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MITSUGIRLY's ENCORE pictorial and extensive REVIEW


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16 hours ago, MoCruiseFan said:


Great review, very informative.  One of the best reviews I have read here,  One minor thing...  Any true Southerner knows the word is Y'ALL not YA'LL.  Y'all is a contraction of "you all".  Take out the "ou" and add the ap[ostrophe and you get Y'ALL.  LOL 🙂 🙂 😉


Happy cruising to you and your family!


Thanks for the Y'all lesson...since I'm from Ohio, I'll keep that in mind next time for you southerners. 😄 

Happy cruising to you as well. 🙂 


15 hours ago, MoCruiseFan said:

Thanks again for the review and pictures.  While that is a HUGE amount of pics (you did warn us ahead of time) and I am not a big picture person (I take maybe 3-4 pics  year on my phone), the array you took gives everyone at least some that are very helpful.

On another note, I want to say (not in the creepy internat stalker guy way, please) that yoru daughter is a reak cutie.  Also you and you husband look familiar, I may have seen Y'ALL (he he he) on a crusie or two.  I'll watch for you guys on any roll calls for future crusies...

Oh yeah, in the Miami area the hotels just south of teh airpory in the Blue Lagoon area are really nice and not too expensive!  Give them a try next time.


Three or four pictures a YEAR? 😶 I would not survive. lol   I love memories and being able to look back at all the places, things and times we've shared so I have to take the pictures. hehe


Thanks for the comments. Maybe we have cruised together...I've been on a lot over the years. 


I will keep the Blue Lagoon area in mind next time but looking at where Blue Lagoon is located, when I was booking, that area was more expensive than the north side of the airport (I did check all around there) but will definitely check them out each time. Thanks!

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We struggled with what to do here in Tortola due to the fact that it was such an early port time with also an early departure time as well. We had really wanted to scuba dive here, but as mentioned before...no one would take us that early and have us back on time. I would have also liked to go back to the Baths to experience it without the extended family like last time, but again, with the travel time it takes to get there and back...it would leave us with very little time there and not worth it.


I scoured the internet and on the boards here and something interesting came up in my search on the boards...hiking. Because we obviously didn't get enough of it the other day in the DR. 😄 


I ask the fam if they were up to another hike and they were game so I reached out to Hike BVI about their various tours: Bamboo Meadow, Shark Bay, Sage Mountain, Coastal Kayaking, Pineapple Field, Lovers Lock, and Mount Alma. They had a lot of things to pick from. 


After reading up on them and the time frame it took with each one, we decided on the Bamboo Meadow hike (it also said it was an "easy" hike and that worked for me of course!). Sef, at Hike BVI, said the Bamboo Meadow would work perfect with our time frame and offered an 8am pick up time at port. The tour was $75/pp. After confirming and paying, he stated he would pick us up at 8:45am. Wait what? I reminded him of our all-aboard time and we had agreed on 8am, so he changed it back to 8am.


Well, at least we wouldn't have to be up at 5am today, but I set my alarm for 6:30am just to be able to have a leisurely breakfast and get ready for the day. Of course we were already docked by the time we woke up. 




We headed to to the buffet to get our protein for the day...and a few cheaters.




 Back to the room to grab my equipment and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day out. 







Since today was just going to be a simple hike day, all I needed would be my GoPro and the phone for pictures. The hubby looked at me and ask about a beach bag. Wait what?!? "I don't have to carry anything today?????"  His face lit up and I think that thrilled him more than all the bacon he ate for breakfast. 😄 This has never happened in ANY port we have ever been to. We set a record today!


As we gathered our things, the ship captain came over the speaker system and mumbled something. All I can say is thank goodness another person would come on and repeat what he said in a loud voice because no matter what the circumstance during the cruise, the captain never spoke loud enough (do they realize this???). 


The dreaded announcement came that I had hoped wouldn't...."Due to high winds and sea conditions, we will not be going to Great Stirrup Cay on Saturday for the safety of our passengers. Instead, we will be staying in Tortola until 4pm". UGH!! This seems to happen A LOT with the private island (missing it due to weather) and it has happened to us multiple times. I was really looking forward to a beach and snorkeling day! This would be the very first time we did not make it to a beach to hang out at during a cruise (or even by land in the Caribbean). We are setting a record this time around!



