The second stop on our recent Caribbean cruise was Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. For Christmas I bought an excursion for everyone in our group for the Amazing Turtle & Wildlife Adventure. This allowed us to visit the famous Cayman Turtle Farm, the world’s only sea turtle farm.

Group Shot

Group Shot

By far one of the coolest parts of the farm are the turtle touch tanks, where you can pick up and hold baby Green Sea Turtles. It was fun to watch the little guys swimming and playing with each other too.

Touch Tank

Touch Tank

There is even a small tank where you can sink into knee deep water and get even closer to the little ones. This was definitely a highlight with our young kids.

Yearling

Yearling

I really enjoyed the large turtle lagoon. Complimentary masks, snorkels, and flotation vests are available and once equipped it is really easy and fun to snorkel around the lagoon chasing sea turtles and fish. Some parts of the lagoon are easily twelve feet deep, so the flotation vests really helped.

Snorkel

Snorkel

It was so much fun to swim with the turtles and at the far end of the lagoon there is a window into the predator tank, so it almost looks like you are swimming with sharks! One of these sharks can be seen near the end of the video at the end of this post (around 4:20).

Turtle Swim

Turtle Swim

The breeding pond holds the turtles that are of breeding age, which is usually about 16 years old. There are literally hundreds of Green Sea Turtles in this pond, some weighing in at more than 500 pounds. During breeding season, from May to October, the connected beach area is used by the females to lay their eggs.

Breeding Pond

Breeding Pond


Grand Cayman on Dwellable

Late last week my wife and I had the chance to try the newest neighborhood restaurant, J Bar Pizzeria, occupying the former Indigo spot in Hyde Park Square. While we always enjoyed the food at Indigo, the atmosphere definitely needed some work. Fortunately upon our first steps inside the restaurant spot shares very little resemblance to its past.

Inside

Inside

J Bar has lots of dark wood work throughout, and the space feels very open. There is a newly added bar along the left wall, which meets up with the kitchen at the back of the room. A window allows customers to see back into the kitchen and watch as all meals were prepared fresh and from scratch. There are a couple dozen tables throughout the space and there were plenty available during our 7pm visit on a Thursday.

Potato and Ricotta Dumpling

Potato and Ricotta Dumpling

We started with the potato and ricotta dumpling ($10). The dumpling also features small pieces of house made sausage. Fried Brussels sprout leaves, crispy kale, Parmesan, and pine nuts are served on the side. The dumplings were very tasty, and I actually preferred the bites without any sausage in them. I would order these again but I think next time I’d go for a salad, some of which looked amazing.

Half J Bar Pie, Half South of South

Half J Bar Pie, Half South of South

The large size pizzas can be split half and half ($21.50 for our choices). We went with the J Bar pie (red sauce, cheese blend, pepperoni, truffled gremolata) and the south of south (house made chorizo, chihuahua cheese, spicy red sauce, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, avocado). While the J Bar pie was fairly simple as far as ingredients go, the taste was excellent. And the south of south was like nothing I’ve ever had, especially with avocado served as a pizza topping.

Both pizzas were excellent choices and I saw a few more selections from the menu that also caught my eye, not to mention all the paninis that looks great too. I know for sure that I will be back soon.

J Bar Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The first stop on our recent Caribbean cruise was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. My wife, my brother, his girlfriend, and I all decided to do the Dunn’s River Party Cruise excursion. My parents have both done this at least once, so they offered to stay back with the kids while we took a ride on a sailing catamaran to the Dunn’s River Falls, climbed the falls, and then enjoyed unlimited rum punch drinks on the ride back.

Photo Op #1

Photo Op #1

Man-Made Improvements

Man-Made Improvements

I wanted to take my GoPro with us for the trip, but on the morning of the excursion I found that the batteries were dead. So we all chipped in and bought the DVD from the guys at the falls, which offers 15 minutes of video and pictures from our group’s climb up the falls. I captured a few images from the video to share, as they are the only pictures we have from the falls.

