Saturday, April 24, 2010


IMG_6487, originally uploaded by cs.traveler.

This picture was taken in April of 2008 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. By far this picture is one of my most favorite pictures.


One of the questions that I frequently get asked is what kind of camera I use.

All of my pictures posted here thus far (and unfortunately for the foreseeable future) have been taken with one of three cameras: the Canon Powershot A610, Canon Powershot SD900, or the Canon G10.

First about camera type - I think I am a die hard Cannon fan I think that they are the best cameras in the non-DSLR camera group. I specify that only because I have not had the opportunity to use the Digital SLR cameras. I would also add that the three cameras that we own have enough functionality in them to be able to use them just like SLR cameras without having to go to that price point and almost retaining the practicality of having a point and shot camera.

I also love the extras and features that the Canon lines offers, including: underwater housing (a major requirement for us), the availability of presets on the camera for different situations (such as underwater, fireworks and snow) which works well for using it in quick situations when I just want to snap quick pictures.

I also love the durability and ease of use. My daughter, C, manage to use our A610 and our SD900 all the time - she is only 3 years old - and she has taken some good pictures.

The PowerShort A610 (yes I know the picture is of the A620 - close enough)

Canon PowersShot SD900

Canon G10

My largest comment with respect to the cameras is that they are great for every day use but they offer so much more for the money that you spend on them.

For example we have underwater housing for the SD900 and the G10 (I believe that they were around $200 for each case) and they are well worth the money. While I believe that they are designed primarily for use in the water - we also use the housing when we are at the beach and when we are playing in the snow. I can say that some of the best pictures we have from the winter months are us making snow angels or throwing snow balls and having pictures of it all without concern for damage to the camera. This also extends to the use on the beach - I never worry about the sand getting into the camera or damaging parts of the camera. Add to that the fact that we can take our camera in the pool to take pictures, or into the ocean when we are snorkeling we are sure never to loose a moment.

The availability of this option is even more attract for two reasons:
(1) The camera is fully functional in the housing - meaning that you can easily use all of the buttons to adjust the camera. (I would note my only critique on the G10 housing they did not include a way to use the scroll dial on the back which is a slight downside).
(2) Unlike the "waterproof" cameras that are sold out there there is little chance of something going wrong. I say this because I have heard countless stories from people with waterproof cameras having problems with the seals on the cameras, not closing a compartment properly and then using the camera entirely or using the ability to use the camera for an extended period of time.

Sounds really good right - because I would think that most families are looking to get the most of what they can out of a camera. We only own cameras and use them for both pictures and video. My only concern was the ability to manipulate the camera in taking pictures and adjusting the settings. All three cameras have the ability to change the settings. The G10 is really a the single step below the DSLR's and it won out over the DSLR because of the cost of the underwater housing.

Now I know that Canon has already come out with the G11 - I don't believe that they would have moved backwards at all in the things that make their cameras among our top choices.

I would also note that before buying any of our cameras we played with a large variety of cameras at the store and considered the features that we knew that the Canon offers. We looked at how long it takes for the camera to turn on and be picture ready, how quickly you can take pictures and how fast you can switch between preview and picture taking. The canon was by far the best in all three categories.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blackberry vs iPhone debate

So my cell phone contract is up in the next month or so and I am debating what my next phone should be.

I have had a blackberry pearl for the last two years and I have also had a second bberry (world edition) for the last year. I have to say that I am generally not pressed with the pearl. I frequently have to remove the battery to clear the cache completely and when I don't (like yesterday) I loose all of my emails and call history. The world edition didn't seem to have the same problem but that could also have to do with the fact that it was hooked to an enterprise server.

Now mainly will use the device for talking and emails. However, I have been known to send myself recipes and use it in the kitchen. I also highly addicted to blackberry messanger to communicate with my friends.

I am using our iPod touch right now to type this post. I like it although I am no sure if I really like they key board that you can't feel (old school I guess).

If you have any insight you'd like to share I would be willing to accept it. Right now I can say that the touch has been a great value to our life and adding a phone feature would be amazing. My only other issue is I would have to switch service providers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Catalina Island

IMG_4774, originally uploaded by cs.traveler.

This is a picture from the beach on Catalina Island. We took the trip there from our resort in Punta Cana. It was an amazing island and great place to visit. Although, we weren't a fan of the overall excursion because of the drunk individuals spilling drinks and bad music the island itself was amazing. The snorkeling was so-so compared to Puerto Plata but some of the best in the area.


IMG_4860, originally uploaded by cs.traveler.


IMG_4872, originally uploaded by cs.traveler.

Punta Cana

IMG_4890, originally uploaded by cs.traveler.

This picture is from a small Italian village that was recreated in Punta Cana. I loved the stone work and felt really inspired by the area.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bavaro Princess, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic - 2010

We had our first trip to Punta Cana, DR this spring and this is a review of our trip.

See pictures here: Flickr Pictures of Trip

Service Provider: Sunwing Canada
Overall rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Hotel: Bavaro Princess Punta Cana
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Catalina Island Excursion - 2 stars out of 5 stars
Reef Explorer Excursion - 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Detailed Review:

We flew Sunwing from home to Puerto Plata and then to Punta Cana. I have to saw that I was truly disappointed with the overall experience.

We were told that we had to be at the airport no later than 3 hours before our flight to check in (note: yes that is correct no later than). The rational was the amount of time to check us in and the time to go through security. This meant we had to be at the airport for 3:00 a.m.