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As I had a little pout on my face, I told the family to gather...nothing...then we headed down to get off the ship. 


We make it to ding out and wait...where is Sakari's key card? She had left it in the room. We waved bye to her as she headed back up to the room to search for it. I'm saving my legs for this hike...you're on your own munchkin!




She returned and off we went.












The port here is very small. It's not like your normal ports where you have to walk around in the compound forever before getting out of the gates. This is a simple walk. You walk into a building and out the other side and you are free. Most of the shops were not open yet.




You come out of the building and onto the street, which are also lined with shops to buy things (again they weren't open this early). 






The place we were to meet Sef was at a coffee shop "Beans" and it was a simple walk. Once we arrived we didn't see anyone waiting for us but there were a lot of people getting their morning coffee. So, we sat down in front of the store and waited.



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We waited and waited and waited...no Sef, no Hike BVI people with signs. At some point I decided to send Sef an email to let him know we had been waiting, but I didn't get a reply. The hubby said he was going to get coffee and headed into Beans and I decided to walk around to the other side of the building where I would find a guy with a Hike VI shirt on and inquired if he was there for us. He said "Are you Kim?" Yep!  I was a little confused why he wasn't actually looking for us, for that now half an hour we'd been waiting, instead of just sitting on a bench. I ask if he was Sef and he said "No, I'm David. Sef will meet up with us."


I told him the hubby had went in for coffee and would be out shortly. At this point, I guess he would just have to wait on us now. 


When the hubby came out, this guy had us sit back down to wait. Then two other people came along. She said her name was "Kim". Um...what are the chances. Us Kim's were having a discussion back and forth and I just happened to mention that we were going on the Bamboo Hike. She told me that they had booked the Mountain Hike tour and had hoped that it wasn't too strenuous. She said her husband loves strenuous hiking tours...her, not so much but was doing it for him. When David heard our conversation, you could tell there was some confusion. He made a few phone calls and then came back and said he was taking the other couple on their excursion and Sef would be here shortly to get us. I told him that Sef was supposed to be there at 8am and it was almost 9 now. He continued to make phone calls and then they walked away. I guess we were waiting some more. 


After some confusion back and forth David returned, again saying that Sef was on his way, but now the other Kim and husband had decided they would do our tour instead.


Sef arrived and explained that he got an email saying that Kim wanted to change the meeting time to 8:30am. So he thought that was me Kim not the other Kim Kim. LOL  Did ya follow that? So, that explained the mix up. Funny thing is, the other Kim Kim was also supposed to be a party of 3 but her son wasn't feeling well and decided not to come. So two Kim's, party of three. Yep, what are the chances?


Finally we were headed off. We rode with Sef and Kim Kim rode with David. 








Sef told us how most people there would build really large buildings (that appeared to be mansions to those visiting like us) but they were really apartments that they would use as income while they also lived there...therefore paying for their mortgage and having an income as well. He said most large homes were like that. 








He also told us about the beaches that most cruisers go to when visiting there. 





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We arrived to our "spot" and went into what looked like a historical park area with a large building made of stone. 




This was Mount Healthy National Park and this was (used to be) where they produced Sugar Cane inside.




Sef had us sit on the bench and wait for Kim Kim to arrive.





Then we all gathered inside and Sef told us the history of the sugar mill. 
















You had to be careful because there were spiders and bee nest everywhere. 





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We headed back out to the street where Sef said we would need to introduce ourselves to each other...only us Kim's already knew each other from back at the port and they hubby goes "Wait a minute, is your name Sam too?" as he ask Kim Kim's hubby the burning question. Nope, he was Scott. Close enough. 


We headed down the street to where we would start our adventure. 


There was some type of school there and little kids running around on the concrete. 




Seth told us we were hiking down the dirt hill to start out and I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right choice of tours. It had a bunch of rocks and some of the area's was a little slippery. The hubby helped me along and I eventually made it down to the bottom. 




Once we made it to the bottom, we followed Sef and he would stop along the way to show us interesting bushes/greenery and let us know what they are used for. 


The Neem Tree leaves were used as an essential oil for skin conditions like eczema




The Castor Oil plants which help with inflammatory conditions like gout and also good for hair and skin. The beans can also be toxic. 






