Selecting the perfect shore excursions – Cruise tip

I took the vacation of a lifetime last summer on an Alaskan cruise. Before I selected my shore excursions, I attended an informative session put on by the shore excursion staff. It was totally free to attend.

During the presentation, they showed me slides regarding the excursions and offered an excellent overview the hundred-plus shore excursions available throughout the cruise.

I was so inspired by the informative session that I went immediately to the shore excursion office to register for my excursions. I was not disappointed in a single shore excursion that I signed up for during the cruise!

Related: Purchase your excursions onboard – Cruise tip
Counterpoint: Research, and get off the beaten (excursion) path – Cruise tip

Inside Curtain Bluff: a tale of two beaches

There are two beaches at Curtain Bluff, and it’s pretty clear that one’s for looking and the other’s for playing. The former is what you see from the guestrooms, with sometimes large waves brutalizing the shore before receding and feeding those that follow. The latter is nothing short of serene, with gentle ripples quietly lapping the sand.

The “swimming” beach begins next to the tennis courts and is bookended by the restaurant and bar. Lounge chairs and hammocks are spread across this stretch of sand, along with wooden umbrellas (technically cabanas? not sure …) providing shade from the sun and more than ample cover from the rain (I can vouch for both, having experienced both elements during my stay. Feel free to bring your chair to the waters edge, and let the Caribbean Sea lick your toes for a while. The current will not yank you to its depths.

To explore the bottom, grab some snorkeling gear and take the plunge. Poke around on the sea’s floor and see if you can find anything interesting. Certified SCUBA divers can opt to be taken out on deeper excursions, and other water sports are accommodated, from sailing to waterskiing. If you want to stay busy out on the water, Curtain Bluff is more than ready to help.


On the other hand, you may be among the many who see the beach as a place to chill. Each lounge chair is accompanied by a little chair that you can use to knock sand off your feet before settling into its larger counterpart. Use the nearby table to hold your drink, your book or (in my case) your cigar. Take an occasional nap, or just feel the breeze.

The sense of placidity at the swimming beach is not replicated at the other beach. There are a few lounge chairs on hand, so you can sit back and enjoy the elements without having to walk far from your room. It’s convenient. But, treat the ocean itself with caution. The waves can get quite large (exacerbated, during my stay, by a storm forming at sea), and the current is very strong.

Disregarding what little common sense I have – and the boatloads of it offered by my wife – I decided to experience the “looking” beach first hand. Well, at one point, a wave crashed me in the back while the current yanked my ankles out from under me. I spun several times before crashing to the bottom of the sea. I wasn’t in a deep spot, but if you don’t spend much time in the water, this sort of turn can leave you incredibly disoriented (and with a mouth … and stomach … full of saltwater).

But, it can be a lot of fun.

I played around in the waves until I was battered and exhausted, some of them starting to crash over my head (yeah, they can get pretty big). For very strong swimmers, this is an ideal chance to screw around in the conditions your parents would never let you experience – despite your protests – as a child. There is no lifeguard or other staff on duty at this beach, so you really are venturing out at your own risk.

However you do it, definitely get into the water at Curtain Bluff. It’s warm, even when the rain is falling. Splash around, and have a great time. If you sail, waterski or dive, scratch your itch. I hadn’t been to a beach in at least a decade and had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

The guestroom is only one part of the Curtain Bluff experience. Come back to Gadling throughout the week for other peeks inside this exclusive Antiguan resort.

Disclosure: Curtain Bluff did pick up the tab for this trip. Honestly, a prolie blogger like me wouldn’t be able to cover this destination without support from the resort. That said, my opinions are my own. Worried that my experience was positive? Blame the resort staff for doing a kickass job. I could lie and say it all sucked, but that would come at the expense of my editorial integrity.

Photo of the Day (01.29.08)

I’ve always associated maritime culture with hoards of tourists — a sign that when I head to the shore, I tend to visit places that are far too mainstream and popular. So suffice it to say, I’m no expert on coastal communities but to me, this photo captures the essence of maritime life — isolated, gloomy and yet still take-your-breath-away beautiful. It was taken on Holy Island (also called Lindisfarne) off the shore of Northumberland. Thanks to Our Man Where for sharing.

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Sex and Violence, Elk-style

With a goal to get some exercise in during a gluttonous trip to San Francisco, friends took us for a hike in the striking Point Reyes National Seashore Park, only an hour northwest of the city. After eyeing us, the jovial ranger suggested we take the Tomales Point hike. “It is about 5 miles each way, sandy but moderate, and there is a good chance to see some sex and violence along the way,” he said. We were sold. Yes, cheaply.

Hiking is not for everyone. However, throw in the possibility of viewing live sexual acts, and urban dwellers pour into the woods by the Jeep-loads. OK, when you get there, you realize the only participants are elk. But still, if you are into viewing fellow mammals procreate, hiking Point Reyes might be for you.

Although we did not plan our trip with elk (or sex) in mind, last weekend we found ourselves in the middle of the elk mating season, which usually runs from the end of July through October. Literally hundreds of elk surrounded us along the sandy path with magnificent views of the ocean. The mating process itself is every feminist’s worst nightmare. During the mating season, elk bulls gather females into harems. Each harem has about 20 or so females, or as many as a bull can defend from competing males.

Still, scientific curiosity aside, it was slightly disturbing to see all the tourists, photographers, and experts set up their tripods and telescopes to see exactly what is going on, hoping to document the act first-hand.

Without completely giving away the details, there is a lot of elk sniffing-around and bugling going on. While the males seemed very much into it, the females stayed blasé, if not bored. An on-looking photographer summarized the scene: “This is like the worst pick-up bar ever!”