[Stop #11 - 16]: The Caribbean by Amanda Liew


Not to be outdone by my post-graduation trip, my family insisted on taking a Caribbean cruise before I moved to New York. This trip was actually the last time our entire family would be able to do a vacation together since I was starting work and my brother was going to law school. So with only 5 days in San Diego after getting back from Malaysia, we were jetting off to a Carnival cruise boat in the Caribbean to start our adventures! Stop 11: St. Thomas Magen's Bay - frequently voted as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the World! Still not sure it was as good as Sihanoukville, Cambodia though!

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Stop 12: Barbados - Had a chance to do a trip throughout the island to see all the various farms and plantations! The island was lush beyond belief and green for miles

_DSC0070 Is it just me or are there monkeys in every country but America? Not fair...

_DSC0073_CbnStop 13: St. Lucia - Probably my favorite port of call on the cruise. We hopped off our boat onto another to do a catamaran ride around the island. I fell in love with the cities hidden in the hills - the colors of the houses popped brightly against the foliage

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Stop 14: St. Kitts - We had the opportunity to ride on an old sugar train where we ate sugar cake as we took in the island


Stop 15: St. Maarten - I had the chance to bust out my waterproof camera yet again and couldn't believe what a clear aqua-like color the water was! Even though both my dad and I look hilarious in the picture below, I love how happy we look

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Stop 16: San Juan, Puerto Rico - Our final stop on the cruise where we stayed an extra day to explore the city. Partially because of the extra time and partially because of the city itself, this was my favorite part of the entire trip. I loved how there was a historical aspect embedded in the entire city - every street carried such a story with it!

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It was also a great opportunity to try some delicious food at local restaurants. The cruise provided 5 meals a day of ridiculously decadent food, but it was nice to break away and try something authentic! We went to La Boveda de Triana and had an amazing seafood paella during our dinner along with other dishes of charizo, squid, eggplant and manchengo cheese, and more! The next morning we went to Cafeteria & Rest. Mallorca to get pastries - some filled with raspberry and some filled with cheese. Nomz all around!_DSC0252

With all of that, I bid my family goodbye and flew directly from Puerto Rico to JFK airport to move into my new home! What a trip. What an adventure.

Puerto Plata: Hilarious friends, sliding off waterfalls, and dancing until your body hurts by Amanda Liew


After two years of going home, and one year of doing Alternate Spring Break, I decided it was time to do a "real spring break" trip and go to the Dominican Republic with my friends! 40 of us Penn kids dominated the Puerto Plata all inclusive resort and spent 6 days relaxing, celebrating, and stuffing ourselves on a buffet 3 meals a day! It was my first time to the Caribbean, and wow was it amazing. It was the perfect combination of meeting new people, relaxing (ie sleeping on the beach and taking a nap each day), and being able to dance like a lunatic with some of the best people!

The lobby had some of the coolest light fixtures: _DSC0013 Chloe organized a City Tour for us, and it was one of the few opportunities I could use my DSLR on the trip! All the other times I was too afraid to get sand or water near it! We went to the Brugal Rum Factory! I couldn't take any photos inside the factory itself, but I snagged a bottle for my dad! On returning home, I found out shipping alcohol across state borders is a federal offense or something hahah. Sorry, Dad! Guess you're going to have to wait a few months: _DSC0022

Unfortunately, we din't really feel like we got to see the real city. Most of the places the tour guide took us was clearly set up just for tourists - all of the shops we went to were souveneirs which was kind of a bummer. One thing I did love, though, was how beautiful and bright all of the houses were painted. Houses in America are all beige and white - how boring!

_DSC0031 Some beautiful stained glass at the cathedral: _DSC0053 The best part of the City Tour was definitely being able to do a Cable Car excursion! Hilariously, some of the girls thought this was a "historic display" of what they used to transport people in...nope, we were riding it! We took a 10-15 minute ride all the way up Mount Isabel de Torres to see a full view of Puerto Plata.

_DSC0060 Me and Madeline at the top of the mountain!

_DSC0088 Such a cool view - and it was on an overcast day too! Can't even imagine what it would look like on a clear day!

_DSC0090 Giant Jesus statute! There's a gift shop inside (but of course):


One of the other days we went on a Jeep Tour which ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. Seriously, this was one of those cross-it-off-your-bucket-list moments. In Puerto Plata, there is Damajagua Cascades also known as the 27 Waterfalls. Essentially, it's possible to climb, jump, and slide down 27 waterfalls on this mountain. Doing all 27 takes almost all day and is pretty intense, so most groups just do 7 which was fine by me! Before we left for the trip, I decided to invest in a waterproof camera case for my Canon PowerShot. I got the DicaPac WP410, and it was perfect! It ended up being one of the best decisions on the trip because we were able to document our entire excursion. I was able to tie the camera to one hand while I swam and snap some phenomenal photos!

Here we are in our gear! We hiked for about 25 minutes following a river in our gear and tennis shoes. Little did we know our soggy socks were the least of our concern:

IMG_6015 At the first waterfall! Our route required us to walk UP the waterfalls first and then to slide/jump down them on our return route. We started off by diving into the extremely chilly pool, but had it easy with a ladder to help us out:

IMG_6012 The next few waterfalls weren't quite as easy!


Climbing up this waterfall was definitely one of the most terrifying aspects. There was one guide at the bottom with his hands propped out for one foot & another guide at the top of the waterfall with one hand reaching out for your hand. The bottom guide would throw you forward as you took a step, and the top guide would yank you with all his force. All the while, a rushing waterfall is cascading into your face pushing you backwards hahah. We watched a few people go at first and it literally looked like they were getting tossed up a waterfall it was terrifying! We all made it through, though:

IMG_6039 Waist deep by one of the waterfalls!


Now it was time to start jumping and sliding off the waterfalls! Here is where the waterproof camera case came in REALLY handy: I was able to record my trips down the waterfall and then capture everybody else after I popped back up! Apologies because the first few seconds are insanely shaky - I wasn't exactly concerned with getting the perfect recording when I was about to make a 10 foot drop in rushing water!!

Some more videos: Waterfall 1 (0:25), Waterfall 2 (0:42), and Waterfall 4 (0:42)

Katie after sliding down one of the crazy ones!

IMG_6085 Our victory photo at the end! IMG_6087

Of course, those two excursions only took up a few of the days of our entire trip! The rest of the time was spent enjoying the beach, lounging, napping, eating, napping more, eating more, and going to some clubs!IMG_5908

Jeremy really taking advantage of my underwater camera hahah: IMG_5795 One of the days at the beach! It was rainy and overcast for about half of our trip which was a major bummer. When the sun finally came out in full force later in the week, I was too excited to remember to take photos so I don't have any sunny pictures hahah. I love this group of girls! IMG_5823

Chicken fighting! Sophie & Jeremy vs Me & Krystal hahah - we lost... IMG_5837

Almost all of the ladies (plus Johnny): IMG_5913

Some of the boys!: IMG_5914

Overall, it was a trip I'll never forget, and just what I needed after finishing my 90+ paged thesis (more on that later!). Thank you to all the amazing people who initiated this trip, planned the lengthy traveling back and forth, figured out our excursions, and just made this a hilariously fun vacation!