The fake pineapple tree: used for fencing/hedges around properties. At times of the year it turns red and grows a stalk with berries on it that is used to make vinegar when they are green. Once the berries turn red, it becomes a nectar to make juice with.  




The "Leaf of Life", native to Madagascar until the 1500's, and helps with respiratory issues by eating it and sucking the juices out. It will remove mucus and was used for people on the island that had covid with shortness of breath. He told a story about a lady that was unable to walk up a flight of stairs and after eating 2 leaves, she was then able to walk without issues up the stairs. It works great for asthma. You have the option of eating the leaves or putting them in water and boiling them and drinking the juice when done. It is also used for cuts that don't heal, when mixed with a flour to make it into a paste, you apply to the cut and within a day you will have a scab and it speeds up the healing process. Sef's dad was the village herbalist. 






Some type of berry he called Junbi beads, which are poisonous. I do not remember what he said they were used for...other than as kids they would put them in their mouths (not knowing they were poison) and use a straw to spit them out at classmates, hitting them in the neck or head, as a prank. lol







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A parasite they call spaghetti, which is a weed, that birds will drop and it will climb and choke out the plants. You must pull them to keep them from killing off plants.




Kim Kim inquired about the holes we would see along the way. They were large spiders...very large. He coaxed one out using a twig but it wouldn't stay out long enough for me to get a picture or good video. 






He said they were harmless but people would kill them because of being afraid of them due to their large size. 


He also told us there were no poisonous snakes on the island either. 


We continued on the trail...




As you can see, it was a challenging course full of obstacles to walk over (honestly it was not really that hard) but I was extra careful as I stepped over branches...and you all know why. Yikes!






He said we didn't have to worry about anything like poison ivy, which was good because we brushed up against everything along the way.



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Since this Kim was tagging along a little ways behind Kim Kim and her hubby, I caught something moving along the trail. I stopped to investigate and it was a hermit crab. 





This leaf is called the Moron (sp?) bush and was used to make brooms to sweep the house with and it had a really weird smell to it. He said they would put the leaves in the house around windows and doors and it would act as a natural repellant for bugs. At this point Sakari was rubbing it all over her. LOL  It gives off a scent like a citronella candle. It was also a very scratchy leaf and was used as a Scotch Brite to clean dishes with. 




This is called the pealing tree/gum tree/Gumbo Limbo Tree. When you cut the tree, the sap is like a glue substance and would be used to glue things together. It is also used to treat skin conditions like sunburn. These trees would also be planted around their homes to protect them from hurricanes because of their large size.








This tree is called the Trumpet tree, otherwise known as the weather mans tree. It was used to predict weather and the leaves would change from being upright to curling under to predict a hurricane. 






The Mimosa plant/fern that will curl up when you touch it as a defense mechanism. We have ran into these plants on previous tours in various parts of the Caribbean. Sakari has always found them interesting. 







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A tree called the Sand Box tree. It is the most dangerous tree in the world he said. Even monkeys won't climb the tree and animals stay away from it and won't eat the fruit.  The sap will cause an angry red rash on the skin and can blind you if it gets in your eyes.


This tree is on the smaller side but said they grow extremely large and the thorns on the side of them get around 3" long. This allowed the village people to use the tips for hunting. 








The fruit of the tree was used as a container to hold sand back in the day...therefore getting its name as the Sandbox tree. This sand was used for blotting ink when writing letters. It is also poisonous and will cause major cramps and diarrhea.




One of the interesting things about this tree is that the fruit can explode!! They look like pumpkins and once they dry, they explode that can shoot out to 45 meters away. They will hurt anyone standing by. Once they explode the seeds go so far that they will replant in a different area, therefore not needing animals to carry them off to another location to reproduce. They compete for sunlight...another reason the seeds are shot far away from the mother tree.


They are considered an invasive tree. 




The leaves are used for medical purposes such as arthritis, intestinal worms and even eczema. 




There was some type of leaf he told us about that helps cure prostate cancer. He told us about a man that was only given a short period of time to live and they would take these dried up leaves and the mans cancer went away. He is still alike today and living in the village. 







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We would see a lot of termite mounds along the way. He said if the nest was brown, it is a live nest. Once the nest turns black, they leave and move on to another. 








