I booked this trip for him and I in Oct 2011 with the hope that this would be the first of many trips together. We wanted to try to save some $$ so we picked a cruise port that was close to our homebase of Philadelphia, PA. What really sold us on going out of NYC was that our neighbors had just returned from a Bermuda cruise on Norwegian that left out of that port. They said it was easy to drive to and super convenient not having to fly or pay baggage fees. They sold us, and I'm so glad they did - some of the best views of NYC I've ever seen. More on that later...
So my boyfriend and I booked a balcony room (my first balcony room!) and my parents also booked a balcony. We woke up Sunday morning and left around 9am. It took about 2 hours to reach Manhattan and find a parking spot. One word of advice - we actually parked at the cruise pier. It was $260 total for the week, which was pricey, but it was nice just walking off the ship and to our car in less than 10 minutes. Being from Philadephia, we all wore Phillies gear much to the dismay of the Yankees fans!! Check in was the simplest check in ever! I gave a compliment to the lady at the check in guest and she gave us a group 3 boarding tag (the folks in front of us had group 9!!). As soon as we got out of line, the final call for group 3 passengers came over the loud speaker. It was a great start to our trip!
Once on the ship, the atrium really is beautiful. All the glass and light pouring in through the staircase and against the elevators was a welcome site against dreary NYC. Our rooms were ready and bonus - since our rooms were together, the Guest Relations folks were able to open the door between our balconies so we had one big balcony. Apparently there is a special bracket needed in order to do this, and the ship only has so many. So if you are traveling with friends in adjoining cabins, ask before you get on the ship or DIRECTLY when you get on the ship.
Ports of Call:
San Juan, PR - Been to San Juan twice before, this was my first time cruising into San Juan. Well it's an ugly ride in! I know it can't all be palm trees and pristine beaches, but wow - as my boyfriend's first glimpse of an island, he was none too impressed. Thankfully, once we got off the ship and started walking around the streets of Old San Juan, he was happy. We stopped at the place where the first pina colada was created and we ordered a big plate of mofongo. I had been telling him for months how awesome this dish was and they made it great at this place. It was overcast and humid so we walked around for a few hours then headed back. The time in port was odd: docked at 2pm and left at 12am midnight. After we ate dinner we put our bathing suits on and ventured up to the hot tubs and chilled out. San Juan at night was very pretty.
St Thomas - this was my um-tienth time to St Thomas. It's one of my favorite places in the world, but on this day is was overcast and rainy the whole day. We had planned on taking the ferry to Water Island but the rain kept us away from wanting to do anything beachy. We shopped (boy got a new Citizen watch) and took the tram to Paraside Point for lunch. It's such an amazing view from the top - but how odd they now have a ferris wheel up there?? It didn't look too safe to me!
Grand Turk - FINALLY! A beautiful beach day! Blue sky, hot, the water was calling our name! I'd never been to Turks & Caicos before so this was a real treat to check out. We pulled up along another Carnival ship (Glory) and could actually see across Grand Turk from our balcony. This place isn't very big, and it's flat. You can see the airport and the 55 homes on the island. Once we were off the ship, we ventured off the pier and rented a scalloped shell ($20) to sit under. Boyfriend isn't a big beach guy and his BP medicine makes him stay out of the sun, but on this day when he saw how crystal clear the water outside was - well let's just say he led the way on the beach! Even though the shell provided a ton of shade, it was HOT! We stayed in the water for about three hours. It was the only way to heat the heat. We kept reapplying sunscreen every half hour as I know I would have been lobster red had I not put any on. After 5 hours on the beach (a record for the boyfriend) we decided to shop around the area and head back. We gave our shell to the couple next to us, might as well since we paid $20, and we got good karma out of it. Shopping was nice - they have a special area dedicated to the NASA program where one of the capsules landed. Boyfriend got a NASA shirt and magnet for the fridge = happy as a clam.
Sea Days - Boyfriend was up everyday on the balcony. He loved the cruise and looking at the water. He was constantly looking for flying fish. We had 4 sea days, which may seem like alot but we just chilled and hung out. The back part of the ship, Serenity, is great for adults. We were able to relax and sleep without the screaming rants of children. There are also wicker clam shells back there - but beware, they go early. I was out there at 6:45am and would fall asleep. One morning I got up to go to the bathroom and when I walked back, this woman was actually picking up my stuff and chucked it on another chair. Boyfriend was NOT happy and exchanged words. Glad the wind back there blocked the conversation from hitting my ears. She left without say a word and we kept our shell. We played bingo once - at $30 a card, geez! Rip off!!
Food - Buffet food was good; Boyfriend was looking for bagels and lox all week but none to be found. Sushi bar was a mystery - asked 5 people and got five different answers. Ate at the Steakhouse the last night and WOW, incredible food!! Well worth the $30 pp to eat there. Honestly, one of the top 3 meals I've ever had - anywhere!!!
Shows - Only show we saw was the ventriloquist, who was boring 15 mins in but the last 20 mins was hysterical.
Overall - I would say this was a good introduction for Boyfriend to cruising. We made this vacation our own and it will always be special to me for being our first cruise together and the cruise we became engaged on! That's right, he isn't Boyfriend anymore, he's FIANCE!!! Whoo hoo!! It was so easy to convince him to do a cruise for our honeymoon. Pride of American, HI - May 2013. Here we come!