Where will the road take YOU?

Destination Diaries

E-mail Print PDF



Carnival Dream - Exotic Western Caribbean



By Angela Ash

A visit to the Caribbean is something that should be on everyone's virtual "to do" list. With endless sandy shores and crystal clear waters, you will find it hard pressed to locate a more lovely destination.  Many travelers somehow manage to put all of their eggs in one basket and decide on one beautiful locale, but some of us find that we would rather visit the Caribbean in a different way. I mean, why walk along just ONE gorgeous beach when a cruise can deliver so much more?

Carnival Cruise Line probably jumps right to mind when thinking of planning a cruise vacation, and there's a good reason for that.  Known as the "fun ship", it really lives up to its name, with thrilling activities for every age and any activity level.  Plus, Carnival really listens to its clientele, and they sail from ports that are exciting, yet close to home, delivering you to places that you will truly miss upon departure. 

On most vacations, you just can't wait for the plane to land, or for the family van to pull into the parking lot of the hotel.  However, when you're cruising, getting there is most definitely a big part of the FUN!  The Carnival Dream is a spectacular ship, and with 15 massive decks to explore, you could easily spend all of your time at sea and still not see and do everything! 

But just like with any getaway, your "home away from home" is really important, and your floating cabin, otherwise known as the place where your FREE, 24 hour room service appears, is no different!


Welcome to the cabins on board the Carnival Dream, which range from suites to inboard staterooms! What always remains the same, whether you book with utter extravagance or with a strict budget, is the level of service that is received.  Your personal steward will truly make your voyage... full of surprises like towel art.  One of the BEST things about cruising is that you never have to pack and repack when traveling from one destination to the next.  This can literally save you hours of precious vacation time!

While you may be tempted to hang out on your spacious balcony or relax in the tranquility of your inboard stateroom, you have to get out to explore the many other dining options available on the Carnival Dream!


Two elegant main dining rooms offer three different menus to al guests.  One is a fixed fare, so that you may always order a delicious steak or a Caesar salad.  The second menu changes nightly, boasting everything from prime rib to lobster, as well as menu items that you may have never tried, but have always wanted to!  The third option allows you to order special selections from the steak house, at a nominal fee.  These dining rooms are always bustling, even serving up brunch on sea days and breakfast each morning. 

If you are interested in an extra special dinner, make a reservation at the steakhouse, and enjoy premium cuts in an romantic atmosphere, for just a little extra on your stateroom bill. 

Now, no matter where you are on what time it is, you will always find something tasty to eat! The buffet is always full of delicious all-you-can-eat choices, including special areas such as the Mongolian Wok, the Burrito Bar and Pasta Bella.  And for all of you have somehow managed to sprout fins will aboard and just can't bear to leave the pools or your swimsuits, you can have pizza, burgers, hot dogs and fries right on deck. 

So now that we have mentioned swimwear, the Carnival Dream will literally take your breath away with the choices for staying wet!  Adults may spend countless hours in the hot tubs on the 18 and over Serenity area, or they can hang with the kids as they splash, slide, and swim their away through spray zones, water slides and sparkling pools. 

carnival show

After you become an old pro at cruising (typically occurring on Day Two on the Dream) your evening will culminate upon the arrival of the Fun Times, delivered to the staterooms, listing the activities for the next day, including everything from trivia to game shows, performances in the main showroom, tournaments in the casino, and liquor tastings at the shops.

While you can easily fill your days with excitement with no prompting whatsoever, be sure to visit the Punchliner Comedy Club!  With comedians personally selected by George Lopez, this side-splitting venue offers family-friendly shows earlier in the evenings, as well as racier versions for the adults-only later at night.  With several comedians aboard, the laughs keep coming in. 

And if there is one other spot on the Carnival Dream to start or end your night, it is the piano bar! Always full of great times, this space is an excellent way to meet fellow cruise goers, shouting out tunes that erupt into an energizing sing-a-long.