We finally arrived to the bamboo area. They were everywhere with a lot of very large ones. My uncle in Alabama used to have some growing on his property and I remember him telling me just how fast they grow. Sef tested us, asking how fast they grow and you got answers anywhere from a week to months. Nope, they can grow up to 2-3 feet a day (or 1.5" per hour). Isn't that crazy?? Yep, I won the test. 








Of course bamboo is used for multiple things such as clothing, transportation and houses. I remember my uncle cutting them down to use as a fishing pole on his property. 


Sef also told us they would use the bamboo tree as a torture device and tie someone up to the tree with a spearhead and it grows so fast that it would not take long for it to spear them. 


As we walked around the bamboo area, we went down a hill toward some water. 







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He said there's usually more water with a nice stream. Now I remember seeing reviews of this tour and there was a raft made out of the bamboo and sitting in the water for you to stand on and take pictures. That raft is no longer there and he said something happened to it weather related I believe.






The stream was pretty much dried up in area, but where there was water, you would see crawdads swimming around and tiny fish. 




He caught one and handed it to Sakari. She catches these back home when she goes fishing. She was still excited since she was holding an official Tortola crawdad!













Then he pointed at something under a large rock...it was momma crawdad and she had some rather large pinchers. 





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It was time to move on and we were moving up stream this time. 










Then we spotted a snake slithering across the dried up stream.




Of course Sakari wanted to hold it and hold it she did.






A picture Sef took of her holding the snake. 




Sef explained that it was a Puerto Rican racer snake. He said the Virgin Islands snakes only come out at night.






It was time to let the snake go and Sakari put it down on the bank. It laid there and Sef said it was a mechanism of playing dead so we wouldn't touch it again. It laid there for awhile and he shooed it and off it went. 





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He gave us a lesson on how to start a fire out in the woods... ya know, in case we get lost. Rubbing two stones together just takes so long so "You grab some bamboo, some of this and another one of these...all found around here, then you rub them together" Of course you could tell these items sitting around here had been gathered previously and placed there for easy access to demonstrate how to make the fire. 




He had David hold part of the bamboo while he viscously rubbed his piece back and forth and within seconds, it started to smoke. 




However the fire did not spark enough to start...but "You get the point" he said and placed it back down to use for the next tour. (I had previously seen a video of him doing it and he did make a fire, which was pretty cool and I had hoped to witness it in person).




Then he told us he would take some pictures of us and had us stand by the bamboo trees. 




Of course we needed a picture of us as a group and Kim Kim and hubby entered the picture. 




Then we went back up in the bamboo forest and headed back the way we had came.








We passed things along the way and Sef quizzed us on what he had told us the names of them were. 


Do you remember? The weatherman tree.











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Sef took a few pictures of us that day and air dropped them to Sakari. By few, I mean like less than 10 so if you want pictures of the tour, it's best to take your own. 










I stopped along the way to take a picture of this creature and then found another one a few trees down from there. 






Then I heard a commotion behind me and seen that the hubby was having some difficulty for a minute. I waited on him and David to catch up. He would present a thorn that he managed to step on during the walk and he had to pull it out of his shoe/foot. 




The question after that was "Are you going to make it? Was that the poisonous tree that got you?" 


Well, he made it back and he's still with us today.


He stopped to talk to David about the houses we had seen back there. David told him we were actually walking in people's back yards and there were house's everywhere in the woods. 




Once we made it back up the hill of rocks and dirt and back out to the blacktop at the school, there were a lot of little kids outside now and they were surrounding us like hawks with several of them pointing at my purse saying "What do you have in there? Do you have any money?" It was a little strange because they wouldn't leave me alone and kept asking to see what was in my purse. 


We headed back over to the area of the Sugar Mill, which had some picnic tables, and found a seat. 




Sef and David passed out fruit cups and boy were they yummy after the hike. 






The only odd thing I found about this little light snack was he had a pitcher of lemonade but only 2 cups. Each family had a cup poured and handed to them and was told to share it. Very strange to me. Like why would you not have a cup for everyone to have their own? 



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Really enjoying this cruise.  You guys are active excursionists.  I never wanted to go to Tortola but a few years ago at Long Bay Beach was my favorite beach excursion I have ever been to.  Not a cruise line excursion, just grabbed a cab.  Wi-fi, a beach bar, chairs and it was cheap.  I cant wait to go back there.  You are a more experienced cruiser than me so chances are you have been there before.  BTW, the lazy river excursion in the DR is not connected to hike, correct?  Or was it connected somehow and I missed it. 

