Since we booked at the last minute, we were assigned an interior room on the Verandah deck (Deck 8). Our room was 8394 and it was technically mid-ship but towards the aft elevators. We really liked this because we could walk up one flight of stairs to the Lido deck and get to the Versailles pool (adult only area), pizza, and Emile's (buffet) very easily. We would take this room again in a heartbeat! Felix, our room steward was great. I found the room to be small but thoughtfully laid out and comfortable. Plus, we didn't spend much time in the room, so we weren't too concerned with a view. I also found the hairdryer to be conveniently located near the vanity, and we used our room safe often to store our valuables and passports.
Port and Shore Excursions
Grand Turk: Our last port and possibly the easiest and most convenient port of all time! Once again, the ship arrived early and we were some of the first in line to leave the boat at about 10:30 AM. We rented a clamshell on the beach for $20, however, we really did not need it. There were far more places under the shade and we spent lots of time at Margaritaville. This Margaritaville was the best one I have ever been to, with a huge pool and swim up bar! You could literally go between the beach and this pool very easily. Pool-side chairs were plentiful at the start of the day and cabanas at the pool were available for rent for about $125 or so. The drink prices at Margaritaville were pretty steep and I assume this is due to the fact that Grand Turk is in the British West Indies, not a US territory. Someone said a bucket of 6 Corona was $41.00! I also noticed the food prices were much higher than in the states. But since the ship was not far away, we went back to the Lido deck for lunch. The beach at Grand Turk had clear water but was a bit rockier. However, I saw many more fish snorkeling right off the beach than anywhere else on this trip. We got some souvenirs from Ron Jon and Pirana Joe's. This was my husband's favorite stop because of how easy it was to get back to the boat.
Half Moon Cay: The only port where you have to tender to go ashore on this itinerary. We were slated to be at port at 9:00 AM. We went down to the Venetian lounge at about 8:15 AM. Since we were not doing an excursion, we had to get a tender ticket (a sticker). We got #2 and we were called to go to Deck 0 at about 8:30 AM to board the tender (I believe they called #1 - #4 on the first call). The first tender of the day! Yes! (Later on the beach, we saw folks with tender tickets with numbers in the 100s. Ugh -- I would have hated to wait that long!) We headed straight for the beach rentals and got a clamshell for $19.99. Keep in mind that this island is operated by Carnival, so you can use your Sail & Sign card to rent mats, clamshells, and get drinks at the bars (and yes, Bottomless Bubbles for soda can be used on the island). We had a glorious day. The sand was so soft and the water was some of the clearest water I have ever seen. There is not a lot of shade right on the beach, so I highly recommend a clamshell if you don't want to be in the sun the entire time. But you must get there early because they go fast! The lunch on the island was awesome and there were some activities, like the hairy chest competition. There is also a cool pirate ship bar that serves Captain Morgan themed drinks! Yum! At about 2:30 PM we were going for one last dip before heading out. Unfortunately an older gentleman had a medical emergency right in our area. That cleared many of the folks from the beach in mass numbers. The line for the one and only tender back to the ship was so long I could not see the end of it. And people were waiting mostly in the exposed sun. We decided to sit at the bar in the shade and wait for the line to clear. We were the last tender off the island at about 5:15 PM and traveled back with some crew members. I am glad the ship waited for us!!! ? All in all, we waited about 2 hours for the last tender, but luckily we waited in the shade with drinks in hand. The heat, long wait and alcohol got to some people, as I saw two separate fights almost break out. And not to mention the very scary medical emergency that happened on the beach. Needless to say, tensions were high leaving Half Moon Cay. Why they did not have two tenders operating is beyond me. But the beach is physically perfect in my opinion and we enjoyed the day despite these challenges.