Waterfall Slide

Waterfall Slide

The hike up the falls is not terribly difficult, but there are some added tricks that make it a fun activity for nearly all ages. We had a four-year-old in our group who made it up the falls, though he did require some big help from his parents. I don’t think it’s worth doing more than once, but everyone should experience this for themselves.

Cruising

Cruising

The ride back was a fun time with the crew of the “Cool Runnings” catamaran. The rum punch was definitely flowing and I don’t think my glass was ever empty, thanks to the lovely crew.

Cool Kids

Cool Kids

Margaritaville

Margaritaville

For the rest of our stay in Ocho Rios, we found a nice little beach outside of Margaritaville, which overlooked our ship. Buckets of beer were available to take down to the beach and the restaurant itself was never very crowded. We had a couple of appetizers before heading back on board on our way to Grand Cayman.


Ocho Rios on Dwellable

After my cousin’s wedding in Fort Lauderdale, my family and I boarded a cruise to Ocho Rios Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel aboard the Carnival Breeze. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend, and my grandpa all came along for the six-day adventure.

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

Beach Pool

Beach Pool

The Breeze is a massive ship, capable of carrying 3,690 passengers. This was quite a change from the only other cruise I’ve taken, which was aboard Royal Carribean’s Brilliance of the Seas (2,501 passengers). My wife and I took this cruise for our honeymoon for 12 nights through the Mediterranean. The amazing thing was that we actually saw the Brilliance again in two of our ports during this trip.

Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas

Mixmaster Tim

Mixmaster Tim

My brother participated and won a drink making competition the first full day of the cruise. For the rest of the cruise all passengers were able to purchase his drink from the rum bar adjacent to the big pool. Our cruise happened to fall during the college football national championship game. The game was shown on the massive seaside theatre screen above the big pool. Other nights movies were played for families to enjoy.

National Championship

National Championship

Carnival WaterWorks

Carnival WaterWorks

My kids (along with the hundreds of others onboard) loved all the amenities available, especially the WaterWorks splash zone and the putt putt course. I know I played at least a dozen rounds with my four-year old son.

9 Holes of Putt Putt

9 Holes of Putt Putt

Sunset

Sunset

We had a great trip with a solid mix of relaxing and adventurous days. I’ll have more posts in the future detailing each of our stops as I start to sort through all the videos and photos that I have.

There were only two breakfast places close to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale, one of which was Ocean View Delight. We dined here for breakfast twice since the other place, Primanti Brothers, didn’t have the pancakes that my four-year old son requested for breakfast both mornings.

The inside of OVD is very small with just a few small tables in the room which is mostly occupied by the open air kitchen. Fortunately seating is available outside for larger parties like ours. Service was a bit slow to acknowledge us and a little rough around the edges, but our food arrived fairly quickly.

French Toast

French Toast

Both mornings I had the French toast, made with a Croissant, topped with cinnamon sugar with banana slices on the side ($7.99). The price is a little high for what it is, but it is of good quality and tasted fine. Others in our group appeared to enjoy the omelette and my kids devoured their pancakes. Beware that a glass of water will set you back $.40 so only request one if you plan on drinking it.

We did have breakfast at Ocean View Delight two mornings in a row, but I would have preferred to eat elsewhere the second time if there more options around. The food was fine but it seems a little more expensive than I typically like to spend on breakfast.

Ocean View Delight on Urbanspoon

While visiting Fort Lauderdale for my cousin’s wedding, we had a free night to grab dinner before the big events of the follow day. Some of my extended family said they were heading to the World Famous bar behind our hotel, the Sonesta, and so we followed them to the Parrot Lounge.

Inside

Inside

Inside the Parrot Lounge is very much a sports bar with TV’s covering nearly ever available space above the bar. There is also shuffleboard, darts, and a Wii console. They have an amazing selection of craft beer available, including Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA on tap during our visit.

Chicken Philly

Chicken Philly

For dinner I ordered the chicken philly ($8.99) and added onions, peppers, and mushrooms for $.50 each. The sandwich comes served with a bag of chips and fries were an additional $2. Phillys are served on Amoroso rolls and smothered in cheese. I really enjoyed the sandwich.

