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Akrotiri & Dhekelia

In Akrotiri and Dhekelia been during my 300 days trip across Middle East, Asia and Europe in October 2016 just for one day (11.10). Visited both 2 parts. Dhekelia just crossed on my way from Nicosia to Aiya Napa on 14.10.
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Akrotiri and Dhekelia is a British Overseas Territory on the island of Cyprus. The areas, which include British military bases and installations, as well as other land, were retained by the British under the 1960 treaty of independence, signed by the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and representatives from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, which granted independence to the Crown colony of Cyprus. The territory serves an important role as a station for signals intelligence and provides a vital strategic part of the United Kingdom communications gathering and monitoring network in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
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Population is 7,700 Cypriots and 8,000 British military personnel and their families.
Akrotiri and Dhekelia cover 3% of the land area of Cyprus, a total of 254 km2(98 sq mi) (split 123 km2 (47 sq mi) (48.5%) at Akrotiri and 131 km2(51 sq mi) (51.5%) at Dhekelia). 60% of the land is privately owned as freeholds by Cypriot citizens; the other 40% is controlled by the Ministry of Defence as the Crown lease hold land.
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Akrotiri is located in the south of the island, near the city of Limassol (or Lemesos). Dhekelia is in the southeast, near Larnaca. Both areas include military bases, as well as farmland and some residential land. Akrotiri is surrounded by territory controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, but Dhekelia also borders on the United Nations (UN) buffer zone and the area controlled by the Turkish forces.
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So, on 11.10 in the morning had breakfast and with Anna, my host in Limassol, on her car went to Akrotiri, British Oversea territory.
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Stopped first on the Ladies Mile Beach for the nice view of the Limassol from there and then drove to the St.Nicholas Monastery (Monastery of the cats).
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Been there, looked around, saw quite few cats. But the monastery was closed and monks were not really friendly.
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After that we drove all the way to Kolossi Castle passing British Air Base with a lot radars and anthennas. Then walked around the castle. It is big site and it looks well preserved.
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Anna dropped us to the Kourion near fortress and then we walked to the Kourion Beach. It was very windy there. So, we just stayed in the bar and had some beer and talk. Then hitchhicked to the Limassol.
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First some British family stopped and gave us a lift to nearest bus stop. Then we walked a bit to the highway and after 10 minutes some local man stopped and gave us a lift all the way to St.Raphael Beach in Limassol.
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Then on 14.10 crossed Dhekelia on my way to Aiya Napa and back, but didn’t notice any signs saying that we entering another country, just regular signs. It was nothing much to see, just like any Cypriot village.
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So, had a quick look at most of the highlights of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. This British Oversea territory is not well known to the world and often dropped in many of the geography atlases. Territory is closely connected to the Republic of Cyprus, they use the same currency, which is Euro, there is no visible borders, just on the map. Only the British military bases are fenced and highly secured.