San Juan: The arrival time in San Juan is early -- 7:00 AM. We slept in and had breakfast, so this was the only port where we were not the first people off. But there was no line and we walked straight off the boat at 8:15 AM. There is a Sheraton hotel right near the cruise port. We stopped in and got some very helpful information from the concierge about the FREE trolley service around Old San Juan and a map. After giving a small donation to the Sheraton casino we went across the street to the trolley stop. This was a good place to pick up the trolley because the stop nearest the ship was a little crowded. We decided we wanted to tour both old forts in San Juan -- San Cristobal Castle and San Felipe El Morro Castle. It cost $5 per person for both forts. The first, San Cristobal, had some stunning views of downtown and the cruise ship. They run a video every 15 minutes that alternates between Spanish and English. Seeing this film gave us a lot of helpful information for both forts! After touring San Cristobal, we decided to walk to the other fort. We went through downtown on San Francisco Street and looked through a few shops. We found a place that sold empanadas and had a delicious snack for about $6.00. On the way to the fort up Del Cristo Street, we decided to stop in the Cathedral of San Juan. The cathedral is beautiful and is the final resting place of Juan Ponce de Leon. After exploring the church, we walked about 6 blocks to El Morro. This was spectacular and my favorite of the two forts. There is a very neat cemetery beyond the outside city wall facing the ocean. The views from the top of El Morro were incredible! Once again, we decided to explore more of downtown on foot on the way back to the ship. We stopped in a bar for some sangria and local fare. We were back to the ship by 3:00PM and wished we had more time to explore beautiful San Juan! Two tips -- 1. San Juan might be the easiest place to send a postcard from. There is a post office directly behind the Sheraton hotel and we stopped there before going back to the ship. 2. We were told not to go to the residential area (called La Perla) outside the northern city wall. Apparently, they don't appreciate tourists taking photos of them or their homes. But overall, we felt very safe walking around the city by ourselves and saw several other Carnival guests doing the same.
St. Thomas: Once again, we were in line early to leave the ship at about 9:30 AM. No tendering this time, thank goodness. To access the ramps, you have to take the elevators down to Deck 1 and go forward to access the stairway going down to Deck 0. Once off the boat, we walked out of the pier area and found a taxi (just ask any of the helpful local people around the pier for directions to the taxi area). It is only a very short walk away. We wanted to go to Magens Bay, a very lovely beach on the opposite side of the island. We boarded a taxi van that was already full with passengers who only wanted to go downtown to shop. (If you go to the shopping talk on board the ship on the first day at sea, you will hear all about the downtown shops and where to go.) To ride downtown is $4 per person. When we stopped to let everyone off downtown, one group did not have any cash! OMG -- I do not advise travelling in these ports without cash. The cab driver had to get another guy from his company to basically follow these people to an ATM so he could get paid. Seriously, do not expect all cab drivers to have credit card machines. After this stop, only my husband and I were in the van. We asked to go to Drake's Seat to take some pictures of Magens Bay from the hills. The taxi driver said that he would give us basically the same tour that we could buy on the ship for less. So he stopped at an overlook where you could see breathtaking views of St. Thomas and the cruise ship. Then he took us to Drake's Seat and finally to Magens Bay. It cost us $12 per person for this great tour (I saw a shore excursion on the ship very similar to this that was $40 per person, I think). It costs $4 per person to get into Magens Bay. We rented a beach chair for $12, which ended up costing $7 because they give you a $5 deposit back if you return the chair to where you got it. There is a food counter and a bar. The drinks were fairly priced, but the food might have been a little high. One tip -- the credit card minimum is $15 at the souvenir shop/rentals, food counter and bar. So take cash if you don't plan on buying much or be willing to spend at least $15. There are also lockers for rent and a decent pavilion with showers and restrooms. After a relaxing few hours at the beach we decided to take a taxi back downtown to shop. The taxis are plentiful at Magens Bay and cost $8 per person to either downtown or back to the ship. Once we went downtown, we visited a few stores. My husband was perusing watches at Little Switzerland (the one on Main Street, I believe) and we were invited up to the second floor for free drinks (beer, rum punch, soda) and use of their internet/computers. Score! We checked our email for free (internet is expensive on the ship - $3.95 set up charge plus $0.75 per minute, unless you buy a package) and enjoyed a beverage. After that we wandered down to Waterfront Highway and found a little daiquiri bar called the Big Kahuna Rum Shack. We had a rum punch and two beers for $8 or so because it was happy hour. At about 4:15 PM we hailed a taxi right on Waterfront Highway back to the ship. Taxis are plentiful all around downtown and the ride is $4 per person back to the ship. All in all, a wonderful day in St. Thomas!