My husband "won" this cruise in a sales incentive program through his company. It was a fully paid trip, other than our excursions. We did not choose our own cabin, and ate all dinners but one in the dining room with other people from my husband's company.
Embarkation was quick and easy. When we arrived at the ship, there was the customary photographer there to record the moment. Our room was ready when we embarked, and our luggage was already waiting by the door. I think we got to the ship at around 2pm.
The ship was really pretty...we loved walking around the first day and discovering fun places to visit. Since this is a port intensive cruise, we didn't spent a whole lot of time on the ship, except at night and on the day it rained.
Our cabin stewards were great, service in the dining room was perfect and we never really had any issues other than having to wait for an elevator a time or two. We took the stairs whenever we could.
Disembarkation was a little chaotic; finding our bags and going through customs took some time. We also had trouble finding a taxi b/c there were SO many people getting off the ship at once.
In all, we were very thankful for the trip, and had a wonderful time in our balcony cabin!
We liked Antiqua, mostly because we got to snorkel and the weather was amazing that day. We had booked an afternoon snorkeling cruise through the ship. We spent the morning walking through the shopping area that is right by the pier. There were tons of shops, plus an open air type market where the vendors liked to haggle with you over price. Our snorkel adventure left right from the pier, which was convenient.
This particular snorkel tour was via catamaran, and after a boat ride out to a coral reef offshore, we had about an hour in the water. Keep in mind that this is more "open ocean" snorkeling, so it takes a bit of effort to swim against the tide. There were always people from the boat out in the water to help if need be. We saw quite a few fish, but mostly coral. After the first hour, we loaded back onto the boat (via ONE ladder) and headed to a second location for a beach stop.
One word of caution: After the first snorkel site and again after the beach stop, the RUM PUNCH flows freely. And it's more like lots of rum with food coloring and sugar added! It quickly became the party boat, and everyone was feeling PRETTY happy. :) Personally I think they do this to get you relaxed so you'll give them a good cash tip at the end, but whatever. It was a lot of fun, and we would do it again in a hearbeat! The boat ride is half the fun!
We had a great time in Barbados! The ship pulls in to an industrial pier, and you have to ride a shuttle to get to pretty much everything. We took a snorkel and turtle swim tour, which was lots of fun! This tour took us out to a shipwreck, which was fascinating, and then to a second location where we swam with beautiful sea turtles. Swimming with the turtles was more like "floating" with turtles, as there were so many people trying to swim in a very small area where they were throwing out food to attact the turtles. It was amazing to get to see those though!
Rum punch was flowing and abundant, but we had learned our lesson on a previous snorkel tour!
The boat ride was fun, the tour operators were happy and friendly as well as the shuttle drivers. The shuttle busses however, were SMALL! Talk about cramming like sardines! Imagine 50 people in a bus that might comfortably seat 30! We all made it in one piece though.
One note: Don't buy the cool palm frond creations from the locals. You won't be allowed to take them back on the ship. And if you do somehow make it on the ship with something plant based, you will not be able to get it through customs at the airport. :( We learned that lesson the hard way.
We flew into San Juan the day before the cruise, and stayed at the Conrad Condado Plaza (again, not chosen by us). It was a really nice hotel, with multiple buildings and friendly staff. We weren't there very long, having flown from San Francisco to San Juan, and it was nighttime by the time we arrived.
We spent the morning in old San Juan, walking around and seeing the sights. I later wished we'd had more time there, as it really is a beautiful city. It was quite warm and humid for February! We did not have to worry about luggage at that point, b/c the hotel arranged transport for all of the luggage for our very large company group (there were 50+ of us staying at the Conrad). It was nice to be able to walk around and not worry about that! We took a taxi (shared with another couple) to get downtown, walked all over the place, and then eventually took a taxi to get to the ship. It's certainly walkable, One note: there will be cruise ships near the town, but those are ships that are pulled in for a port stop, NOT embarking! Our ship was WAAAAY across the town. We thought we could walk, but quickly realized that a taxi was necessary. We had drinks at Senor Frog's, with some appetizers before boarding.
The tour to Christiansted was fun; very interesting to learn about the history of the area. A bus picked us up from the pier area, and drove us across the island where we met up with our tour guide. We visited the Fort and the Government House as well as some other smaller places; all on foot. After the tour we had some shopping time. We found the Cruzan Rum store, and bought some rum to take home (which we had to check in on the ship, and we picked it up right before disembarkation). The bus ride there and back was long and sort of bouncy; thankfully it was air conditioned. I honestly can't remember what we did for lunch that day...I think we grabbed a quick bit after returning to the ship (early afternoon). If we ever get the chance to go again, I think we would try to do the Buck Island snorkeling. We waited too long to book and it was sold out, so this was our second choice for a tour.
Honestly, I can't say much about St Lucia. Our Segway tour was canceled due to rain, and it pretty much rained all day. We were super tired and it ended up being a day where we found lounge chairs on deck (on the ship) and rested. The view from the ship was gorgeous, green and lush. We did visit the small shopping area outside the pier, and bought a few souvenirs (major tourist trap there).
St Maarten is beautiful. We had originally planned to snorkel here, but the weather was stormy in the morning, and our tour was canceled, so we opted to just walk around on our own. We took a taxi that took us down to the beach and shopping area and enjoyed a quiet day. There were LOTS of taxis waiting at the pier, so no trouble getting one!
There were several other cruise ships in port that day, so it was quite crowded at the beach.
We had a guavaberry rum slush drink, visited some of the fun shops, and walked on the beach. If I had this one to do over again, we would have rented loungers on the beach and just stayed there for the day.