightly whipping my legs felt like getting hundreds of microscopic pokes/stings. Slightly uncomfortable, but also ticklish. So odd. I tossed my bag and towel on one of those beach chairs and kept walking toward the water. Eventually I stopped feeling the sting of the sand, and just paused to stare out at the ocean. The waves were more frequent and much larger and than usual; almost surf-able. For those who have never been to the gulf of Florida, any wave over a foot high is considered ‘larger’ than normal. These were probably two to three feet, and they were nonstop crashing on the shore. After asking a few strangers to help me get the perfect photo with the ominous background, I decided to go for a swim! The minute I was knee deep in the water, God gave me the gift of possibly the longest God moment of my life. For roughly fifteen minutes, I was splashing around in the waves without a care in the world. For fifteen minutes, I was in complete awe of the power of my creator. For fifteen minutes, I was fully enjoying living, with no thoughts in my head whatsoever. Literally. I can’t tell you what I was thinking, because thinking was non-existent. I jumped, I splashed, I swam, I dove, I body surfed, but I didn’t think. This became a problem when I up and decided I could swim out to the sand bar all by myself. I had seen a small group of people do it earlier, so my competitive subconscious must’ve kicked in and told me I could do it too. I’m not a very strong swimmer, mind you, and at first I was totally enjoying the challenge. However, with every wave that hit my face, my “thinking” started to come back. It sounded like, “Hm, maybe this is a bit of a stretch. There’s probably a rip current. Eh, I can still touch the bottom with my toes, it’s fine. Wait a second, have I even moved?” Eventually, I got smacked so hard with a wave that I snorted salt water, which was my wake up call to quit this semi dangerous excursion and head back to shore to catch my breath. My “moment” was over, but boy was it one to remember. I walked around the rest of the day unable to stop smiling. With my beach bag full of sand, and my heart full of joy♥♥

Locked up Abroad

Okay, so this was not so much a ‘God-moment” as it was a “coming to God” moment! A friend of mine and I had just finished our tours at the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery in Dublin, Ireland (More on that later!). My friend indulged a bit more at the distillery (HA!), so it was my turn to drive. We headed to Belfast, but after a while started to feel a little lost as the GPS wasn’t working correctly. Sweet! What better way to stumble upon an adventure than to get lost in a country roughly 4,000 miles away from home?! Eventually, we were passing by an enormous stone wall. We didn’t think anything of it at first, but curiosity kicked in as we kept driving and couldn’t see what was on the other side. Finally, we found an entrance and parked across the street. Turns out, it was the extremely old and expansive Glasnevin Cemetery. Not only did I have some fantastic photo ops as the sun was going down, but I also got to learn a little bit about the Patriots of the Republic and Irish history. My friend found her last name on numerous tombstones, and it created a fun game of figuring out who her great- great- great- great ancestors were. A few were patriots of the republic, blacksmiths, priests, and politicians.

