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A Great Cruise with the Family for Spring Break
We arrived at Miami the day before the sailing, we rented a car to go around. Did some sightseeing and return the car to the airport, because you have rented a car (Dollar). You can get a free shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal, hassle-free. We also did the same when we disembark from the cruise as we had time to do stuff before we caught our flight home.
We boarded after 1pm, boarding was fast and smooth (there was no line up). The room was ready when we got onto the ship and we headed straight to our room. We loved the room with the port side windows, nice to have natural lighting and it comes with a good amount of space where you can put personal stuff on the shelf next to the port side window. Like the rest of the reviewers said, the ship's decor was based on American theme. The decor is alright, however the wallpaper along the cabin corridor is somewhat scary and interesting. The wall paper has faces of American (who had made history). However, there More
is no name and you are left guessing who is that person? Some are more obvious, wearing spacesuits, astronaut but who? Then some are downright scary, women in "Little House on the Prairie" costume, scowling and looking downright scary.
Most of the time, we have our meals in the Dining room. Selection for breakfast and lunch was good.
MDR: We had the early dining for dinner. Food on the whole was good, their lobster and shrimp was nicely cooked, not overcooked, succulent and yummy.
However the dessert was disappointing. The first night, we had Creme Brulee then the rest of the night was blah...some nights, I chose not to have any dessert as nothing appeals to me, even the Lime Sherbet was weak. Last night of the cruise, the Cappuccino Pie made up for it.
Other alternate dining area: Sushi corner was alright, do not expect good restaurant standard. However, nice to have some variety, although a word of caution, portion is puny. Don't expect to be full from it. It is just an appetizer! Their fish and chips was popular, we tried it once, before prepare to line up. The Mongolian Wok was extremely popular, it will take a good 45 mins wait for your meal to be cook, you basically chose what you want, give the food to the cook and tell them what meat selection and sauce you want. They cooked it in front of you. Tip: If you want a big portion, bring the buffet plate with you, 1 bowl for your veggies and the other bowl for your noodles. Once they finish cooking, they can transfer it into the plate instead of the small bowl that they provide. I can see why it is so popular, great selection of veggies to go with your noodles, meat selection is beef, chicken, or shrimp, you can chose anything that you want. It is unfortunate that even with 3 pans on the go, the line is so long. They should find ways to have another space for more frying pans.
Room Steward: Henny was our room steward, she was very good.
Entertainment: We only saw 1 production on board the ship, it was good, the best was the break dancing by a couple of guys. The comedians they have on board was good, the best was Mascio? He was hilarious, I would advise to go for the non-family comedy hour.
Piano Bar: Brad from Ontario was funny, engaging and fun to hang out with. He has a good repertoire of songs and have songbook request and sing along songs with lyric in them. We went there a couple of night and enjoyed every moment of it.
Activities: We loved trivia games and went to most of it, Graham was an excellent trivia game host, we had a lot of fun.
Children activities: Daughter (13) went to Circle C, she went to the programs that she wanted. Son (16) in Circle O, he had a blast, did not come back till 1am on nights that he need not get up early for port of call. Overall children activities was very satisfactory.
Room Service: We did use that service on certain nights, even though they tell you that delivery may take up to 30 - 45 mins, they come earlier than the stated time. Good selection of hot/cold sandwich, you can even ask for Caesars salad/yogurt, hot chocolate and dessert if you like.
Spa: We used the spa facilities, the steam room was great. We have also booked a couple of bamboo massages with the spa. If you haven't tried the bamboo massage, I highly recommend you try it.
Facility for Adults: We did go to the Serenity club, even thought the club was for 21 years or older. There were quite a few teenagers who were hanging out at the club. Some even hog the hammock for hours, staff do not check on them, I guess unless the adults complain.
On the whole, we had a lovely cruise and a great time on the ship Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
It was a short port of call, we decided to go to Junkanoo Beach. It is about 10-15 mins walk from the cruise ship terminal to the Beach, since it was a Sunday, the stores on the beach are not open till later, after 11am. We were at the beach at about 10.30am, the water was cold! The bottom of the beach was also rocky, I would highly recommend water shoes. Yes, there were broken glasses on the beach, luckily no one got cut.
There were policemen around the beach, I guess to protect the tourist. Even though the restroom was supposed to be public, when my husband went to use the restroom, there is a lady sitting at the entrance asking for donations before you use the restroom! He did not have any money and ignored her.
Conch fritters sold at the beach was expensive, they wanted USD$5 for 7 pieces of conch fritters, the coconut juice that they were selling did not taste good. We had fresh coconut juice and that did not taste like fresh coconut juice. We took a walk to Fish fry, it took us about 10 mins walk, we ordered 2 orders of conch fritters, 10 pieces for USD$3 each order. They were yummy with a mayo dipping sauce. However, it took 30 mins to get the food ready and we had it "to-go". If you are in a hurry, I would not recommend you get food at fish fry row. They were very slow.
On our way back to the cruise terminal, there are people along the street selling fresh empty conch shell for USD$5 each, as you walk away, the price gets lower, they were offering it to us at $2! We did not get any as it is a pain to try and pack it in the luggage.
