We just returned from a 7-night S. Caribbean cruise via San Juan. We took a gamble and flew into San Juan (non-stop) from the mid-west on the day of the cruise. It worked out well for us. The cab rides from airport to ship to fort/Old San Juan are short and are at set prices. We had plenty of time to hit the Fort and Old San Juan. Embarkation was seamless.
We were reluctant to travel on a 13-year old ship, but the refurbishment last February really made the entire ship look beautiful. This is our 9th cruise (Carnival, NCL, RCL, Holland America, and Celebrity). We traveled on the Eurodam in the Baltic only a few months ago, and that ship looked terribly weathered at only 4-years old. The Summit, being the same tonnage and carrying about the same number of passengers, felt a lot nicer. I've never seen such inviting coffee and bar areas. The seating near the pool and on the pedestrian decks was padded and comfortable. The hydrotherapy pool is free (something I paid nearly $100 to use on HA) and the staff stood-out among other ships'. My complaints basically relate to cuisine. In the past, even on NCL, I've enjoyed succulent, ripe varieties of fruits. Even on NCL, I'd enjoy papaya and avocado on a daily basis. Each day, we were offered only melon and seeded watermelon, bananas, oranges, and apples. All of it was underripe despite the fact that we were traveling to parts of the world that grow tropical fruits. No grapes, blueberries, strawberries, or varieties of cheeses could be found. The stations in the Lido Buffet are spread out. To grab eggs, toast, and hash browns meant a visit to three distant stations. They ran out of some food toward the end of the cruise, so selections were parred down. Few stations, like the sandwich station, were tortuous to wait in. The line was non-existent, but the servers operated at a snail's pace cooking one order at a time. I had two outstanding dinners in the main dining area, but I felt that most of what I ate left something to be desired. We enjoy cruising for the cuisine. I can't say I left with any outstanding impressions, especially compared to the still-fresh impressions I have from my Holland America experience. We loved the pool area (deep, refreshing, large pool).
Earlier reviews warned me that the island has little to offer on Sundays. We walked around for a little bit, but treated this stop as an at-sea day and stayed on the ship. We enjoyed the amenities, and caught up on rest, for the first time.
Grabbed a taxi and spent about $60 for two adults to travel to Brimstone Hill Fortress and the Peninsula. We went at 1:00pm based on a recommendation and found this time to be ideal for beating the crowds. There was only one other couple at the fortress.
We spent $108 for two adults on a ship-sponsored tour. This was a mistake. We went to the Emerald Pool and the black sand beach. It was about 4-1/2 to 5 hours of driving time for about 90 minutes of swim time. The driving was prolonged because of pot holes and poor road conditions. Driving upward in the rainforest caused the van to overheat, and we were stuck waiting in the sun and high heat for 30 minutes for a relief vehicle. Even with this setback, the cruise/tour didn't ever offer us water. We received no apology or compensation. We were told that this happens all the time. Dominica is not a tourist island, but its economy thrives on agriculture. The beach and the Emerald Pool are photographed a lot nicer than they appear in person. They aren't anything special to swim at or view in person. We've seen many nicer waterfalls in Ohio and the beaches are reminiscent of the Erie shore.
Beautiful backdrop and island. We took a water taxi (right next to the ship) to Grand Anse, rented two chairs and swam for $28 for two. The beach is beautiful and the waters are calm and safe. However, there are a lot of Grenadians trying to sell you adventure packages and drinks. There were a handful of boats near shore (for tubing, etc.) and the diesel occasionally grew annoying. But, we came to swim and we enjoyed it. Next to the ship is a stairwell to a dilapidated fortress. It was worth the climb and $2 entrance fee for views of the beautiful harbor. One note is that taxis on most of the islands do not leave until they fill up. So, we waited over 20 minutes for our water taxi to depart since they have a policy for filling it up. We didn't mind. We thought the trade-off was worth the low price. However, many passengers did mind this and grew very embarrassing and unruly.
ST. THOMAS/ST. JOHN
Based on recommendations, we took a taxi to Red Hook, then a ferry (in calmer water) to St. John and another taxi to Trunk Bay. What we planned as a 45 minute commute turned into almost a 3 hour commute there (but 45 min. back) because our taxis needed to fill up, and then stop at other places (like a bus) before taking us to our final destination. We couldn't solicit our own taxi as they're mostly open air trucks that seat 12-20. The ferries in Red Hook depart every hour on the hour, so we lost time waiting to catch one (our mistake). In St. John, there is a lot of wonderful shopping near the ferry (not the generic souvenirs from China, but arts, crafts, and jewelry made from the locals). The road conditions in St. Thomas and St. John are smooth and maintained, so our commutes were fairly short once driving. We visited Trunk Bay, a national park, so there was a low entrance fee, but that included restroom and shower facilities. The water at Trunk Bay is safe, calm, clear, and just ideal.