Dec 2016

Albania

In Albania been in October 2014 during my South Balkans trip. Spent one week there. Also made a day trip to Greek town of Ioannina from Albania and was back.
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So, on my third day of the trip on 02.10. in the morning went to Shkodra by mini-bus from Prizren. On a border there were no Kosovo immigration, only Albanian, which we did very quickly. I was only one passenger in the mini bus for all trip from Prizren to Shkoder. We stopped just outside Prizren for a coffee with driver, he spoke Serbian, so I could communicate a bit with him.
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There are excellent new highway form Prizren to the Albania and its lasting until turn for Tirana. That was real enjoy. Then later policeman stopped our minibus when he was overtaking track and driver paid 10 euro for the cop.
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Then he dropped me before entrance to the city of Shkoder and I took local bus to the center and then found my hostel and went to the Rozafa Castle and to the lake.
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The weather was excellent, was nice and hot. Climbed castle with nice view over the town and lake.
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Then went along the river to the lake and stopped on a shore and had a swim in the lake, water was warm and quiet. On a way to the lake passed some gypsy district which looks scary, but it was only for short walk.
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On next day (03.10.) - in the morning took a bus to Tirana, which took around 3 hours and coast 400 Leke. When arrived to Tirana, couldn't find hostel for a long time, then finally found it and after that went to see the city.
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There was not many historical places to visit, mostly its modern city with some historical buildings and government buildings which looks impressive.
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There are wide boulevards, but there is not one big bus station and buses in the different places for different routes. Train station is moved 15 km away from the center. So, had a walk around and on a way back to the hostel went to the bookstore to check for the English-Albanian phrasebook and met owner of the shop who spoke Russian and stayed there having tea and chatting with him in Russian for around 2 hours. He told me a lot of things about Albania and gave some information about travelling around.
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There is big brand-new cathedral in the center. Its looks very posh. It impressed me a lot, one of the best cathedrals I ever been. Recently Pope visited Albania and it was big celebration over here.
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The pyramid of former dictator of Albania looks miserable and ugly and in bad shape and its located in the center of the city.
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Also at the backyard of some government buildings in the center seen demolished statues of former soviet dictators - Stalin and Lenin.
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Then in the night met some guys in the hostel, had some drinks with them and places some game with ping-pong ball. It was one guy from Australia who said he visited already 97 countries and another guy from Alaska and some local Albanian guys. That was some fun. Went to sleep bit late.
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On a third day (04.10.) woke up for the breakfast which was good with bread with fried eggs and juice and went to the stop for the bus to Berat. Then took a bus to Berat and arrived there after 3 hours or so.
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Then took a taxi with some other guys to the center and then walked to the hostel, got there quite fast. Hostel was nice with nice rooms in old house in old part of the town and the girl working there was so nice and pleasant, so I spent a lot of time talking with her. She is French and working and living here with her American boyfriend and she is really funny. Also met in the hostel some other interesting guys, like one Israeli man travelling around the world and some guy from Albania.
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After checking in the hostel went to see the town which is very nice with castle on top of the hill with people living there and well preserved.
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There is also big church in the town and center is rapidly refurbishing and will looks nice when its done. Also walked on a other side of the town where I stayed and visited some church there as well and then went to eat something. There is big newly built posh University building, which looks amazing.
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Then at night had a chat with guys at hostel.
On the 4 day (05.10.) after having some breakfast took a 8.00 mini-bus to Gjirokastra. Israeli man gave me a lift to the bus station on his way to Tirana. Then in the bus met 6 American senior tourists travelling around the Balkans. Had some fun, then stopped for a lunch on a middle of the road. After 4 hours in the bus by not really good roads arrived in Gjorokastra.
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And it was strong rain, we went to the cafe nearby to wait for the rain to stop, had some coffee there and than took a taxi for the hotel which American guy Ronald Gole who got off here reserved. Hotel was nice and for 15 euro he agreed for me to stay there. Hotel situated on a top of the hill on a foothills of the castle and called ''Gjirokaster Hotel''.
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The rain was continuing for all day until around 7 p.m., so we couldn't wait and got umbrella and went to the town to check for buses.
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Then had some lunch and checked hotel I found on internet and it's even cheaper, its 7,50 euro per night. Then at night typed dairy about trip for last 4 days.
On 5 day (06.10) it was rainy again almost all day, only stopped before the night. Had breakfast in the morning in the hotel. We went to eat afternoon and then after rain stopped walked to the castle and took few pictures.

