To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, my wife and I took an extraordinary trip to Puerto Rico, followed by a Southern Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas. The cruise itinerary included St. Croix (US Virgin Islands), St.Maarten/Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados. Many of the islands encompassed breathtaking beaches, interesting cultures, and lots of local shopping. While in Puerto Rico, we opted to stay at the Rio Mar Resort, which was a strategic move.
Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas is a very nice, although older ship. However, it is one of the smallest ships we have ever sailed on. With major upgrades planned, this ship did not have all of the technology bells and whistles.
One of the highlights are our cruise was having dinner (6pm) with our table mates from Canada (Bob & Colleen) and San Francisco (Soo & Young). We had nightly debriefings on local tours and the cost associated with them. These were invaluable for me in other to share the information with other value cruisers.
In terms of the cruise ship services, portion of the services were very good while other areas were lacking (i.e. room service forgot to deliver our breakfast). We enjoyed the cruise director, the head waiter, our waiter, and our room steward; they were always available to assist us. They made the extra effort of getting to know us as people.
The cruise itinerary was simply amazing!!!! We visited St. Croix (US Virgin Islands), St.Maarten/Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados. The one sea day at the end of the cruise, this itinerary was both exciting and exhausting at the same time. I would encourage you to bring good walking shoes, plenty of water, and a good bathing suit. Some of the tours will provide refreshments. With our past experience with cruising, we have found the shore excursions to be very expensive.
Of course, the cruise lines threaten passengers with the possibility of getting left behind by the ships if they use local tour companies. To test this theory, I tried a combination of tour bookings including locals. I did my research and found the local vendors with the latest customer reviews. I was not disappointed. Those local tour companies with great review, delivered as promised. With that said, you can get better value if you are willing to do the research and take some unexpected chances. Below is some additional information:
1. San Juan (June 10, 2014)
Puerto Rico Event/Activities
U-Save & Payless – Cheap!!! Note: Ask for directions in getting back!
Wyndham Rio Mar – Outstanding, remote!
Activities/Tours - Lots of Puerto Rico Activities
2. Saint Croix (June 8th)
Selected – Sweeny’s Tour ($40): Island tour – Outstanding tour!
Tour Guide – Kelvin Dennie (340)771-0195
3. Saint Maartin, Netherlands (June 9th)
- Island tour to see dual culture of French and Dutch at the same time.
Selected – Royal Caribbean Excursion ($25): Island tour – too many people on bus, generic tour
[our dinner mates from Canada found a local tour from a taxi driver for $6 per person]
4. Antigua (June 10th)
Selected – Scenic Tours-Antigua ($58): Private Island Tour with unlimited drinks (i.e. sodas, stilled water, rum punch) – Outstanding tour!
Tour guide- Sean Beazer, owner (268)720-8844
5. St. Lucia (June 11th) - Do the Island tour including driving inside a live volcano
Selected – Scenic Tours-St. Lucia ($75): Island tour plus refreshments and food or local taxi tour – Great experience!
6. Barbados (June 12th) - Do Island tour and hang out on the beach.
Selected – Local taxi tour plus beach time (on our own)
Tour Guide – Noel’s Taxi Service (831-3692)
7. San Juan (June 16th)
Here are more highlights:
Best Island Experience
1. Puerto Rico – culture, variety of activities, food, beaches
2. Maartin – culture, landscape
3. St. Lucia - culture, variety of activities, food, beaches
4. Antiqua - culture, variety of activities, food, beaches
5. St. Croix - culture, variety of activities, food, beaches
6. Barbados - culture, beaches
Best Tour Value
a.St. Lucia Tour – Cosol Tours
b. Puerto Rico – Self-guided
c. Antiqua – Scenic Tours/Sean Beazer
d. St. Croix – Sweeny’s Tour
e. Barbados – Noel’s Taxi Service
f. St. Maartin
Based on our five cruise experiences (mostly on Carnival Cruises), I would rank this cruise ship pretty average in terms of our overall cruise experience, but cruise itinerary was simply amazing!