Now, while you could easily stay aboard the Carnival Dream and have the vacation of a lifetime, the ports of call on this Exotic Eastern Caribbean itinerary are just waiting to be explored!

And why not start at the beginning? This exciting cruise departs and returns to the fascinating city of New Orleans. Whatever you do, be sure to spend a few days in this magical destination! With a cruise port that is easily accessible from many areas of the city, sailing from New Orleans really IS a breeze. And choosing the Country Inn & Suites in Metairie will make getting to the cruise port even easier!




Whether visiting New Orleans for a week-long getaway or staying for a few days before or after a cruise, the Country Inn & Suites in Metairie is the perfect place for your "home base".

Located right off I-10, this hotel could not possibly be any more convenient. Within minutes of the French Quarter and the cruise port, you can be eating beignets or sailing to exotic destinations before you know it!

And be ready to settle in, because the comfortable rooms and suites are spacious, and filled with everything you need to make your stay feel just like home, but just a bit better. With amenities like mini-fridges and microwaves, you could even stay in for the night! But let's face it, you're in the Big Easy, so go out and explore. It will all be waiting for you upon your return.

And when the afternoon heat requires a bit of a break, be sure to dive into the sparkling, saltwater pool in the beautiful courtyard. If you're feeling ambitious, even try out the state-of-the-art equipment in the fitness center!


Before you set out for your day's adventures, stop in the dining area for the hot Be Our Guest Breakfast. Featuring favorites like eggs, meats, pastries, waffles and more, this bountiful buffet is absolutely complimentary. How cool is that?

Now, I have truly saved the best for last for anyone cruising from New Orleans.  Everyone who has ever visited New Orleans realizes that parking can sometimes be a bit tricky downtown and in the French Quarter, and if you are cruising out of the Erato Street Terminal, leaving your vehicle will cost you about $18 a day.  Yes, that is well over $100 when on a week long cruise. However, there IS an alternative.  The Country Inn & Suites offers FREE guest parking.  And would it be showing off if I mention that they also offer a FREE shuttle to the cruise terminal?

It just makes absolute sense to stay a few days in New Orleans before departing on your cruise vacation, because let's just face it, the price of parking for a week nearly covers a night's accommodations, which enables you the ease and safety of parking your car in a secure area while you bask in the sunlight of the Caribbean. Plus, you can explore one of the most beguiling city in the world. Now THAT'S hard to pass up!

Be sure to visit Country Inn & Suites online, or call (504) 835-4141 for additional information.



And now that you know just where to stay in the Crescent City, you may be wondering the best way to get around. Never fear, because City Sightseeing has their shiny red buses driving the streets, stopping at all of the major tourist attractions, as well as giving you a bird's eye view of areas you've never seen, but should! See the French Quarter, the Garden District, bustling Canal Street and vibrant Rampart Street, and everywhere in between.

City Sightseeing buses are the first thing I look for when I visit a city.  They give you a fantastic overview, helping you to plan what to visit and what to see.  And once you know, you can hop on and off as many times as you like!  You can even be spontaneous and jump off to visit a cemetery, and then back on to catch lunch in the Warehouse District.  The choice is always yours! Not only can you ride the entire length of the route to hear the wonderful narrated tour, but you can use the bus as transportation back and forth to your hotel, or for a mid-day run to the casino.  The options are endless. 

For more information, please visit online, or call (504)207-6200.

While in New Orleans, I would strongly recommend the live music on Frenchmen Street. This is where the locals go to hear Jazz, played right on the street corners or in the nightclubs.

There are also numerous award-winning attractions that will captivate the entire family!

The Audubon Institute offers a unique zoo experience, an aquarium packed full of underwater delights, and an insectarium, crawling with all sorts of slithering things on multiple legs.

Be sure not to miss the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which is rated one of the top aquariums in the entire country. Plus, it is home to the largest collection of sharks and jellyfish. Doesn’t that make you shudder already?

aqu shark

From visiting an amazing rainforest or the Gulf of Mexico to feeding birds at parakeet pointe, you could spend all day here! And don't forget about the state-of-the-art Imax Theatre or the Stingray Touch Pool!

