My wife and I are in our early 60’s . This was our first cruise with Celebrity which sailed from San Juan on November 23, 2013. Having read the reviews of our itinerary which included stops at St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Thomas I had a feeling that I was going to be bored with some of our ports of call. What I learned is that what you do on these islands can really change these preconceived notions.
We flew from Chicago to San Juan on JetBlue the day of the cruise. I booked this reservation using Expedia. This is not a good idea because if the plane had been delayed and the ship has sailed, I would had to pay to get to the next island to catch the ship. I understand this happened to several individuals on our cruise. However, if you book your flight through Celebrity they guarantee to get you to the ship at no additional charge.
Kyle the cruise director will tell you the first night that if you aren’t carful you could add a pound or more a day. The food is really that good. The breakfast buffet in the Oceanview Café has just about anything you want. For lunch you have the option of returning to buffet or getting a good burger at the Pool Grill. For dinner we recommend that you pick the Select Seating option at the Cosmopolitan restaurant which allows you to eat from 6:00 PM on and have a table for two if that’s your choice. Since the first seating is at 6:30 PM we found that getting to the dining room by 6:15 PM allowed us to get our food faster before the dining room filled up. What we enjoyed about the Cosmopolitan was that it always had same menu items every night like a shrimp cocktail, baked onion soup, Caesar salad, and a New York strip steak on the left side of the menu, and on menu’s right side there was always different items available every night.
If you are a four star epicurean who enjoys having his food cooked and served at your table you can pay an additional $45 per person and eat at the Normandie Restaurant. We did this once and were not really impressed. However we did get a 20% discount for the meal. The way to get this discount is find the crew member between the Oceanview Restaurant and the pool area on the 10th level. If there are not enough reservations for that day she can give you the discount (ask her if she has a green dot on her screen).
At every port once you leave the security area you will find individuals selling their own excursions at a lower price then the ones offered by the ship. However, be aware if you are on a Celebrity tour the ship will wait for you in case you are late in returning. This is not true for the private vendors. However, since many of these private tours are only for half a day if you sign-up for one in the morning you shouldn’t have a problem getting back to the ship on time. Since this was our first cruise I didn’t know about all the options available when we docked so I had booked my excursions online before we sailed.
Ports of Call
St. Croix was very disappointing. Granted that we arrive on a Sunday but the port town had little to offer in the way of shopping or places to eat or drink.. We signed up for the Buck Island Snorkeling Tour (CS76) at a cost of $99.75 per person. While the snorkeling was great this tour required a half hour of driving from one side of the island to the other and another half hour on the boat to get to Buck Island. After snorkeling for an hour we were taken directly back to the ship. Later that night I talked to a family who made their own arrangement online for their snorkeling tour. For the same money that we paid they were out for 6 hours. Their trip included the snorkeling and a beach BBQ. I believe they used Bigbeards.com.
St. Kitts had some interesting tours to take but we decided to take a shopping day. There are a lot of high priced jewelry stories on the island as well as tourist stores. However, you will see all their major stores again in St. Thomas so if you want to do something else on the island there are many people available in town offering all types of tours.
Dominica was the one stop I expected to be really boring, and if all you do is tour the port city you will probably agree. However, we signed up for the Lost World 4x4 (RO12) tour for $89 per person. Once out of the port city we discovered that Dominica is really a very beautiful island. What was really cool about this excursion was the stop at the Ti Tou Gorge. This was a site that used for filming the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 – Dead Man’s Chest. At the gorge we did a cold water swim between the mountains and came to a waterfall. It’s a good thing we were on a Celebrity tour because we returned to the ship at 4:45 PM, which is the last time to return to the ship.
Grenada was another port that I didn’t expect much from. However, St. George is an interesting little town that is still trying to rebuild from Hurricane Ivan which hit the island in 2004. When we left the dock area shopping we found Paul who showed us the island. I probably should have agreed on a price before we went too far into town but we finally settled on $30 after his tour. The most interesting part of this town is the spice market. It’s really hard to understand how so many people can make a living selling exactly the same items at all the different spice booths but it is a fun place to visit. The highlight of this day was our afternoon Carib Cats Sail & Snorkel tour (GD08) for only $49.50 per person. The catamaran picked us up at the pier and took out to a wonderful location to snorkel for about an hour and then took us to the beach for another hour. They also provided us with snacks and drinks. This has to be the best and most reasonable of all the Celebrity tours.
St. Thomas is a shopping island and that’s exactly what we did. From the pier you take an open taxi into town at a cost of $4 per person. It’s a fun place to shop and some of the prices are really good. I looked at an Olympus water camera that was really cheaper than anything I could find on the Internet. We had a fun lunch at the Green House restaurant.
San Juan was raining heavily when the ship docked. Since I had an afternoon flight I planned to store my luggage for free at the Barrachine restaurant and then walk around Old Town San Juan for a couple of hours. However, at the dock I talked to representatives from San Juan Happy Tours. For $25 per person they gave us a quick bus tour of Old San Juan and then let us off to shop for two hours. We then met up with the bus again and they took us to the airport. This was really a great deal since by original plan would have required two taxis for almost the same amount.
There is a show every night that is presented two times to accommodate the different dinner seatings. The singer and dancers are very professional and always fun to watch. The comedian, Louis Johnson was excellent. He did a regular show on Monday night and a special late night show at 11:45 PM on Thursday night. My wife was not amazed by the mentalist, Alan Chamo, and left the show early.
In the different bar areas there were different entertainers. The pianist, Will Foraker, in the Café Al Bacio & Gelateria on Deck 5 is fun to listen to and he encourages requests.
Part of our package included the Classic Beverage Package. This would not have been a good deal for us if we had to pay for it because neither of us would drink $44 per day for alcohol. One real benefit of this plan is that you never have to sign for any of your drinks. Also, some wines are included in this package so my wife could have a glass with her dinner. Another bonus we received was that all our gratuities were covered. When we received our final bill, which you can always check on the TV, we only had a charge for the Nomandie dinner, photos, and a gelato we ordered one night.