Got baklava, lemon and rakia and had it in the room. Ronald offered me stay for 10 Euro if he will use my laptop for internet, I agreed and stayed here for another night.
On 6 day (07.10) at the morning left Gjirokastra Hotel and moved to Sopoti Hotel, walked with Ron to the bus station, then checked about buses to Ioninna and Korça. One nice girl from the agency selling tickets spoke English and did help me a lot to find out about tickets and schedule.
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Then came back to the hotel, got wet a bit, took shower, had some rakia with lemon and baklava and had nap for a bit, then it became sunny finally and I went to walk around the town, came to another agency about tickets and found that there is bus to Trikala, which is next to the Meteora for 20 euro at 7.30 a.m. Was thinking about going to Meteora instead of going just to Ioannina next day and Korça day after. So decided to go to Saranda and Butrint next day and Trikala(for Meteora) day after.
On 7 day (08.10) the weather was finally sunny after 3 continuous rainy days. It was foggy in the morning and on a way to the bus stop I decided not to go to Saranda and Butrint and to go to Ioannina and Korça next day. So, I took bus from Gjirokaster at 7 a.m. to the border to Kakovie and then crossed by foot and from there another Greek bus to Ioannina. Then when came back took a taxi for 5 Euro with some rude taxi driver who sticked to me as soon as I crossed the border, offering me ride to the town for 15, then 10, then 8 and at the end for 5 Euro, because there is no more local bus, only long distance buses, but they don't take anybody without the ticket. And then on a way there he offered me many times ride to my hotel for another 3 Euro which I didn't need at all, I was so sick of him. He even asked me show him my passport because he told me that maybe I'm from Syria or so. At the end he was begging for extra 200 Leke, I gave him 100 and was happy I was back to the town.
On 8 day (09.10) in the morning at 7.00 a.m. took a mini-bus(furgon) to Korça. Price for the ticket was 1300 Leke. There were no free seats, so I had to stand all 5,5 hours trip. The road was bad and it was passing along the cliffs with many serpentines and without any barriers, and it was very foggy at some parts of the road that we barely could see a few meters ahead.
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But the scenery was stunning with some high mountains, gorges, valleys and remote villages passing by. The road at some parts was along the Greek border, I even got Greek roaming there. We made couple stops, one for breakfast, where I had local delicious soup with meat.
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At the end around 12.30 we arrived to Korça, which is big city with around 200,000 people. The streets around bus station were torn down and it was a big mess, so just walked for my bus to Pogradec. Then took some furgon for 200 Leke and came to Pogradec on Ohrid Lake.
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The town looks different from other Albanian towns, its more like resort and very bright. Then walked all the way to the border with Macedonia, it took me around 2 hours, the weather was nice and I had a nice time.
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On a way there finally saw couple bunkers near the road, but they where in bad shape. Had some raw corn from the field which was delicious.
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Then arrived to the village of Tushemisht which have many shops and restaurants and welcoming guests with a big board. Had some snacks there before proceeding to the customs.
Then crossed the border, Albanian officer was very friendly I checked me without stamping my passport, but I asked to put a stamp and he was happy to do it.
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In total had a nice time in Albania, and its one of the most interesting and not expensive country in the Balkans. Country developing fast, everyone have a Mercedes car(old or new), still a lot of garbage, nobody utilize. Language is difficult to understand, for whole time I just learned few words. Country is not that much Muslim as Kosovo and I saw many Christian cathedrals and churches and been told that marriages between different religions not a problem.

May 2015

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Antigua & Barbuda

In Antigua & Barbuda been only at Antigua on board M/V Emerald Princess in the season of 2012-2013 and in November-December 2013. Then again visited Antigua on board M/V Royal Princess in December 2014-April 2015.
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Antigua & Barbuda is two islands nation located in the Caribbean in the Leeward Islands group, with total population of around 89,000 people and size of 280 sq km(108 sq miles). Island of Barbuda lies 48 km(30 miles) north of Antigua. The capital is St. John's. Ship was docking there.
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Antigua was discovered by Christopher Columbus and he was impressed by this tropical paradise that he said: "What beautiful lands the sun lights up in the distance".
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Antigua & Barbuda became independent state on Nov 1, 1981.
Coast of Antigua is indented with beautiful bays and some 365 coral beaches, many accessible by boat.
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So, after doing cold Canada and New England itinerary, Antigua was the first Caribbean island for us go outside and enjoy beach and swim. We took a taxi a went to Dickenson Bay beach along with some other guys from the ship.
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Over there took a jet-ski after nearly 13 years since I tried it last time in Yalta in Crimea. That was a lot of fun. Then next time did it again here for more time, around 20 minutes, but after 10 minutes it was difficult to accelerate because of pain in the arms, but it was a lot of fun. Also enjoyed some drinks there, beach had a lot of crew as well.
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Other time took a walk around the town, which situated on a hills, it got some old abandoned cathedral and some other constructions.
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On 01.01.2015 took a short scenic island drive with some vista view along the northwest coast. We passed former U.S. naval base, American University and the V.C. Bird international Airport.
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Then stopped at Scott's Hill for the view.
Later on 14.04.2015 took another tour of Nelson's Dockyard National Park, stopped at Shirley Heights Lookout Point for the picture-perfect views of English Harbor.
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Also seen remains of powder magazine, gun platforms, cisterns and officer's barracks atop this sheer cliff. Nelson Dockyard is the only Georgian naval dock in the world and unique Antiguan landmark.
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It is nice place to visit with many yachts docked there. That day it was cricket match between England and West Indies played there in Antigua, we passed stadium, met many English tourists came here to watch the match.
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Also twice took a bike and went to the Hideaway Bay. It is south from the port.
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Climbed Fort Codrington atop of the hill. It is great structure with good viewing point over the entrance to the harbor.
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There is nice view over the bay with mangrove lagoon on one side and perfect white sand beach on other. Also saw other islands from there.
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Then stopped on a beach nearby. Just for a quick look because it was cloudy and about to start rainy. Then it was rainy on a way back from there, got all wet.
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But then second time with Victoria after 3 weeks it was perfect weather and the water was so perfect. We had some drinks and a lot of fun there.
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In the capital St.John's there is very impressive monument to the National Hero and first prime-minister of the country V.C.Bird. It's very colorful.