We rented a car from Charlie Car Rental to sight see around San Juan, we were glad that we did. The weather was extremely hot that day. When we got off the port, we called Charlie Car Rental and they sent a car to pick us up from the cruise ship terminal, we picked up the car from Condado (the nearest car rental location), the only problem is that the office close at 4 pm and they do not provide any transportation to the cruise ship from there. Since we do not need to get back till 6.30pm, we decided to drop the car back to Isla Verde (the one by the airport)
We went to San Cristobal, excellent fort, apparently one of the largest fort that was built by the Spanish. The structure of the fort was incredible, not to mention the beautiful scenery surrounding the fort. Very enjoyable, make sure you are fit to walk around and have good walking shoes. Lots of stairs and the some part, they have steep terrain. There were iguanas "running" around the fort.
After that much walking, we drove back to old San Juan for lunch. We decided to go to Raicies (from the episode of Man vs Food), this was around 2pm, the wait was less than 5 mins. The food was very good, but the portion was very small and expensive. We had the appetizer, they were all fried and we had a tough time figuring out what they were, a small plate cost USD$18! We decided to have the beef steak skirt and that was USD$28, the steak was delicious but the portion was small, they had mashed plantain in the middle. I ordered a lime mojito which tasted good but pretty strong. I had to ask for more lime!
After lunch, we drove to San Juan Cathedral, the street in old San Juan were tricky, they were one way street and they were narrow. After much turning around, we managed to get to the Church, it was also Ponce DE Leon final resting place. The interior architecture of the Church was beautiful. By this time, it was time to return the car. With the help of our GPS, we got to Isla Verde to return the car, service was very slow. It took at least 30 mins before we could return the keys to the office, there was 3 people in front of us in the line. On our way there, there are traffic jam in the opposite direction. By this time, I was a little worried. Once we had given them the key, we asked them to order a taxi for us to take us to the terminal. It cost us USD$31 to get back, traffic was bad on our way back to the terminal, made it just after 6.30pm.
One of the best port of call in our view. We booked with Bernard's tour (they are the best). We had Ruddy Rogers as our guide, he is such a talented, humorous and lovely guide. We had a wonderful tour around St Maarten and St Martin, not to mentioned Ruddy's van has an open bar stocked with home-made Rum Punch, chilled local beer "Caribe", bottled water, and pop. None of us were dehydrated! Ruddy even provides plastic shot glasses to have the punch. First time in my life, I had rum punch at 10.30am! We went to the iguana farm to feed the iguanas, he stopped at several scenic spot for picture taking. We managed to have 1.5 hours at Orient Beach, the highlight was Maho Beach watching the big planes come in and getting jet blast, that was an experience of a lifetime. We stopped at Marigot for 40 mins and had one of the best meal at Rosemary (recommended by Ruddy)- Thanks Ruddy! They were fast in getting the meal out once we told them that we were with Ruddy (as instructed by Ruddy). The meal prices were decent and the food was heavenly, we had Ox-tail Stew, Trinidad Curry Chicken, Roast Chicken, Chicken and Ribs, all served with beans and rice, sweet potatoes, fried plantain, and another root vegetable, all in a plate that cost USD$11 each. Much better than Raices!
Then the tour drops you off either at Phillipsburg or the cruise ship terminal.
St Maarten was our favorite port of call for this trip.
After checking the tours, we were not interested in 3 hours of shopping as part of the trip. We decided to rent a car with Budget. Initially, we checked with the rental company about the validity of Canadian driver licence in St Thomas and were told that it was alright to drive in St Thomas. However when we got there, the Motor Vehicle Dept decided that only American driver licence is accepted, all other licence must apply for a temporary driving licence for St Thomas (costing you USD$20 that is valid for a month). You have no choice but to pay for the temp licence. They drive on the wrong side of the road, however you drive an American vehicle, therefore the driver is not driving next to the center line of the road. Extremely confusing...to add to the challenge, it was raining heavily in St Thomas. Signage in St Thomas were not clear plus with poor visibility, needless to say, we were lost a couple of times. We decided to go to Coki Beach after we were unable to located Blackbeard's Castle. The roads in St Thomas were narrow and hilly, be sure that you are a very good driver before you decide to rent a car. Thank Goodness, my husband is an excellent driver.
Coki Beach was great! We had a lot of fun and spend the entire time there, yes, the raining continues. However the advantage of having a car was great, we left our clothing in the trunk, brought out a couple of towels and our snorkel gear and head off to the beach. Parking is a challenge, there is no specific parking for beach goers, the parking are designated only for the Coral World which had a pricey entrance fee. We brought our dog biscuit and had a great time feeding the fishes even though there are signage that says "Do not feed the fishes", everyone were feeding the fishes! You can rent beach chairs for $5 each and an umbrella for $10. We were set with 2 chairs and an umbrella. With a waterproof diving pouch to hold our money etc. None of us were sitting by the beach, everyone was in the water having a wonderful time. As it was raining, the beach was quite deserted and that was great. The water was warm and inviting and we stayed in the water to keep warm. Feeding the fishes was extremely enjoyable for us. I am very glad we decided to go to Coki Beach.
They have a outdoor shower with public restroom where you can clean up and change. Before we went back to the cruise ship terminal, we drop by a local grocery store to buy coffee powder from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic. Then stop by at Walmart to buy Jamaican Rum The car rental place was very convenient as it was situated by the cruise ship terminal in Havenport. We managed to do a bit of shopping before we went back to the ship. We figured in the end, having a rental car had better advantage, with the 4 of us, the return trip by taxi to Coki Beach and back would have been the same. However, with a car at our disposal, we were able to keep our clothes dry.