Off to the Southern Caribbean March 29 out of San Juan. 4 of us flew in that day from Georgia, another couple came from Florida. The 6 of us are all past cruisers, but it was the first time for us all on Celebrity.
Over all, we all agreed this was a great cruise, and enjoyed every minute. Highlights:
Easy ride from the airport by taxi to Pan American Pier cost: $27 for 4 of us and all our luggage.
We were on board and receiving our glass of Mimosa by about 2pm. With the later departure, we had the rest of the afternoon to get our first meal in the Oceanview buffet and spend some time at the pool. Our dinner seating was at 8:30 in MDR, we had a table for just the six of us. The first night the dress requirements are relaxed, and the guys wore shorts. Every evening after that, they always wore slacks in MDR, and the ladies were either in a dress or nice slacks. Our waiter was Medina, and the assistant waiter was Carcamo. We all had the Classic Beverage Package, so the first night we each ordered a drink at dinner. Every night thereafter, Carcamo had our drinks waiting for us when we sat down. Now that’s service!
Food was always good, to very good, in MDR. DH favorite was the Beef Wellington, with a side of lobster tail! Although portions are small by restaurant standards, the number of courses certainly makes up for it. One of our joys of cruising is to be able to try different foods that you may not normally try if you were paying for every dish. Our waiter was always accommodating if someone wanted a second appetizer, or two entrees. We like to eat later, to give us more time in the sun. Sometimes eating at 8:30 can become a chore, if it stretches into 2 hours. By that time everyone is stuffed and tired and rarely make it to any of the evening entertainment. Ideally, I would choose anytime dining about 7-7:30, but I am fearful of having a different waiter each night. It is comforting to have the same team serve us for the whole cruise.
Qsine: Decided to try just the one specialty restaurant, due to the extra pricing. Since we were 3 couples, I was hoping for an on-board deal, maybe 2 for 1, but the best they would give is 20% off. It was a fun experience. Our “tour guide” Attile, was very knowledgeable and helpful in assisting with our menu choices. Great presentation; loved the tacos, painter’s mignon, and M’s favorites. For dessert, I tried the Silver Bullet, and my cousin decorated her own cupcakes. I would definitely recommend you try it at least once.
Oceanview Café: Enough variety to be very enjoyable. Standouts were the pasta bar, omelette station (although they did run out of bacon one morning!) waffles, and the Eggs Benedict- Mexican style. I only got to try the made-to-order grill in the Aft of Oceanview for breakfast, as they closed at some point, and did not re- open until 5:30. With this port-intensive itinerary, we were off the ship every day, typically arriving back about 4-4:30 and ready for some food! My favorite place to sit was outside Aft of Oceanview café, with the bar serving Mimosas at breakfast!!
Having the Classic Beverage package was such a great feature for us. We all liked the mixed drinks and beer available, never felt the need to upgrade to Premium. As a big water drinker, as well, I appreciated the very large bottles of water that were included, as well as cans of soda. Café al Bacio was a great place to pick up water and soda, and maybe a little dessert- fabulous oatmeal raisin cookies and cheesecake. I will say that at times the wait for a drink, particularly at the pool bar and Martini Bar could be long. In many cases they were just overworked with the amount of requests, but occasionally we came across some who were just not interested in serving you. There were very few servers around the pool asking if you would like a drink, so many stood at the bar in line. They were accommodating in your drink choices, sometimes making it up from your recipe. No limes to be had at all, a Corona is just not the same with a lemon in it, sorry. Martini Bar had some good entertainment.
Cabin 7047: Our cabin was very comfortable, the first time we ever had a balcony! Didn’t know what I was missing. It was nice to relax for a bit at sail away time, with our own music and drinks on the balcony. Two of our companions had the adjoining room, but unfortunately the balcony did not open between us. It got a little tight when we all tried to sit on one. Plenty of storage room, empty luggage went under the bed. Decent sized closet and drawer space. The room and bathroom especially, could definitely stand a makeover, but was always clean. Our steward, Soccoro, took very good care of our room, while hardly ever seeing him in person. Clean bath and beach towels every day, without asking. Same old gripe: not enough outlets. Could only find one next to the desk. Could have used one near the bed and in the bathroom. The one thing that was our absolute favorite: a nightlight in the bathroom! I typically bring a mini flashlight for nighttime bathroom trips, but didn’t need to use it. The light from the corridor coming from under our door, helped light a path there, too.
With such a port-intensive cruise, I felt like there was so much of the ship we never got to see. Very grateful our one sea day was again beautiful weather. We spent the day lounging on deck near the pool and bar! A few of us attempted to participate in the Galley tour offered that one day. Headed to the main dining room for some discussion and meeting with the chefs and supporting staff. You would be taken on a tour of the galley based on the group number you were assigned when you arrived. After about 20 minutes of sitting there, they were only on the second group to be called, and we had # 16. We decided to skip the tour and head back to the sunshine. That day was the pool volleyball tournament, hotel vs marine, and then winner vs guests. Very entertaining. The only theater shows we made it to were the comedian and the hypnotist. Totally enjoyed the nights when the crew participated in the Dancing with the Stripes, and Minute to Win It. Nice to see a good interaction between the crew and guests. Thought the Cruise Director Kyle, and the Activities staff did a great job.
We pretty much had our days all planned ahead after much research and thanks to other Cruise Critic and Tripadvisor posters for great ideas.