May 2015

Armenia

In Armenia been during my trip across Caucasus and Central Asia in 2015.
So, took a overnight train from Tbilisi, Georgia and on 10th day of my trip on (28.08) at 7.30 a.m. arrived at Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
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Withdrew around 100 USD in local currency and went to the hostel. Then finally took shower after 2 days at the trains and went to Garni, where Temple of Mihr situated.
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It was erected in the second half of the 1st century. It is unique preserved architectural monument from the late Roman period. Temple was dedicated to Mihr, the god of sun.
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From there went to Geghart Monastery.
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That's old monastery. Some parts carved in the rock. It is very intersting place.
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Then had some refreshments on the little local river nearby and walked all the way to the center of the village around 5 km for the bus back to the Yerevan. Then just stayed in the hostel, it was thunderstorm and rainy, so stayed on internet.
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Next day (29.08) had my breakfast and went to Lake Sevan. It is the largest lake in Armenia as well as one of the largest altitude lakes in the world. It is a true gem of Armenian natural heritage. It is charged with great spirituality as severl monasteries were built on its shores. Russian poet Maxim Gorki whote about this place – “ a parcel of sky that has fallen on earth among the mountains”.
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I went to Sevanavank Monastery, which is situated on peninsula (before it was island).
Chronicles records that Gregory the Illuminator established hermatage and St.Harutuniun church on top of a pagan temple on Sevan Island in 305. Since that time it was destroyed many times and rebuilt again. Sevanavank was a major center of calligraphy where hundreds of Armenian manuscripts were copied and illustrated.
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From there you have a nice views over the lake. Then from there went back to Yerevan, then taxi to another bus stands and went to Khor Virap Monastery, right on the border with Turkey.
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In the bus met some Russian girls and walked around together. Seen some grape fields and had some local grape, but go get stepped into the mud and had to wash my sandals.
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Mt.Ararat was not really clear, but it was possible to see some shapes of it. Temple is very old and there been some weddings there.
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Saw some nice dressed like angels little kids. Saw some locals and foreign Armenians (among them Lebanese) praying for the Mount Ararat. Been at cave where Gregory Illuminator was prisoned for 13 years in 3 century before he established Christianity in Armenia.
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Then was back to Yerevan. Walked around the center, started from Republic Square and all the way to Cascade.
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Then stopped for some kebab and thunderstorm with rain started, after all I was back to the hostel. Booked flight from Baku to Aktau on 03.09 for 117 USD. Met some Ukrainian girl in the hostel later on. Had some little conversation with her.
Next day (30.08) was waken up few times at the morning, first time at 6 a.m. when two guys were leaving, then at 7 a.m. when some girl was screaming while sleeping, then before 8 a.m. 6 new Polish guys arrived to the hostel. Then after brief breakfast checked for the connection with Tbilisi and decided to go straight away to bus station to catch last mini-bus to Tbilisi at 10 a.m. At around 3 p.m. arrived at Tbilisi.
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On the way there enjoyed Armenian landscapes.
In general, Armenia has a lot of history dating back to the very old times, but they lost a lot of their territory in wars with the neighbours. Even sacred mountain for all Armenians – mt.Ararat now located in Turkey. Armenian population suffered a lot of repressions during their history and nowadays they spread out all over the world. Country has closed borders with two neighbour countries – Turkey and Azerbaijan and its reflects on Armenia’s economy. Country’s infrastructure outdated, mostly dating back to the Soviet times. Looks like time stopped here when Soviet Unioun collapsed. It is the poorest of all Caucasus countries visited by me during my trip. But Armenian ladies are among the most attractive in this region. Prices are the lowest and it is the good point.