For more information, call 504-581-4629, or visit them online at www.auduboninstitute.org.

Now, I am going to tell you about one of my absolute favorite attractions in New Orleans! Do you like creepy crawlies? Awww… come on. You know you do!

ins bugs

The Insectarium is nothing short of amazing! Imagine what it would be like to instantly shrink to “bug size”. Whoah… pretty cool, huh? You can even wander through 13 gallery rooms, containing over 70 live animal enclosures, 30 specimen cases and a multi-sensory theater. Want to walk through a Louisiana swamp, or visit a beautiful Japanese butterfly garden? Wonders await you at this family fun attraction!

For additional information, call 504-581-4629, or visit online at www.auduboninstitute.org.



Another intriguing facet of the Audubon Institute is the Audubon Zoo!

Set in a relaxed atmosphere beneath living oak trees, this zoo offers plenty to entertain for an entire afternoon. The Louisiana Swamp and the Jaguar Jungle offer spectacular looks into interaction between humans and animals, while the sea lion and elephant presentations amaze and delight visitors of all ages! 

For more information, visit the Audubon Zoo online, or call (504) 861-2537.

 And if you think you can leave New Orleans without sampling the food that has made it famous, you can bet your beignet that isn't going to happen!


In case you are not aware of the confectionary masterpiece that is a beignet, then you are in for a treat! Try to imagine a fluffy bite of sugary goodness, something like a cross between a doughnut and a funnel cake. But remember that all beignets are not equal! Be sure to indulge at Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet. Cafe Du Monde has several locations, with one right at the entrance to the French Market, which is open 24 hours to make sure that no one goes without a beignet on their watch! Cafe Beignet also offers delicious meal options, like Po Boys and seafood.

Check out Cafe Du Monde online or call (504) 525-4544.

Visit Cafe Beignet online or call (504) 524-5530 for additional information.


Now if you are on the search for another eatery that is just quintessential New Orleans, the Court Of Two Sisters is definitely the place to be for brunch... and not just on Sunday!

You may choose to dine inside, or out… in the fabulous courtyard. And the buffet is seemingly endless. There are so many choices that this is definitely a "two plate" buffet. There is always a fresh array of various fruit, an omelet or eggs station, and everything from carved turkey breast to jambalaya. The biscuits and the cornbread are worth a visit on their own!

And the ambiance is just what you would expect when dining in the French Quarter. The sweet sound of live jazz flows throughout the courtyard, as you attempt ever so earnestly to eat every bite on your plate.

And while the Court of Two Sisters is best known for their Jazz Brunch Buffet every day, the dinner is superb. It truly calls to eat here twice!

For more information, visit them online or call (504) 522-7261.

Now, it would be a travesty to leave New Orleans without a taste or two of fresh seafood!



When the locals in New Orleans rave about a restaurant, then you should be prepared for one of the best dining experiences of your life. There's definitely a reason why this eatery often has a long wait, and trust me, it's well worth it. If you thought you knew what great seafood was before you stepped inside this bustling establishment, then you will most definitely need to reevaluate.

Be sure to come with an empty stomach, because the portions at Deanie's will best even the largest appetite. However, don't save room for the main course and skip the appetizers, because you will miss out on the what must surely be the best onion rings in all of New Orleans! Other offerings include Shrimp Remoulade, Crab Claws and Fried Calamari.

And when the time comes to make main course selections, have it all with the Giant Seafood Platter, which includes shrimp, catfish, oysters, stuffed crab and crawfish croquettes. If this option seems a bit daunting, it may also be ordered as a half platter. If you'd like to just center in on one specialty, try heaping orders of shrimp, oysters, fried catfish or softshell crab, or you may opt for the stuffed flounder or a chargrilled filet.

While it may seem impossible to save room for dessert, don't leave without at least attempting to have a few bites of the Coconut Custard Bread Pudding or the Gold Brick Sundae.

For more information, visit Deanie's Seafood online, or call (504) 581-1316 or (504) 831-4141.