Well we were there at 3:00 a.m. standing in line with basically our entire flight and their staff did not even arrive at the desks until after 3:05 a.m. We were processed quickly because we had upgraded to the "elite plus." We then headed upstairs to head through security only to find out that they did not begin screening people until 4:00 a.m. So we (along with the entire flight) sat on the floor in line for security to open. It felt like a real waste of time for no real reason.

Once we got onto the flight things seemed to be better....until we landed in Puerto Plata. Once we arrived there they unloaded everyone that was staying there and then they told the rest of us to get off the plane because they had to clean the plane. (Now we have been to Puerto Plata before and never heard of this happening - normally they deplane everyone in Punta Cana and clean the plane there). At this point we didn't care except for the hassle of grabbing all of our carryon and getting off the plane. We were then given little "in transit passes" and lead downstairs and left there with no instructions. Eventually, a security guard pointed at us and had us go through security but no further instructions. As we had been in the airport before we knew generally where we had to go and started guiding people on the plane upstairs but from there we had no idea. Thank goodness we come from a very friendly place because there was a lot of team work between the travelers on the plane to get everyone together and to the right gate because we were given NO information and there was nothing on the boards for our "in-transit" flight. Once we were on the flight we found out that there had been a mix-up. Our plane was suppose to pick up people headed home to Montreal and more people headed to Montreal in Punta Cana. As a result of the mix-up the Montreal people were headed to our home town and then would have be transfered to another plane to Montreal and our plane would dead-head from Punta Cana to Montreal (just me does that seem like a big mix-up?!)

Our Sunwing rep at the hotel was utterly useless and very unhelpful! We asked very specifically asked for a trip that had snorkeling only and asked about a specific trip and was told that the trip offers no snorkeling AT ALL. We booked two other trips one of which was cancelled. When we tried to call the rep to rearrange the excursion the number we were provided was out-of-service, and all other numbers had no answer (including the 24-hour emergency line). It was not until another rep from HOTEL BEDS offered to help did we get anywhere (FYI - props to the company Hotel Beds their rep was AMAZING)

As for the flight home - all of our documents said our flight left at 2:35 p.m. and boarding was at 2:05 p.m. We were picked up and dropped off at the airport around 10:00 a.m. (normal) and we did our shopping and decided to get lunch. Just after noon I went to get food with S (meet on the trip). As we were walking back to the table we were approached by our hubbies saying "our flight is leaving NOW" (yes two hours BEFORE we were scheduled) it was crazy. Again we were looking for people that we knew were suppose to be on our flight, trying to figure out how to bring our lunch to the plane. Once we were on the plane they started to do head counts as they were looking for people. Apparently there was a mix-up (are we surprised yet?) and the same scenario took place in Puerto Plata - frantic airport workers literally running around the airport yelling "sunwing flight xxx - leaving now!!"

Then the landing computer broke on our plane and we had to be diverted to another airport and spent about 90 minutes on the tarmac - the only thing we got was the a new movie for the flight home. No extra food or drink loaded on to the plane.

Hotel: Bavaro Princess Punta Cana
The hotel itself is HUGE but honestly you cannot tell just how large it is because it feels cozy and comfortable. There is a set of golf carts that moves you comfortably from the lobby to the rooms, to the beach at all times of the day if you don't want to walk.

The buffet was truly excellent with a large variety of food and several cook-to-order stations (e.g., two omelet stations, two pasta stations at night). Also, they had amazing theme nights and had fresh seafood on a regular basis.

We had a great room near the beach and pool - it had a king size bed in the elevated part of the room and had a Jacuzzi beside the bed area and at the entrance to the bathroom. The buildings have two floors and 4 rooms per floor so they are very large. The only downside to the room is that when you walk up the stairs to the room and walk to the door it is all glass. The door is basically the only window/light into the room and there is no privacy unless you close the blackout blinds.

We had a couple of issues with the room and I have to say that the staff was amazing at coming quickly and resolving any concern or questions we had.

My two negative thoughts: with the tub in the room it took nearly 45 minutes to fill it anywhere near a level that was practically and the water wasn't overally warm by this point. Also one of their a-la-carte's is really just a smaller buffet.

Catalina Island Excursion - 2 stars out of 5 stars
I rated the excursion fairly low because honestly it is one of the worst we have ever been on. It started with taking tours of "celebrity houses" we no one on the ship wanted to see, and it took us about an hour extra rather than heading directly to the island. Next, on the boat on the way from the dock to the island they forced people to get up and dance. Now I understand that there is usually a gentle encouragement, but this was the staff literally not leaving us alone until we stood up. Plus the *bad* music was being played so loud that the speakers were distorted and sounded much worse. This continued over the entire afternoon with terrible music being played FAR too loud to the point that no of us could even talk over lunch.
The day got much worse when we had to get back on the boat and there were some tourists who were so drunk that they were literally falling over on other guests and dumping drinks on them. The staff just brought these people more rum (remember that this is a family trip...)

Reef Explorer Excursion - 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
This excursion was great - you are literally taken to a floating dock in the middle of a reef with a pen of nurse sharks and sting rays. There was no drinking on this excursion but it was definitely enjoyable. We got a massage, swam with the sharks and rays and had as much time to snorkel as we wanted. I highly recommend for a nice relaxing afternoon. The only thing that could have made the trip better was the option for a full day trip.