Nov 2015

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Aruba

In Aruba been on board M/V Grand Princess in 2011-2012, then on board M/V Emerald Princess in 2012-13 during 2 contracts. And then again visited island on board M/V Royal Princess in the season of 2014-2015.
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It is one of the ABC islands which lies just 15 miles (24 km) off he coast of Venezuela. In a clear day it was possible to see the rock of Venezuela from the top of the ship. Aruba became separate from Netherlands Antilles in 1986, Jan 1. Kingdom of the Netherlands responsible for defense and foreign affairs while the government performs autonomously.
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They have their own money, which is Aruban Florin, and rate is 1 $ = approx. 1.8 Aruban Florin. The population of the island is around 107.000 people, area 181 sq km (70 sq mi.) Capital Oranjestad.
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Island has very dry climate with very little inches of rain and kind of desert landscape with many miles of pristine white sand beaches.
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Area marked by surreal, wind-bent divi-divi trees, cactuses and aloe-vera.
Island is very developed; there is no poverty like on other Caribbean islands, it is very popular tourist destination. People are friendly. Aruba's population is estimated to be 80% mestizo and 20% other ethnicities. They speak most of them 4 languages - English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento (the native languages of the three ABC islands).
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Their logo is ''Bon Bini'' (''Welcome") and anthem is ''The greatness of our people is a great cordiality".
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The capital Oranjestad where the ship docks have 2 terminals, it has nice Dutch architecture, many shops, casino and clubs. Queen Beatrix International Airport located near the city and from the top of the ship used to watch the landing and taking off the planes.
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For me this island is one of the best for the beaches, safety and prices in the Caribbean. Here often I used to go on a beach.
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Most of them Palm Beach with a lots of resorts there and lots of activities. The water is so blue and warm there, also some beaches in a walking distance from the terminal.
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Also made trip by bus to the south-east of the island to the village of San Nicholas.
In 2015 visited that village again. Saw some nice graffiti on a car park.
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And in April 2015 took a tour around the island. First had a tour on semi-submarine of the shipwreck ''Antilla'', German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during WWII.
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That was quite an experience for me. For the first time saw some shipwrecks under the water.
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Then we came back to the Palm Pier and went by bus to the California Lighthouse, with some views of Aruba coast.
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Then we went to Aruba's rugged north coast, to view breathtaking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone.
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Then we stopped at the Casibari rock formations to view amazing landscape, formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses.
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It was a nice tour with many places visited.
I can say literally that I've been all over the island, at all the parts. It is how they say one happy island with friendly people and nice dry climate.

May 2015

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Australia

In Australia been on board M/V Golden Princess in the season of 2015-2016. Joined ship in Sydney.

