We did this same cruise last year (and rated it very good), but it was remarkable how different the attitude onboard was this year. The master (Dimitrios Manetas), Hotel Director (Raffaele Bernardini) and Cruise Director (Sue Denning) along with many officers were all very proud of their beautiful ship and quite visible onboard and at the gangway when leaving the ship. Not only were they visible, but they were most willing to engage with any guest. I believe this created a positive vibe among all passengers and crew. (Sue is being replaced by Ben from Australia at the end of our cruise and hopes to back aboard a Celebrity ship in February, but has not gotten a firm date or ship.) Two Cruise Critic receptions were held and masterfully MC'ed by Host Andy. The master, HD, CD and other senior staff welcomed us and remained available to talk. As the changes to the Captains Club program occurred while onboard, there was lots of discussion. The drink voucher program was in use which is really great permitting you to choose any drink from the standard drinks package in most of the onboard bar venues while sitting with non-Elite CC members. It also reduced the crowding in Sky.
The ship is in excellent material condition and was constantly being cleaned and maintained. We ate in Blu and were greeted by name by Victorija after the first evening. The food was excellent as was the service from Bilijana and Mikhaylo. Although we did not purchase wine in Blu, our sommelier (Vish) came over every evening to see how our day went. Yes, turkey was an option in most dining venues on Thanksgiving (final formal night) and it was real turkey breast, not pressed turkey parts.
Production shows were excellent with a talented group. It's not Vegas, but we didn't expect it to be. Don't miss Pung Fei, an excellent Chinese acrobat, juggler, magician and entertainer. He has a role in two of the production shows and then does his own show one evening - don't miss him. Former Letterman, Mark Preston has a great voice and puts on an excellent show. The remaining headliners were at best mediocre.
Another Great Adventure with Aruba Bob
We did this same cruise and snorkel trip last year and Aruba Bob (AB) was one "tour" we wanted to repeat. This is a professional operation run very efficiently by a great team that offers a wonderful snorkel tour. AB himself picked us up early at the appointed meeting place since were already there. He took us directly to their office near Mangal Hata, fitted us out with all the equipment, met up with Stuart and headed to the beach. We had snorkeled with Stuart last year and did again this year since we had arranged for a private snorkel. Had a great time and saw a glimpse of a barracuda, an angel ray, a beautiful sea urchin, and all sorts of tropical fish. The small power thrusters are great for a two hour snorkel so that if you tire, you just ride behind the thruster for a while. After dropping off the gear and talking for a bit, AB took us back to town where he offered to drop us off anywhere we wanted to go. We opted to go back aboard Eclipse and take a shower and grab a bite to eat before exploring town.
Walked across the pontoon bridge to the floating market and market area to find a few souvenirs since we did a tour of the island last year. We really wanted to snorkel and wondered why there were only scuba trips. Unlike Bonaire and Aruba, the drop off to deep water is very close to shore making for few reefs and snorkeling spots on the island. Wish we had stopped at Bonaire like last year, but they are reducing the number of large ship visits - and there isn't much to do there except snorkeling.
Island Safaris Snorkel Tour (GD-44)
Last year we had a great land tour of the island with JnJ which was very good, but we wanted something different and in the water. Our original tour was cancelled and we took this one. It was excellent - small RHIB boat with saddle like seating for 10 passengers. We walked to the dock to board the RHIB and departed shortly after the safety brief. After visiting the Marine Park we headed to Underwater Sculpture Park (which is a work in progress) for about a 45 minute snorkel. Then we made a high speed run to the main downtown port for a quick explanation of history, weather, etc. We were dropped of next to the ship after our two hour adventure. This was an excellent ship's tour with a max of 12 people on the tour/boat; we had 7. In retrospect, it may have been better (and was certainly cheaper) than our first option.
Calabaza Sail – Barbados
Back-to-Back Adventures with Calabaza
After sailing with Gina and the boys last year, we knew we had to do this again. It was just as great the second time This is one of the most professionally run, fun adventures in the Caribbean. There are a max of 12 passengers onboard with a crew of three - two snorkeling sites, one with the turtles and one over some wrecks/reefs. One of the crew members is in the water with you as a guide/safety observer at both sites. He is also taking great photos which are loaded up to a website for you to view/download at no additional cost. A link is sent to you along with the recipes for the delicious treats that Gina serves. Don't miss this great time in Barbados.
Papa's Boat Tours - St. Lucia
Nice Snorkeling and Swimming Adventure
This is a good trip for those who have already done the ground tour of the island with Cosol or someone else or who are totally into snorkeling. The first stop was at Anse Chasanet for two hours of snorkeling in water that goes from shallow to deep which means you see very small to large fish including flounder, and barracuda. At a certain point, it just gets dark below you since the water is so deep. Then it was off to the arch made famous by Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. After a short swim there, we were on the way to Marigot Bay which is a very sheltered harbor that is used by yachts escaping hurricanes and is home to some very exclusive properties. The only included items are drinks. If you want to eat, then you need to purchase a meal at the resort or the crew will get a local meal for $15. The local meal was very good and enough to serve as lunch for two.
So Good We Did it a Second Year in a Row
This was another repeat adventure from last year's trip. Yes, it is that good. The entire operation from first contact to drop off at the ship was most professionally run and a lot of fun. Tour includes pick-up from St. John's, narrated tour to the owners' home on the Atlantic coast, high speed boat rides, kayaking around the mangrove swamps, quick hike on Bird Island, and then some snorkeling. For us, the highlight of the trip is the kayaking in the mangroves. There is an opportunity for snacks and drinks in the owners' lovely garden before being transported back to town. It sounds a bit strenuous, but we (not particularly active 70 year olds) thought it was fine. If you don't want to kayak, you can ride in the safety boat. Hint: Try to do the morning trip as the afternoon felt rushed to get back to the ship on time.
Captain Alan's Boat Charters (St. Marteen)
Great Time with Captain Alan
A professional operation from initial contact to arrival back at the ship. We opted for the 4.5 hour trip which was just right for our inport time (8-5). We were met by Twin Island Transport at the appointed time and place for our trip to Captain Alan's base where he met us as we got off the bus. Paperwork was quickly completed, snorkeling gear fitted, and then we were on our way. Captain Alan warned us to expect a rough ride since the seas and wind were up, but assured us that it was safe. It was a fun ride with everyone getting wet from the spray on all legs of the trip. As promised we saw turtles at the first stop followed by snorkeling off a nice reef. Third stop was for a light lunch of cheese, salami, and a special ingredient on a fresh baguette and time on a beach to swim, explore and/or rest. The bus was waiting to take us back to the ship on time. This was a lot more fun than the driving tour around the island than we did last year. Without a doubt, we would do this trip again.
Destination St. John - Coastal Cruise of National Park (STL2A)
A long day with a tender ride to port before embarking the Adventure Sea which takes all tours going to St. John. Our tour of the National Park from sea took about 15 minutes and pointed out a few points of interest. The high winds and wave action cancelled all snorkeling trips to the island and those wanting to swim were warned of potentially dangerous conditions. The crew of the boat was great and hard-working, but the captain was intolerant of anyone asking questions to the point of being rude.