Category Archives: Caribbean

Taking a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic


All images courtesy of Fathom Travel

I’ve got some exciting news to share! Next week (May 8-15) I will be a media guest on a Fathom Travel cruise to the Dominican Republic, leaving from Miami and docking in Puerto Plata.

Having launched its ship, the Adonia, in April 2016, Fathom Travel currently offers separate round-trip voyages from Miami to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Belonging to the Carnival brand, Fathom takes a different approach to ocean voyaging with a “travel with purpose” mission. While each destination differs on this aspect, passengers will either become involved in immersive cultural experiences or participate in various community projects.


For their Dominican Republic cruises, Fathom’s choices of impact activities may extend to:

  • Visiting a women’s cooperative that produces chocolate (it’s chocolate; how could you say no to doing that!);
  • Interacting with students and adults through helping them learn English;
  • Planting trees through a reforestation and nursery program;
  • Turning recycled paper into craft projects;
  • Building projects involving the installation of water filtration systems and concrete flooring in community homes.


While impact travel is central to Fathom’s mission, cruise excursion options also extend to tours of certain areas and popular activities such as ziplining or snorkeling. As for their Cuba cruises, Fathom broke serious ground in making history as the first cruise to sail from the U.S. to Cuba (setting off on May 1) in 50-plus years. That’s big!

On my Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic, I will be posting as continuously as I can through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And putting a trip recap on here too. So please do follow along!


My Travel Plans (So Far) for 2016

New PhotWe are now five days into 2016, and already I have some travel plans and goals for this year. Of course, I’m hoping to visit new destinations, but there are other areas that I want to head into. Here is what I’m hoping to accomplish this year.

My first solo work trip.
Last year, my travel writing got a big boost. I landed five freelance assignments that brought me to Wyoming, Michigan, and California, had me revisiting New Haven, Connecticut, and fulfilling a wish to visit Costa Rica. Though the locations differed, one thing they had in common was that I was in a group of other travel writers and bloggers. But I have some news to share: this month, I’m working on plans to go to Texas on my own for a piece for a new outlet I hope to do more writing with. I have ties to the Lone Star State and haven’t been there for 30 years, so I’m looking forward to going back.

Expanding search options.
My method of picking flights centers on mainly route, schedule, and cost. Unfortunately I’m still new to figuring out airline mileage programs, and, because of my budget and other reasons, I only belong to two of them: Southwest and JetBlue. I have a lot to learn but recently I’ve been checking out more of another source for savings: third-party search engines. In choosing a soon to use flight, I gave Kayak a try and found a direct, neither too early or late morning flight for at least $100 less than going through the airline’s website! So I booked. For comparison, I now do an initial search through Google Flights, another search engine.

Making time for family travel.
Although my interest in solo travel perked up a lot last year, it’s still nice to have someone come along. My younger sister and my cousin are my main plus ones, and they’re joining me on some excursions this year. I’m heading back to Jamaica with my sis this month, specifically to Montego Bay, where we hope to get in some bonding over swimming and bike riding. (Her flight in is way earlier that mine, so might give her some distance for recovery). I’m also excited about returning to Europe this summer. Part of my family is based there, and for years, I’ve been exploring parts of the continent with my European cousin. For 2016, we’re going to see Scandinavia – specifically Denmark, Norway, and Sweden! And within the U.S., I’ll be joining the younger set of my family for an April trip to Walt Disney World (which I haven’t been to since I was a teenager).
What do you have planned for 2016? Let me know.

Seeing Kingston, Jamaica

DSCN4195In getting back to my experience with Jamaica Tourism’s “Bucket List” trip, my first two days in Jamaica were spent in Kingston, its capital city. Kingston is surrounded by mountain ranges like the Blue Mountains and a long natural harbor.

Kingston is also the center of the country’s culture and commerce. Like many cities worldwide, Kingston has its public attractions, shops and nightlife yet there are good parts for visiting and other parts where it might be best avoided.

Mainly two sections of Kingston get a lot of attention: its Downtown area and its Uptown (or also known as New Kingston) area. Each area has its own significance. In Downtown, you’ll find historic buildings, marketplaces, shops, galleries, and the waterfront. Uptown (where I spent my time) is more cosmopolitan with public parks, nightlife, restaurants, shopping centers, and main tourist attractions.

Here are some highlights I recommend seeing:

DSCN4285– The Devon House: In Uptown, this beautiful Georgian-style mansion and national monument was the home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Steibel. Also on the property, former horse stables and blacksmith posts now either hold a bakery, restaurant, or shop. At the Grogge Shoppe, you can order a sit-down meal of local Jamaican fare.  Even more so, the Devon House I Scream is an awesome ice cream shop with traditional and fruity flavors.


Photo credit: Bob Marley Museum’s Facebook page

– The Bob Marley Museum. Unfortunately, the museum also in Uptown was closed for renovations when my group was there – we missed the reopening date by a few days – but it sounds like a good tourist attraction. Especially for reggae fans, you get to see Marley’s home up until his passing that’s now been turned into musical shine. See the musician’s awards, recording studio, and other personal belongings.