Flew here in October 2015. Had the longest ever continuous flight for me here from Dubai - 14 hours. Then had whole day to explore Sydney. Had a nice room in the Mercury Hotel.
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So, after arriving early in the morning and checking in the hotel I got a train to the center of the city.
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First thing I visited was Sydney Tower, which is 304 meters tall with observation deck on 250 meters. Got there and really enjoyed fantastic 360 degrees view over the city.
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After that visited Museum of Contemporary Art of Australia right near the cruise terminal.
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Checked the exhibitions and then watched movie about some Jewish artist made by his son in USA and later after finishing author was answering questions of the visitors.
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It was quite interesting. After that walked thru the old part of the city - Rocks on my way to Harbor Bridge, which I crossed by foot on the other side and back.
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Bridge is impressive structure and one of the landmarks of the Sydney. After that visited probably the main attractions of the city - Opera House. The weather turned cloudy and started little drizzle, so didn't spend much time near.
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After that walked around the park and the city center on my way back to the hotel. Next morning joined the ship. Then after 10 days arrived again to Sydney, the weather was nice and sunny, so could take a walk around the Opera House and really enjoyed it.
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After that we did re-positioning to Melbourne and arrived there after 1 sea day. So had a walk around the city center. It has a nice center and it is the biggest city in Australia. There are free trams in the center as well. Didn't have much time to explore, but had an idea of the city.
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Another time walked a bit along the promenade, seen many people sunbathing and taking a dip, but didn't try to swim.
Then on 03.01.2016 we started cruise ''Tasmania and South Australia'' which took 7 days with total distance traveled from Melbourne to Melbourne - 3,202 km. Places visited were Wineglass and Oyster Bays(Tasmania) scenic cruise only, then Port Arthur, then overnight in Hobart, capital of Tasmania and after 1 sea day Adelaide, capital of South Australia province.
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In our first call at Wineglass Bay I went on open deck to have a look. Seen the Bay and rugged east coast of Tasmania.
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The next day in Port Arthur I had a nice walk around this historic site. Met Doctor Lisa Nelson from USA who working on our ship as acupuncturist and had great time together. The weather was changing many times from sunny to rainy. We had a tender here and were getting ashore by boats.
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Port Arthur used to be penal colony. It contains of more than 30 historic buildings, extensive ruins and beautiful grounds and gardens. It was established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp, using convict labor to produce sawn logs for government projects. From 1833 Port Arthur was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies.
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Port Arthur's community of military and free men and their families lived their lives in stark contrast to the convict population. By 1840 more than 2000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff lived at Port Arthur. The penal settlement finally closed in 1877 and many of its buildings were dismantled or destroyed in bush fires.
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After walking around Historic Site we went to the local village which looks nice and cozy.
Next day in Hobart I went on a tour to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Barilla Bay Oyster Farm and Richmond Village.
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Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and the biggest city. First we visited Bonorog Wildlife Sanctuary where we seen different animals, like wombat, Tasmanian Devil, koala, parrot and kangaroo.
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We had guide talking and showing each of the animals. Took many pictures of them and even selfies with koala and kangaroo. Saw all of them for the first time. It was impressing for me.
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After that we went thru the countryside for about 45 minutes to the Barilla Bay Oyster Farm, where we been told and shown about history and work of this farm.
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Then we had delicious lunch with oysters and other tasty food. After that we stopped in small charming village of Richmond.
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It looks like it was in 1820's and it remains one of the finest examples of Tasmania's stark convict heritage and beautiful historic buildings.
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There is old Richmond Bridge from 1823, which looks similar to the one in England. It is nice place to stroll around.
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Then after one sea day we arrived in Adelaide, capital of South Australia province and Australia's fifth largest city. Met Oleksiy Biryukov, dancer from our ship on a gangway and together took a train to the center from the port which is about 45 minutes away.
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Then had a walk around the center of the city, which looks nice with some river crossing it and many modern ad old buildings.
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Then took another selfie with big pelican who was sitting on the grass near the river. It was nice day, the weather was great.
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Then in February 2016 we did one more cruise to Tasmania and South Australia with visiting Wineglass Bay(scenic cruising), Port Arthur, Hobart(overnight) and Philip Island(Victoria). In port Arthur I took a tour ''Geology and history of Tasman Peninsula''. We did narrated drive along eastern coast of Tasman Peninsula.
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We visited Tessellated Pavement, a rare, naturally occurring flat expanse of rock that eroded into ''tiles''. It is located on Pirates Bay beach.
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Then we visited The Blowhole. After that we stopped at Tasmanian Arch, a dramatic bridged chasm. It was interesting tour.
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Then we stopped at Philip Island, which is located not far from Melbourne and connected by bridge with mainland. Island named in honor of Admiral Arthur Philip (1738-1814), who served as first governor of New South Wales. Island is famous for Fairy Penguins, the smallest of 17 species of penguin. They commonly weight all of 2 pounds and stand about 117 inches in their stocking feet. I didn't go on a tour to see them.
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Just had a walk around this small island, with population of 7,000 people.
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Seen kangaroos in the wild in the bushes near the beach and rabbits as well. Then had a walk along the beach, collected some shells and walked back along the beach.
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Seen how seagull caught big fish(snapper probably). It was impressive.
After that on next day in Melbourne was nice sunny, clear weather, so I had walk around the center, went to the iconic Finders Street Station. Had a walk along Yarra River. Got some nice photos.
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Then on turn-around day on 24.02.2016 in Melbourne met with my friend from town of Kosiv in Ukraine Lyubomyr Kabyn, who was travelling around Australia at that time. It was nice meeting; we had a walk around, talk.
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On the crossing cruise from Sydney to Hong Kong in April 2016 we made stops at Brisbane and Darwin. In Brisbane, which is the capital of Queensland state just walked around the center.
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It is modern cosmopolitan city with skyscrapers and many things to do. It has population around 2,2 million people.
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It is always sunny here, with 300 sunny days every year. Queensland also known as Sunshine State.
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Many attractions situated along Brisbane River. On the Southbank had a swim in the artificial beach next to the river.
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It was amazing - beach in the center of the city. Had a good time over there.
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Then, after 4 sea days reached Darwin, which is the capital of Northern Territory with population only 146,000 people.
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It is located on Timor Sea and is gateway to South East Asia. City named after well-known evolutionist Charles Darwin. Here I took a ''Jumping crocodiles cruise''. It took us more than 1 hour to get to wetland near the mouth of Adelaide River.
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Then we boarded riverboat down the river. Saw many crocodiles which were jumping for the meat used as a bait to attract them. It was a lot of fun.
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Then after that we made a stop at some museum with views over the wetlands and did scenic drive thru the city of Darwin. Seen many aboriginal people on the streets. City look nice and good looking with many historical building preserved despite it was heavily bombed by Japan in 1942. Area around city is full of farms growing mangoes and other fruits and it is very developed as well with many opportunities.
People in Australia seems so happy and relaxed, country rich and safe, climate is good.