 So now that the Carnival Dream has left the mighty Mississippi River behind, the itinerary is packed full with fun and adventure, with each port beckoning with unkown wonders. Exciting, huh? Well, wait until you arrive in Cozumel, Roatan and Belize!

Guests always enjoy their day in Cozumel, a beautiful island off the coast of Mexico. With its many shopping offerings, avid cruisers often refer to Cozumel as the "shopping port". While this is definitely the place to have a little retail therapy, make no mistake that Cozumel offers some of the most bewitching beaches ever seen. However, I am a bit partial to one in particular.



Paradise Beach is not just trying to make a play on words. With a name like "Paradise Beach", there are plenty of expectations. One might expect a beautifully manicured beach, superb Mexican specialties and expertly crafted drinks. Let's even throw in activities abound and the most friendly staff on the island. In short, five minutes at Paradise Beach will have you thinking that they were a bit humble when choosing its name. 

Located just five miles from the cruise ship pier and easily accessible via taxi, this is the place where exhilaration AND relaxation walk hand in hand, upon one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Mexico. 


If adventure is on your horizon, then be sure to opt for the Fun Pass. Every water toy imaginable is available for a day of heart-pounding adrenaline.  Try the water trampoline, a 14 foot iceberg climb, floating mats and kayaks, one of several slides, a water rocker, and the paddle boards, and use the complete snorkel gear to explore the warm, crystal waters. And remember, you can play all day long.  There is no way you could beat this price anywhere in the Caribbean!


Want something a bit more on the calm side?  Then take a leisurely swim in one of the biggest pools in Cozumel.  This elegant, refreshing pool area is very reminiscent of what one would experience at a five star, all inclusive resort.  Bar service is also available right next to the pool, or never even leave the water by placing your drink order with a member of the super friendly wait staff, servicing the pool and beach areas, as well as everywhere in between.

Now after so much time in the water, if delicious food is what you desire, Paradise Beach definitely delivers. With everything from sandwiches and wraps to fajitas and fresh seafood, the enticing aromas floating from the open-air restaurant are absolutely mouth-watering.  The Nacho Paradise appetizer is covered in a delicious cheese that I am still dreaming about, and I have never had better chicken fajitas. While portions are large, don't even think about "sharing" a meal, because you will not want to give away one bite! You can check out the full menu HERE.  And good luck making a choice, as that everything looks and smells delicious!


Remember that you are on vacation, so be sure that you top off your dining experience with a frozen concoction from the bar menu.  With so many tempting treats to choose from, keep in mind that you will not go wrong with the frozen margarita.  However, the Melon Ball definitely begs for a taste... or two.


Now have I mentioned that there are hammocks?  And the facility also offers Wi-Fi, restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and massages right on the beach!

Paradise Beach has truly thought of everything... except how to pack up this experience and take it with you. Exiting with beautiful memories and a full stomach, you will more than likely already be planning your next visit to this place that is truly a piece of paradise.

Visit Paradise Beach online for more information.



When deciding how to spend a day in port in Roatan, there appears to be endless options. However, don't risk your precious time to chance.  Bodden Tours is a unique tour group that offers visitors to Roatan experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime.  Victor Bodden was born and raised in Roatan, Honduras, and his expertise of the island is exemplified in the wonderful tours that are offered. 

My absolute favorite, Fun N Sun Excursion, is a perfect tour for cruise passengers, regardless of age or level of physical endurance.  When you are on an island as beautiful as Roatan, be sure to choose an activity that will allow you to see some of the culture, as well as spend the day basking on a breathtaking beach. This tour will start in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle, as guests are driven through several areas of beguiling Roatan, stopping for photo opportunities along the way.


But don't get too comfortable, because the fun has not even started!  The next stop is Victor's Monkey Business, where visitors may interact with island deer, parrots, monkeys, and other animals.  And I do mean up close and personal, because photo opportunities afford the opportunity to pose with monkeys and parrots, a treat that is included in the base tour price. The monkeys are friendly and curious, climbing from one visitor to the next, often stopping to eat a snack or try to steal a pair of sunglasses. This experience is absolutely amazing, and it will undoubtedly be the highlight of any Roatan visit.


