We are Canadian but live near the U.S. border. We chose to fly out of New York state as it was almost 60% cheaper to do so. We had transfers coming and going, but it wasn't that bad for travel rookies.
We stayed in San Juan at The Marriott Renaisance La Concha, located in the Condado district. The hotel was more than we could have asked for. With some help from one of our roll call friends we got a great price using Priceline dot com We had read about the noise/music around the pool area late into the evening, but it didn't bother us. After having dinner we returned to sit on our 2nd floor balcony and listen to the music. It was like having a front row seat at a concert. I do remember waking up briefly around 3:00am and still hearing the music, but it was just loud enough to lull me back to sleep. Do not hesitate to stay here, it is great.
The next day we headed to the ship. Having our new roll call friends with us who had cruised many times before helped, but looking back there was nothing there that we could not have figured out. We arrived around 11:30am and were some of the first to board at around 12:30-1:00pm.
I like to take a few seconds to talk about the whole liquor issue. No, we were not allowed to bring any liquor other than a bottle of wine or champagne each. Could you? I'm sure lots did, but you will have to look at other posts to answer that question. Here's the surprising thing we found as well as most everyone else we talked to. This cruise is so port intensive that you were always on an island drinking the much less expensive local stuff. By the time you got back to the ship, had dinner, watched a show or hit a bar you were just so tired that all you wanted to do was go to bed. When you get up early everyday and are in the fresh air, it really takes it out of you. We did acquire some liquor and lots of canned pop in our room, but we never put a dent in it. Everyone had lots left by the end of the trip and were just disposing of it. It was really a waste to bring that much on this particular itinerary.
I remember our first site when we got to the Lido deck. One of our roll call friends who had taken the cruise back to back was waiting up next to the Jumbo Tron waving frantically at us as she said she would. After the group hugs we all settled down to some food and buckets of beer and got to know each other. At this point we were hooked on cruising.
Although we knew it would be, the food was better than at any land vacation we had ever taken and the room was comfortable and quite nice. As far as the dress code, we were a little disappointed. My wife and I like to dress up for the occasion. I had taken a suit for the formal nights and my wife had two beautiful long dresses. Looking back I could easily have just worn my sport coat and tie and my wife a casual short dress. On all other nights, it seems anything goes.
We usually bypass the entertainment when at an "all inclusive", but we decided to try going to a few shows. We enjoyed everything we saw. The comedian was great although we never did manage to stay up late enough (midnight) to see his adult show. The juggler was the best surprise. He was also a comedian and he had me in stitches. The other show we saw was the music review. We're both 70's and 80's fans so this show provided lots of good sing-a-long music. The casino still took our money, but at least it took it slowly. We're not gamblers just recreational slot machine junkies.
Seeing that both of us were new to cruising, we both decided to wear the infamous patches behind our ear. I wore my first one but found the side effects to be worse than whatever else I could possibly be feeling without one. I could not drink enough to get rid of my dry mouth and my stomach was upset. By the third day I ditched the patch and all was good. Next time I think the ginger pills may be the way to go. We were surprised at how much we felt the ship swaying while dining, sleeping or better yet showering. Not enough to knock you down, just enough to be noticeable. By the way, it's after you are back on land at the end of your vacation that I wish someone would have told me about. A week later and I'm still swaying in the shower.
Overall would we do this again? In a minute. At no time did the ship ever feel crowded, but that would be due to the itinerary. At no time did we ever experience rude or angry passengers. Quite the opposite. It seemed like everyone was having the time of their lives. We both do believe that the fact we made so many new friends prior to this trip was the reason we now rave about it. Either way, it was easy to meet new people on board. We can't wait to do it again. Maybe a few seadays next time though. We spent the last day in San Juan waiting for our flight by taking a tour. Right as you leave the pier, there are many people there asking if you would like a tour. For $25 each you can take a driven tour of San Juan (with your luggage) and get dropped off at the airport in time for your flight. We were able to get out and walk around old San Juan and even had time for lunch. Don't hesitate to do this if you have a late flight.