Apr 2016

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Austria

In Austria been only in Vienna in May 2013 while on a bus tour in Europe.
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That was a tour to Vienna from Bratislava with returning back to Bratislava afterwards. It's about 70 km from there to Vienna and Bratislava just next to the border with Austria. You can notice crossing of the border by passing thru the former check point and then all signs to be written in German. On arrival had only around 5 hours or so see highlights of the city and to be back to the bus.
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Together with the other guys from the bus had a walk around, the weather was good.
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After brief walk we decided to go for Viennese schnitzel and pint of beer. Found one restaurant, stuck there for a while, tries it, nothing special, just spent around 25 euro and then had to run fast back to the the bus to be there on time.
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City itself seems to be very bright and clean, every single building in the center looks fresh, a lot of horse carriages brings charm to the city, people looks happy, friendly and satisfied from the life.
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So that was only quick trip, but good memories left afterwards.

May 2014

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Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan been for 2 days during my trip across Caucasus and Central Asia in 2015. Been only in Baku, the capital.
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So in Tbilisi took overnight train to Baku. Before boarding changed a rest of Georgian money as I was not planing to come back. After a short while we passed Georgian immigration, then Azeri. I was given couple questions about my previous visit to Armenia in this trip as Azerbaijan in state of war with them, but after all passed immigration, got stamped my passport and I entered new country for me - # 64 - Azerbaijan.
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So, on 15th day of my trip (02.09) in the morning at 8.a.m local time(1 hour ahead of Georgia) arrived at Baku train station which was under reconstruction at that moment, then withdrew money, had coffee with pahlava and went to the Caspian Hostel in the old town.
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It was difficult to find, because it is hidden in the yard on the second floor. It's actually apartment changed as a hostel with double beds and owners living on the same floor. The price was 16 Manats (15 USD). The rate is 1.05 Manat for 1 USD. Had breakfast and went to hang around the city. Been around old town first.
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Maiden Tower was the first site to see, then been at the place where ''Briliantova Ruka'' movie scene was shot here Nikulin felt down and broke his arm.
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But there is no sign, nothing. The girl from information desk told me where is that.
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Then walked along promenade, which is nice and quite long, but the stones are covered with the oil.
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Generally, very clean, and posh, all the underground crossing are made of marbles and have escalators and there is nobody selling different stuff like at the other capitals.
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Then went on top of the hill by funicular(for free, not like in Tbilisi). Then had a nice view over the city from there.
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Then met some group of bank lawyers who had a local guide making a tour around the city and telling a lot of interesting information, so I stuck to them for a while.
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Then moved with them to the other object and then went again to the old town, where met one local girl asking me take a pictures for her. She behaved very straingly and reminded me another scene from ''Briliantova Ruka'' movie with the prostitute trying to pick up Nikulin while hanging around the old town.
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But at the end in my case, she left and nothing happened. Then had a conversation at the hostel with the one guy from Australia - Karl, who travelling already for 1 year and 5 months by motorbike and some black guy from Sierra-Leone who tried to get student visa to Ukraine and was going next day to Ukrainian embassy to get visa (but not successfully).
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When it got dark I went to see 3 Towers show. It was amazing.
Next day (03.09) woke up bit late, had a good sleep and was waken up by newly arrived by train from Tbilisi two Georgian girls - Tina and Teana, 23 years old, who came to see Baku for few days. Then all of us had breakfast and I packed my stuff and went to walk around the old town with them before they were about to meet with their friend from Baku. We seen many other interesting places in the center.
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So walked around old town, then around the center and met their friend in the center on the Fountain square, then we met another guy.
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Then they decided to pop in to other friend who works in expensive kind of jewelry or gift shop. They had a lot of interesting, but not cheap stuff.
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Then they took car and decided to go to the beach and went first to the hostel to get swimming suites and for me to get my backpack. Then we drove across the city center, which is very posh and beautiful and all the way to the beach which is around 30 km north of the city.
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Then we had a swim in the Caspian Sea, for the first time for me. The water was clean and calm.
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Then I took a taxi to the Heidar Aliev Airport, which is very modern structure. Taxi cost 10 Manat. Then after spending a little while in the airport, boarded my flight to Aktau (117 USD) at 21.00 and arrived there around 22.30 with some delay.
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Azerbaijan is a place where all historical monuments are well preserved and are in good shape. But police presence are visible everywhere and sometimes you don’t feel really comfortable while walking around. Country rich thanks to their big gas deposits, but it made Azerbaijan expensive country to travel around.