Mahi Sandwich

Mahi Sandwich

My wife had the mahi-mahi sandwich (12.99) with sweet potato fries for $1 more. I didn’t try this sandwich as I’m not big on fish, but she seemed to enjoy it. The sweet potato fries were a little overdone for me, but still edible.

I really enjoyed our visit to the Parrot Lounge. Some members of my family had so much fun there this night that they went back again after the wedding the following night.

Parrot Lounge on Urbanspoon

Two weekends ago my family and I all headed down to Fort Lauderdale for my cousin Allison’s wedding.

Ocean Dip In January

Ocean Dip In January

We spent two nights at the Sonesta, which was within walking distance of the wedding and reception. It is also across the street from the beach, so we spent some time wading in the ocean and searching for shells. They also had a really nice pool area that entertained my rather large extended family for many hours.

Happy Birthday Trey

Happy Birthday Trey

We arrived on Trey’s 4th birthday, and he was surprised to find our room already decorated by members of my family.

Giant Swan

Giant Swan

The wedding ceremony and reception took place at the Bonnet House, a historic home dating from the 1920’s. The 35 acre estate houses amazing gardens, two mute swans, and even a troop of wild Costa Rican squirrel monkeys. Though we did not see these monkeys, we were told there were still three of them living on the grounds.

Allison and Her Dad

Allison and Her Dad

Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremony

These amazing gardens created the perfect spot for a wedding ceremony plus it provided enough distraction to keep my kids quiet for the entire ceremony.

Bonnet House Slough and Swan

Bonnet House Slough and Swan

Sebastian and the Mother of the Bride

Sebastian and the Mother of the Bride

The reception was a really fun time and even included a surprise appearance from Sebastian the Ibis, the official mascot for the University of Miami. We all had a wonderful time and were so happy to be able to help celebrate a wonderful couple.


Fort Lauderdale on Dwellable

Going back to my night on the town I recently had with my wife a month ago, after staying the night at The Cincinnatian we searched for somewhere to get breakfast before picking up the kids from their grandparents. I quickly found Cheapside Cafe, a place neither of us had gone before, and one that I had read about a handful of times before.

Inside

Inside

Cheapside is located on 8th Street at the intersection with Cheapside Street, between Broadway and Sycamore. It’s a part of town I don’t get to very often but is just a couple of blocks from the front steps of the Horseshoe casino and just down the street from Arnold’s. The inside is casual and comfortable with an open view to the kitchen and large coffee bar.

Challah French Toast

Challah French Toast

The menu is on the limited side, and could be a problem for anyone who doesn’t eat eggs. I am not a fan of eggs, though I do enjoy the occasional French toast, which was just what I ordered. The challah French toast ($7) with candied pecans, whipped butter, and maple syrup was very tasty. I especially liked the addition of candied pecans.

Breakfast Sandwich

Breakfast Sandwich

My wife had the breakfast sandwich ($5) with fried egg, bacon, and pimento cheese on multigrain. I did not try any of the sandwich, but she seemed pleased with her choice. However I do wish that there were some breakfast sides to go along with these dishes. With that said there are sides available to go with lunch orders, so perhaps saving Cheapside for lunch would be best. The curried chicken salad sandwich does sound awesome!

Cheapside Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy New Year! Below is the list of cities that I visited in 2014 with at least one night spent in each place.

  • Cincinnati, Ohio *
  • Englewood, Colorado *
  • Logan, Ohio
  • Sevierville, Tennessee
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Williamstown, Kentucky *
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Blue Ash, Ohio
  • Findlay, Ohio
  • Oregon, Ohio *
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  • Loveland, Ohio
  • New Rochelle, New York
  • New York, New York
  • Columbus, Ohio

Those cities marked with an asterisk were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

See also: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas and break from the daily grind. I know that my family truly is. Trey couldn’t have been more excited for Christmas this year and Paige is quickly catching on. In fact we found her a couple of times opening miscellaneous gifts that we had sitting under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Card 2014

Christmas Card 2014

I am off work until Jan 2nd so posting will probably be very light to nonexistent over the next week or so. I’m looking forward to spending so much extra time with my family and friends. Happy New Year!