After exploring for a while, the cemetery started to look eerie and grey. There had been quite a few people there before, but it seemed as though they had all suddenly disappeared. It was at this moment we realized not only how late it was, but also how far from the gate we had wandered. We head back as the sun made it’s final descent and stars began to illuminate the sky. Brief digression here, but am I the only person who likes to stare up at the stars and ponder how minuscule I am in comparison to all of creation?? It’s a humbling experience for me, and also a wonderful reminder that God included ME specifically as a part of his creation. And he did the same for YOU. How special is that?! While you sit with that amazing thought, I’m going to continue on at the cemetery. My friend and I finally arrive back at the entranceway and, to our surprise, the gate is shut and locked! Um excuse me but nobody told us this place closed up, and there was no signage anywhere. The gate’s height makes it quite impossible to climb, but we don’t panic just yet. Surely, there must be another gate, or a groundskeeper on site who can open the main one. We walk along the stone wall and find another gate, but this one is locked as well. Now happens my “coming to God moment.” I start to feel like we might actually get stuck in this cemetery for much longer than we intended. Surrounded by darkness, crickets, and the shadows of tombstones. I say a quick prayer that God would subside the panic that was building, and guide us to finding an exit; sooner rather than later, preferably. We then see the figure of a man walking toward us. Now, picture being a young female, trapped in a cemetery after dark with your friend, and seeing a shadowy, strange man walking in your direction. I feel uneasy at first, but we had no choice but to ask him if he can help us. Unfortunately for us, he is not an employee or a groundskeeper, but rather, he is in the same predicament! The 3 of us huddle up and make a quick game plan. My friend and I head back to the entrance gate to see if we can find a groundskeeper or anyone in the cemetery museum, while the man continues following the stone wall looking for other exits, or even a place we can potentially climb out. After a few minutes of knocking on doors and looking around, the man appears on the other side of the entrance gate! He says if we follow the stone wall for a while, eventually there is a smaller “wall” that can be jumped. Thank goodness! So we walk for a few minutes and find the spot. The problem is, it’s actually an iron fence with spikes at the top. Now, I could probably climb and jump this thing without injury, but my friend is not so athletically inclined, and she doesn’t feel like potentially getting skewered at this moment. Since I’m obviously not going to leave her, we keep walking. Sheesh this place is huge! After what seems like forever, we see a woman coming down the sidewalk and implore her for help. Thank the heavens, she’s one of the locals and knows there is an unlocked gate just around the corner if we keep walking. We begin walking more hastily, and minutes later, FINALLY find an open gate! Praise the Lord! We walk back to our car under the gloomy yellow side lights, and head toward our next adventure. After this night, you’ll never catch me in a cemetery after dark ever again!

So if you find yourself lost in exploration at Glasnevin Cemetery in Ireland past sundown, you’ve got two options: take the easy way out by finding the small open gate, or take the more adventurous route and climb out over the precarious, spear-headed fence. If I had a do-over, I’d take the fence, because I’m a weirdo adventure seeker/risk taker who loves a good challenge!

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Hugs and Sunsets

purplesunsetI feel Him in the cool breeze as it brushes my cheeks. I hear Him when the ocean waves crash against the shoreline. I see Him in the innocence of a joyful toddler.

I feel Him when I scrunch the sand beneath my toes, and breathe in the scent of salty ocean air. I hear Him when the blue birds sing their early rising song. I see Him in the snow-tipped mountains, and in the depths of gaping canyons.

I feel Him when the warmth of the sun touches my skin on a sunny day. I hear Him in the purity of a gifted, angelic voice that brings goosebumps to my arms. I see Him in the smile of a loved one.

I feel Him in a single tear running down my cheek in a moment of prayerful surrender. I hear Him in the rustling of trees. I see Him when dolphins rise to the sea’s surface for a playful ‘hello’.

I feel Him in the sanctity of his temple, chapel, and sanctuary. I hear Him in the sounds of a baby’s laughter. I see Him in the many wonders of the world, from Stone Henge to the Egyptian pyramids.

Most of all, I feel Him in hugs. In the gentle hug of my mother; the warm bear hug of my father; the excited, bubbly squeeze of my sisters; the accepting and supportive hug of a friend; and the peaceful, comforting embrace of the man I love.

Most of all, I hear Him in the sounds of creation. When lightning strikes, when the rain drops, and when the wind howls. When roosters crow, when puppies bark, and when crickets chirp. When thunder rolls, when fire cracks, and when the wind whispers in the grass.

Most of all, I see Him in the Sunsets. In the multicolored brush strokes across the sky: different hues of red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, and blue. In that perfectly timed sailboat skimming across the ocean just as the Sun hits the surface. In the reflection of that orange ball of fire in the eyes of others who are sharing in this moment.

This, is when I am at peace. This, is when I know I have escaped.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

Clearwater’s got talent!