After a bit more sightseeing and expert narration from a local guide, you will experience West Bay Beach and the gorgeous Bananarama Beach Resort.  During this two hour stop, you will be provided with a beach chair and use of the restroom and shower facilities.  Feel free to grab lunch, snorkel, swim or even simply relax on the mesmerizing beach. 


The  beach is made of soft, white sand, and the water is tranquil and warm, protected by the offshore reef. The water is so clear that you can easily see the tiny fish swimming about your feet! 

Bodden Tours also offers several other touring options, including zip lining, snorkeling and fishing.  And keep in mind that with a private tour, the possibilities are endless! 

Visit Bodden Tours and book a tour today!


By Angela Ash                                                                                                                                    Photo:  Lascelle Tillett

When you are planning a visit to Belize, your very first contact should be with S & L Tours and Travel!

I can not even begin to express how impressed I am with this company.  Our professional guide, Lascelle, was waiting early for us to arrive, and already had a plan to ensure that we saw as much of beautiful Belize in our allotted port time as possible.  This was just a small indication as to the level of personal, attentive attention that we would receive throughout the day. Today is the day that I have been patiently awaiting since the Carnival Dream set sail a few days prior. Today is the day that we visit Lamanai! 


Lamanai, meaning "submerged crocodile", was once a major city of the Mayan civilization. It also outlasted several other sites, as that it was still occupied as late as the tenth century. However, a visit to Lamanai incorporates much more than traipsing about the various structures. FIRST you have to get there. 

When someone once said that "it's all about the journey", they must have been referencing the trek to Lamanai. Driving through communities and areas of business, Lascelle often points out many highlights, providing expert descriptions, and even pasuing to answer questions along the way. And this is only the beginning, as we arrive at the boat dock to board the watercraft that will whisk us away to the city ruins.

This hour and a half ride is absolutely magnificent. Our boat driver and Lamanai guide joins Lascelle as they point out wildlife and flora, even pausing to move closer to a crocodile.


I almost wish the ride on New River would never end, but upon arrival at Lamanai, there's a feast of what must be the best rice and chicken in all of Belize.

And then it is relatively easy to sense. I think most visitors MUST "feel" Lamanai before any of the ruins are in actual view. With a short walk, visitors can explore around the High, Jaguar and Mask Temples, with plenty of information from both of our guides. Howler monkeys can be heard as they swing from the trees overhead, and they can be easily spotted, especially on a sunny day. Most guests climb to the top of the Jaguar Temple, where there is a wooden staircase around the side that assists with a portion of the climb. Be sure not to leave without seeing the ancient reamins of the ball court!  

Visiting such a place fills one with absolute awe.  It is amazing to think that the ancient Mayans built such magnificent offerings, with only their hands and a few crude instruments.  Climbing them and looking in detail at each stone... each carved symbol... is truly breathtaking. 

Belize is a beautiful, exotic location that could fill a thousand picture postcards, and S & L Travel and Tours knows exactly where to go, when to avoid the crowds, and how to experience Belize to the fullest with the time that is available.  They have been operating for over 30 years, and it is easy to see why they have won award after award.  They not only offer day tours for the cruise passenger or the day tripper, but extended vacations, airport transfers, and all types of travel.  Whether you want to spend the afternoon cave tubing or exploring long-forgotten cities, S & L Travel and Tours has the itinerary to fit your needs!


Carnival Dream

 Whenever even thinking about cruising, be sure to research the ports of call, and choose the itinerary that will provide the things that will interest you, providing activities and experiences for a romantic adventure, or for the broad interests of an entire family! Typically, several different cruise options may sail from the same port, so explore your choices thoroughly on Carnival online, or call 800-764-7419 to speak to a friendly representative.

Carnival Photos Courtesy Of:  Andy Newman Photos - All additional Photos By:  Tim Ash