Ready to go again!
This was our third cruise, second Carnival. Our group consisted of my husband, our 21 & 18 year old sons, another couple and their 18 year old son. We chose this cruise specifically for it's itinerary of six islands in seven days.
We arrived in San Juan on Saturday before sailing on Sunday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel which was a short 5 minute taxi ride from the airport. It was a very nice hotel that included breakfast and two blocks from the beach. We arrived at the San Juan ship terminal about 12:30 and were completely checked in and on board within one hour! Our bags were already in our cabin. Since there were no days at sea, we chose the Riviera Deck, which is the lowest deck. We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a great idea for reboarding after excursion trips. Just a few steps and we were back in our cabins to change clothes and quickly leave again. Our three cabins were all ocean More
view and were large enough even for the three messy guys. The bathroom has a large medicine chest that held practically all my stuff. The two things we didn't like about the bathroom was the shampoo they provided, which was one part shampoo and five parts water, and the blow dryer. It was pretty weak and took quite a while to dry my hair. There was not a refrigerator in the cabin but other than those few things, we were very satisfied with it.
The mandatory muster drill was typical: long, boring and hot! We received disturbing news while waiting to set sail that a crew member had passed away suddenly and we would not be able to leave until the authorities could conduct an investigation. During the night a letter was placed under our door from the Captain letting us know how sorry he was for the delay but also asked for thoughts and prayers for the crew members and the family of the deceased. We arrived in St. Thomas on time.
Dining was a little disappointing but only because of the slowness of it. Our table was in the very back of the Pacific Dining room (late seating). Our waiters seemed to be have quite a few tables to cover and the distance from the kitchen really slowed them down. The food choices were good and my only complaint here was with the iced tea. There was no ice and the tea wasn't very good. By the end of the week, they had finally figured out we were watering down the tea and would do it for us. We had to ask for glasses of ice almost every night. Perhaps this is a southern thing, but we like ice in our iced tea. The days we didn't have early excursions, we ate breakfast in the dining room. It was also extremely slow! We ordered room service the days we had early excursions which consisted of choices of cereal, pastries, yogurt, fruit, coffee, juice etc. We didn't eat breakfast on the Lido deck but did eat lunch there every day. There are six different buffet type choices, including Chinese that we thought was very good. Also, burgers/hot dogs and pizza in the back of the Lido deck were available. A couple of days the crew members didn't keep up with cleaning the tables and people had to wander around quite a bit to find a clean table. I also spotted dirt in the corners as well as dust on the banisters and ledges.
Entertainment was spotty. One night the entertainers didn't even make it onboard! We had already seen one of the skits done by the dancers on another ship. I hate to say it, but I dozed thru one of the shows.
Disembarkment was amazingly simple! They hand out numbers at the informational meeting on the last night and you get off when your number is called. We were number 25 and it took until about 10:30 for them to call it. If you have an early flight, you can request a lower number.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give our experience an 11. We had a wonderful time, did much research for the excursions and remembered that not everything is always perfect....not even on a cruise. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
I'm only giving this port a 4 because things didn't go as planned for us. I had done much research for parasailing and found a website for Tony's water sports that listed parasailing at Dickenson Beach. We had a taxi take us there and then began looking for Tony's. It was way down the beach from where we came in. When we got there and asked about parasailing, we were told they hadn't had a boat for parasailing in quite a while! I was pretty upset about this because we could've chosen a nicer, less crowded beach than Dickenson. They DID have wave runners/jet skiis, windsurf boards, water skiing and boat rides. I don't know what the charges were for the boat rides, but can tell you, they only lasted about 5 minutes. The guys tried their hand at windsurfing and found it pretty hard. Sandal's resort is located on the beach as well as other resorts making it very crowded. It was pretty and we made the best of it. The most annoying thing was the vendors constantly walking up and down the beach insisting we buy something. We stayed there until 2:00 and our taxi driver picked us up and took us back to the pier.
This was NOT my favorite excursion.
Oh my word! What an amazing beach! Those were my words when we walked thru the trees and saw the beach at Rockley Beach. It was the perfect beach. It was close to the port, not crowded at all, had vendor shacks to purchase clothes, jewelry etc. but the vendors didn't come onto the beach to bother us. The waves here are pretty big! There was also a clean restroom with showers. Across the street was a fast food restaurant called "Chefette" where we went for lunch. We rented two chairs and an umbrella for $10. There's not much more to say about this beach other than WOW! Peaceful, easy feeling.
Definately my favorite excursion (do you detect a pattern here?)
I had never heard of the island of Dominica until I started researching this cruise. Based on recomendations from fellow cruise critics, I chose Levi Barton's Bumpiing Tours "Roseau Valley Treasures". At $40 per person, this was a very affordable day. I would have gladly paid more after the experience we had! Levi picked our group of 7 up and another couple and their adorable and brave 5 year old daughter joined us for a total of 10 people in his comfy van. We drove up the mountain to Titou Gorge. The description reads "To enjoy the gorge you swim about two minutes up to a cave". He didn't mention the fact that the water is FREEZING! I was watching people as they got in the water and decided I would sit this swim out. But then I changed my mind when I saw other people coming back out smiling and laughing. Swim belts are required and after the initial shock of how cold the water is, it's really not too bad! Sure enough, we swam to a cave and waited while the stronger swimmers went a little further and saw a little waterfall. I was very glad I took the swim. We got back into the van and drove thru the pretty countryside, stopping to take pictures when we saw something we liked. Levi is a great tour guide and made the trip very interesting for us. We drove to Trafalgar Falls and pulled into the parking area with about 30 other vans. We started walking up a pretty easy trail, coming to steps occasionally. It got a little tougher as we climbed, but it wasn't too bad. We made our way to a very crowded observation deck, took pictures of the two falls and then walked a little more into the river. It was pretty and reminded me a little of Yosemite. When we'd had enough, Levi led the way back out. The trails are narrow and at times we had to stop and let others pass. If I could change anything, it would be to make this trip a lot less crowded. We then drove back into town and our tour was over. For an additional charge, you can take a snorkel trip to Champagne Reef. The couple and their daughter went and said it was a great place to snorkel.