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Wow! I just started reading this review and am really enjoying all the pictures. I had not been on Cruise Critic since I got back from my cruise in November. I was just recently wondering about not seeing a good Mitsugirly review in a long time, and thought maybe you had been cruising on another line. Thank you for posting. Glad to hear that you are all healed from your injuries. I do remember seeing the images of your foot. Ouch!


One of the things I really like about your reviews is that you include all the little bumps in the road that you encounter. It gives people that may not travel as much a realistic picture of what things can happen, and how you can deal with them. Such as shuttle issues. These events are not uncommon.


I branched out and cruised on Holland America to the ABC islands and Half Moon Cay the beginning of November. It was good but definitely not as good of a fit for us as NCL. Trying MSC and Princess later this year. If nothing blows us away, we will probably stick with NCL. We have also cruised with Royal and Celebrity and enjoyed them as well. 


Originally, I was planning on doing a comparison review of Holland and NCL, but I will just say that there were pluses and minuses for each line. Mostly I liked the entertainment better on NCL, and I loved the adult only aft pool area on Holland. 


Thank you for posting this review here on Cruise Critic.



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4 hours ago, david_sobe said:

Really enjoying this cruise.  You guys are active excursionists.  I never wanted to go to Tortola but a few years ago at Long Bay Beach was my favorite beach excursion I have ever been to.  Not a cruise line excursion, just grabbed a cab.  Wi-fi, a beach bar, chairs and it was cheap.  I cant wait to go back there.  You are a more experienced cruiser than me so chances are you have been there before.  BTW, the lazy river excursion in the DR is not connected to hike, correct?  Or was it connected somehow and I missed it. 


Thank you and glad you are enjoying it. We are very active and love to stay busy. Or maybe it's just me and the family comes along for the ride...who knows. 😄 


I have only been to Tortola one other time and that time we went over to the Baths. Hopefully I'll make it there again some day. I will have to see about Long Bay Beach. He showed us it during our "tour" on the way back to the port. It looked beautiful. 


The lazy river was located right at the port and not an excursion. It's just part of the port and free. Not connected to the excursion/hike/waterfalls at all. 🙂 


2 hours ago, Cruising Lynne said:

Wow! I just started reading this review and am really enjoying all the pictures. I had not been on Cruise Critic since I got back from my cruise in November. I was just recently wondering about not seeing a good Mitsugirly review in a long time, and thought maybe you had been cruising on another line. Thank you for posting. Glad to hear that you are all healed from your injuries. I do remember seeing the images of your foot. Ouch!


One of the things I really like about your reviews is that you include all the little bumps in the road that you encounter. It gives people that may not travel as much a realistic picture of what things can happen, and how you can deal with them. Such as shuttle issues. These events are not uncommon.


I branched out and cruised on Holland America to the ABC islands and Half Moon Cay the beginning of November. It was good but definitely not as good of a fit for us as NCL. Trying MSC and Princess later this year. If nothing blows us away, we will probably stick with NCL. We have also cruised with Royal and Celebrity and enjoyed them as well. 


Originally, I was planning on doing a comparison review of Holland and NCL, but I will just say that there were pluses and minuses for each line. Mostly I liked the entertainment better on NCL, and I loved the adult only aft pool area on Holland. 


Thank you for posting this review here on Cruise Critic.



 Well hello there! Glad to have you here and glad you found my review. I still do reviews every 4 months when we vacation. Some are land vacations to the Caribbean to ports we visit by cruise ship. I always include them on my website/blog. If you haven't found that yet, link is in my signature line. 


We probably won't sail with another line for awhile since we have so many Cruise Next certificates to use up...although I want to believe me. I love cruising them all and definitely want to try Holland, MSC and so on. 


Not healed up from my foot injury...never will be at this point. It went back together misaligned so a full ankle replacement is in the future for me to correct it. Still a lot of pain and swelling, but so so much better over the last 10 months since my last surgery. I'm more "normal" now when I walk...thank goodness!


