Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carnival Cruise Shore Excursions

Carnival Cruise shore excursions can add greatly to the enjoyment of your trip. Notice that I said "can," not will. You should be very cautious about booking them. The wrong trip will waste your precious vacation time and your money.

You should book the trip that is right for you - more often than not, one that is right for you plus the rest of your party. That takes some thought and research.

One of our cruises stopped at Cozumel, Mexico. If you've never been there, it is a wonderful place - much of the experience doesn't have to cost you anything but taxi fare and a little food to tide you over until you get back to the ship.

A family of four was seated with us for dinner. We had been to Cozumel a half dozen times and didn't plan on spending any money there this time, except for food and some T-shirts from the Hard Rock Cafe. We enjoyed the city and snorkeled in the lagoon. That family of four had never been to Cozumel before, yet they bought a shore excursion to CANCUN. To get to Cancun from Cozumel, one has to take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then a bus to Cancun, eating 4 - 5 hours of time in transportation. Not only that, most of these tours, especially in Mexico and Jamaica, stop at places where the tour guide gets a kickback from the owner of the premises. More time wasted. Cancun is a nice place to visit, but if you haven't seen where the ship docks...

Tulum Mexico

Maybe You Can Do It Yourself?

Another thing to consider when booking Carnival Cruise shore excursions is whether the tour is unique to the place that you are visiting. Snorkeling is fun, but if you can do that closer to home why spend a lot of money doing it somewhere else? Doing it free is one thing, but paying for it is entirely something else. In fact, at most cruise stops all you have to do is tell a taxi driver to take you to the nearest good snorkeling. You will need your own equipment, but if you don't have it you could probably buy your own for the cost of the tour.

.... Which brings up another suggestion that works for those that don't mind a little extra adventure on their Carnival Cruise shore excursion. Before you book an excursion through the cruise lines, investigate and decide whether it would be easier and more economical to just go without a guide booked through Carnival. We do that often. It saves a lot of time and money in most instances and you are not at the mercy of the tour guide. Make sure that you get an exact price for the taxi ride before you get in the taxi and make it clear to the driver that you want to go there and back in a straight line - no stops for kickbacks. JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN GET BACK TO THE SHIP IN TIME.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Beach Safety

Living on the coast in Gulf Shores, Alabama, has made us more aware of beach safety and all of the things that can complicate a beach trip. Some are relatively minor. Others can mess up not only your vacation, but possibly the rest of your life.

Jet skis are a relatively new beach safety hazard. They are certainly a lot of fun, but unfortunately they can be dangerous and not just to the riders. Many jet skiers get so caught up in the fun that they don't pay enough attention to their surroundings. Pay more attention to them than they are paying to you and watch your children.

While usually not a major beach safety hazard, jellyfish stings can cause a lot of havoc at the beach. The occasional jellyfish at the beach is not unusual and not a reason to avoid the water. A few unlucky swimmers get stung. But there are times when everybody who gets in the water gets stung numerous times. Temperatures, salinity and good feeding are just a few variables that can affect the jellyfish population in a given area.

There are different types of jellyfish, some more dangerous than others. It would be a good idea to research treating jellyfish stings before a beach trip, especially if you have children. There are inexpensive products on the market that soothe jellyfish stings.

Riptides cause many drownings every year. It is probably the greatest danger at the beach. A riptide is a small channel that pushes water out to sea. People drown while trying to fight a riptide. If caught in one, swim parallel to shore until you are past the current and then swim toward the shore. Many public beach areas have flags to indicate swimming conditions. Red flag means stay out of the water, not be careful in the water.

Red Tide is a naturally occurring, higher than normal concentration of microscopic algae. The causes of red tide are not completely known, but it is thought by some experts to be caused by high temperatures combined with a lack of wind and rainfall.

I have read where red tide can be isolated and patchy, not affecting all areas of a beach, but from what I have personally seen at Gulf Shores I wouldn't have been able to avoid it by moving my beach chair a half mile. Symptoms are irritation of the eyes and throat. Obviously, if one suffers from asthma or other respiratory conditions this isn't a good thing, but otherwise healthy people will probably just be uncomfortable.

Sand holes and cave-ins are something that can turn a pleasant day at the beach into a nightmare real fast. Sand is easy to dig, so children sometimes dig deep holes quickly. Children do die from this. A vibration or drying sand can cause a cave-in. It only takes seconds under the sand to cause death.