We really enjoyed this nature excursion and I think this was my favorite one ever!
After the fiasco at Dickenson beach, I was a little wary of St. Kitts beaches. There were many to chose from along the southeastern strip of the island. We had a taxi driver take us to Frigate Bay first but decided we didn't like the looks of it. The umbrellas and chairs were on a higher level than the actual beach and there wasn't an easy way to get down there. However, there were zillions of beautiful shells and wild monkeys on the mountainside. Our taxi driver suggested we go to another beach a little further down the road. The drive was spectacular! The Atlantic ocean on one side of the road and the Caribbean on the other. I don't think you could walk back and forth though without it being pretty hard. The driver turned down a dirt road and it looked like we were lost! Finally, we came to a dead end and then I saw a building which turned out to be a restuarant/bar. On the other side of the building was the amazing black beach! And the really awesome thing? There were only about 20 people there on this huge beach!! I believe we were at South Friar's Bay and the name of the bar was The Shipwreck. The sand is hot, hot, hot and the ocean floor is very rocky. There weren't waves so the guys decided to go exploring. Looking at the ocean, if we looked to the left, we saw the island of Nevis. The guys walked about 300 yards to the right and came upon a tide pool full of fish! They had to climb over some rocks and work to get to it, but it was well worth it. Some of the best pictures we have came from their little trek. Departure from St. Kitts is early so we reluctantly had our driver pick us up at 1:30. This was by far the most unusual day we had, but maybe my favorite excursion of all!
Back at the port, we had a little time to shop. Now pay attention because I'm going to tell you something very important. I had read stories about people with monkeys at the far end of the shopping center (furthest away from the ship) but failed to mention it to my hubby. I came out of a store in time to see him arguing with these men and their monkeys! Here's what happened. They approached him and put the monkeys on his shoulders then told my son to take his picture. THEN they said it costs $10 per picture! My hubby, being the kind soul he is, paid them $1 and told them that was it! So, don't go near them unless you want to pay them!
After the relaxing day at Barbados, it was time for another adventure day. I chose Serenity Tours to take us to the Rain Forest for zip-lining! They picked us up outside the port and drove us up the mountain quite a ways until we arrived at "Rain Forest Canopy Adventure". There we were met by people who directed us to the restroom/locker area. They gave us our harnesses, helments and hairnets (great for pictures) and took us to a practice zip line. We were given specific instructions and then took our first try. It was great! After that, we boarded a 10 person gondola that took us deeper into the middle of the rain forest! It was absolutely breath taking! The gondola ride was a relaxing, slow ride...maybe 20 minutes or so. Then we started walking. Then we started going down steps and walking thru streams! It was a long walk literally into the middle of nowhere and mostly downhill (not a good sign for the trip back). Finally, we got to the platforms and the fun began! My girlfriend is afraid of heights, but this didn't bother her because we were so far above the trees, it didn't appear we were very high. We went from platform to platform for a total of 10. It was amazing!! I wanted to do it all over again, but couldn't talk the guides into it. We started our hike back UP and I'm not going to lie, it was hard! We had to stop several times to rest and that gave us more time to look at the beautiful trees. Our guide flushed out a tarantula from under a rock and even picked it up! We got back to the gondola for the beautiful ride back. They had rum punch and non-rum punch waiting for us. The Serenity people were waiting to take us back to the port.
Of course, this was my favorite excursion ever!!
My husband and I spent a week in St. Thomas two years ago and visited the typical beaches, shopping etc. We wanted something totally different and we certainly found it. I will recommend the "Kayak, hike & snorkel" excursion to anyone! I had already researched the tour company Carnival uses, VI Eco tours, but when I read an article about them in Caribbean Life and Travel magazine, it was icing on the cake. We booked it thru Carnival because surprisingly, it was cheaper when the outrageous taxi fares are figured in. It took about 15 minutes to get there and when we arrived, we were shown lockers to place our things we didn't want to get wet. After a brief orientation, we boarded our kayaks and started our journey thru the mangroves. It was so pretty and peaceful and a lot of fun! After a short stint of rowing, our guide gathered us in a circle and told us the purpose of the mangroves, their history etc. We continued on until we got to a small island. There we took a simple walk, not really a hike at all until we came upon an odd sight. The ground was moving! It was actually hundreds of hermit crabs! We each picked one up for a "race". Our guide drew a large circle in the sand and we placed our racers in the center. Then the race began to see which crab could get to the line fastest. Silly, but fun. We continued our walk looking at beautiful trees and flowers until we came to a rocky coast. This was one of the prettiest sights I'd ever seen and our guides made it very educational too. We walked back to the kayaks and that's where we snorkeled. It wasn't the best snorkeling I'd done, but there was an ample amount of fish to see. After a quick candy bar break, to get the salt water taste out of our mouths, it was back in the kayaks for the trip back.
We really enjoyed this "nature" excursion and as I told the guide when we were leaving, this was my favorite excursion ever!