We like to travel for our anniversary, by the time spring rolls around we are ready to head someplace warm! For this anniversary we chose a Carnival cruise. This was our second Carnival cruise and it fit the bill for a long weekend getaway.
We set sail from Tampa which is a very easy port. We used a taxi from the hotel and were dropped off right in front of the entrance. You take your carry on with you on the ship and we had drinks on the deck while we waited for our room to be available.
We like an ocean view room and booked the cheapest we can in that category. You are never in the room much anyway so why spend more money on a larger room?
A fun fact was we had taken this same ship years earlier on our honeymoon for a week long Caribbean cruise. They had refurbished it and moved it to a new port.
This mini water park was definitely new to the ship!
The mini golf was hard to play with the wind and the ship moving. Husband thinks he won!
The pool area where pretty much we spent most of our time by day and night.
And at the pool area I enjoyed this functional but fun pina colada drink holder…
I love sunsets at sea!
And after visiting Grand Cayman when the ship turned to leave port this poor person got quite a surprise hours after the rain had ended.
We would cruise Carnival again. I know if the past they have had their issues but we have never had a problem. During the swine flu outbreak they had Purell hand sanitizer every where. And crew members handled the buffet by serving you. There was little opportunity to touch anything in a public area. They even manned most of the busy doors in public areas. I was impressed and used every Purell dispenser I saw.
Not sure why the chicken crossed the road but the cars stop for them in Grand Cayman.
We were planning a carnival cruise for our anniversary when the swine flu hit the media. No big deal, wash the hands a lot and carry on with life was our plan.
We needed a hotel in Tampa prior to a cruise. Not being much at all into points or miles at the time I just wanted to save some money. So I looked into Priceline. It took a little research on bidding for travel and better bidding to figure out how everything worked before I tried a bid.
My first bid was too low so I rebid in a couple of days with success. I won the Grand Hyatt Tampa bay for $47. I was very happy with the reviews and we only needed the hotel for one night!
The hotel shuttle took us from the airport to the hotel for the night even though it was pretty late when we flew in. It was nice to not have to pay for a taxi.
Check in was very friendly and we were given a basic king sized room in the main tower building.
I often use Groupon to save on vacation experiences. When I saw that the American Victory ship was next to the Florida National Aquarium I new we could squeeze in a visit! So I purchased a Groupon for $5 for two adult admissions. We left our car in the aquarium lot after our visit and walked next door to the ship.
The Victory is a fully functional WWII ship. The ship is 455 feet long and was launched in May 1945 and spent its time carrying cargo to Europe and then to South Vietnam.
After our Disney cruise we took a drive over to Tampa. Staying at the Country Inn and Suites Tampa/Brandon put us near Tampa but not in the downtown area. This hotel was 9 miles from the aquarium. Husband and I had visited the aquarium previously after a carnival cruise that docks right near the aquarium. We had wanted to take daughter there knowing she would enjoy it!
We parked in the lot to the left of the aquarium where parking is $6 for the day. There is a parking garage across the street that is used by mostly cruise guests and its more than $6 a day.
I love to hike with my family out of state. Its fun to look for other animals, and to see other landscape than what we have at home. This park was a little tricky for my GPS to find. It kept putting us in a business park up the street from where we really needed to be. But it was so worth the U-turns to get to the park!
I like to do things that are fun yet cheap, this is a perfect example! Just $2 a car load to enter. We parked near the visitors center to use the bathroom before our hike. There were examples of local wildlife and a nice little log book for people to enter what animals they had seen on the boardwalk path. A group of young children had visited just before us and one child wrote he had seen “a big black snack!” So we had to keep our eyes open for a big black snack according to Daughter. We got quite the chuckle out of it as we walked the beautiful boardwalk.
We visited the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo in the fall just before Halloween. We used our AZA pass to save 50% on the entry price. (American Zoo and Aquarium Association pass from our local zoo) Normal entry is $24.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids 3-11, parking was free.
That price is a little hefty for a zoo but this zoo includes the rides free in its admission. They have a Gator flume ride, the tiger roller coaster, flying bananas, train ride and carousel included in the ticket. We visited during the week and I think Daughter rode the flume ride five times with little wait.
The zoo is rather large with a newer safari area and wallaroo station. We visited on an animal enrichment day. The animals were given Halloween treats to enjoy. Pretty much this consisted of pumpkins but it was fun to watch the animals especially the elephants and tigers.
The tigers were so fun to watch with their pumpkins. They drug them up from the water onto the land for a while and they would roll back into the water. They would try to sink them and the pumpkins would pop back up.
We really enjoyed our zoo visit!
After our cruise we spent a few days in the Tampa area. Daughter wanted to swim in the Gulf so we drove from Tampa to Clearwater Beach. It was about 40 minutes over the causeway to the beach area. We were able to park the car and get into our room at the Clearwater Beach Travelodge right away. We changed into our swim suits and headed across the street to the Gulf.
We walked up the beach to the pier and watched someone land a huge cow ray. I think we watched almost an hour as he struggled with the fishing pole and finally brought up the huge ray.
Our hotel was across the street from the beach, a quick 30 second walk was all it took to hit the sand. I can walk a little to save over $100 a night on the hotel. And with nothing built in front of the hotel we had great beach views from the rooms. The hotel is old but clean. And it has a pool in the center courtyard so Daughter was happy. I know that sounds odd being right next to the Gulf but she wanted to swim in the pool for a while at night.
The hotel is behind these trees…
After dinner that night we walked the block back to the pier 60 area. They had buskers performing and selling their items on the pier. What a riot!!!! We saw people juggle fire, escaped from a straight jacket, sing and dance.
Also right at the front of the pier they were playing the movie Ghost Busters on a huge inflatable movie screen on the grass. There were a lot of people watching the movie and performers, it was a great time. And best of all it was all free! We looked at peoples crafts they were selling and nibbled on some popcorn we bought.
After crashing in the waves all day it was nice to relax and just hang out around the pier area. We walked the beach back to the hotel in the dark.
We visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on our way to Clearwater Beach. The aquarium is open from 9am to 6pm. They offer a variety of ticket options, you can visit Winters Dolphin Tale Adventures and the aquarium. We chose to visit just the aquarium with general admission. Tickets were $17.95 for adults and $12.95 for children, I found a $3 off coupon online and used that at the aquarium.
We watched the dolphins interact with the trainers for a while.
Checked out the other animals at the aquarium and the touch tanks.
And we watched Winter do her exercises
We had a good time. Daughter is a fan of the movie so it was fun to see Winter.
Here is a website with a buy 1 get 1 coupon: http://www.valpak.com/coupons/savings/Entertainment-and-Travel/Clearwater+Beach/FL