Photo credit: National Gallery of Jamaica’s Facebook page

– National Gallery of Jamaica. I keep reading good reviews about this Downtown gallery, which features artwork by Jamaicans from throughout the country’s history, from the native Taino Indians through the colonial period to works by modern artists.

DSCN4307– Port Royal. Based at the mouth of Kingston Harbor, Port Royal was once a pirate’s haven in the 17th century, and in turn made this city pretty prosperous. Maybe too much, as the British navy ended up installing Fort Charles here. But Port Royal has seen hardship too, resulting from two major earthquakes, fires and hurricanes so much that a lot of the area was swept away. Fort Charles still stands, and visitors can walk through its lower and upper levels. Also head to the back of the fort to see, and attempt to walk through, a former artillery shed called the Giddy House. An earthquake in 1907 sunk part of the abandoned shed so when you walk through it, it’s literally like performing a balancing act.

For getting around Kingston, my group was lucky to have a local driver take us to and from places. If you are to rent a car and drive around yourself, it’s best to take an offensive stance. Traffic can get interesting as it often involves a mix of cars and pedestrians – sometimes together. I would recommend hiring a driver from a reputable company. This can help with not just getting from point A to point B, but someone who knows the area well can help in making more of our schedule.

From what I’ve read there are cabs available in Kingston too. They have a Red number plate with the letters PPV inscribed as their authorization to pick up passengers. Buses are also available, newer ones with A/C and older ones at different prices. Just do your research before you go!


Starting off on a #VisitJamaica Bucket List

Happy New Year! Though going forward, I just have to bring up one last travel experience from 2014. In early December, I was invited by Visit Jamaica, the country’s tourism board, to go on a “Bucket” List four-day tour along Jamaica’s north coast. This itinerary was packed with at least 10 various must-do and see activities and sights that visitors should check off. Or at least one or two of them. Our small group arrived in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, and then ushered from Norman Manley International Airport to have our first night stay in this large city. We went straight to a dinner hosted at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, which introduced us to a lot of Jamaica’s culinary wonders as well as the property’s staff and Jamaica’s tourism representatives. The Courtleigh, first-class property, is about 25 minutes from the airport and is located near Kingston’s business and commercial district.

Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk chicken

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Rum punch


Jamaican Gungo Pea and Beef Soup

Our dinner was a great introduction to Jamaican cuisine: grilled seasoned meats, citrus/sweet fruits, and hearty fruits and vegetables. And spices! Plates with Jerk chicken or pork or roasted breadfruit, sweet potatoes or plantains were passed around and sampled from. With the holiday season in swing, we were served Christmas Cake, a dark and rich fruitcake with Jamaican rum as an ingredient, for dessert. Another specialty was festival, a cornbread fritter (similar to fried dough) that often is paired with servings of chicken or fish.

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Other various Jamaican dishes my #VisitJamaica group tried.


Christmas Cake

As for spending our first night, we headed to Knutsford Court Hotel, a sister property that often gets both business and pleasure travelers. It’s a garden-style setup with a number of banquet and meeting facilities with a daily continental breakfast buffet at its restaurant, The Melting Pot. I’ll be doing continuous posts on each part of, and each city, on the trip: Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Next up, on the following morning, we crossed off #VisitJamaica Bucket List item No. 1. We went for coffee in the Blue Mountains!

A Mini-Escape with Aruba Tourism Authority

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Aruba’s Minister of Tourism Otmar Oduber gave a welcoming address at a reception last Thursday night.

On a cold and rainy New York City night, Aruba Tourism Authority provided a mini-getaway to a warm and friendly climate with their evening reception at the Carriage House last Thursday.

Having an #ArubaCultura theme, the evening featured a very special guest, Aruba’s Minister of Tourism Otmar Oduber, and introduced attendees to the culinary and cultural aspects of this Caribbean island. Currently, the tourism board is using the tagline “One Happy Island” (also as a hashtag, #onehappyisland) to promote Aruba as a still largely popular destination.

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I enjoyed an Eagle Beach Bellini.


It was good fit with our festive night. As a different take on being a barista, a special mixologist from Aruba concocted specialty drinks highlighting the island’s tropical flavors and ingredients. These cocktails were named for beaches and other key attractions.

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The evening also got a little artistic. Guests were asked to sit for a painting session led by an artist, also from Aruba. Literally starting from a blank canvas, painters like myself were encouraged to recreate the island’s landscape by using an assortment of yellow, blue, beige, and green hues. We even were able to top off our masterpieces with sand by gently sprinkling a few grains on our finished work. Although I went with what I would call an abstract approach toward my painting, it was still a fun thing to do.

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My sort of island painting.

Our evening ended with a sit-down dinner and entertainment that got us all up and dancing!

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