So this weekend I had the amazing opportunity to check out the annual Sugar Sand festival on Clearwater Beach! Although I did not have a “God-moment” this time, it was still a super cool experience. I spent some time on the beach with a friend before going up to enjoy the festivities, and nearly had a god-moment watching the sun set. There were hundreds of people lining the shore as the sun sat on the water, slowly sinking behind the horizon. ‘Beautiful’ doesn’t even begin to describe how it looked. The sky was all different shades of blue, purple, pink, red, yellow, and orange. A white sailboat drifted across in front of the sun, which started out a bright yellow, and slowly turned to a deep dark orange as it sank below the surface. I did not take any pictures as I was choosing to live in the moment, but many others had their phones and cameras out for the unforgettable photo op. Seeing that many people from all over the world standing together to witness the beauty of God’s handiwork was so sublime, and filled me with hope for humanity. Afterward, my friend and I headed up to Pier 60 to check out the fun stuff! In addition to the large scale sugar sand sculptures (try saying that 5 times fast!), there were local vendors, artists, bounce houses, street performers, and live music. Perfect for a date day/night *wink wink*. You have GOT to try a donut from the Amish donut stand. They are 100% the best donuts I’ve ever eaten, and big enough to share; unless you’re like me and have a giant sweet tooth that prevents sharing desserts :p   Also, if you see a guy start pouring lighter fluid on the ground, get a front row spot for this. The Dallas and Nick show is by far the best street show performance on the beach. Dallas and his son have amazing stage presence, talent, and are comedically inclined. If they don’t entertain you, nothing will. Of course, then there was the actual Sand Sculpture display. It’s an extra fee to get into, but you get a picture of your experience at the end, and you get to vote for your favorite artists work! Mine was the famous literary writers sculpture. It had faces of popular classic writers, and my new favorite quote by Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” which I think is the perfect way to close this post 😉

Feeling insignificant

A story about my recent “god-moment” at a small beach

My first post! Please feel free to give any feedback, critique, suggestion, comment, advice, etc. (Unless I’m in the “red zone,” in which case I am super sensitive to criticism. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about!) Thank you for supporting and following me on this mission!

I just wanted to share my most recent god-moment that happened a few weeks ago, at a little place called Fred Howard Park beach. This little gem of a beach is so small and secluded, that some locals still don’t even know of it’s existence. Probably because the most recently voted #1 beach in America (Clearwater Beach!) is only 30 minutes away, so most people (myself included) head over there instead. At Fred Howard, to get to the actual beach, one must drive allllll the way through the winding road of the park, then cross the connecting causeway. Make sure you pay the $5 parking fee, as the parking rangers are on top of it! I know from experience….. Anyway, I found myself a quiet spot on the south side of the beach. The wind coming in from the north is almost totally blocked out by the wall of rocks on this side, which makes it ideal for reading/writing. I brought my prayer journal out there, and a book titled “Called to Create” (I highly recommend this book! It is a fantastic read for entrepreneurs). I finished writing my prayer, and looked out over the horizon for a brief moment. Is it just me, or does anyone else start to feel super small and insignificant when looking out at the expanse of the ocean?? I walked out onto a few of the rocks that are scattered in the shallows, and stood watching the sun set while the cold waves splashed my feet and legs. At first I thought, “Wow, what an amazing gift God gave us with his creation. How can anyone look at this, and think it all happened by accident?!” Then, it happened. My brain shut off. I felt utterly calm, peaceful, and like I was the only person on the beach. My doubts, worries, fears, confusion, negativity, and all the ugly things of the world disappeared instantly, and I felt totally FREE. This lasted for about one deep inhale and exhale of the salty air, and a quick thank you to God, before my brain came back on to ruin it all. I thought about whether or not other people were seeing/feeling this, and then about all the mundane tasks I had yet to accomplish that day; laundry, dinner, paying bills, etc. I walked back to my towel with the intention of reading a little more, but I have this awesome blessing where Seagulls love dropping their #2 on me and my stuff (lol). You might be asking yourself “Why in the world would Falon call that an awesome blessing?!” Fair enough, but I’ve been told it’s a sign of good luck, and it’s happened to me 4 times already….. two of those times, I was on a date, and once I was a moving target! So, if this is going to continue, I figure it’s better to believe it is a good thing, rather than a curse. Anyway, there it is, smack dab in the middle of my towel. I took that as my sign to leave :p

All in a matter of a few minutes, I was reminded of how insignificant I am in comparison to the rest of the universe, and then immediately after, God showed me how important and loved I am by Him. He put his arms around me in a moment, and granted me complete peace when I was feeling small. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world, and my hope is that more and more people get to experience it. And more often!