Nov 2015

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Bahamas

In Bahamas been many times on board M/V Grand, 2 times on Emerald and 2 times Royal Princess ships from November 2011 until April 2015, did 5 seasons there. Most of the times we stopped on Princess Cays on south of Eleuthera Island, also been on dry-dock with Emerald Princess in December 2012 for 10 days in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island and 1 more time been at Nassau, capital of Bahamas on New Providence Island.
Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, 30 of which are inhabited; it’s starting 50 miles south of Florida and stretching for 760 miles. The population over the 300 thousand people. The name Bahamas comes from the Spanish Baja Mar - shallow waters. The islands are flat and limestone and waters are shallow and turquoise with a lot of fish and sea life.
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Eleuthera Island, where Princess Cays located is 110 miles long and 2.5 miles at widest point with population around 11 thousand people. Back to the history, island been refuge for several groups seeking religious freedom since 1648, when Eleutheran Adventurers established settlement there and they gave the island its name delivering from the Greek word eleutheros, meaning ''free''.
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Princess Cays located at very south of the island near Bannerman Town in a remote area.
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Over there did snorkeling, surf-fishing and once deep-sea fishing in March 2012 on Grand Princess, when caught mahi-mahi (dolphin-fish or dorado) around 15 kg and smaller barracuda around 5-7 kg.
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While surf-fishing was catching not big size Bermuda Chub, Blue striped Grunt, Nassau Grouper and other, tried different tactics, but often hook used to stuck on a corals and had to dive to release it using squid as a bait, tried also different baits and even tried fishing underwater with snorkeling set but unsuccessfully.
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Once made a walk to the nearest settlement - Bannerman Town which is very remote village without any shops with very few descent houses only and lack of civilization.
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Grand Bahama Island located 55 miles south of Florida where we stayed in dry-dock on Emerald Princess in December 2012 for 10 days.
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Dry-dock located on a west side on a remote area about half an hour drive from the city center Port Lucaya.
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Market Place where taxi dropping us from the ship is nice small cozy place with a lot of restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and harbor with yachts and even sharks sneaking around.
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Saw one of them at night near restaurant ''Sabor'' with the lights under the water. That was impressive, first time for me. Kind of tricky was to walk alone behind the Market Place alone at night with lots of locals sneaking around. The girls walking at the area were all the same looking, slim, wearing short skirts, on a high heels and with nicely put hair.
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Also on a island near the ship we did BBQ couple times with the friends and fishing in local lagoons.
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Also catching crabs as well and grilling them straight away along with some drinks, that was a lot of fun.
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New Providence Island, where Nassau, the capital locates is not a big island, but most populated in the Bahamas, its 21 mile long and 7 miles wide.
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Nassau is very colorful and most developed and most visited place in the Bahamas. That day when we docked there, i got a bike and had a fast riding around the city.
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Many hotels, historical buildings over there, a lot of white people.
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Crossed the bridge to the Paradise Island for the Atlantis resort, which is impressive place to visit and it is the biggest hotel I've visited so far and the most beautiful. Some 5,000 people employed here.
Went inside that resort with big aquariums, pools with sharks, stingrays and turtles, everything inside the hotel looks so posh, so for me it was most impressive resort I've been so far. Harbor was dug and you can see the edges of it, and cruise terminal can accommodate 4 ships. Had a nice time there and good memories.
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Then finally in April 2015 with Oleksandr went all the way down to Lighthouse Beach on the very end of Eleuthera Island from Princess Cays.
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It took around 1,5 hour there and 45 minutes back as we took another route. Very nice place.

May 2015

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