We flew to Miami, where we spent a few days before boarding the ship. Miami was amazing and we were able to shop on Miracle Mile and enjoy the warm weather and beaches. The cruise ship was amazing! There was a ton for each of us to do. The best port that we visited was the first - Puerto Rico.
It was gorgeous. We took a sightseeing tour of the island, which included the historic fort. The kids were delighted to see all of the old cannons and ammunition and learn how the fort worked. We then got to visit Christopher Columbus square.
We had Spanish food in a restaurant that was a little hole in the wall place. It was great to buy handmade linens and tablecloths. It was stunning and the weather was perfect. The next two stops were St Thomas and St Maarten. Both were gorgeous, but Puerto Rico was the highlight!
The distillery was fascinating. They told us all about Mr. Jack Daniel and how he got his business started. We saw the natural pool where Jack Daniel's gets its water. It was a hot summer day, but the cave where the pool sat was as cool as if someone had the air conditioning at full blast. We saw the barrels where Jack Daniel's is aged.
At the end of the tour, we learned something quite surprising: Lynchburg sits in the middle of a dry county. Therefore, the Jack Daniel's distillery could not sell us any Jack Daniel's. They did serve us some "tipsy cake" flavored with syrup made from the whiskey. On the way back to Nashville, we stopped for lunch at a middle-of-nowhere restaurant in Belt Buckle, Tennessee.
We had delicious pulled pork sandwiches and drank tea and lemonade from Mason jars. As we were being served, we noticed a band setting up on the little stage. It turned out that we had gotten there just in time for a bluegrass show that was being aired live on a local radio station. It just goes to show that sometimes the best part of your vacation idea is the part you didn't plan out.
It was an excellent experience! In particular, the food was excellent. It was like eating at a fine-dining restaurant every day for a week. Dinners were three-course meals, and the menus changed every day. Some of the foods were relatively simple: tomato soup, for example.
Others like the escargot were more exotic. Because of the variety of the foods and the skill of the chefs, everyone in my party enjoyed every meal. The best part was a midnight buffet that took place towards the end of the cruise. Intricate ice sculptures decorated the massive tables of food, all of which was the same quality as the dinners.
The rest of the cruise was wonderful, too: the sightseeing, the shopping, the warmth of Baja California. I would definitely consider other all-inclusive vacations to Mexico. But because the quality of the food was so good, we would probably book the same cruise again.
The trip started in Colorado Springs where we spent three days and visited Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy, and took a day trip to the Royal Gorge. Next, we headed south west to Durango stopping about halfway there at the Great Sand Dunes. We arrived in Durango around diner time after a beautiful but long day of driving.
The next morning we took the narrow gauge steam train up to Silverton. We ate lunch in Silverton, and then took a bus back, relaxed and shopped for the rest of the day. We wrapped up our time in Durango with a day trip to Mesa Verde to see the ancient cliff dwellings.
Next was the Grand Canyon with a stop on the way at the four corners. The landscape had turned from beautiful wooded cool mountains to hot dry desert. We spend one night at the canyon in a hotel on the rim and toured the area along the top the next day. We headed next to Page, Arizona on Lake Powell, where we spent a couple days, rented a boat and toured the lake.
Next was north through Monument Valley on our way to a day at Arches National Park in Utah. The final leg took us across I-40 back into Colorado where we stopped for a dip in the hot springs pool at Grand Junction.
Next stop was our last one, our condo rental overlooking the Lake Dillon with views of mountain peaks all around. We spent a full week there relaxing on the lake, riding bikes, shopping and touring small towns like Breckenridge, Leadville and our last day trip up to Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Forest.
For great places to vacation, the American Southwest can't be beat. This was a fabulous family vacation idea that allowed us to see vastly different environments, beautiful natural scenery and a great deal of Native American and old west history.