Sunburn is very avoidable, but millions of people still get sunburned. At the very least, it can make the rest of your beach visit less comfortable. A beach umbrella makes a lot of sense if you plan on staying throughout the day. Beach tents are becoming popular, especially for children. They are fairly cheap and can be bought at the beach and thrown in a dumpster or given away at the end of your trip.

Puncture wounds are something to watch out for. Not very many people are going to do it, but it is best to wear some sort of footwear in the sand unless it is firmly packed sand near the water. Even on the packed sand, watch out for dead fish and sharp debris, especially after tropical storms and hurricanes.

Stingrays are non-aggressive creatures, but they can give you a dangerous puncture wound if you step on them.  Stingrays will not come after you and in fact will swim away from you if given the opportunity. When wading in the water, it is a good idea to drag your foot across the sand occasionally. The sound and vibrations will warn them that are getting closer.

The greatest fear of most beach tourists is a shark attack. The fear of sharks goes beyond beach safety. People have nightmares about them in Kansas. Certainly take precautions. Don't swim in schools of fish, especially in murky water. Take your flashy jewelry off before entering the water. Don't swim near bloody dead fish. Think twice about swimming between dusk and just after dawn.

But  shark attacks are rare. Deaths from shark attacks are extremely rare. In fact only 10 people in the entire world die each year from shark attacks. To put that in perspective, 150 people die in the world each year from falling coconuts. True.

The family should sit down and discuss beach safety before leaving home. Kids are not going to listen as well after they arrive at the beach. They are usually too excited to even sit still. Upon arrival, it is a good idea to briefly go back over what you discussed at home, as the situation dictates.

Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Alabama

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Types of Jellyfish on the Alabama Gulf Coast

There are several types of jellyfish on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Jellyfish can be problematic creatures. A jellyfish sting can not only be painful but dangerous for the person that is allergic to them.

  Moon Jelly

The moon jelly is one of the most commonly found jellyfish in the area. The bell can be anywhere from three to twenty inches in diameter. It is often clear or has a slight whitish hue to it. A cloverleaf pattern can be observed on the bell. The cloverleaf is either orange or pink in color. The tentacles are short and almost give the appearance of a curtain. The sting of a moon jelly is a mild one.

  Stinging Nettle

The bell of the stinging nettle is between one inch and one foot in diameter. It is nearly transparent and has small whitish spots. Commonly, there are also red or brown colored stripes on the bell. It has very long tentacles. Those that have been stung by stinging nettles assert that it is very painful.

Big Pink Jelly

The big pink jelly is certainly one of the strangest looking jellies in the area. The entire creature is the color of Pepto-Bismol! This thing is seriously pink. The bell is smooth and flat with curved edges. The bell can be anywhere from four inches to three feet in diameter. The tentacles are super long. Some people claim that they had no reaction to the sting whatsoever while others state that the sting is very painful.

Portuguese Man of War

The Portuguese Man of War is a dangerous jelly. The sting is incredibly painful and can be life threatening if allergic. The size of the bell varies from two inches to fifteen inches. The bell is filled with gas and it is blue or purple. The tentacles are long and either red or purple in color. They are often spotted floating on the surface of the water.

Jellyfish Sting First Aid

It is definitely wise to stay alert when in the water. Keeping watch for jellies will certainly help prevent you from getting an unwanted and uncomfortable sting. Pay attention to the color of the flag on the beach. Never go in the water if the flag being displayed is red or purple. Those colors warn you that there are dangerous conditions in the water. Heed the warning and stay safe!

There are some products available that claim to keep jellyfish away. The manufacturers state that they work just like OFF! works on mosquitoes. These products can be purchased on the Internet.

It is always best to be prepared when you go to the beach. Always bring vinegar, work gloves and a container of meat tenderizer. It does sound strange but they will all help if you should get stung. Don’t leave them in the car. Keep them with you.

The tentacles must be gently removed from the skin of the person who was stung. Do this while wearing the work gloves to prevent further stings.

Rinse the area with saltwater. Do not use fresh water to rinse because it can make the cells that haven’t discharged do so. This will cause more pain.

Pour the vinegar over the jellyfish sting or soak the area in a bucket of vinegar. The vinegar helps reduce the stinging pain. Now, mix the meat tenderizer with salt water to form a thick paste. Smear the paste on the part of the body that was stung. This should provide immediate relief.

It is not normal to have a hard time breathing or swallowing after a jellyfish sting. If this occurs, see medical attention immediately.