Victory at Sea.....good enough for me
As I prefaced, my wife and I don't typically take cruises for our vacations. The one's we've been on before have typically been with the "guys" or "girls" on 3-4 day party trips to Mexico or something of the like. I was looking for a nice trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary and found this trip interesting because of its itinerary (no sea days) and stops at a lot of great Southern Caribbean islands that we had otherwise not been to nor wouldn't go to for a full 7 day vacation.
We flew in the day before the cruise was set to sail from Los Angeles. We connected through Houston and got into town around 9PM local time. We cabbed it to Hotel Cervantes ($19 + tip), a quaint boutique hotel in Old San Juan about 2-3 blocks and an easy walk to the Carnival cruise terminal. We got up on Sunday, had breakfast and walked with our bags down the street to start the embarkation process. It went smoothly and we were on board and in our More
balcony room by 12:30P. The tip to pick up liquor at the duty free shop inside the San Juan terminal was a good one. We picked up a liter of Bacardi and Stoli for like $22 total and put them in our carry on. Where they get you is for the soda, $3.95 per 6 pack, but its still cheaper than the boat. Our bags were brought to our room by 3P and we unpacked and went to check out the boat.
The layout of the boat has much to be desired, but its styled nicely enough. We didn't really take this trip to play with Wee Jimmy (Cruise Director) and the rest of the Carnival gang. It was all about using the ship to eat, sleep and take us to our next destination. We got a lot of really neat pictures from our balcony and at the front of the boat at sunset. Overall, we spent like $325 on our sign and sail cards, including the mandatory $140 tip for the steward, so you can see how little money we actually spent on board. Paying top dollar for half ass cocktails in an over crowded casino, bar or pool deck wasn't really our thing.
There was a "sports" bar on board that only showed ESPN Desportes, which was fine, but don't label the place as a sports bar with no actual sports on. We wanted to watch the Laker game, but none of the channels had it nor did the sports bar. When we got off in Dominica one of the locals told us the score from the night before and said it was on TNT (which the boat has, but the game wasn't on).
Getting off the boat for the debarkation went ridiculously smooth. Being a US citizen made it easier I'm sure. Our group number 9 was called around 9A and we grabbed our bags down in the terminal, handed our customs form to the officer and walked out. No questions, no passport check, no nothing. Not even a "what did you buy?" or anything like that. We only had about $200 worth of souvenirs from the different islands and weren't over on the 1 liter of liquor per person allotment, but no one checked our stuff or even asked. We laughed with some other passengers that we could have packed our suitcase with ALL booze. We then walked down the street to the Old San Juan Sheraton where we were staying for the night. It was nice to not to have to hassle the commotion at the cruise terminal nor deal with the daffiness of the Airport with 3000 cruisers trying to leave at the same time. By 9:30A we were hanging at the Sheraton pool enjoying an unwind day before flying out on Monday morning. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Antigua has a LOT of great beaches. We only had time for 1 though, so we learned from our Barbados experience and took a cab to Runaway beach. Only about 15 minutes from the terminal and no cost to use the beach other than chair and umbrella rental for a nominal fee. Full bar, restaurant, restrooms available. We had about 4-5 hours at the beach, but the time flew. Beautiful water, friendly locals......we'd definitely come back to this island as well.
They have some nice shopping at the port terminal in Barbados where we picked up some Rum Punch for our room and some other souvenirs. We had some time to kill before our 1:15P trip to the Malibu distillery so we cabbed into town. NOT very exciting. Run down, dilapidated, not a good tourist spot. So we cabbed back after an hour and went on our tour to Malibu. The distillery itself isn't that exciting, but they have a GREAT beach. Enjoyed it thoroughly. You can totally cab it to Malibu and pay at the door for much cheaper than the tour through the cruise costs.
We woke up late again......but this time the boat didn't land until 10A. We looked out to see what looked like a dilapidated village along the coast of this huge jungle. The sound of steel drums echoed throughout the city as if they knew they needed to put their best foot forward for the tourists that day. We checked out a couple of shops near the pier, bought some beers (local beer Kubuli very good!) There were a ton of tour guides offering 90 minute jungle tours for like $15 per person but we weren't interested. We just didn't feel very safe and just wanted to get back on the boat to soak in some sun. We later spoke to another passenger who said they were witness to an assault where a couple shots were fired. No thanks......Carnival surely can find another port to include in this otherwise solid itinerary.
St. Kitts reminded me a lot of Maui. Kind of arid in some places, but otherwise very beautiful. The terminal has some good shops to check out for shopping. We cabbed it to Cockleshell Beach with some of our table mates from dinner and had a great 3 hours out there. At one point we saw monkeys running across the street and the driver stopped to let us take pictures.....at one point you can take a photo of the Atlantic on the north side of the island and the Caribbean on the south side. Very cool.....probably wouldn't go back to St. Kitts for a full vacation but it was an underrated surprise on our itinerary.
All I have to say is Cosol Tours. We read other great reviews about him and his crew lives up to the expectations. Great time. Definitely the highlight of the trip. St. Lucia is definitely an island we'd go back to. If you go to St. Lucia, make sure you take Cosol's tour.
We got up late (still adjusting to the time change) but still managed to be off the boat by 10A. We walked into town (don't recommend-took a while) and checked out a flea market area for about an hour. A tour guide hit us up to take us on a tour of the island for $25 each. He took us to the top of the hill to see Megan's Bay and some other general tour stops before dropping us off at Coki Beach for 2 hours to play. The water there was AMAZING.....very clear, warm with lots of fish swimming right up to the beach. We got back to the shop right before the 4:30P deadline after a very enjoyable day on the island.