Port reviews to follow...click on link below.
One of our favourite days. We had good people, beautiful beach add lots of Banks beer and you have the perfect day. Barbados is beautiful and of all the islands, we would like to come back here and spend a week. One highlight of this trip was the unexpected meal we had. While looking for something to eat (vendors wanting approx. $17 for a Flying fish sandwich and fries) we were directed by a local to the parking lot where a woman shows up everyday at noon to feed the locals. For $5, we ended up with a huge portion of flying fish, rice and beans covered in jerk sauce, macaroni and cheese and a salad. IT WAS THE BEST MEAL WE HAD ALL WEEK!
Our group of 8 decided to not take the standard tour of the island. It was raining most of this day. We almost decided to just stay on the ship, but luckily we didn't. We headed up to Screw's Spa. It was so relaxing and the 8 of us had it to ourselves for about 2 hours. We were served some fresh fruit and sampled the local Kabuli beer. While it was still raining we headed up the coast to a little known place called Mero Beach. Mero is a black sand beach where this comfortable little bar called Connies Mero Beach Bar is located. This is not exactly a high class tourist hangout, but we all really enjoyed our time there. I highly recommend doing this tour as an alternative to you know who...By the way, our tour guide Crisca was great!
We started off the tour with a brief tour of the Batik Gardens and then asked Kenny to just take us to the beach. We ended up at Cockleshell Beach and it was wonderful. The ride there is a photographers dream. As you head down the twisting and turning southern peninsula, there are vistas that would bring a tear to your eye. You can easily see the island of Nevis off in the distance. The beach was very nice but what made this day special was this little bar we found on the beach. No, not the Reggae Beach bar. It was nice, but we found somewhere a little more personable. The Lion Rock Beach Bar. Beer for two dollars and and owners who treated us like family. Our group tour all ended up in their little shanty beach bar and had what my wife refers to as her best day of the whole week. There were many locals hanging out here and I think that's what made it so special. We took many pictures and there were lots of hugs before we were forced to leave to catch a ship. Our driver Kenny, who seemed to be having as much fun as us, led us in singing a Bob Marley tune, One Love, all the way home. What a great day and what a terrific guide.
St. Lucia is a beautiful island, but I think we noticed the poverty here more than any other island. Cosol is the hardest working man I have ever met. How he orchestrates these mamoth tours day after day, I will never know. I think it's safe to say if you come to St. Lucia you have to take his tour. While I have nothing to complain about the tour he provided, it was a long day in a van. Lots of twisting, turning mountainous roads getting in and out of the van continuously. Our favourite part was the boat ride to Jalousie Beach between the two Pitons. I should note that we are beach people more so than tour people. Our driver Ramsee was fantastic and once again, very informative. The endless beer and rum punch as well as the countless free food sure helped us like this tour.
Started the tour with a little shopping and then a lot of sightseeing. Beautiful island. Eventually made it to Orient Beach and parked at the midsection between the nude side and the dressed side. We were dressed! Bernard kept us well hydrated all day even at the beach. The beach was one of the top beaches we saw all week. The girls got a highlight when we left as there was a gentleman " directing traffic " by the van. Seemed he was pointing people to the right side of the beach if you know what I mean. Next we headed to the coolest spot...Maho Beach. Within seconds of arriving we were directed to go stand on the beach just as a huge airliner came in for a landing over our heads. Check out youtube. This was a major highlight of our trip. Settled down for a few minutes at the Sunshine Beach bar next door and had some surprising delicious food. No complaints from anyone. Begrudgingly headed back to the ship as we knew this was our last port.
Very informative tour of the island. Papa Bear knows his stuff and his pride for his island is evident. We ended up at Megans Bay Beach which was as nice as people say. Really enjoyed this day and highly recommend Air Force 1. Lots of opportunities for great pictures.