We booked this cruise with another couple that we met on our cruise aboard the Regatta in 2007. We are all in our mid-40's, which turned out, made us the youngest people on the ship.
Our trip started with our direct flight from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale. I have never let the cruise line book our flights, since our first cruise, being flown on 2 red eye flights and sitting at an airport for countless hours. I reserved a car and driver through GO Airport Shuttle to meet us at baggage claim to take us to our hotel for our one night, pre-cruise stay at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay. The hotel was great, the beds very comfortable and the staff was competent and friendly. I had shipped our wine (8 bottles), by Fed Ex, to the hotel a week before our arrival, and the bellman brought it to our room within a few minutes of our arrival. We had dinner at Mike's Pub, a short walk from the lobby. That night, Miami had a very bad thunderstorm, a real "window shaker", with lots of lightening and thunder. The next morning it was cloudy and raining on and off.
We caught a taxi to the cruise ship. a 10 minute drive and were all checked in by 12:30pm. We were given boarding card number 2, and relaxed until the ship was ready for us to board. We sent the guys to the Terrace Cafe for lunch and us girls went to book our dinners at Toscana and Polo Grill. We did the mandatory muster drill, unpacked our luggage and met up in the Grand Dining room for dinner. The first two days were spent at sea, which with 10 foot swells, was pretty rocking and rolling, but it went nicely with lounging by the pool and catching some rays! I brought my IPod docking speakers and played my "Cruise Mix" for the four of us, and any other passengers that wanted to enjoy something other than the easy listening music they play through the ship's sound system.
Virgin Gorda: Since we had been to the Baths the previous year, we decided to catch a taxi to Little Dix Bay. The resort there is beautiful and the water warm and clear. Try a Pina Colada at the bar, yummo!
St. Barts: We rented a car for the day, $100 US, from Soliel. They met us at the cruise ship pier with the car, filled out the paper work and we were off. The island is not that big, but our mission was to see all the beaches, which we did. We stopped at a grocery store for a baguette, a bottle of wine, some cheese, and some beer for our cooler. Our two favorite beaches were Govener's Beach and Saline beach. Big, beautiful, crashing waves and gloriously warm sand. We returned the car to the pier and tucked the keys under the seat and walked across the street to a small restaurant and bar where they make all different kinds of fruit infused rum. Our favorites were the vanilla and the pineapple.
Dominica: We booked independently with Wacky Rollers River Tubing. Another ship was in port that day, so the taxi picked us us from our ship's pier and drove over to the other ship (main cruise ship terminal) and then proceeded to the river. We had 14 in our group and it was a blast. The tubes have plywood bottoms, which after hitting numerous rocks, I was very thankful for. We walked around the downtown area for a while after our excursion, doing some shopping. We then got a taxi to return us to our cruise ship.
St. Lucia: I booked us a trip with Island Divers online. They met us on the cruise ship pier and walked us over to their water taxi pier. We took a 30 minute boat ride to the TiKaye Resort. Our friends got the snorkeling package, which included lunch and the use of the resort's chairs for the day for $60pp. My husband and I booked a 2 tank dive with Island Divers, but since their boat wasn't working, we did 2 beach entry dives, with our bottom times around 1 hour each dive. We never got below 45 feet, but the coral and fish were abundant and beautiful! We paid $58pp and that included our our dive guide, our BCD's, regulators, weights and tanks. The owner felt bad about us not being able to do boat dives, so she gave us a huge discount. We had lunch after our dives at the resort and it was very good. Their local beer, Piton was cold and refreshing. The water taxi had us back to the cruise ship pier at 4pm. We shopped and drank more Pitons while waiting to get back aboard the ship at 5:30pm.
Antigua: There was another ship in port this day, and I had booked a morning sail aboard the Black Swan, with Pirates of Antigua. We checked in with them, just a short walk down the pier, but decided to take their afternoon sail instead. We rented a taxi from 9am until 12pm and just drove around the island. It was raining on and off and it was nice to see just some of the many beaches from the dry comfort of a van. At 1pm we checked back in with the Black Swan and boarded the Pirate Ship. They have a full open bar, with beer, mixed drinks and all the rum punch you can drink, but beware, it's on the strong side! They took us to a bay, where we all proceeded to walk the plank, and swing off the ship on a rope swing. On the way back in, they turn up the music and the dancing begins, all, I'm sure, from the liquid encouragement we were given. Antigua is a good place to buy wine, alcohol, cigars and cigarettes.
Tortola: Our friends and us split up on this island. They went to swim with the dolphins and we took an open air taxi to Cane Garden Bay. The taxi ride was a bit hairy and scary. The roads are steep and narrow, but it was exhilarating! Cane Garden Bay was almost deserted, since we were the only ship in port that day. A very relaxing day of swimming and lounging. We did walk across the street to the Callwood Rum Distillery. The building is 400 years old and very much worth a look.
Samana: I booked a day with Casa Dorado online, and they had a taxi driver meet us at the tender pier. After a 45 minute taxi ride, we got to Playa Glorious to get aboard the water taxi to Playa Rincon. The water taxi was a short 20 minute ride to one of the most scenic and beautiful beaches I had ever seen. Our water taxi driver, helped us order lunch from the little lunch shack there. You literally get to pick your fish from a cooler full of their morning catch. They cook it over a wood fire and serve it family style with fries, spanish rice and bread. Their local beer is Presidente and is served in liter bottles, with little plastic glasses. What a great way to spend the day. The beach really is worth seeing! After reading so many negative reviews about Samana and the Dominican Republic, I could not disagree more. Yes, the island is very poor, but they are really striving to make it a much more desirable location for tourists.
Grand Turk: We rented a golf cart for the day from Nathan for $80. We drove around the entire island, and snorkeled at any beach we felt like stopping at. Our last stop of the day was not Margaritaville, where the food and the drinks are way over-priced, but Jack's Shack, just a 1/4 mile down the beach. The conch fritters were hot and delicious and the beers, cold and cheap!
Being the youngest people on the ship was great for us. We were always the last people on the ship and the staff knew us by our first names! We played dice out by the pool, with our music cranked kind of loud at times, but no one seemed to mind. We had been on this ship before and knew what to expect: impeccable service, very friendly staff, no children, delicious food, clean, comfortable cabins, no belly flop contests or hairy chest contests, and more sophisticated passengers. Oceania really knows how to make your cruising experience truly memorable. If you have any specific questions you want answered about the ship or ports, please shoot me an e-mail. I cruise mostly for the ports, and as you can tell by my review, book all of our own shore excursions.