I definitely include the bumps in the road because it happens to everyone. It does not take away from the experience at all. We kinda just roll with the punches. Nuttin gonna ruin my vacation. LOL  I would definitely like to hear the comparison review of Holland vs NCL and would be interested in your thoughts on MSC and Princess once you do those. If you decide to do reviews PLEASE tag me in it.

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Posted (edited)

On the way back he would stop to show us different places and beaches. 


He said the main thing that kept them afloat during covid was the banking system. He also had 2 brothers and 1 sister that died at the same time from covid. There are 30,000 people on the island and everyone knows everyone. In order to drive from one end of the island to the other, it would take about 45 minutes. To drive from in town at the port, it's about 20 minutes in either direction to get to the end of the island. 




This was a Sugar Mill from the 1800's, being used prior to the large building we first went in on the tour.






He pulled over to a fence to show us the "exploding fruit" that was hanging from the tree up close and personal. 











Here was a beautiful beach, he said it was Cane Garden Bay.




He talked about Jost Van Dyke and St Thomas off in the distance.






The city below...




This is Brewers Bay and he said this is usually where the cruisers and vacationers visit. He mentioned something about a hurricane and that it has not fully recovered yet. The waves were pretty strong as well he said. 



Edited by mitsugirly
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A view from above with the cruise ship below.




As we moved along into town, the road we were on was the main road of the island he said. This whole area used to be all ocean and they filled it in to make the town that is there now. 




I think he might have said this was the first 2 story hotel on the island. 




Her Majesty's Prison, which is now a museum. 






The Post Office:




This is now a restaurant but is a historic building that was built in the 1700's and was known as the "Customs House". The building was once used as housing for several Africans brought to Tortola in the 1800's, when it was first declared illegal to sell or trade human beings into slavery. The Customs House was then put into service for that purpose. 




After the 2017 hurricane, $11 million was invested in replacing all the windows blown out of the government house but it still to this date has not reopened and the people do not know what the hold up has been all these years. 



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We returned back to port around 12 noon and decided we would take a walk around the area. For those wondering, yes we felt perfectly safe to stroll the streets. 


At one point I said "Oh, I remember reading there was an umbrella street here and an all pink Barbie street. That would be neat to go to and I remember it was within walking distance. We have plenty of time now that we were in port until 4pm."


As we walked along, I was trying to bring it up on my phone with a map. I was having a lot of problems with it. A guy on the street ask if he could help us find something and I told him we were looking for the umbrella street. "The umbrella street???" He said there was no such thing there. I was puzzled. The hubby ask where the Barbie street (now I knew it wasn't actually named the Barbie street and that was what I called it because it was all pink). I quickly swooped in and said "No, the pink street" hoping to not look like a fool at this point. Again, the man said no such place. I thanked him and we continued walking in shame. Only then did I realize that in fact there was no Barbie Pink Street or Umbrella street. I remembered I had read about that in Dominican Republic. Gosh darnit!


Ok, well, we would just have to stroll around and maybe do some shopping instead. We came across some colorful little huts and decided that's where we would go. 




Ya know, the little souvenir shops you'll find with everyone having the exact same thing inside of them but trying to get your attention because there's is better than the others. Ya know, the ones that will convince you that they are hand made right there, by them, in Tortola only you see them in every shop? Yea, those places. 




We strolled in and out of them and then decided to head back. There wasn't much more around other than restaurants and bars and we weren't really interested in that. We were interested in finding some pop and we purchased a couple of bottles from a lady that had a shop with a cooler outside. Yea, I think they were expired by about 3 months. Ugh!



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Once back in port, we walked along this area on the other side of the shopping buildings. It was real pretty and along the waterfront. There were several places to stop and eat or get drinks...of alcoholic nature. The food was smelling pretty good to and we knew we should probably head back to the ship for some lunch before our bellies started hating us. 






There's a nice picture opportunity right in port to get the ship in the background as well. 











We strolled back onto the ship around 1pm and decided to head up to the buffet. I had a sandwich and some type of cauliflower mixture and I must have been so excited about it I couldn't stop long enough to focus the picture. Is that bread??? Real bread? Oops I said to the hubby. 😉 




Desert was some strawberry pastry type of thing, which I only had a little bit of. 





Obviously the hubby felt he needed a nap after lunch. 



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We got the pleasure of watching them set up the Christmas display in the buffet area. It was so pretty and so much goes into it. It had a real train that moved as well.



















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