St Croix: from the ship there is a free shuttle to the port area. This was to be a beach day; took a cab/bus to Sandcastle Beach $6 pp RT. There is a $5 entrance fee, but that includes a chair. For $25 you can get 2 chairs, an umbrella, and 2 rum punches. Pretty water, though rocky, small beach. Since it was Sunday, the restaurant has just the Brunch menu. We decided to have one drink there, and then got a taxi to try out Rainbow Beach. Driver charged us $3 each additional to take us there, and then to return to the ship. Had lunch at Rhythms, good cheese steak sandwich, onion rings. Great shrimp. Even smaller beach here, but more activity. When we started to leave at 4pm, it started to get real crowded, there were tons of locals just arriving for the evening .
St. Kitts: We can highly recommend the excursion we took-Blue Water Safaris full day catamaran sail to Nevis. We met about 9am with Shauna, who I had been corresponding with. The cost was $95 each which included a great crew; lunch of chicken, rice, pasta salad, coleslaw, and banana bread. The bar was open and the Caribbean rum was flowing. There were 16 passengers, which made it not too crowded. After sailing for about 30 minutes we stopped to snorkel for awhile. This is where we saw a baby goat that must have fallen from the cliff and was struggling on the rocks. One of our passengers is a veterinary student in St Kitts, and swam over to rescue the baby goat. He ended up bringing her on board, and planned to bring her back to his vet school for further care. What excitement! Then even more exciting, my cousin was surprised when her boyfriend proposed right there on our boat, with a gorgeous ring he had tied onto his bathing trunks! She said yes, of course! After some lunch, and drinks and celebrating, we headed over to Nevis where we parked at the beach for about 2 hours. It was very calm and pretty water, white sand. More rum punch! Nice relaxing time. Relaxing sail back to the port, arrived about 4pm.
Dominica: Booked the full-day “Off the Beaten Path” Tour with Woody about a year ago. Kept in touch through Facebook. An awesome day, we had a group of 12 + 4 guides in 2 jeeps, went up into the rain forest and then back down for a total of 5 stops. Beware, riding in the back of the jeep can get a little cool and windy, and rainy, but when we stopped it was nice and sunny and warm. Our stops were always in areas away from other tourist crowds: an herb garden where we learned the medicinal value of many plants and herbs, and got to taste cocoa right from the tree. Jacko Falls, a beautiful waterfall. A river bed where you could swim, and Woody brought out some snacks and drinks. A black sand beach. Tia’s hot spa-that water is HOT! Also made a quick stop at Mr. Nice’s fruit stand, but it was very crowded so did not stay more than a few minutes. What a character. Another great tour and highly recommended, thanks to Woody, Vivi, Maclan and Tana.
Grenada: Negotiated with a taxi “director” at the port for transportation to Grand Anse Beach for $40 for the six of us, round trip. He handed us over to a driver. We were unsure over whether to try Umbrellas or go a bit further to Mourne Rouge Beach. The driver took us to Mourne Rouge, and said if we didn’t care for it he would take us back to Umbrellas. This beach looked quiet and pretty, with a small restaurant, free use of chairs and bathroom available, so we stayed. I think this was my favorite beach of all our stops. Water was calm and blue. Relaxed and had some lunch. The driver was there at the agreed on time to pick us up at 3:30. When he dropped us in the port shopping area, we gave him $40 plus tip. There was an issue with him wanting more money. Just beware: if one tells you a price, make sure the driver knows before you get in the cab. This was a bad situation. Also note: if you are a shell collector, (I gathered 2 small baggies, mostly beach coral), you will not be allowed to take it back on the ship. All bags are scanned and checked. This is actually in all the Caribbean, but I did manage to get a few small shells home another day.
We elected to go on our own to St. John, again thanks to many other posters, the information was very accurate. Took a taxi to the ferry, the ferry to St John, and another taxi to Trunk Bay Beach. Driver stopped a few times for picture taking, wonderful scenery of the beach. Trunk Bay was nice, though smaller than I had pictured. We no sooner laid towels on the small beach, when the water came up and soaked them. We had towels hanging in the trees to dry them out. Unfortunately, it was also our only rainy day. Rained on and off all day. Figured since we were already in St. John, might as well try another beach, so a taxi took us to Cinnamon Bay. Not much different there, maybe a few more people. We made sure we left in time to get the 3pm ferry back to St Thomas. The taxi ride back to the ship was much slower, due to traffic, which got a bit unnerving. I am glad we got to go to St John, but I think if I come back to St Thomas, I will try another beach on the main island, and not spend so much travel time.
If you use the service of one of the porters, they will get you through the customs line a bit quicker. They work for tips only, no specified price. Since we had a late afternoon flight home, we elected to use SJ Happy Tours (not pre-planned) for $25 each, they will hold your luggage on the bus and take you on a short tour of Old San Juan. Walter was our driver and guide, gave lots of good information on Puerto Rico’s history. We stopped, and you were on your own for about 2 hours, to shop, eat, or tour the fort. We had to be back on the bus at 1:30 to get us all to the airport. There were about 30 or so people on this bus, and we all had the same flight time. We got to the airport about 2 hours before our flight. We ate lunch at the Parrot Club. It got very busy very quickly, glad we got in early. Seems that none of the restaurants opened until 12. San Juan airport is pretty confusing, allow extra time.
I have read that some think Celebrity is taking some cost cutting measures. Since it was our first cruise on Celebrity, we could only compare it with other cruise lines. The only thing I can think of that I was disappointed in was that they discontinued the Sea Day Brunch Gala, and only because I have read about it. Oh well, still plenty of food to go around. We all enjoyed this cruise, and the Summit. In general, there were very few children, and I appreciated a more “subdued” atmosphere over some of the “Fun” ships. No loud guests or running in the halls after hours. While not stuffy at all, I think the service was wonderful and friendly. The officers and crew made themselves visible and approachable. I would definitely sail on Celebrity again with the right itinerary, and hope to do so soon.